Q: What should the coaching priorities be for 12U hockey?
A: This past season gave me the opportunity to create and assess coaching priorities for the 12U level. Ultimately, it distills down to three main priorities that best promote development for our 12U athletes. Coaches at this level should put programming in place that emphasizes:
As an undercurrent through each of these programming priorities, it’s important to continue having movement/skating drills that promote building athletic agility with and without the puck.
12U athletes must also continue gaining skills and experience in repetitive competitive practice environments (small-area games), so they get comfortable winning and maintaining the puck. The skill of winning puck battles, like any other skill, needs consistent practice and refinement.
Finally, coaches should strive to help 12U players develop a high hockey IQ by putting them in situations that force them to make proper decisions quickly. Again, small-area games and stations built to force players to make these decisions will add to a player’s growing hockey awareness.
When we put these priorities in place, we help 12U players get to a puck quickly, win and possess the puck confidently, and ultimately make the best play possible.
The author, Scott Paluch, was head coach of the gold medal-winning 2016 U.S. Youth Olympic Men’s Hockey Team. He was previously head coach at Bowling Green and an assistant at Boston College. As a player, Paluch was an All-America defenseman at BGSU.
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