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12U Q-and-A: Early-season focal points

09/13/2017, 2:15pm MDT
By Roger Grillo

Q: At the start of the season, what are some of the key areas of focus for my 12U player's development?

A: There are four very important areas of focus in terms of 12U player development that should be the cornerstones of every coach's season-long plan.

  • Individual skill development is the top priority at this age group, so the main focal point should be the individual athlete and helping them build the base of skills that will provide a strong foundation for future success. 
  • Secondly, a strong focus on the mental and decision-making part of the sport becomes increasingly important at this stage. Putting players in challenging situations that force them to make a read and a decision is crucial to development. From those situations, 12U players must also learn from their failure and/or success and begin adjusting their play accordingly.
  • Another key emphasis at 12U is a quality off-ice program that focuses on building the athlete's athleticism. This is a critical part of any program that is truly aiming to help players reach their full potential.
  • Lastly, there should be a strong emphasis on teaching body contact and body-checking skills. Kids shouldn't move to the next level of ice hockey without having been consistently taught the proper techniques of body contact and body-checking in an age-appropriate environment. Players in the 12U age classification should be encouraged to learn how to protect themselves and how to use their bodies properly as a skilled part of the game. Coaches should provide consistent training in practices, which will help players develop the skill and the confidence to be effective in the physical aspect of hockey.

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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