Age Training Guidelines
recent years sports scientists have spoken out emphatically about the
harmful effects of premature and overly intense athletic training of
young children. Many complain that hockey programs for youngsters are
too intense, competitions too many, seasons too long, emphasis on
winning too great.
Young children are pushed by parents and coaches
choose and specialize in the sport way before they are mature enough to
do so. Up to the age of eight, children should enjoy a variety of fun
and stimulating activities; they need to develop a broad base of
movement skills. Intensive training and competition at too
early an age inhibits the development of skills such as
balance, agility, and coordination, and it prevents youngsters from
learning other sports.
Starting training when a
child is too young
The age appropriate to specialize in a sport
varies in male and female children. Social, emotional, and physical
development are independent to gender, but are extremely important to
making the decision of when to encourage sport specialization.
It’s been shown that children who begin to
early do not develop
the varied motor skills necessary for maximum athletic performance in
later years. These children are the physical equivalents of specialists
who have little competency outside of their specialty.
Six years and younger
Young children (up to six) should engage in many
activities. Dancing, tumbling, and jumping, are excellent activities.
Since these youngsters have very short attention spans, instruction has
to be unstructured and fun; teaching should be short and simple; it is
best accomplished using "show and tell". There is no long term
advantage from structured practices at these ages.
Seven and ten
Between the ages of seven to ten, postural and
balance skills mature
and become more automatic. Children are able to master some of the
basic movements needed for organized sports, but they still have short
attention spans. They have difficulty making rapid decisions involved
in complex sports.
Fundamental skating skills can be introduced and
practiced at these ages but practices must be fun. Sports like hockey,
soccer and basketball, as well as martial arts, swimming, t-ball,
lacrosse, etc., are excellent choices.
Between the ages of ten to twelve (prepubescent)
there is great
improvement in coordination, motor skills, and decision making
capabilities. For children who choose to participate in hockey, skating
skills now must be strongly emphasized. Skating techniques should be
emphasized and built upon in the ensuing years.
Players are now ready
for some endurance and quickness training as well; they should engage
in activities and perform drills that incorporate core strength,
quickness, and coordination, body awareness, balance, and rhythm. Fun
and variety is still important so kids should be encouraged to
participate in other sports.
Between the ages of thirteen to sixteen
(adolescence) athletes can
incorporate complex skills and integrate large amounts of information.
They can focus appropriately and their decision making capabilities
They are ready to specialize in their sport of
choice and to practice with true dedication and intensity. It is also
the time of the Adolescent Growth Spurt (AGS), the time of greatest
and most obvious (catastrophic) change in a young persons life.
The Adolescent Growth
Body changes during the AGS can temporarily diminish
over-all skill and
speed and increase vulnerability to injuries. The effects of AGS and
its effects on core strength, postural control, and performance
(coordination, skill, speed, quickness, agility, technique) can be
enormous while athletes struggle to adjust to their rapidly changing
At their fastest, boys grow by four inches a year
and girls by
two and a half inches a year. Its no wonder teenagers are clumsy —
their bodies shoot upwards at speeds their brains can't keep up with.
As height increases, the center of gravity lifts. This happens so
quickly that the brain does not get a chance to calculate the new rules
On the average, boys grow fastest between
fifteen and girls grow fastest between twelve and thirteen. Girls
finish their growth spurt at eighteen while boys need another two years
before they finish growing at about twenty.
Medical Aspects of
Adolescent Growth Spurt
Injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and
injuries such as Osgood-Schlatter Disease, are most prevalent during
the periods of fastest growth. Training should be modified to avoid
such injuries. All of these considerations, combined with normal
adolescent hormonal and emotional changes, can lead to lack of
self confidence and low self esteem.
Adolescents need to be assured
that they will regain their technical control and skills when the AGS
has ended. AGS starts at the outside of the body and works in. Hands
and feet are the first to expand. Needing new shoes is the first sign.
