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Making the Transition to 10U

10/21/2020, 10:15am MDT
By Michael Rand

Moving up a level in hockey carries with it a certain level of anticipation and pondering of the unknown

Like starting a new school year – or maybe even making a bigger jump, like say from elementary school to middle school – moving up a level in hockey carries with it a certain level of anticipation and pondering of the unknown.

Any worries should fade quickly in both cases. As Dan Jablonic, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model says, making the move from 8U to 10U hockey is less about wholesale changes and more about an ongoing process.

Like with school, you’ll learn a bunch of new things and you’ll be a year older, but all your friends will be there and you’ll have fun along the way.

Here are some of Jablonic’s tips on what to expect when making the transition.

Repeat, but Older

If there’s a sense that there’s more at stake as the age group levels get higher, that doesn’t quite apply to 10U.

“When you look at it from a player and a parent standpoint, what’s good at 8U is good at 10U,” Jablonic said. “The fun component is still important.”

Jablonic encourages clubs to continue cross-ice and half-ice work at 10U – another nod to what works at 8U still being good at the next level up. 

“It’s essentially more of what’s good and right,” he said. “We look at studies from Sweden or Finland, they are going to a sixth of the ice for younger ages. It’s pretty impressive. What happens in a game? Passes, puck touches, decisions, body contact in small spaces.”

In fact, more and more clubs around the U.S. – such as Sno-King in Washington and East Grand Forks in Minnesota – are implementing innovative, in-house, cross-ice and half-ice games. The results and response from kids and parents has been overwhelmingly positive.

A Need for Engagement

For 10U games and practices that use full ice, Jablonic notes that thinking is just as important as the physical side of the game. With more space, keeping players from puck-watching is critical.

“There’s a reason the game is played in small areas where you are forced to make decisions,” he said. “If they are going full-ice, they are going to have more ice and more space. It’s important to keep them engaged.”

That’s one area where it is a step up from the level below and it’s another reason for clubs and teams to continue utilizing small-area games in practices.

“The cognitive side of kids, at 8U – they don’t have that spatial awareness but 10U they start to get glimpses of it,” Jablonic said.

Playing Away from the Puck

Some of that plays out in action away from the puck in full-ice situations. A hockey player on the ice should always be in one of four states relative to the puck.

“Either you have the puck on offense or you are supporting it,” Jablonic said. “Or you are defending the puck or you are defending away from the puck carrier. It’s not so much about positions, but that game transfer is one of those big things to learn.”

If those things weren’t always apparent or essential at 8U, they become more so at 10U.

“The similar things you’re going to see: The odd-person situations. How to win a battle one-on-one. Learning how to control the puck,” Jablonic said. “Those are important.”

Another good way to learn the game is to play different positions. There is no need to pigeonhole kids at 10U to specific positions – in fact, it’s counterproductive. 

It's Okay to Fail

Ultimately, Jablonic says, each step up should be smoother than the last, but that doesn’t mean it should be easy.

“You want to give them as much conflict as they can handle,” he said of an ideal 10U environment. “It should look a little messy. Learning is messy. The more you can create that environment, learning it’s okay to fail, I think that’s important with that jump.”

Jablonic notes that each player should be given the space to acquire skills and that getting bogged down in technicalities like penalties, offsides and faceoffs takes away from skill-building time.

“Don’t get caught up in learning all the rules,” he said. “That can come off-ice.” 

Remember: Just like a young kid on the first day of school, starting 10U hockey is only the next step in a long journey – one that isn’t complete until many lessons later.

“Some of the best players in the world weren’t their teams’ best players at that age,” Jablonic said. “Some played 10U B. We want to build that passion and the fun for the game. Hopefully they come back, keep playing many sports and keep playing hockey.”

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Tag(s): ADM Features