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Three Thoughts on 6U/8U Hockey from a Division I Coach

04/14/2021, 1:30pm MDT
By Tyler Mason

Frank Serratore knows the game of hockey at all levels.

The Coleraine, Minnesota native joined the coaching ranks just a few years after his college playing days ended at Western Michigan. Serratore is currently the head coach of the Air Force Academy men’s hockey team and has also coached the U.S. U17 team in international play. Additionally, he has a strong history with the USA Hockey Development Program. 

With more than 30 years of coaching experience under his belt, Serratore is well-equipped to offer advice to players of any age, including our youngest at 6U/8U. Here are three thoughts from Serratore on 6U/8U hockey.

Having Fun is the Top Priority

First, helping young kids enjoy the game is crucial, Serratore says. Creating an enjoyable experience at a young age can go a long way in developing a love of the sport.

“The most important thing is that they’re having fun,” Serratore said. “If they’re having fun, they’re going to want to go back to the rink. That’s true with anything. If they’re having fun in school, they’re going to look forward to going to school. Kids want to have fun.”

Serratore harkened back to his days of playing outdoor hockey as a kid and remembered why he and so many others started out in the sport: because it’s fun.

“You want them to catch the hockey bug. That’s the most important thing,” Serratore said. “The way to catch do that is by ensuring that they’re having fun out there. Why did we all play youth hockey? We had outdoor rinks, and we caught the bug, a lot of us, just playing with our neighborhood buddies on the outdoor rink.”

Small-Area Games Build Skills

Coaches at all levels, including college, implement a variety of small-area games to work on a number of different skills. At the younger levels, those games can not only teach skills in an age-appropriate environment but kids also have a blast playing them. 

“Games are fun. Games are competitive and you learn how to compete,” Serratore said. “If you want that puck, you better go get it. If you’ve got it, you better work to keep it because somebody’s going to try and take it away from you. In hockey, that’s what’s fun. Competing is fun. Competing is healthy.”

Serratore praised USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which aims to teach various concepts through small-area games.

“The curriculums are not only great for skill development, but it mixes in a heavy dose of fun in the small games that they utilize,” Serratore said.

Let Nature Take Its Course

While some parents at the 6U/8U level might be trying to turn their kids into instant stars, Serratore said that’s not necessarily a good idea. Patience can be a virtue.

“Some parents want to fast-track their kids and they put them in these summer programs and try to accelerate their development,” Serratore said. “You can accelerate it, but ultimately stifle it, too. What race do you want to win as a parent? Do you want to win the race to having the best 14-year-old or do you want to win the race to having the best 18-to-20-year-old?”

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Tag(s): ADM Features