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Assessing Talent in a child

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03-23-2010, 11:43 AM
  #1
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Assessing Talent in a child

I was curious to know if it's possible to assess a child at around 7-8 years old? I've seen some kids that look amazing but seem to drift off later on as the other kids catch up skating wise. At the same time theres a kid on my son's team (Rep Hockey AA) he's 7 but this guy doesn't go end to end and score goals but he makes amazing passes, sometimes from his own end and finding guys goal sucking or cross ice passes, now is it fair to say that this kid could be a special talent he just seems to see the ice better than other kids. I told his dad to him him further as he does look like he's got serious potential....but is that a fair judge of talent ???

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03-23-2010, 12:23 PM
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Well if you believe the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, the two major factors in skill at that level are age and practice time.

He goes through several high level Canadian hockey teams and shows that a large percentage of the best players on those teams were born just after the cut off date and were segregated after they spent some time excelling against younger competition.

But he doesn't believe innate talent exists, and it seems that the 7-year old you have seen would oppose that. I guess Gladwell's second thought would be to ask how much time he has spent on the ice compared to his peers, but I can't imagine it would be that great a difference.


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03-23-2010, 12:27 PM
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I was curious to know if it's possible to assess a child at around 7-8 years old? I've seen some kids that look amazing but seem to drift off later on as the other kids catch up skating wise. At the same time theres a kid on my son's team (Rep Hockey AA) he's 7 but this guy doesn't go end to end and score goals but he makes amazing passes, sometimes from his own end and finding guys goal sucking or cross ice passes, now is it fair to say that this kid could be a special talent he just seems to see the ice better than other kids. I told his dad to him him further as he does look like he's got serious potential....but is that a fair judge of talent ???
Kids develop physically at different times. Shooting and checking (strength on skates) will vary throughout there development. Skating is a little different. The earlier they develop good fundamental strides, the better skaters they will become. Muscle and size will just compliment that.

What you are seeing with this kid is special because obviously he sees the game in a way other kids don't. I always can tell which kids really watch the game of hockey instead of watching the stars score goals. He's obviously been exposed to the game in ways other kids haven't.

That being said, he's 7. Let him play for fun no matter what. Added pressure from parents or teammates will only hurt his development.

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03-23-2010, 02:27 PM
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For me it is when I see that kid who has natural puck/hockey smarts. He sees the ice better than the others and isn't a puck hog.

I played hockey with a kid about 8 or 9 years old yesterday who was as good as many teen players. Give and gos, dump ins and forecheck when he had no pass at the blueline. the little things he did well .... he was either coached very well or he is just gifted and "gets it".

He had a good shot for his age but he is still small and wasn't a real hard slapshot, he was roofing shots and making skilled plays shooting however. I can just imagine when this kid gets muscles and height. They were hard shots for 8 years old.

Compare that to playing with teens who toe drag everything and try to hold onto the puck as long as possible and ending up losing it 90% of the time because they become easy pickings for forecheckers by holding onto it too long regardless of their individual skills.

Hockey is a passing team game and those players who get that excel while the others do not even though they may have more skill they are hockey stupid. Less is more with most everything as evidenced by the overly CGIed movie 2012! Horrible movie that looked great.

There is NO need for a young player to fiddle diddle in a phone booth "just because he can" while his teamates are stopped at the blueline waiting for a pass that should have come 10 minutes ago. Selfish BAD hockey bugs me.

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03-23-2010, 05:46 PM
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Very good replies so far.

Another thing that creates this kind of talent is the positive feedback and encouragement by the parents to play the game correctly. When you have parents who can watch their son or daughter play the game of hockey and do all of the RIGHT things correctly and give high praise no matter what the score sheet says, you will have more of those RIGHT things happen. Not many parents will give negative feedback to their kid for scoring a goal that should have clearly been an assist or an end to end rush that should have been a pass way back in the defensive zone.

I have not met too many parents who truly understand that overhandling the puck is poor hockey. The belief is usually "My son has the skill to do it, so I will not discourage him not to do it" I don't care how great a player is, no coach at ANY level wants a player that overhandles the puck. NHL, Jr A, College, coaches want players who can play the game simple with creativity.

In the case of the player you mentioned, I would not be surprised if his parents are giving him very high praise for everything you see him do. And that high praise and encouragment I am sure started from the very first time their son stepped on the ice. (It takes very smart parents to encourage their son to share the puck with lower skilled players at 4 years old but I am sure his parents enjoyed watching him be a little playmaker even though the vast majority of the passes were never converted to goals)

Outliers is a great book and I do agree with a lot of what Malcolm Gladwell says. I see a lot of what he writes about first hand

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03-23-2010, 07:35 PM
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Very good replies so far.

