Answer: The responsibility for a player’s development should get transferred from the adults, (parents, coaches and administrators) to the player around the age of 14. What really needs to take place at this stage of the developmental process is the adults say to the young man or woman, “do you truly want to be a great player, and if the answer is yes then the reply is ok now it is your turn. This doesn’t mean that the parents and coaches don’t give advice or guidance, what it means is that the idea of getting better has to come from a deep passion and love for the game and a competitive fire that drives the player to do all the little things that in the end makes a huge difference.
What are these little things? First of all at this age most of the kids will be going through all different levels of puberty. Their bodies will be changing daily. This is the time in their lives where off ice work, getting stronger and faster is a priority in their training, working on their shot and their hands with off ice activities. Taking greater responsibility for their nutrition and sleep habits, in other words being more professional about their approach to working towards becoming an elite athlete. At this point the hockey needs to be more serious and more intense. The season should be longer and they should be playing more games, with the understanding that practice is really where you get better, so the proper practice to game ratio (3 practices per 1 game) still needs to be in place. Doing things in the off season to make you a stronger, faster and more complete player is important as well. At this stage a player that is trying to make that next jump may have to go from playing a bunch of different sports to playing just two and taking the other time to TRAIN!
This is the age where you find out who wants to be player and who just wants to play. Neither is a good or bad thing, both options are great as long as it is the player’s decision! In reality there are no shortcuts to being good at something, the necessary time and work needs to go into the process and in order for that to happen a true love and passion for the game is critical.