Most youth hockey players who reach the 14U age group have developed a love of the sport, putting them in control of their own destiny as they pursue their dreams.
But – with a nod to Spider-Man – with great power comes great responsibility. It’s an age where increased training becomes more heavily intertwined with improvement – with the onus falling more squarely on the athlete instead of coaches or parents to instigate that extra work.
For those willing to put in the time, Bob Mancini has some advice.
Mancini, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, says the first lesson is responsibility.
“Right around 14U is when kids who really want to become hockey players start to take on more of that responsibility,” Mancini said.
That means taking care of their bodies and seeking out optimal conditions for playing – all without being told or watched.
“They have to learn that rest and recovery are important,” Mancini said. “Nutrition, hydration, all those things really start to come into play.”
They’re particularly important because of an increased emphasis on additional training off-ice at that age.
“Kids in general around that age are going through puberty and we start seeing an added emphasis on off-ice training,” Mancini said. “That’s something that players can really embrace and by following good training methods and regimen they will start to see improvements on the ice.”
Much of that has to do with continuing to work on some of the core tenets USA Hockey embraces for players at 8U on up: strength, power, quickness, balance, agility and coordination.
One way to accomplish that: Play other sports like lacrosse or tennis during the hockey offseason. Speed training should be done in bursts that simulate the 45-second shifts common to hockey.
“It’s going to look very different and plans and exercises might be different, but it really is about continuing down that road of making better athletes,” Mancini said.
Some of that training is done in conjunction with organized team activities, but away from that structure is where true separation will happen.
“We all know there are things you can do at home in the basement, in the backyard, in the driveway to make you a better shooter and puckhandler,” Mancini said. “These are all still very important at those ages.”
There is a fine line because, as Mancini notes, “You never want to do too much.” That can lead to physical and/or mental burnout under the wrong circumstances.
Again that’s part of the maturity level of a young player – knowing their own bodies so they are properly equipped to work and play hard without overdoing it.
Taking responsibility for your own work rate, though, doesn’t mean freelancing your whole routine. A 14U/16U player should ask for guidance when it comes to proper technique, particularly when it comes to a weight training regimen, Mancini says.
The goal in building muscle isn’t to look like a world champion on the bench press but rather to work the muscle groups that will help on the ice.
“One of the most important things is that once you get to the age where you are going to add a good off-ice regimen to your workout, you have make sure you are getting the right direction and doing things the right way,” he said. “If you are going to be all of a sudden adding the proper weight room regimen to what you do, you need a coach or a trainer who is going to help you make sure you’re learning the right techniques and what’s appropriate for hockey players and athletes at your age.”
Check out these ADM at-home training exercises, courtesy of USA Hockey:
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