Perhaps you’ve heard the question.
“Shouldn’t my 8-year-old play a few full-ice games at the end of the season to prepare for 10U hockey?”
It’s a question rooted – knowingly or not – in a rushed development philosophy.
The reality is, 8U hockey prepares players for 10U, where they learn what they’ll need to ascend to 12U, and so on, growing at each step toward their full long-term potential. Each step is valuable. Each is a building block.
Players don’t advance immediately from 8U to the NHL. They aren’t expected, at 9 years old, to know every rule and dominate play during their first month of 10U hockey. Those things are part of what’s learned at 10U. And by patiently developing players’ skills, allowing them to fully absorb all there is to learn at each level, they gain a higher long-term ceiling of hockey ability, one that benefits them when the outcomes begin to truly matter in their late teens and beyond.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: skill development is a marathon, not a sprint, especially in late-specialization sports like hockey. A child’s development isn’t linear; it’s a sometimes-messy process that isn’t meant to always look good. But if we remain patient and fully committed to the proper age-appropriate teaching and coaching, great things can happen in due time – when it matters most.
This week offered another example of the importance of maintaining a long-term, process-oriented approach to hockey development. It happened in St. Paul, where 30-year-old Pat Cannone made his NHL debut with the Minnesota Wild.
A New York native and two-time member of the U.S. National Inline Team, Cannone helped the Wild earn their eighth consecutive victory with his usual blend of high hockey IQ and a skill set honed over the long-term.
It was a gradual climb to the game’s pinnacle, but Cannone proved there’s no need to be in a rush, especially with youth players.
“We’d all like to step right into the NHL at 18 years old and be a star, but that’s not the reality for 99 percent of the guys who make it, so there’s no need to rush kids’ development,” said the former Miami University forward. “It’s a long process, and they’re better off taking full advantage of every step along the way, learning a lot, making the most of it and having fun.”
New Yorker Pat Cannone skates with the Iowa Wild. This week, with the Minnesota Wild, the 30-year-old made his NHL debut.