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The Sporty Lifestyle: Building a foundation of athleticism at 10U

08/03/2018, 3:00pm MDT
By Michael Rand

It’s the offseason, and chances are your 10U player hasn’t been on the ice much (if at all).

That’s good!

But you also might be wondering: Are there ways to build on everything that has been learned on the ice – particularly since this age is right in the wheelhouse of the Golden Age of Skill Development?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes.” Joe Bonnett, a regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model and the father of a 10-year-old, has some suggestions for helping build agility and other skill sets.

Play other sports

“The biggest thing for 10U athletes is to play other sports,” said Bonnett, who coached 18 seasons at the NCAA Division I level, including seven appearances in the NCAA Tournament. “That’s the number-one suggestion.”

Bonnett says the sports that transfer best to hockey are “invasion sports” such as lacrosse, soccer and basketball. What does he mean by that?

“Sports where you’re working up a field and trying to score on an opponent,” he said. “Some of that decision-making and athleticism translates well to hockey. Striking sports work well, too – things like golf and baseball. Sports where you need to demonstrate an ability to strike a ball – those translate very well to hockey.”

Swimming, gymnastics and other tumbling sports help work on balance, agility and coordination – enhancing the building blocks of athleticism that are critical to hockey.

“As kids get older, a lack of physical literacy and core strength really hinders a slap shot, catching a pass on one foot while being checked, and other in-game things,” Bonnett said. “You have to be athletic.”

Move, move, move

Short of organized sports, parents can still encourage 10U players to be active. Simple things that previous generations took for granted can help build an overall athletic profile.

“A sporty lifestyle should be encouraged by parents,” Bonnett says. “A 10-year-old should be active at least 20 hours a week. That means walking the dog around the block, riding a bike to a friend’s house and climbing fences. Are they rollerblading, shooting and playing street hockey in the garage? And playing one or two other sports?”

None of it needs to be really planned out as long as the goals are understood.

“Do 10U kids need to be on a solid regimen? Probably not,” Bonnett said. “I have a 10-year-old and we do some stuff in the garage, but it’s not really organized.”

This is getting pretty serious

That said, there are some 10U players who crave structure and want to work on specific strength and agility drills.

“If you do have a 10-year-old that wants more, Bauer had a thing that has a 5,000-shot program. If your summer break is 10 weeks, can you shoot 100 pucks a day?” Bonnett said. “It’s a pretty cool program, and my older kid started that when he was 10.”

Specific exercises should be used sparingly, but there are some things that provide strength, agility and a good challenge.

“If you were to get into drills for core strength, doing some planks and body squats and pushups is good,” Bonnett said. “One good challenge is, ‘Can you do one pullup a day for the whole summer?’”

Down the road

Eventually, players will transition into more structured summers as well as more specialized routines and sport choices.

As players start to specialize in hockey and cut back to maybe two sports instead of a wide variety of sports at the end of puberty in the 14U or 16U range – when players have added more muscle – they can do some heavier lifting.

At that point, with brains and bodies more fully developed, players can start focusing on more specific regimens.

But for a 10U player in the summer?

“The biggest thing is a sporty lifestyle. That means other sports, invasions ports, swimming, and then daily activity. Shooting pucks and things like that,” Bonnett said. “I want my 10-year-old swimming, jumping, climbing trees and shooting pucks in the garage.”

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