During the spring and summer months, kids across the country should take a break from the rink and spend time enjoying themselves through other sports and activities. But that doesn’t mean their hockey development will be put on hold – not by any means.
Our 10-year-olds can develop their athleticism off the ice in a number of ways, which will pay dividends in the long run, both on and off the ice.
USA Hockey American Development Model regional manager Dan Jablonic offers five ways your 10U players can maximize their development during what’s known as the Golden Age of Development.
“We want the kids to grow all of their skillsets,” Jablonic said. “We want them to get a good foundation and become a strong athlete in general.”
Dryland drills and games
At 10U, it’s all about the ABCs: agility, balance and coordination.
“You can build the ABCs of physical literacy in your dryland drills,” said Jablonic, who played at the University of Minnesota Duluth as well as professionally in the United States and Europe.
You don’t need much in terms of time or equipment when it comes to dryland. Take the multi-directional sprint, for example. Set up four cones or markers five yards apart and have kids practice forward sprinting, shuffling backpedaling, and repeat. This can be done individually or with others. Add some competition and group fun with games like hand wrestling and circle wrestling. Or try the teamwork single-leg deadlift to build lower-body strength and camaraderie. Single-leg exercises help develop explosiveness, strengthen the core and engage the entire body.
USA Hockey has a bevy of age-appropriate dryland drills and games for kids. Mix it up and incorporate them into a weekly routine.
Let kids take the reins in free play
Every activity doesn’t need to be organized or structured. It’s great for kids to work on their athleticism through free play.
Going to the playground, playing tag, frisbee, riding bicycles, a day at the pool or lake – it’s all good.
“It can be as simple as setting them up to play whiffle ball and letting them show off their athletic skills,” Jablonic said.
And don’t be afraid to let the kids get involved in setting up the activity.
“It’s a big part to have kids setting up the parameters and let them have a say,” Jablonic said. “The more you show the kids they matter, the more they’ll flourish and have fun.”
Play another sport
USA Hockey encourages kids to play as many sports as they can. Playing multiple sports is a surefire way to develop athleticism. It’s also beneficial because the variety helps kids recharge mentally and reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries.
Kids develop different skills, engage different muscle groups and learn new movements and tactics through other sports like baseball/softball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, etc.
“It’s amazing what you see develop in kids with their agility,” Jablonic said. “These are transferrable skills that they use on to the ice, and that’s the goal. We want our kids to develop transferrable skills while also having fun. You should not be just shooting a puck 12 months a year. You should aim to be a well-rounded athlete, so you can be put into different situations when you’re older and you’ll be able to handle it because you’ve learned adaptability and all-around athleticism.”
It has to be fun
But the most important component of any drill, activity or sport for kids should be fun. The more fun kids are having, the more they are going to get out of it. Going through the motions is counterproductive to development.
Fun fuels passion.
“It helps create that good training culture with kids when they’re having fun,” Jablonic said. “It needs to be a fun atmosphere.”