Q: I run a local rink and one of my 10U coaches asked me what they should be doing for warmups, both off- and on-ice. What should I tell him?
A: This is a great question and we get it often. First we have to ask ourselves, “What is the purpose of warmups in both situations?” And remember, a 10-year-old should warm up much differently than a 16-year-old.
The typical off-ice warmup you would see before a game for older players would be a dynamic warmup. 10-year-olds don’t need to do a dynamic warmup, but they do need to get engaged and ready to go. A great way to get 10U hockey players engaged off the ice before a game is to…PLAY A GAME. Have them play a form of tag, keep-away with a ball, or anything fun and competitive that will get them moving. USA Hockey has some great off-ice resources for 10U hockey players in the form of off-ice training cards. These can be used for pregame warmups as well. One other great tip for warmups is to get parents involved. I know some great 10U coaches who create a great culture by having parents help with different activities including overseeing the off-ice portion of development.
As for on-ice warm ups, please, please, please DO NOT do the loop out of a corner, catch a pass and shoot on net. That only gets one player moving and has no game-like transfer to it. Again, try to get them engaged as quickly as possible, as warmups can be anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes long. Here is what I would suggest: For the first minute or so, have one or two players shooting on your goalie while the rest of the team is engaged in another activity such as keep-away or continuous passing. For the rest of the time, play a small-area game that involves one net (the Nobles game is a good example). If you really want to be creative, bring two cones to make a second net and a set of pinnies so you can play cross-ice.
In a nutshell, the best way for young kids to get ready to play a game is to play a game and have FUN. Boring line drills don’t do much for physical and cognitive engagement, but playing sure does. If you’re ever left wondering why your team starts slowly, a non-engaging, non-competitive, non-fun warmup might be the reason. Let the players compete and have fun right away and you might be pleasantly surprised at how fast your team comes out of the gates.
The author, Kenny Rausch, began his coaching career in 1996 with Boston University, his alma mater. As a player, he earned Beanpot Tournament MVP honors and was named a Hockey East Distinguished Scholar.
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