Another thing that creates this kind of talent is the positive feedback and encouragement by the parents to play the game correctly. When you have parents who can watch their son or daughter play the game of hockey and do all of the RIGHT things correctly and give high praise no matter what the score sheet says, you will have more of those RIGHT things happen. Not many parents will give negative feedback to their kid for scoring a goal that should have clearly been an assist or an end to end rush that should have been a pass way back in the defensive zone.

I have not met too many parents who truly understand that overhandling the puck is poor hockey. The belief is usually "My son has the skill to do it, so I will not discourage him not to do it" I don't care how great a player is, no coach at ANY level wants a player that overhandles the puck. NHL, Jr A, College, coaches want players who can play the game simple with creativity.

In the case of the player you mentioned, I would not be surprised if his parents are giving him very high praise for everything you see him do. And that high praise and encouragment I am sure started from the very first time their son stepped on the ice. (It takes very smart parents to encourage their son to share the puck with lower skilled players at 4 years old but I am sure his parents enjoyed watching him be a little playmaker even though the vast majority of the passes were never converted to goals)

Outliers is a great book and I do agree with a lot of what Malcolm Gladwell says. I see a lot of what he writes about first hand
Thanks for the great replies guys.....thats the thing about this kid, he set up quite a few plays wear the kids couldn't convert and put it in, he also set a few kids for their first goals which made a lot of the parents happy aswell and your right his parents are great people very humble and you do see it in the kid

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03-23-2010, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by MURedHawk View Post
Very good replies so far.

Another thing that creates this kind of talent is the positive feedback and encouragement by the parents to play the game correctly. When you have parents who can watch their son or daughter play the game of hockey and do all of the RIGHT things correctly and give high praise no matter what the score sheet says, you will have more of those RIGHT things happen. Not many parents will give negative feedback to their kid for scoring a goal that should have clearly been an assist or an end to end rush that should have been a pass way back in the defensive zone.

I have not met too many parents who truly understand that overhandling the puck is poor hockey. The belief is usually "My son has the skill to do it, so I will not discourage him not to do it" I don't care how great a player is, no coach at ANY level wants a player that overhandles the puck. NHL, Jr A, College, coaches want players who can play the game simple with creativity.

In the case of the player you mentioned, I would not be surprised if his parents are giving him very high praise for everything you see him do. And that high praise and encouragment I am sure started from the very first time their son stepped on the ice. (It takes very smart parents to encourage their son to share the puck with lower skilled players at 4 years old but I am sure his parents enjoyed watching him be a little playmaker even though the vast majority of the passes were never converted to goals)

Outliers is a great book and I do agree with a lot of what Malcolm Gladwell says. I see a lot of what he writes about first hand
That is all correct ... he is a good mannered kid as well and polite. That in itself these days is a miracle. His parents must have been around and taught him manners instead of letting the TV be the babysitter and the microwave oven his cook.

He was just making so many good plays and tried to make others and couldn't simply because the teen kids were twice his size or even more and a lot stronger. He obviously dominates his own age group. He never got mad, never looked at the ceiling in disgust and realized when you play hockey you cannot always do what you try and it is okay. he actually stopped on the puck! Do you believe that? I hardly see anyone do that at any age outside of organized hockey.

The calmness he had about him was so awesome to see.

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03-25-2010, 07:30 AM
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That is all correct ... he is a good mannered kid as well and polite. That in itself these days is a miracle. His parents must have been around and taught him manners instead of letting the TV be the babysitter and the microwave oven his cook.

He was just making so many good plays and tried to make others and couldn't simply because the teen kids were twice his size or even more and a lot stronger. He obviously dominates his own age group. He never got mad, never looked at the ceiling in disgust and realized when you play hockey you cannot always do what you try and it is okay. he actually stopped on the puck! Do you believe that? I hardly see anyone do that at any age outside of organized hockey.

The calmness he had about him was so awesome to see.
LOL you must have some real jerk kids in your area or this kid is the second coming of Christ. I guess you get to know the kids you play open hockey with a little better than most.

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03-25-2010, 08:08 AM
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Its funny how kids that are 'from good parents' tend to be team players and passers and the kids that are from 'stage parents' tend to be puck hogs and glory hounds.

As a coach, I always say that my next team will be a team of orphans because while I love working with the kids, the parents can really get under your skin.

For the 7 year old talent, give it time. Many mite/squirt players that stand out at that age fall back as the rest of the kids develop (size, strength, skating, etc), but the real test is when full contact hockey starts (peewee/bantam) because that is when the fancy players need to start keeping their head up and passing. That is when you can really start to identify talent versus potential.

