Q: My son is finishing his second season of peewee and heading into bantams next season. What does he need to do to get ready for body-checking?
A: Nothing more than what he’s already doing, provided that your son has been developed in a hockey program built upon the ABCs (Agility, Balance, Coordination) of ice hockey and utilizing small-area games.
The transition to body-checking for young athletes is not an overnight adjustment. Acquiring proper skills and readiness for body-checking begins at the youngest ages of mites and continues all the way through peewee hockey and beyond.
Has your son been encouraged to use and experience legal body contact throughout mites, squirts and peewees? If so, your player has likely acquired the confidence and certainly acquired the necessary experience to succeed at the bantam level with full body-checking.
As a mite, your player was sure to bump, rub, compete, fall and lose balance many times when competing in traffic during games and practice. This body awareness and agility is the foundation for acquiring contact confidence at an early age. Here the player focuses on stability, athletic positioning and awareness. These are all vital skill components in having success with body-checking as players advance in their hockey careers.
As a squirt, your player was exposed to angling, timing and tracking. These skills are the essence of body-checking. Your player needs to be confident and master the ability to gap, have proper stick placement and approach the opponent through angling and timing via their skating skills. This learning occurs over a long period of time and must be practiced (repeated) many, many times. Strong edges are vital for proper body-checking.
As a peewee, your player has been exposed to many competitive drills. These drills concentrate on body contact with a purpose as well as proper decision making, controlled aggression and building the knowledge to utilize the body to win puck battles. Your player has also learned to use the stick in a proper way in terms of balance, angling, defense (stick on stick) and leverage.
With proper programming, your player has also been exposed to off-ice training. At 12U, off-ice training is not important for building big muscles, but it is very important for helping young players become true athletes. Body squats, knee bend, agility, rhythm and quickness are important ingredients to building an athlete who can sustain body-checking on the ice. These are all developed, in part, during off-ice training.
Let’s assume your player has participated in a development program based on the ABCs. The mite, squirt and peewee experience will add up to a solid foundation for your player’s entrance into bantam hockey and body-checking.
For more information on the transition to body-checking, download USA Hockey’s Checking the Right Way for Youth Hockey by clicking here.