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12U: Five Traits Coaches Love

12/16/2021, 4:15pm MST
By Michael Rand

When it comes to the things coaches love in young players, it’s not as simple as scoring goals (though, um, that doesn’t hurt).

Rather, it’s a more complete set of traits that they are looking for and appreciate, particularly at the 12U level.

For a definitive list of those things, Guy Gosselin, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, weighed in with his thoughts.

“It’s a never-ending human development process,” he said.


Coaches often talk about players who have a “high compete level.” Maybe that sounds simple, but here’s what it means to Gosselin.

“If the opponent has the puck I will go and battle for it and regain possession of the puck,” he says. “That just comes from hard work and repetition.”

Players who give maximum effort on plays will still make mistakes and still lose battles. All players do. But they will gain the trust of coaches in critical situations.

“If you can form good habits that way, it’s almost like OK you know this player is always going to compete and then you earn that trust from your coach,” Gosselin says. “This player, girl or boy, this player is always going to be working hard and giving 100 percent.”


Being an achiever can be linked to setting good goals, something coaches also look for in players.

“It’s good to have goals, and it’s good for coaches to help players have goals,” Gosselin says. “Being goal-oriented with everyday stuff. You have to be trying to achieve reasonable goals throughout the season and throughout your development.”


Coaches also love players that don’t get too high or too low, Gosselin says, because their performances tend to have less variance.

“Not too many peaks and valleys,” he says. “Meaning we all learn from our mistakes and we’re only human. Everyone makes mistakes out there. I feel like some of the best hockey players I’ve ever dealt with take a look at their failures, come back and they learn from it and try not to make that same mistake again.”

This is particularly important for a young player because hockey can be a humbling sport and there are going to be low moments.

“It’s a long process of becoming a so-called expert at any level. NHL players make mistakes every single game but they learn from them, and it’s how you react and learn from that that’s the key element,” Gosselin says. “At 12U, your routines start forming, your habits start forming. Just control of your emotions because thinking it’s too easy isn’t good – but making a mistake and thinking you can’t do it isn’t either. Keeping that even-keel attitude. Emotions do have an effect on your performance on the ice.”

Have Fun

When a player is creative on the ice and enjoying themselves, that can be contagious in a very good way on a team.

“There’s always development things like sport IQ. There is something special there for the kids that are students of the game,” Gosselin says. “It’s fun to see kids when they really enjoy what they’re doing, so kids that make it fun for themselves are big for coaches.”

Be a Good Person

But the number one thing for Gosselin?

“Being a good human. Being happy for your teammates when they have success and being there for them when things don’t go right,” Gosselin says. “Coaches love when players are engaged, on-time and ready.”

That goes for having gratitude for the opportunity to play hockey as well.

“Be humble and gracious. All of those things matter because that’s the number one factor later on,” Gosselin says. “If you aren’t trying to be that good person, our game is really special and those types of players get weeded out.”

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Tag(s): ADM Features