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03-25-2010, 11:35 AM
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Talent identification

Forget everything you think you know about talent, and take a look at the science.

Conventional wisdom says you either have it or you don't (even at 7 years old!). And if you don't, you'd better accept your limitations and your mediocre skills.

The new science (call it neuroplasticity) suggests that the conventional wisdom is pure bunk.

With hard work, sweat and tears, young athletes can train themselves to be great, even those who were born with only average genetic talent.

Over the next 10 years (say 5 to 15; 7 to 17; or 10 to 20), what will the future superstars have more of than their mediocre cousins?

Knowledge, motivation, ambition, persistence, self-discipline; in short, an environment which nurtures and helps shape their genetic talent.

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editorial staff, sportsvisionmagazine.com
- training visual, cognitive and intelligence skills

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03-25-2010, 02:01 PM
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LOL you must have some real jerk kids in your area or this kid is the second coming of Christ. I guess you get to know the kids you play open hockey with a little better than most.
The kid is really really good and is very hockey smart. He came up to me while we were playing and asked me why those bigger kids were floating and skated off shaking his head. A small kid mind you.

I must admit you can tell the kid is very inntelligent for his age and I amassuming that as I do not know, he probably has great grades in school and excels there. It felt like talking to someone 10 years older than he was as he didn't have the mannerisms of a typical youngster like that. I could tell the first time I talked to him off the rink after playing.

That kid is going to do something either in hockey or in whatever he gets into.

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03-25-2010, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Coach13 View Post
Forget everything you think you know about talent, and take a look at the science.

Conventional wisdom says you either have it or you don't (even at 7 years old!). And if you don't, you'd better accept your limitations and your mediocre skills.

The new science (call it neuroplasticity) suggests that the conventional wisdom is pure bunk.

With hard work, sweat and tears, young athletes can train themselves to be great, even those who were born with only average genetic talent.

Over the next 10 years (say 5 to 15; 7 to 17; or 10 to 20), what will the future superstars have more of than their mediocre cousins?

Knowledge, motivation, ambition, persistence, self-discipline; in short, an environment which nurtures and helps shape their genetic talent.

-------------------------------------------------------------
editorial staff, sportsvisionmagazine.com
- training visual, cognitive and intelligence skills
An example of this is Corey Perry. Horrible hockey player until he hit his growth spurt at 14 and took power skating lessons. Trained hard for a few years and by the time his OHL draft year came around he was a top 10 pick. I should say by horrible, I mean he wasn't a AAA calibre player, or the type of guy you would say would win an Olympic Gold one day.

I can give you tons of other examples of players who were great in tyke, novice and atom but never did anything and vice versa. It's just the way it is.

And I agree with the sentiment that how good a player is doesn't matter until hitting is involved. It completely changes the game and evens things out quite a bit. All of a sudden positioning and hockey awareness become much greater factors than stickhandling and speed.

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03-26-2010, 11:16 AM
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Combination of a lot of things

The perfect talent is a combination of a lot of things:
Size and strength: You have to be just big and strong enough, means not the bigger the better or the stronger the better, you just have to be big enough, let's say in modern and future hockey, if you are a forward you are big enough if you are 5.11 or bigger and you should have a frame with the potential filling out with 190 or more. If you are a d-man or a goalie you should be 6.00 or bigger, maybe as a goalie and a shut-down-dman 6.01 or even 6.02 or bigger. It doesn't mean that you won't become a hockey-player if you are smaller or not as strong but it means it will be a disadvantage.

