Q: My child is finishing the 8U cross-ice season and heading to 10U next fall. How will the transition to full-ice hockey go?
A: This is a great question. There's no doubt that there will be an adjustment period. It will be important to stay patient and realize the changes in game structure that your player will be experiencing. Most importantly, maintain a long-term view. The skill-development benefits your child experienced in cross-ice hockey will pay dividends, especially in terms of your child’s long-term hockey potential.
As you look to next season, in an ADM program, your child will continue experiencing age-appropriate programming that includes proper off-ice training, station-based practices and small team sizes. This type of programming is important because you want to continue to build on the efficient skill development that your child received while in the 8U program.
The initial transition to age-specific station-based practices and small-area games at 10U will be seamless, however, it will take some time for your child to adjust to full-ice games. Patience will be necessary. Don’t worry about line changes and offside. Players will pick this up quickly as the season progresses.
Initially, players may tend to group together and not spread out in full-ice hockey. This is only natural, because so far, your player has been encouraged to be around the puck and support the puck during their cross-ice experience, since that supercharges the development of key skills like stickhandling, passing, shooting, receiving a pass and battling for the puck in traffic. With time and good coaching, the players will quickly learn to employ the critical skills they are developing within the new structure, i.e., spread out, playing positions and using the larger space.
More importantly, as your 10U player trains in station-based practice and small areas, they will acquire skill and hockey IQ at a greater rate, a more efficient rate, because of the ADM recommendations. As your child progresses through 10U, you will see their comfort in handling the puck, skating with the puck, playing in traffic, passing and competing. Soon these skills will lead to success on the full ice sheet, and in the long-term, the emphasis on those skills in the smaller-ice structure will give your child a higher ceiling of skills and ability, helping them reach their full potential rather than plateauing.
In my experience, for teams that played 8U cross-ice hockey, there’s an initial transition period to full-ice, which is normal, and then adaptation happens quickly. As the 10U season progresses, these teams adapt by Thanksgiving. The goal for any team is to be at its best at the end of the season – playoff time – and that’s what ADM programming helps accomplish.
Beyond that though, the ultimate goal is helping each player reach their full long-term potential. Championships at 10U aren’t necessarily the best measure of true player development, especially in a late-specialization sport like ice hockey. The real excitement begins in subsequent years, when your child begins displaying outstanding skills and a more advanced hockey IQ. It’s then that many hockey parents realize that having a 12U or 14U child with a high level of skills and smarts is much more exciting than winning 10U games before Halloween.
In the end, be ready for awesome growth in your player at 10U and be patient during the relatively brief adjustment to the full ice sheet.
The author, Joe Bonnett, has more than 20 years of hockey coaching experience, including 18 seasons at the NCAA Division I level. Before entering the college ranks, he was a peewee and midget hockey coach in Michigan.
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