April 18, 2012

Camp Guide: Critical skills for every age group

By Jesse Connolly

Not sure what skills your child should be focusing on at each age level? Here’s a breakdown:

Mini Mite (ages 5-6) to mite (7-8)

Skating is, quite simply, the name of the game. While it’s an area a player can always improve upon, skating is undoubtedly the most pivotal element of hockey. Working diligently at it at an early age will pay dividends in the future.

“Skating is very important in this game,” said Mario Martiniello of Superskills Hockey. “I’ve always said that if you can’t skate, you can’t play. It’s not a sport where you just jump out on the ice. You have to have that skill of skating.”

Squirt (ages 9–10) and peewee (11–12)

As kids continue to make strides with their skating game, the squirt and peewee levels tend to key on stick skills.

“As they’re going through, the puck-handling becomes very important,” Martiniello said. “You really need to focus on the puck-handling. As they get older, the pucks start becoming very important in making sure kids can make good passes and shoot the puck as well.”

Bantam (ages 13–14)

While introduced at younger ages, kids should be capable of fully grasping and playing their roles in a wide array of systems when they reach bantams.

“I think by squirt age and into peewees you can start implementing basic systems like a 1-2-2,” Kevin Wellhausen of Can/Am said. “Kids can understand very basic power plays, just maybe an overload and getting the puck to the point and shooting it. Gradually you increase it as you get older. When they’re bantams, they’re expected to understand systems.”

Juniors/high school (ages 15-18)

At this stage of the game, the basics are in the bag. Players must now focus on learning the intricate parts of the sport and discovering how to put their best assets to good use in order to be a vital part of their current or potential future team.

“The systems play is attainable and something you can learn at an older age with certain offensive and defensive zone strategies, and things like that,” Martiniello said. “As you get to the high school years, you don’t have to be the fastest kid on the ice to be a very good hockey player. You can make up for it by being a smarter hockey player.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com