Q: Why is it important for coaches at 14U/16U to continue stressing stick-on-puck concepts?
A: We have seen how important the teaching of stick-on-puck can be for the development of young players. At 14U/16U, we start to get a clearer picture of how a strong understanding of this concept can help with team concepts as well. From 8U-12U, we see how a good stick can help a player use proper angles to ultimately lead to a turnover or take away. While this continues at 14U/16U, coaches stressing and teaching stick-on-puck will see teammates reacting to these turnovers and poor decisions made by forcing an opponent into making a decision sooner with the stick in a proper area.
We see many instances of players with their stick in the air, which allows more time and available ice to make a play than if the defensive stick was positioned in the stick/puck area. This concept needs to be a priority in training by 14U/16U coaches. Coaches need to stress that players have the stick down in an area that will provide the quickest access to the puck or the position/strength to win a puck battle. We have seen players with their stick parallel to the ice ignore the puck and use the hands and stick to check an opponent. Coaches need to train and stress the importance of winning puck possession as quick as possible.
The author, Scott Paluch, was head coach of the gold medal-winning 2016 U.S. Youth Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. He was previously head coach at Bowling Green and an assistant at Boston College. As a player, Paluch was an All-America defenseman at BGSU.
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