Q: What's one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to developing hockey players at the 8U age group?
A: One of the biggest misconceptions I see at 8U is that the most advanced players and the least advanced players need different training methods or programming.
In five years of being deep into long-term athlete development research, one of the biggest eye-openers for me was in the area of trainability windows and age-appropriate training.
Since all children playing at the 8U age group are in what sport science calls their ABC (Athleticism, Balance and Coordination) stage, the focus simply needs to be on high activity levels and fun. It's a physiological fact. To think that the more advanced players need to move on from this stage and rush into the next phase is one of the great mistakes that coaches and parents make. Taking full advantage of this ABC stage and the corresponding window of trainability is the optimal development plan for an 8U player regardless of whether they are more advanced or less advanced.
At 8U, ensuring that children get the maximum amount of high-activity, individual athleticism-based training, while staying away from a systems mindset, will put those players on the surest road to long-term hockey success. Even more importantly, it will help them build an exceptionally strong foundation from which they can reach their full athletic potential.
The author, Roger Grillo, has coached for more than 20 years at the high school and college levels. He spent 12 seasons as the head coach at Brown University and was a Spencer Penrose National Coach of the Year finalist in 1997-98.