In addition one of the most important abilities in prospects is the ability to learn to improve, to adapt what teachers tell. So it's a good thing as a scout to try to know the young players already when they are 15, judge and rank them and then follow their progress until their draft-year and then judge and rank them again. This result is always very interesting and it's not very often that the best 15 year old will be also the best 18 year old. Further on you need to have the possibilities to have more ice than others and to have the best possible teachers. The more you practice (quantity) and the better you practice (quality) and the faster you learn - the better player you will be. Very important is passion. If you just like to play hockey...this is not enough, you have to really love the game, you have to love to study the game, to watch the game, to play the game. If you just like the game and you like also a lot of other things...fair enough, you are a well-rounded person with an interesting life...but you most probably won't become a world-class-hockey-player. Mentally you should have a relaxed personality, composed and calm even in pressure-situations and at the same time you should have a certain positive aggression, competitive, love to compete and keen on winning. In the very end...if we are talking about world-class...it helps if you have the one or the other outstanding asset, you have to be top10 in the world in either stickhandling, using the body, skating, shooting, hockeysense, vision or whatever. It helps to have this one or two outstanding assets compared to a player who is good in everything but misses the one or the other really excellent, outstanding asset. Personality-wise it also helps if you have a certain level of egoism. If you have an altruistic personality like Mother Theresa you won't become a world-class hockey-player. YOU have to improve and YOU have to do everything that helps YOU improving. I don't mean that you have to have a highly egoistic personality - because this will not help you overall - but a bit more egoistic than the average would be just perfect. Watch the surroundings of a player. If his father was a good player and this father cares about the son's career...it definitely helps. If you know that the player takes on his own responsibility additional power-skating-lessons e.g. - it definitely helps. If you know that the prospect is studying games on the video and tries to identify passing-lanes or whatever...shooter-strategies (if you are a goalie) - it definitely helps. If the player has at least an average intelligence - it definitely helps. Again...not the more intelligence the better player you will be...it's just good enough if you have an average or better intelligence, average is enough. Don't overrate tactical discipline and disciplined defensive positioning in players who are really young, this is the easiest part to learn when you are older, but if you can't control the puck, if you can't skate...you won't learn this when you are 20. E.g. I have seen a couple of high-end Russian talents becoming great NHLers although they lacked completely tactical discipline when they were 16, 17 or 18. On the other hand I have seen enough young Swiss players who play so disciplined in a system and know already with 15 years how to close passing-lines and how to play the game without the puck - so they are able to compete in games, in terms of results - but in the end, nearly nobody of them did reach the hockey-olymp, the NHL, because they didn't develop the basic-skills enough (handskills, skating, moves, dekes, puckcontrol, physical strength). All this is from my 12 years experience as a scout for Central Scouting Europe. Of course there are other aspects but I dont' want to go too deep in this thread. Any comment and critics to my opinion is very welcome and appreciated. I think this is a very interesting topic. Thomas, Central Scouting Europe NHL, Scout Switzerland/Germany

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03-26-2010, 01:08 PM
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Thomas - a ton of good info in your post.

On average, at what age do you start tracking kids. Does it vary depending on the kid, or are you (and most scouts) of the view that it's not worth looking at most kids until they're 2nd year Bantams (e.g., ninth-graders or 14/15)?

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03-26-2010, 02:39 PM
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Wow great info pokechecker....but my question was regarding a kid who seems to have great vision making excellent passes as a 7 year old, passes from his own end and connecting with a kid goalsucking at centre. I'm not a professional and this is not my field, but I assess that to be a kid who has excellent hockey sense, would you agree with this or is this common for kids??

Thanks for your post very informative

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03-26-2010, 03:09 PM
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Thomas - a ton of good info in your post.

On average, at what age do you start tracking kids. Does it vary depending on the kid, or are you (and most scouts) of the view that it's not worth looking at most kids until they're 2nd year Bantams (e.g., ninth-graders or 14/15)?
There exist different opinions about this. I know some colleagues who are not much interested in younger players, they just concentrate on the draftees. Personally I'm interested in younger player because of the described ability to learn, I want to check this. Actually I start with 14 years old but last weekend e.g. I did watch a 13 years old who is already an unbelievable explosive, fast and technically sound skater, so I don't tell he is just 13, I'm not interested in. Of course I will follow him, his progress and everything. On the one hand I do know for sure that projecting 12 or 13 years old is extremely tricky on the other hand I don't tell that I'm not interested in them, if somebody stands out in this age I'm of course interested in and if this someone hase some special abilities I definitely write down some comments and check later about improvement.

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03-26-2010, 03:19 PM
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Wow great info pokechecker....but my question was regarding a kid who seems to have great vision making excellent passes as a 7 year old, passes from his own end and connecting with a kid goalsucking at centre. I'm not a professional and this is not my field, but I assess that to be a kid who has excellent hockey sense, would you agree with this or is this common for kids??

Thanks for your post very informative
I don't know about 7 years old but if he stands out in the vision-category I would like to find out why. Maybe he did watch much more hockey-games than others in his age, maybe he has a dad who did teach him some sort of vision at a very early age. Maybe he played already tons of pond-hockey or something similiar. I definitely would be interested in this kid but mostly there are quite unspectacular answers about why he is so good in this aspect in such an early age. I definitely wouldn't project him yet but I definitely would love to watch him playing already. I love to watch exceptional things in hockey. Young phenoms, fastest players, most strong, most whatever. Even Mozart was not really as much of a boy-wonder as we would like to think, he had a Musician as father (Leopold Mozart) who was keen on doing drills with his son, Wolfgang. So Wolfgang became very good very young because of more and better practice than others. I guess you most probably can transfer this example to this 7 years old boy but you know him better so I'm very curious about your progress-report and findings from researching about him.

