Q: My son’s 10U coach is constantly talking about the kids having fun, but I have yet to hear him talk about the discipline, hard work and commitment it takes to play hockey. When is USA Hockey going to stop talking about fun?
A: The answer is simple. Never. Fun is an important part of hockey at all ages, even for the players at the highest levels. The game can be hard to play and the more enjoyable it is, especially for kids, the more desire players have to continue participating and improving.
There is abundant research confirming that children learn better when they are fully engaged in an activity and having fun. This is especially true in youth sports where it is often said that fun is the key that unlocks the door to learning.
Acquiring the discipline, work ethic and commitment necessary to succeed in hockey is important, and this will come in time. But it’s important to remember that without fun, kids will quit, and no player who quits the game ever gets any better.
While fun may be the buzzword, the real goal is for all of our coaches to engage the players with activities and small-area games that help develop the passion needed for a lifetime of continued improvement and achievement. It’s the passion for play that fuels the development process, not stern talk from 10U coaches about discipline, hard work and commitment.
The author, Bob Mancini, is a longtime hockey coach and player-development expert. His experience includes two seasons in the NHL as an Edmonton Oilers development coach and more than a decade as a head coach in the NCAA Division I and OHL ranks.
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