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12U Q-and-A: Roles for non-skating parents

08/29/2017, 3:45pm MDT
By Rich Hansen, USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager

Q: I never learned to skate, but I like to coach youth sports. What can I do to help my child’s hockey team this season?

A: This is a great question. For some unfortunate reason, youth sport coaches often feel that they need to have hockey-playing experience to coach or help with a team. Though experience does help, some of the best coaches I have met (with no experience) are ones who have passion for the game, love working with young athletes, and are always willing to learn and grow as a coach. If you have those three qualities, I don’t know many teams that wouldn’t want you involved in some capacity, because you can be a valuable contributor, whether you’ve played hockey extensively or not. 

In recent years, USA Hockey has reiterated its recommendation that clubs and associations place an emphasis on delivering an off-ice training program in addition to all that happens on the ice. This portion of athlete development has been too often neglected across the country, and it really is just as important to a young athlete’s development as the on-ice component. Agility, balance, strength, coordination, body-contact confidence and overall athleticism is critical for hockey players. This is one area where a great youth sport coach with no skating experience can be an extremely valuable asset to a club or association, especially given the time commitment and preparation already required of the on-ice coaches. They may not have the capacity to lead a successful off-ice training component, or they may simply need more help to lead it, and that means there’s major value added by a dedicated off-ice coach. If skating is uncomfortable for you, then leading the team’s off-ice training component could be the perfect spot to assist. 

USA Hockey offers actionable resources on age-appropriate off-ice training and what kids should be doing off the ice prior to practice and post-practice. If this type of hockey coaching is something you could do confidently, I recommend you research the USA Hockey resources, become a student of the age classification you are coaching, and offer to jump in and help. The athletes, and the program as a whole, will be better for it. Thanks for your passion!

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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