Youth Hockey Training Guidelines

I had a post on this topic a few months ago, but I continue to get more questions about it, so today I want to share my philosophy on training young goalies.

It is fine if you disagree, but this is my philosophy that guides my decisions regarding most youth athletes.  I appreciate that there are some sports where athletes are reaching their competitive peak at a very young age, but I am not involved in those sports and this article will deal with hockey players specifically.

Let’s get one thing clear, it is typically not the crazy parents that are driving the demand for specialized training of their 10-year old.  Typically, parents are trying to do the right thing.  Many of them have never played hockey themselves so they are just trying to give their child every advantage to succeed.  I get emails every week from parents wishing to hire me as the strength coach to Johnny or Suzy.

Once I explain to them what I am going to explain to you they usually reply – “yeah that makes perfect sense, I just didn’t want to be holding Suzy back.”

So here are my guidelines in terms of off-ice training for goalies under the age of 13/14:

  • They do not need to be doing specialized off-ice goalie training or specialized off-ice hockey training.  General off ice training focused on improving overall athleticism is fine.
  • They should be playing more than one sport
  • They should have an off-season.  Their hockey season should not blend into ‘spring’ hockey, then ‘summer’ hockey, then the regular season
  • They should do track and field at school focusing on the sprints – this will help them learn better movement mechanics and help build some speed
  • The emphasis should be on fun
  • During the summer I would rather see a player attend one week of the best hockey camp you can afford with small groups and technical instruction rather than attend 4 weeks of camp where your child is basically a pylon that the skaters shoot at.
  • If you want your child doing some additional ‘training’ at home emphasize proper execution of the basics and keep it fun.  Do it with them. Seriously – it might sound easy, until you actually give it a try.

o   Push ups

o   Core plank

o   Oblique plank

o   Glute bridge

o   Jump & stick drill

o   Catching cards drill

o   Read & React drill

o   Stretching routine

  • Do not get consumed by the minutia – it really will not make the world of difference whether your child has 10 grams of protein after the game or 15 grams.
  • YouthHockeyTraining ProgramDo not overstretch your child – they are not trying out for the National Ballet, you should not be applying overpressure in an attempt to get your kid into the splits.  You do not know if the structure of their hips will even allow for such a position and remember they are still growing and developing so forcefully stretching a child can permanently change the structure of their bones which may lead to chronic hip issues as they grow.  Think of how many kids destroy their shoulders by pitching too much as a youth.  Goaltending in particular can do the same for a child’s hips.  Especially the butterfly technique.  I would prefer young goalies minimize the butterfly technique until they are older – not likely to happen, but it is what I would like to see.
  • If you want your young goalie to lift weights so he will get bigger – forget about it.  Most 16 year olds are not circulating enough testosterone to build muscle mass, your 10 year old simply does not have it yet.

Bottom line…keep it fun, keep them involved, get them involved in a variety of sports, basketball, gymnastics, wrestling, track and field, etc., if they have the mentality to be a great athlete then it will happen for them.

Gretzky was not great because of the training he did as a youth, he was great because he loved hockey and spent hours ‘playing’ as a youth.  Even Sidney Crosby was 14 years of age before he began working with a hockey strength and conditioning coach.  Things seemed to turn out okay for those guys.

If your child is destine for a career in hockey then they will have years and years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice ahead of them, if they have a love for the sport then the pursuit will be a pleasure.  If on the other hand your child develops has the skills and abilities to play at an elite level, but hates the game by the time he/she gets there, then it makes for a pretty miserable existence.

For a  10 year old, missing out on weekend events with friends to attend hockey tournaments, staying up late to finish their homework after a weekday game and getting up early on Saturday mornings for practice is enough sacrifice.

Have a great day!

PS – remember it is a game, it will be fun, it will be frustrating, they will have to problem solve, they will experience joy and disappointment.  Good life lessons, that’s the beauty of sport.