Q. My daughter is starting her second season of 12U hockey this fall. With COVID-19, she was not able to skate much this summer. Is there anything she can do to help prepare her for the season specifically with competitive body contact/checking?
A. This is a terrific question that addresses a very important topic for your daughter and all players competing in 12U hockey. USA Hockey has made it a priority to stress teaching and implementation of competitive body contact at the 12U age level during practices and games.
I am assuming your daughter and her teammates will continue to work on body checking foundational skills such as skating, angling, edge control, body control, awareness and playing the game with their heads up. In order to be successful with competitive body contact all players must show proficiency with these essential skills.
To answer you question directly, the answer is yes. Off-ice competitive body contact/checking drills can be done easily in your garage or basement. I would recommend to have your daughter find a teammate and have both players get fully dressed in their hockey gear with helmet and stick wearing tennis shoes. Having the girls wear their shoes will provide a safe, sturdy surface to allow the girls to fully engage in contact drills allowing them to gain ‘contact confidence’. This confidence will grow and allow the competitive body contact techniques to transfer to the ice. Another important point regarding wearing all the equipment is that we want your daughter to learn principals of ‘full body contact’ and wearing all of her equipment will allow her to engage in proper contact using shoulders, rear end and legs.
Below is a link to provide you some ideas on drills that you can run in your garage. Be sure to start slow and emphasis technique over force. One rule for these drills is that partners can only give as much force as their partner can receive. Also, have players keep their heads up and eyes open when receiving contact. You want the players to have fun but not be silly and dangerous.
Another resource you reference is the USA Hockey body checking manual, which can be found here.
Finally, I can assure you that working these drills at home several times over the summer will allow your 12U daughter to gain needed confidence and technique that will transfer quickly to the ice while having fun!
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 12U and 16U coach in Michigan.
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