Is your child moving up a level this season? Minnesota Hockey has you covered. Let’s take a look at some of the differences, expectations and opportunities families will experience as we begin the next season.
RELATED: Resources for new hockey parents
If you’re moving from 8U/Mites to 10U/Squirts
You’ll notice a substantial increase in practices and games. USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey recommend approximately 75-100 on-ice days for the year at 10U, up from 40-50 days at 8U. While it may seem like a lot at first, most kids love the additional ice time and fall even more in love with the game. Plus, this age is critical for taking advantage of kids’ Golden Age of Skill Development, which is when kids are most receptive to acquiring new skills.
To help kids maximize their potential, each team’s practice-to-game ratio should be 3-to-1 with the main focus on skill development, not on wins, losses or stats. That’s why there is a game limit of 35 for the season. Games at the 10U/Squirt level are full-ice, although Minnesota Hockey strongly recommends small-area games and cross-ice hockey to maximize development and fun during practices. Offsides and icing are now enforced at 10U.
Tryouts are now a part of the team selection process at the 10U/Squirt level. While it can be a stressful time for kids and parents, the main goal of coaches and evaluators is putting each kid in a position to have success for the upcoming season.
At 10U, parents are more likely to be asked to volunteer, from fundraising to organizing team events to running the game clock. Volunteers help keep costs low for everyone, and it’s a big part of why Minnesota Hockey is so special.
If you’re moving from 10U/Squirts to 12U/Peewees
The transition to 12U/Peewees is an exciting time because players get to compete for the chance to participate in one of Minnesota's most notable hockey traditions....State Tournaments!
Kids at these ages can grow physically at significantly different rates. In fact, two players can be born in the exact same month and year (chronological age), yet be up to five years apart according to their biological age, or cognitive and physical development.
USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Guy Gosselin explains:
“Every player is different because every kid is different,” said Gosselin, a two-time U.S. Olympian. “How one player develops from year to year is going to be very different from how another does. Just because one kid is the biggest Squirt (10U) player on the ice, doesn't mean he's going to be the biggest Peewee (12U) or Bantam (14U) player on the ice. It also doesn't mean he can't develop some of the same skills that the smaller kids are.”
Skill development must still remain the main focus as the prime window for skill acquisition is now closing. The practice-to-game ratio should remain 3-to-1 and kids should continue to play multiple sports to develop overall athleticism.
It is also important that we remain supportive and instill confidence in our kids no matter the results. If they’re not having fun, they won’t want to come back.
“The most important thing on the ice for players of all sizes, ages and levels is to have confidence,” added Gosselin. “You don't want a player leaving the ice with any apprehension because those are the kids that aren't going to want to come back to the next practice or game. You want kids to become confident in their game. You want them confident on the ice. Help them recognize their own skills sets and they will grow that confidence as they grow their game.”
A great example of the how to gradually build confidence is the proper progression of body-checking skills.
Boys at the Peewee level are now one step closer to legal body-checking during games, and it should be a point of emphasis during practices. Woodbury boys’ high school head coach Wes Bolin stresses the importance of teaching proper body contact and body-checking.
“Body-checking is legal as a Bantam (14U) but should be taught as a Peewee (12U),” said Bolin. “As a Squirt (10U) we want to introduce you to body contact, and as a Mite (8U), we want to put you in situations where body contact does occur. It's all about that gradual step that kind of takes place in moving up from level to level. You build on that as a player.”
If you’re moving from 12U/Peewees to 14U/ Bantams
For boys, body-checking is now legal and all of the practice and training through the youth levels should have your child prepared to give and receive body-checks appropriately. Always remember the purpose of a body-check is to separate the player from the puck, not to hurt or injure an opponent.
At 14U/Bantams, serious players will ramp up their training and start taking responsibility for their own development. It is still recommended for the kids to continue playing multiple sports to develop overall athleticism and stay fresh for hockey season, but it is common for the training calendar to begin to expand at this age.
There is also an increase in off-ice and dryland commitment at 14U/Bantams. Now is the time to really start “building the engine” as players continue to mature physically, so strength training and conditioning are emphasized. Coaches also use more off-ice time with players for “chalk talk” and video analysis as kids start to learn more about team concepts and the nuance of the game.
As players get older, more development opportunities become available. The CCM High Performance programs are a prestigious series of programs in Minnesota that provide the top players from around the state a chance to play with against the best competition in the state. The CCM HP programs offer evaluation and development programs in conjunction with USA Hockey each spring and Tier 1 Leagues in the fall for high level practices and elite competition.
If you’re moving from 14U/Bantams to … what now?
For many young hockey players, this means they’ve reached their goal of playing high school hockey and get to experience the dream of representing their community and inspiring the next wave of youth players.
That’s not the case for everyone though as there are only so many roster spots to go around. The good news is there are more options than ever for kids to continue playing during high school. Between Junior Gold, Girls 15U/19U and the Rec League, everyone who wants to play hockey will have a place to play.