ABC'S OF HOCKEY - PARENT
Agility. At U9, there should still be a focus on developing players' overall agility on the ice (and off the ice, too). Agility is the ability to change the body's position efficiently, and it requires the integration of isolated movement skills using a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength, and endurance. Great U9 drills for agility-building include tag and obstacle courses that include combinations of sprints, stops, turns and maneuvers around, over and under objects. These can be done on or off the ice.
Body Contact. It's important to understand that no-check hockey doesn’t mean no contact.
Coordination. The ability to perform complex movements quickly, learn new movements and quickly switch from one set of movements to another.
Development Stage. At U9, boys and girls are transitioning from the FUNdamentals stage into the Learn-to-Train stage. This signals the onset of a critical period in their long-term development: the Golden Age of Motor Skill Development. For ice hockey, skating and puck control skills are the primary focus throughout the 10U age group and should be practiced consistently all season. At this age, players begin having the ability to really concentrate on individual technique.
Effort. Parents often tell their kids to work hard. This is sound advice to help them succeed in hockey and in life. Putting forth “effort” to learn and grow is an important prerequisite for future success. How we as parents, coaches and teachers praise that effort maybe even more important than we realize.
Fakes. As players progress with their basic puck control, it becomes important to incorporate fakes and other forms of deception into play. This type of puck control requires players to master different technical skills than just handling the puck from side to side.
Half-Ice. Half-Ice dividers are not just for U9 hockey. They can create a great learning environment for players at any age.
Improvement. Improvement is something that all parents want to see in their kids as part of their youth sports experience. But while the scoreboard is used as a measuring device in the outcome for individual games, it doesn’t always give an accurate picture of the improvements we can see in our kids. For example, when a player improves his or her passing ability, success is dependent upon their team’s ability to catch.
Jump Rope. Oldies can sometimes be goodies and the jump rope certainly can qualify as both. It’s such a simple fitness tool, but it can also be one of the most valuable for children at U9. Balance, explosion, stamina, rhythm – the jump rope builds all of these in a developing athlete, which is why jump rope drills are included in
Kids. Put yourself in the shoes of an 7-8 year-old and ask yourself some questions. What is important to you? What kinds of things do you want to do? (And, maybe most important, what’s for dinner?) Now list the things that would be appealing to the 7-8 year-old you. Family. Playing with friends. Goofing off. Because this is what kids do. They act like kids. Hockey is a sport that provides kids an environment to play with friends, create, enjoy physical activity and learn new skills on a really cool playing surface. As the adults around the game, please take a step back and appreciate the opportunity you have to watch your kid be a kid, playing the best sport in the world.
Lesson Plan. As a coach we all should be prepared prior to stepping on the ice. This might involve sharing your practice plan with your other coaches or team prior to stepping on the ice.
Multiple Sports. It’s summertime, so get out and play. Be a kid.
Nutrition. As kids grow and develop, their nutrition needs change.
Off-Season. It's called the offseason for a reason. The best way for developing young athletes to elevate their hockey performance in the fall and winter is by getting off the ice during the summer and focusing instead on strength training and playing other sports.
Patience. Been playing two years? Four years? Six years?
Born in January? How about June? November?
There are many factors beyond our children's control that contribute to who is "good" in youth sports at U9. These same factors have little to do with who ultimately becomes a top performer in the years to come. It's extremely important for all adults involved in youth sports to have patience in the development of children. The focus at U9 needs to be fun, participation with friends and basic skill development that sets the table for future success.
Kids develop at different rates. It’s not until they've all gone through puberty and the playing field levels out that we can begin to see which have a passion for sport and might truly excel. At U9, the journey is still merely getting started.
Quality. According to Hockey Canada, “one efficient practice will give a player more skill development than 11 games collectively.” At U9, this is the Golden age of Skill Development, so in a quality practice, expect to see:
- Individual skill work done in a high-activity, high-engagement environment.
- Plenty of repetitions for efficiently refining a player's technical skills. Station-based practices are one of the best ways to provide a high number of reps and efficient skill development.
- Skill development with an increasing degree of complexity and decision-making.
- Game situational play through small-area games to teach the skills, concepts and tactics of ice hockey, along with the ability to make quicker decisions.
Repetition. Increasing the repetitions for our players should be a goal within all of our hockey practices and one of the best ways to do this is to break our players into smaller groups and utilize the ice surface more efficiently though station-based practices. Ice time is a valuable commodity; we need to use it wisely for the development of our kids.
Skating. For hockey players, there is no such thing as being too good of a skater.
When you show up to play basketball, baseball, soccer or almost every other team sport, most kids can already competently run, so time is spent, instead, on learning the game. Our sport is different. Every player must learn new transportation skills just to be involved in the play.
Skating is a skill that players must continue to develop over their entire playing life. A portion of every practice at U9 should be dedicated to refining skating technique and honing skating technique while carrying a puck. If you can skate well, you can succeed as a player. And as players advance, excellent skating skills become even more important. It's impossible to overstate the value of skating ability. Players should never stop refining their skating ability.
Touches on Ice. Each time a player participates in a structured practice or game, this is termed an ice "touch. This recommendation considers future development as a hockey player balanced with overall athletic development.
Under Speed Training. Hockey is a game played at high speed, however, when initially acquiring coordinated movement skills, it’s valuable to slow down and attempt to execute the skills through the proper movement range (known as “underspeed” training). Once a level of proficiency is attained, it then becomes important to practice increasing the speed of execution in a variable, random manner. Execution in a game-like context is the goal.
Visual Examples. One of the ways kids learn is by imitating others. In sports, having adults that model good technique and behavior provide the right visual examples for kids to emulate.
Win. WIN is a coaching acronym. It stands for What’s Important Now.
It is used by coaches to help players focus on the current moment and shift them back into a process-driven mindset. This concept of What's Important Now is also valuable in player development. Certain aspects of development, like fundamental skills, need to be learned before players can effectively develop other more complex aspects of the sport. For example, if your players do not have the skill to catch passes, then your breakout -- any breakout -- is not going to be very effective. At U9, What's Important Now is developing the fundamental skill set that will allow players to succeed as they grow older and the game becomes faster and more demanding.
X-Training. For U9 players, half-training for hockey involves just about any activity that keeps kids moving and active. To be a healthy kid, our children should get a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. This does not mean they need to sign up for more formalized activities and sports, although those things are good as well. Simply playing in the yard, with friends, riding bikes, even climbing a tree develops kids physically. Variety of movement skills acquired in the summer provides a more athletic base for our kids next winter when the return to hockey.
Yelling. There is a difference between yelling and cheering. One degrades, the other supports. The playing environment can be enhanced or made dreadful for kids based upon the actions of the adults involved. Hockey Canada encourages parents to be vocal in support of all kids playing the game.
Z ones. Breaking up the ice surface at U9 to fit the size of the players is an important developmental tool for learning. It provides more skill-development repetitions and more opportunities to be on the ice.