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08-19-2009, 10:18 AM
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Toronto Summit Explores Ways to Get more 4-8 year olds on ice

My son just turned 6 and he'll be entering his third year as a Timbit/Tyke hockey player.
Over the last 2 winters I've observed the one largest hurdle in getting kids from ages 4-8 involved in hockey; it's far too serious.

At 4 and 5 years-old the most important thing you can do is make the game fun.
First, most leagues have 2 hours of ice time divided over 2 days. And in most regions it's usually in the earliest hours of the morning.

So think about this; most kids begin school at 4 years old. And some of them go 5 days a week.
So now you're asking a very small child to wake up early 7 days in a row. And for a sport that's not easy to learn, takes place in a cold environment and they're forced into drills that aren't even remotely interesting.
Ask yourself this? Would YOU like to be woken up earlier than you need to, to skate around pilons, pivot around circles or practice diving and getting up over and over again on a freezing cold sheet of ice? And then, for the unlucky minority, you may or may not have a loud parent screaming at you to stop crying and keep working.

At that age level there should only be 1 hour of ice time. And that one hour should be filled with fun games that teach kids to adapt to their enormous and bulky equipment, skate and enjoy their time on the ice.

During my tenure in helping out with my sons team it was amazing to watch how for 45 minutes, you couldn't find a smile or laugh on the ice while pacing these young children through various drills. But then, in the last 5 minutes, allowing them to play a simple game like cops-and-robbers, or simply allow them to fire pucks on a coach standing in net, you could see them all light up like it was Christmas morning. And you know what's nuts? Those 'simple' games like cops-and-robbers, or asteroids, or duck-duck-goose, or even 'what time is it Mr.Wolf?' did just as good a job as teaching the fundemantals as stopping, starting, turning or getting up as the tried-and-stale drills of lines, circles and cones.

Hockey is hard enough to learn. It's not like basketball or baseball where every kid knows how to run. So why are we making it harder on them?
The answer is two fold;
1. Canada take's hockey too seriously.
2. Parents take hockey too seriously.

I've actualy been told by some parents that if their kid isn't miserable after a practice it wasn't a good one.
Where did hockey turn from a fun activity into a war or job?

If you keep it simple and you gear the practices and games for the CHILDREN, instead of the parents and convenors then kids will return.
Remeber, the Gretzky's and Orr's didn't develop their love or skills for the game in an arena with cones and whistles. They developed on back yard rinks and ponds, where it's fun.

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