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10U: The Summer of Stick Skills

06/12/2024, 3:15pm MDT
By Michael Rand

Offseason Stick Development at 10U

For a 10U hockey player looking to have fun with the game and improve in the offseason, there might not be a more valuable pathway than working on stick and puck skills.

“That's a skill where if you put the time in, you're going to see a direct reflection back on the ice,” says Dan Jablonic, a player development director for USA Hockey. “You’re more comfortable and confident in your ability to make some plays.”

For a 10U player – and, frankly, for older players as well – that shouldn’t feel like work. It should be fun, it should stress a player’s burgeoning creativity, it should stress purposeful repetitions over pure number goals, and it can be achieved through means outside of hockey.

Jablonic shares some of the ways in which all of those things add up to a good 10U offseason plan to improve stick skills.


When sports start to feel like a chore, young players start to tune out. They become less engaged, and sooner or later (often sooner) they leave the sport and find something else that’s more fun.

That has to be an emphasis with any offseason plan for a 10U player. It’s called an offseason for a reason, and any improvement should be a byproduct of growing a love and enjoyment of the game.

“You're putting in the work and you're kind of asking yourself how does it transfer to the game you're playing,” Jablonic says. “Creativity starts with, it's got to be fun. Where you're not forced to go do those things, you do it because you enjoy it.”


Speaking of which, Jablonic says the offseason is a great time for young players to work on those creative nuances that make individuals unique.

“You go watch the (NHL) playoffs right now, it's incredible hockey,” he says. “To see the way they're shooting the pucks and the moves they’re making and the kids, they want to go down and practice some of that stuff. It's great. Go emulate your favorite player, right?”

They shouldn’t expect to be perfect copies of NHL players, but that’s not the point.

“Let the kids explore. You’ve got plenty of time as you get older in this game to get really serious,” Jablonic says. “So the more important thing is to have fun and get creative and really enjoy what you're doing.”


Another important element of an offseason of improvement without burnout is stressing purposeful training. Instead of merely setting goals in terms of the number of pucks you shoot a day or time spent stickhandling, focus instead on things that make those repetitions more challenging and therefore interesting and transferrable to actual games, Jablonic says.

“If it's something like, hey, I’ve got to shoot 100 pucks a day. Well, you know what? I'd much rather have 20 repetitions that were high-quality and with purpose and with different variables,” Jablonic says. “So it's not just the same old motion because that's our game. The same play doesn't happen exactly the same the next time. It's going to be a little bit different.”

Helping 10U players understand that context will give them valuable insights into the nuances of hockey.

“The game is not always pretty. There's always traffic, there's conflict,” Jablonic says. “And I think the more that you can put into that, once you have that technical foundation – once you start to feel comfortable with your shooting and stick skills – is critical.”


And of course, the best way to enjoy an offseason while returning to hockey both refreshed and improved? Play other sports.

“I can't stress enough that it doesn't always have to be about hockey,” Jablonic says, “because if you're talking about stick skills, I hope that you're exploring other sports like lacrosse and baseball. Golf, you talk about stick skills, being able to put it in the hole.”

A preponderance of both anecdotal and data-driven evidence suggests that the vast majority of elite athletes – including NHL players – played three or more sports growing up.

“So I think that's important for us to always come back to,” Jablonic says. “A little bit of hockey, but at the same time, we need to reduce that growing trend of overuse injuries. That’s where we stress the other sports and you can get a lot of that work to transfer to your stick skills.”

And because there are so many things that factor into a strategy of purposeful offseason training, it’s important to know what works for each individual player.

“As parents, as coaches, we need to find what really what motivates kids,” Jablonic says. “It's good to work hard, but it's got to come from their environment.”


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