Q: At what age do the dramatic in-game improvements begin to show?
A: Skill development doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow process. If a team and its coaches have focused on the right things, like refining skills and training with game concepts, the 12U classification is when everything begins coming together. It’s at 12U that kids and teams groomed in the right kind of environment really begin eclipsing those that weren’t focused on the proper building blocks.
Cognitively, 12U players are now in a position to use their skills effectively and demonstrably. The training gap starts to widen more dramatically at this age. We regularly see programs win championships at 12U with groups of kids that were merely competitive at 10U.
Remember, however, that just because a team has practiced in a station format doesn’t mean that the players will automatically improve if the quality and quantity of repetitions are absent and the concepts aren’t being taught. The format gives you a better chance to instruct in smaller groups and increase the learning repetitions, but it still comes down to the receptiveness of the kids and the delivery of the coaches over time.
The author, Ken Martel, coached collegiately at Air Force and Michigan Tech while also helping guide numerous U.S. National Teams. As a player, he skated four seasons at Lake Superior State, winning an NCAA championship in 1988.
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