'If our kids are playing games on a full-ice surface, why are station based practices so important?'
As we watch the continued implementation of the American Development Model for many different age groups, this question is asked many times at the 10U Squirt level. When our players move from 8U Mites and the Cross-ice competition ice surface to a larger full ice playing environment at 10U Squirt, it is critical that we continue with station based/small area games practices. Often, parents think since their child is now playing full-ice hockey, that the practices should be full-ice and systems-based. In reality, when we review the Windows of Trainability for Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD), the main focus of this ‘Learning to Train’ stage is skill acquisition. What this is telling us very strongly is that our 9-10 year old hockey players need to be concentrating on skill development. This reduced space environment forces quicker hockey decisions, increases the repetitions these decisions and the skills used which in turn accelerates development. As a parent you should be demanding that your child’s coaches are putting practices together that focus on skills and the hockey decisions that go along with those skills. Coaches can perfect this with station-based skill practices and small area games in practice. This is not the age to be concentrating on the systems of the game. We need our practices to be heavy on skills and puck competition, not being coached away from the most important element we have in our game, the puck. Let’s get our young players confident with our skills of the game. Sport Science and LTAD are telling us that this age is the exact time for this to be accomplished.