Next, arms and legs grow longer, and even here the "outside-in" rule
The shin bones lengthen before the thigh bones,
forearms before the upper arms. Finally the spine grows. The very last
expansion is a broadening of the chest and shoulders in boys, and a
widening of the hips and pelvis in girls.
Early maturers hit their growth spurts sooner than
their peers. They
tend to have an advantage in sports like hockey that require speed,
power, endurance, and body mass. For biological reasons, not
necessarily because of greater talent or ability, they are able to
out-perform their peers.
In childhood, they may have had successes for
which they received much reinforcement and recognition. Problems arise
Early maturers who experienced success in their
younger years get frustrated because their peers suddenly catch up.
They no longer experience the same success as before. Coaches may
conclude it is because they are not working hard. Part of the dropout
rate around age fourteen is due to early maturers’ frustration.
don't understand that the physical changes that are occurring in their
peers are allowing them to catch up. Parents and coaches could do a lot
to shore up their self confidence during this difficult time.
Late maturers have a different set of issues. They
failure at the early ages because they are not as physically strong or
developed as their early maturing peers. Even though they may work as
hard, they often can't keep up, which is a huge source of frustration.
Even as their physical maturity and skills "catch
up", they may
continue to have trouble getting coaches attention, encouragement, and
In other words, coaches may not give them a fair
"show their stuff". Some of these youngsters drop out because of
frustration. This seems to hit late maturing boys the hardest because
they are at a particular disadvantage. Parents and coaches need to
figure out how to keep late maturing kids interested and involved
despite a lack of early success. They may turn out to be the "stars".
Training Considerations Skill
Skating is an extremely complicated activity and
hockey is an extremely
complicated sport. Skating moves are not natural to the human body; in
fact they're the opposite of natural.
Skating moves are numerous,
intricate, and inter-dependent. Each hockey maneuver consists of many
parts. Each part must be learned separately and then integrated into
the whole move.
Proper technique training is essential for
become fast, powerful, quick, and efficient skaters. The
teaching/learning process is a long one. The most effective teaching
method is one that has a systematic and integrative approach.
I believe in the "pyramid" method; a strong
foundation must be built
at the bottom of the pyramid. Then work up from there to integrate and
refine each part into its ‘whole’. No one can learn a new skill or
skating maneuver "going fast". It's too much for the brain and body to
Here's my approach to teaching skating techniques:
3. Correctly- powerfully-quickly.
4. Correctly-powerfully-quickly with the puck.
5. Same as 4, now under lots of pressure and in game
6. At the
end of each practice, players should be allowed to skate fast and have
worrying about correct technique. Skill (technique)
training programs for very young
players (and for beginning
players of all ages) should include basic and simple skating
fundamentals done at a comfortable level, with a
and efficiency. Skating technique must be
combined with power and quickness at fairly young
is imperative to learn
"correctly" before worrying about
powerfully and quickly – no matter how long it takes. And, when
performing "powerfully" and "quickly", ‘correctly’
is still number one.
That's what makes explosive, efficient skating so difficult.
Ages eleven and up
From ages eleven and up hockey players should engage
in training that
includes some interval training (work/rest training). Whether the
workouts are for sprinting, strength training, agility, skating, or for
athletic attributes such as balance, rhythm, and coordination, they
should include some interval training. It has been shown that long/slow
training, without quickness training, teaches muscles to perform
slowly. Therefore, jogging alone doesn't train quickness.
jogging needs to be carefully
monitored. When over-done and
when performed on hard and/or uneven
surfaces it can result in growth plate injuries, especially during AGS.
Work (sprint) periods for all young players,
should be short (maximum ten to fifteen seconds) to avoid the
accumulation of lactic acid. There must be enough rest time between
each work (sprint) period for full recovery. When still learning
skating techniques, quickness training can be done mostly off the ice
so as not to interfere with skill development.
