What does training at the 14U and 16U age group look like? An athlete’s greatest resource is their body, and at the 14U and 16U age classification, developing that resource with more targeted activities becomes a defining characteristic of training.
As athletes grow and mature into the 14U and 16U classifications, their training should become more formal in design. In addition to playing other sports in the off-season, year-round physical development should become a focus. Targeted development of physical capability is increasingly important at this stage and the on-ice benefits become increasingly apparent.
Optimal training will take different forms at this stage, but each is important as athletes look to improve their overall physical abilities. With hockey being a contact/collision sport, strength training increases in importance, providing joint stability and improved injury avoidance along with an improvement in performance. Training for technique at these ages remains vitally important as well, since it positions athletes for continued success as they get older.
For players, how you practice determines how you play. In high-performance sport, the optimal term used is to describe this process is transfer.
Does what you do in practice transfer to the real game? As players progress and achieve competency with their basic skills, for our practice drills to have high value (transfer), they must become more game-like. Drills that are scripted, that do not tie skill execution to a hockey decision, have very little transfer to the real game playing environment. This is why small-area games are so valuable as a teaching tool in practice. They force players to make decisions in a live play environment.
Click on the video below to see an example of our United States National Under-17 Team playing a small-area game that creates offensive and defensive situations around the net. This is one type of practice game that has high transfer value.