In many places, hockey players are taking cautious first steps – or, rather, glides on the ice – in a return to their sport. With that comes optimism and the hope of some semblance of normalcy. In the spirit of that idea, here are 10 things to look forward to this season at the 10U level:
“Obviously just getting back on the ice is the number one thing,” said Roger Grillo, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model. Indeed, with much of organized sports shutting down in March in response to the pandemic, it’s been several months since a lot of players have been on the ice in an organized way.
At 10U, a lot of players already have a good number of years invested in hockey, and for many this is as long as they’ve been without hockey since before they could skate. Simply getting back on the ice is something to look forward to.
Grillo is a proponent of making the best of a situation, that’s been a general key to getting through the pandemic. In the case of its impact on hockey, perhaps the lessons of adversity can be applied to the ice – and make players even more thankful for what they have once they can play again.
“It’s a little adversity and challenge, but I think there’s a silver lining to everything,” Grillo said. “At that age, kids are pretty adaptable.”
Okay, maybe some parents will disagree with this one, but you know the awful smell that is pretty much baked into hockey equipment? Don’t you miss it? Maybe not the smell itself, but smelling the awful smell. There’s something about it that is unmistakably “hockey,” and it will be comforting in a way to have it back.
There was only so much a lot of kids could do while mostly staying at home. Some of you may have worked really hard on your shot, on passing or stickhandling. Maybe it was countless hours riding a bike or running around the neighborhood while burning off energy. All of that might translate into improvement once the games resume.
“Hopefully, some of our players got the chance to get stronger and more explosive,” Grillo said.
Hockey is a sport, but playing hockey produces lifelong bonds. A lot of those had already formed when things shut down and it’s going to be pretty special to rekindle friendships with teammates.
“The big part of it is the social aspect,” Grillo said. “Being with your buddies doing something you love. I think that’s been a big missing component and an important aspect of youth sports for kids. … Sometimes your hockey buddies are totally different than neighborhood kids or school friends. Getting reacquainted with them is cool.”
If we’ve allowed anyone into our “bubbles” in recent months, chances are they were trusted friends or family members. There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to meet new people, but a new season likely means some new teammates – and the chance not just to see old friends but to make new ones.
One of the most frustrating – even while necessary – features of trying to flatten the curve of the pandemic is its confinement. Opportunities for new experiences or places were often few and far between. The hockey season, then, is a welcome venue change.
“It’s different scenery, different people, with a diversity of thought and environment,” Grillo said. “Those are all really valuable child development aspects.”
If there is another silver lining, Grillo says, it’s that much of the shutdown happened when kids naturally would have taken a break from hockey anyway while focusing on other outdoor sports.
“The fun of the sport and the passion is so critical at 10U with the kids at that stage in life,” Grillo said. “When you step away from the game, I think it’s a growing moment. This was a forced break so it’s a little more painful, but for us, we got lucky that way, in terms it being a natural time for a break.”
Goals and saves are fun. Wins and losses matter. However, they are all by-products of the enjoyment of getting better. With 10U falling squarely in the golden age of skill development, there will be many opportunities to take another step this season.
“Some of the markers we’re seeing with kids moving forward are compete level, attention to some of the smaller things, their ability to adjust,” Grillo said. “A big thing we’ve been talking about doing during this downtime is at 10U they’re starting to come to an age where they are playing off of others and creating space for themselves.”
As many states ease back into team sports, hockey at the 10U level might actually benefit from the creativity needed to adhere to safety protocols.
“For the adults in charge of the kids, maybe they take the opportunity to relearn some things and look at how we coach our kids,” Grillo said. “With some of the rules in these areas, it will be more development-focused than competition-focused. That’s a huge positive for athletes.”
Tag(s): ADM Features