Coaches need to remember
that developing players cannot learn, perform properly or perform
effectively when they're fatigued. Quality repetition is the key to
If strength training is to be done with
pre-pubescent children, it
should involve sub-maximal resistance, such as one's own body weight,
light dumbbells, or medicine balls. Sophisticated and restrictive
weight exercises, particularly on machines, are harmful for
strength limited children.
Whole body activities are the most important
and beneficial, especially for improving core strength.
kids should work on two-edged and one legged strengthening. The more
they strengthen their legs at a young age, the better chance they have
to learn to skate correctly. Learning to skate, and developing leg
strength (especially one legged) are synergistic, so they should be
done at the same age. And it should be fun.
Modifying Training During the
Adolescent Growth Spurt
During AGS kids often lose coordination and skill.
postural stability, concentration, technique, explosive power, and foot
speed are all affected. The AGS has a negative impact on the learning
process in general.
During growth cycles, kids don't have the
biological base of one legged strength or muscular endurance to get
into a good skating position. On-ice practices should focus on skill
and technique rather than on power.
Off-ice work should include two
legged and one legged exercises for coordination, balance, and agility.
Exercises to improve core strength and postural stability are critical.
Heavy strength/power workouts should be postponed until the muscles are
How To Improve Hockey
Off-ice work on two legged and one legged postural
with good skating fundamentals, should be incorporated into the
training regimen. Coaches should have players do off-ice exercises for
foot speed and explosive jumping (power) from a position of good knee
bend with the shoulders up.
When this is combined at every age, with
sound skating fundamentals, players have a chance to reach their
skating potential. Speed and explosive power should become part of
skating patterns around puberty.
The three to four years just after
puberty are the most critical for developing foot speed and explosive
power. However, it is very important to continue training for
technique, power, quickness and foot speed during and after the AGS
because many players lose these qualities during their periods of rapid
Patterns are fairly well defined by puberty.
players have a solid base of good skating mechanics and quick feet, the
elements of explosiveness, quickness and efficiency can be improved
after puberty and for several years beyond.
In conclusion: Competition
is an important part of a young person's development. Hockey is one of
the greatest competitive sports. Correctly managed it is a critical
training ground for teaching youngsters to compete successfully in
life's many competitive and challenging situations. But its value
depends on how it is conducted.
Parents and coaches have a very
important role to play in ensuring that development occurs in an
intelligent, well structured, well though tout process that teaches
positive life lessons, maximize each players inherent potential, and
provides a positive learning experience along the way.
– Author: Laura Stamm.
December, 2005 With special acknowledgment and thanks to my friend and
Jack Blatherwick, Ph.D. /Physiologist, Washington Capitals Hockey Team.
His thoughts, insights, and knowledge were invaluable in helping me
write this article.
American Academy of Pediatrics,
July 2000. Intensive
Training and Sports Specialization in Young Athletes. Jack
Ph.D. / Physiologist, Washington Capitals Hockey Team; Benjamin Bloom
(1985), Athlete Development: Phases of the Learning Model; Bompa,
TRAINING FOR YOUNG CHAMPIONS, Human Kinetics
Publishers 2000; Borms, J.;
and Exercise: an Overview.
Journal of Sports Sciences, 4, 3-20, 1986, Committee on Sports Medicine
Training and Sports Specialization In Young
Athletes; Faigenbaum, Avery, EdD & Westcott; Wayne, PhD.
AND POWER FOR YOUNG ATHLETES, Human Kinetics Publishers, 2000;
Safety Manual, 2002 General Principles of Conditioning; Minkoff,
Jeffrey, Varlotta, Gerard, and Simonson, Barry, ICE HOCKEY; Ozretich,
R.A. and, Bowman, S.R.,
Childhood and Adolescent Development;
Small, Eric, M.D. KIDS AND SPORTS, Newmarket Press, 2002;
2004. Coaching Young Athletes. Author: Laura Stamm.
The following internet
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gleaned from personal communications
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have a web presence with information concerning team
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The limited use of the
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credit is given
for the source of the materials.