Ice hockey training for children is different in many ways than hockey training for teenagers or adults. It makes perfect sense on the ice; children’s games don’t have checking, they are protected by mandatory face cages, and the emphasis of their practice is to learn the basic skills needed for hockey – skating and stick-handling. If it makes so much sense on the ice, why not off the ice?
Off-ice training for hockey has been rightly recognized as an integral, vital part in the development and refinement of an ice hockey player. That is also right for children, perhaps even more so; it is at the early age that the hockey-playing child can be led to absorb the work ethics that will accompany him at a later age. Ice Hockey
However, when designing an off-ice training program for kids, one must remember that kids are kids. They are not pros, not even amateur adults. This is what connects us to the statement made earlier: as with on-ice training, off-ice training programs for children must be designed for children and be appropriate for their age, mentality and natural abilities, so as to help them develop as hockey players while not wearing them out or making them hate practice or hockey in general. And trust me, inappropriate training program can turn a hockey-loving child into not wanting to put on a pair of skates ever again.
So how should off-ice training programs for children be designed to reflect that fine balance? Here are just a few pointers out of many.
Be careful with power training. Up to mid-teens, go easy on weight training, and in earlier ages avoid it altogether – there’s hardly any point in it at these ages.
Make sure training is diversified. The younger the children are, the more diversified the training should be. In addition to making the practices more interesting and fun, which connects to point number 1, it is important to the overall development of athletic abilities. Hockey-focused off-ice training is all good, but without laying down some general athletic groundwork its effect will be limited.