Q: My son is now 12 and still practices the same amount as he did when he was playing 8U. Is this appropriate?
A: This is a great question and I see this happening a lot, where associations are offering every age two practices a week. Though at 12U you should still have a multi-sport lifestyle, the training calendar must be longer and more robust than when you were 8. Now, if your son wants to play recreationally and maybe not take it as seriously, then this is fine. If you have goals of playing at higher levels, I would recommend at least four ice touches a week (80-90 practices a year 35-40 games). I would also like to mention that there should be at least two off-ice sessions a week as part of that regiment. As your son gets older and continues his path, hockey will include more of a commitment.
Now typically we hear, “There is not enough ice time to allow for more practice time.” Those same people will have ONE 12U team on the ice for a practice. This is still the age where skill development is paramount and can be achieved with 30-40 players on the ice. It is so important that all coaches and association leadership make decisions based on what is best for the athletes. Find slots where teams can share ice and teams are getting their appropriate number of ice touches. The right amount of training is essential for a player to improve and hit his/her full potential. Choose an association and coaches that prioritize development and a positive experience for all when deciding their season plan.
The author, Rich Hansen, played four seasons of NCAA hockey at Mercyhurst College, amassing 127 points before embarking on a six-season playing career in the professional hockey ranks.