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14U/16U Q-and-A: Player development tips

01/27/2023, 8:15am MST
By Guy "Goose" Gosselin

Q: Do you have any player development tips that could give my player an edge?

A: There are no shortcuts, but there are a few tips that can boost your teen’s development as a hockey player and help them be the best they can be on a daily basis.

To start, hopefully your player is living a healthy, active lifestyle. This means things like consistently good sleeping habits, proper nutrition, an age-appropriate training routine and staying well hydrated.

The question to ask your teen is, “Are you truly committed to becoming a better athlete and the best person you can be?”

It’s an important question because it helps put things in perspective for them. Everyone says they want to be the best, but few are actually willing to do what it takes to be the best. For some, simply giving them a blueprint for how to achieve their best is all they need. Asking them the aforementioned question, then discussing the specifics with them, can help them understand what true commitment is.

There are 168 hours in a week. What is your teen doing with those 168 hours? Have they ever actually taken a look at the time they spend on things during the week? Does their time expenditure reflect their goals?

What are productive ways of spending that time?

  • Family time is a productive expenditure of time. That’s the support group. The people who want the best for you. Time spent with family is productive.
  • Another productive expenditure of time is school work and studying. Seeking education and developing an appetite to be a lifelong learner will pay dividends. Plus, the vast majority of hockey players end up making a living with their brains rather than their hockey skills, so it’s important to develop the brain.
  • Does your teen set aside some time to be with friends? This is also conducive to development, as long as it’s a wise amount of time and a wise choice in friends.
  • Off-ice training is extremely valuable and sometimes overlooked. Investing time in age-appropriate off-ice training is very productive. It’s a vital complement to your teen’s on-ice efforts.
  • Practices, unstructured play and meaningful games are all valuable, productive investitures of time.
  • Sleep – at least eight hours per night – is valuable and productive. Some professional teams are now looking to proper amounts of sleep as a secret weapon in their player development arsenal.

Players also need to know that the race to their full potential is a marathon, not a sprint. They need to be patient with themselves and the process while remaining highly competitive and driven to succeed. They need to understand that they control their own destiny. If they fully invest in their development, and fully commit to it, they’ll get results.

As it relates to the end point in the process, I’ve found that the players who are working the hardest don’t need to talk much about the end point. They show by doing.

Here are a few final tidbits to help with your teen’s development:

  • It may be a good idea for your teen to keep a training and performance journal. Looking back and seeing those gains can be a great motivator.
  • It’s important to be coachable and a good listener.
  • Body language is of critical importance to coaches and scouts.
  • Learn from mistakes.
  • Create good habits (see PDF below).
  • Eat to compete (see PDF below).
  • Be prepared and ready to compete when stepping on the ice (see dynamic stretching PDF below).
  • Be yourself. Your identity will evolve as a player.
  • Be humble, be thankful. Understand that the lessons learned while playing sports can be applied to help overcome many challenges faced later in life.
  • Every player has the opportunity to be the best they can be; It’s up to them if they want to make the commitment.
  • Keep it simple. Work hard, and most importantly, have fun! 

The author, Guy "Goose" Gosselin, made his NHL debut with Winnipeg in 1988. He is a two-time United States Olympian and was inducted into the University of Minnesota Duluth Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

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