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12U Q-and-A: How hockey sense happens

10/02/2023, 10:00am MDT
By Ken Martel

Q: I know hockey sense or hockey IQ is important, so what can be done to help my 12U player improve this?

A: The first thing that you should assess is your child’s level of awareness, especially when he or she has the puck. Are they able to carry the puck comfortably with their head up? This skill is of primary importance not only to play the game effectively, but also safely, as being aware of opponents allows players to avoid unnecessary collisions.

At 12U, the hockey IQ skill is still emerging for many players, and time should be allocated to improvement in this area. That means putting players in situations where they have the puck as much as possible in conditions that incentivize the necessary behaviors (awareness, decision-making, reading the play) within drills or small-area games. As players become more comfortable with the puck, more of their perceptual system can start becoming attuned to the game environment.

Next, start to watch how often your child turns their head from side to side when away from the puck. This simple habit allows players to be more aware of their surroundings. Kids tend to just watch the puck and easily lose track of who else is around them and what plays might be developing. Helping players become more aware within the game environment is the foundation for building hockey sense and hockey IQ.

The author, Ken Martel, coached collegiately at Air Force and Michigan Tech while also helping guide numerous U.S. National Teams. As a player, he skated four seasons at Lake Superior State, winning an NCAA championship in 1988.

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