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12U Q-and-A: Late-Season Focal Points

02/17/2016, 2:15pm MST
By Roger Grillo, USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager

Q: What should be the focus for my child at this point in the season?

A: As the season winds down and teams are heading into the playoffs, it’s a good time to reflect on the past six months and evaluate the goals that were established for the season, both individual and team goals. 

For coaches, this means assessing each player’s ability, performance and growth, and also, thinking about what their needs are moving forward. This is critical. At 12U, a coach’s focus needs to be on the development of each individual athlete on the team. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get caught up in team performance – wins and losses – instead. But ultimately, at 12U, the primary focus should be on the improvement of every individual player instead. And here’s the important thing to remember: the more improvement coaches can nurture in their players as individuals, the greater the team’s success will be in terms of wins and losses. So keeping the focus on individual skill development is a win-win.

For the 12U athlete, the assessment of performance, growth and progress toward individual and team goals should involve being able to constructively critique where they were six months ago, where they are now, and where they want to go in the immediate future. What’s most important is that they understand how to go about reaching their goals. That’s where we as parents and coaches can help.

The reality is that 12U players are still in their skill-acquisition stage, so an investment in the individual athlete still pays the greatest dividends. At this stage, it’s not so much about wins and losses. It’s more about improving individual skills daily. Age-appropriate, age specific training and competition is the most efficient, effective way to improve those individual skills, so encouraging that type of training and competition, along with a long-term, growth-focused mindset, is one of the best things a parent or coach can do for their aspiring athlete.

So take a step back and take a good hard look at what has transpired so far this season in terms of your athlete’s individual skill development. Then spend some time thinking about what needs to happen next to continue refining those individual skills with an emphasis on reaching full long-term 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.

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