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12U Q-and-A: Still not time to specialize

07/28/2017, 9:00am MDT
By Rich Hansen, USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager

Q: 8U and 10U was fun, but now at 12U, I think it’s time for my child to focus entirely on hockey, so what should the training and competition calendar look like for a 12U player looking to excel?
A: First, please don’t force your 12U child to focus entirely on hockey. And if they’re considering it on their own, please encourage them to instead continue playing a variety of sports in addition to hockey, along with other physical activities. The reality is, shifting the entire year-round focus to hockey at 12U will more than likely hurt your child.
All athletes, even at the highest level, need a break both mentally and physically from their craft, and it is no different at the 12U level. Sure, at this age, your child may be leaning toward hockey or maybe favor hockey, but in no way should this be a year-round endeavor. This is still the stage where the emphasis should be on building the athlete first, then the hockey player.
As for the optimal training and competition calendar at 12U, sport science and long-term athlete development studies tell us that the hockey calendar should be approximately seven months long. Within those seven months, we recommend your child having about 95 practices, 50 off-ice training sessions and 40-45 meaningful games. Keep in mind, these numbers are more geared for the 12U player who is looking to continue progressing in hockey. This type of calendar would reflect the optimal progression to prepare for 14U.
At 12U, there is nothing wrong with putting the hockey gear away for a while to focus on another activity or sport. In fact, it would be beneficial, as many ancillary skills can be developed that will benefit your child in the sport of hockey. As your child gets older and the sport becomes more competitive, it will require more of a commitment, but at 12U, hockey should not be a year-round focus.

The author, Rich Hansen, played four seasons of NCAA hockey at Mercyhurst College, amassing 127 points before embarking on a six-season playing career in the professional hockey ranks.

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