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14U/16U Q-and-A: The Missing Ingredient

12/18/2017, 3:45pm MST
By Roger Grillo

Q: What is missing among many 14/16U hockey players?

A: The proper number of practices for athletes at this age, both on and off the ice, is the No. 1 issue holding many back from reaching their full potential. 

The practice-to-game ratio for this age group is way out of line in many areas of the country. In many cases, the ratio is 1:1 or 1.5:1 at best. Simply put, that's not enough practice. 

Practice is critical at every stage of a young athlete's development, all the way through college. Studies have shown that one well run practice is worth more than 11 games collectively in terms of skill development. If you truly step back and analyze the number of development opportunities a player gets in a game, it is an extremely small number. 

Take a close look at college hockey and the number of high-end athletes that are emerging from the NCAA and peel back the numbers. NCAA Division I hockey teams practice on the ice four days a week. Most will also have at least two off-ice practices during the week. They will also run individual skill sessions and many have pregame skates. So if you add all this up, it equals 8-10 practices to two games a week, a 4:1 practice-to-game ratio at a minimum! 

No wonder those athletes get better. They work at it a lot. Why would it make any sense for 14U/16U athletes to practice less than college athletes?!

For optimal development, the focus needs to shift form a game-heavy culture to a practice-heavy culture so these passionate 14U/16U athletes can obtain their long-term goals and fulfill their dreams.

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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