Things often look different from ages 8 to 10. Clothes get bigger, schoolwork heavier and independence grows a bit more. The transition from 8-years-old to double digits in hockey isn’t immune to these changes, as focus shifts from just getting used to the ice with 8U practices, to more skill development at 10U.
“Our biggest emphasis at 10U is the quality practices,” said Ty Hennes, American Development Model regional manager. “The biggest thing we always ask of the kids and parents that puts it into perspective is: ‘What’s the best part of Disneyland? Is it riding the rides or standing in line?’ It’s always the rides, so we tell the kids and parents to find coaches and associations that create the fun ‘ride-like’ environment for their son or daughter with constant activity and no ‘waiting around.’”
Hennes said the best way to get that is with the ADM’s cross-ice games and stations. Four to six stations per practice with three or four teams totaling 40 to 50 skaters will allow kids to touch and pass the puck upwards of 60 or 70 times. But while that may not be entirely new to coaches or parents at the 10U level, there are many things that are.
Here’s what 10U practices should stress:
Skill Development – Practices at 10U should shift focus from training just athletic ability, like in 8U, to skill development. Technical and individual skills – stickhandling, skating, shooting – are crucial at the 10U age when kids still learn fairly quickly. There should be lots of repetition here to take full advantage of this fertile time for skill development.
Visual Demonstrations – Because of the quick learning age, it’s also important to make sure kids are learning the correct way to do these things. It’s an age that kids still emulate what they are taught visually.
“Kids today are so visually oriented with iPads and iPhones,” said Hennes. “So quality skill demonstrations are very important. If the coaches don’t feel comfortable properly demonstrating, go to YouTube and find a clip or incorporate an older kid into the program or association and have them demonstrate. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in the past four years is that you can explain it to them, but kids are going to emulate exactly what you’re showing them. It’s a big skill window so it’s important they learn it the right way.”
Creativity – 10U practices should force kids to be creative with their stickhandling. Hennes said one of the favorites of players is called “Junkyard Chaos” where coaches toss out empty garbage cans, tires, etc., and have the kids skate around the widespread objects. This causes them to think for themselves and it teaches them how to steer around traffic in a fun environment. Using a ringette, where each kid has one on their stick, also helps because the kids won’t be worried about losing the ringette. They’ll just focus on control and creativity.
Developing Hockey Sense – At this age, Hennes said kids should start to get “hockey vision.” Practices should help them see the ice more clearly and make better decisions. Because it’s one of the first times players are being asked to make a decision with the puck, coaches should make it an environment that’s fun, where kids aren’t punished for their mistakes and the scoreboard doesn’t dictate how well a player or team is doing.
In all of these drills, games and concepts, 10U practices should be fun. These kids are still fostering a love for the game and they should enjoy coming to the rink.