KALAMAZOO, MI: Since becoming a USA Hockey Model Association (2013), the Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) has committed to the American Development Model’s (ADM) ladders of development and the principles of long-term athlete development.

Encouraging kids to play multiple sports – especially at the younger ages – is something that KOHA supports as we develop well-rounded athletes, not just skilled hockey players.

One of KOHA’s 9 year-old players, Max Vandermolen, has had quite a memorable 2017 thus far. After a successful 16/17 season, he and his 10U hockey teammates were the Adray State Runners-Up in March, and then on Sunday, April 2nd, Max tied for second place in the Drive, Chip and Putt national finals at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia in the Boys 7-to-9 year-old division.

“Max has loved sports since he was a very small boy.  Playing golf and hockey brings him a lot of joy. Max says he likes to play more than one sport because he likes playing on his own for golf but really likes being part of a team for hockey. Golf is his first love but he loves hockey too,” said his parents Jim and Sarah Vandermolen.

When asked to talk about the benefits of Max being passionate about, and exceling at, more than one sport, and how the two complement each other, the Vandermolens pointed to some recurring themes in youth sports, “The biggest benefit so far is that Max doesn't have the burnout factor you see in a lot of one sport athletes even at this age. The multiple sports keeps him fresh and excited for the next sport of the season.” They went on to say, “Hockey and golf definitely compliment each other in a lot of ways. The main thing I see would be the hand eye coordination displayed in both sports. Hockey keeps his legs strong throughout the winter so in the summertime he uses his leg strength to generate a lot of power in his golf swing. Balance on his skates also helps with his balance in his golf swing. Mentally you need to be strong in both sports or in any sport to succeed. In golf you are alone playing against yourself and your thoughts. In hockey you have a team to think about. They balance each other out well.”
PC: Harry How/Getty Images Sport

KOHA’s Interim Hockey Director, Matt Kakabeeke (also USA Hockey’s Associate Coach in Chief & ADM Coordinator for the Michigan District, as well as being KOHA’s 2007 Head Coach), had this to say about Max, “I have had the opportunity to coach Max for multiple hockey seasons.  I had heard Max was an extraordinary golfer, but I was also excited because Max was not specializing in golf.  Max, while excelling at golf, was also playing hockey and baseball.  It was evident that Max was athletic, and transferring his skills and athletic movements to the rink.  I am confident his experience in hockey has improved his ability in golf, and vice versa.”

At KOHA, we believe giving them time away from the rink, allowing them to be kids, and allowing them to simply to have fun, garners far greater results (on the field/ice and off), decreases the chance of overuse injuries and burnout, and – perhaps most importantly - promotes a healthy lifestyle into adulthood.

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