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03-26-2010, 08:27 PM
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Hi Pokechecker, this is what I can tell you, the kid starting skating 2 years ago, went to a tryout and made the A team, this was his first team never played hockey on ice before slowly progessed and was scouted for the AA or AAA, parents have said that he will definitly move up, he was the best player on the team. Supposedly is a hockey nut, reads up on stats, different players and is supposedly a very intelligent kid, his dad told me that he learnt how to do integers within 5 mins as a Grade 1 last year, as a teacher I was stunned. I thought his vision was there because maybe it had to do with his spatial sense (Math)

And your right starting watching hockey at a very young age 2 i think. Supposedly the kid has no interest in cartoons all he watches is hockey or hockey highligths, or plays nhl 10 on his xbox. Thats what I know currently Thanks

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03-27-2010, 07:17 PM
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This is a really great thread...lots of good insight.

Interesting point about Corey Perry, but I would guess that is the exception rather than the rule. My guess is that 99% of most pro hockey players were absolute standouts since Mites.

I think the birth year thing holds a lot of weight too. My son is an '03 birth year and because his tryouts for travel were last year he was put on a C team. He developed a lot over the summer and then absolutely dominated the entire season and he was still one of the younger players.....but now he has TWO more seasons of Mites where he will likely be on an A team both years because he has a Jan 03 birth year giving him time to really be a standout as an 8 year old where other 8 year olds with earlier birth years wont have that chance.

By and large I think it is a mix of both inherent skill and practice/commitment/love of the game. Anyone who watches me play would probably say that my son is already 2x as good as I am so it isnt my genes that is working the magic, but since he was born he has been watching hockey, playing floor hockey, street hockey, and skating at 2 and a half. Also, I have always coached his house league teams and that allows him to skate two sessions of practice should he want (they always need extra coaches around) and sometimes if other teams are short. So this year between travel league and house league he got about 7-8 hours on the ice a week.

As far as people complaining about puck hogging and not passing at a young age....I disagree with their assesment that it is a problem. I think kids need to try to score, have fun, and try creative things. Great passes are always fantastic, but too often I find coaches with little hockey background praising *any* pass and it often times being the wrong hockey play. Shooting and scoring are rare talents and by far the most important skills in the game. We should encourage our kids to excel and develop these skills just as much as we clamor for passing.

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03-28-2010, 02:30 AM
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Shooting and scoring are rare talents and by far the most important skills in the game. We should encourage our kids to excel and develop these skills just as much as we clamor for passing.
Your right about the kids having fun, but here is the problem with what your saying, I would assume that shooting and scorers are not rare in the younger age groups. There are tonnes of them on every team. Every team usually has about 2 standouts who can put the puck in the net. But what you won't see is the kid who naturally sees the ice a little different than the other kids. That is a rare talent for me. When I see a seven year old identify a man open at centre while he is in his own zone and puts a tape to tape that to me is talent, or going on a 2 on 0 break away and passing to the open man for an empty net that shows that this child is not selfish and identifies what the right play would be in that scenario, that to me is real hockey sense. Please comment and tell me, but I havent seen other kids do this, this is why I actually posed the question,

Is it just me or does this seem rare at this age?? Maybe theres tonnes of kids who do this and I just havent seen enough of this age to know.

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03-28-2010, 02:47 AM
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Your right about the kids having fun, but here is the problem with what your saying, I would assume that shooting and scorers are not rare in the younger age groups. There are tonnes of them on every team. Every team usually has about 2 standouts who can put the puck in the net. But what you won't see is the kid who naturally sees the ice a little different than the other kids. That is a rare talent for me. When I see a seven year old identify a man open at centre while he is in his own zone and puts a tape to tape that to me is talent, or going on a 2 on 0 break away and passing to the open man for an empty net that shows that this child is not selfish and identifies what the right play would be in that scenario, that to me is real hockey sense. Please comment and tell me, but I havent seen other kids do this, this is why I actually posed the question,

Is it just me or does this seem rare at this age?? Maybe theres tonnes of kids who do this and I just havent seen enough of this age to know.
I agree with both posts in a way because in my opinion just let the kids develop their fun, their passion with the game. Kids who can go coast to coast and shoot the puck - let them do this. Kids who loves to pass the puck. Let them do this; don't punish them by telling "not allowed to go 1:1" or "not allowed to shoot", or "not allowed to pass". They will develop what they like most and then they come naturally to a point where they will find out that their domination doesn't work anymore. They will find out that if they want to go out with dominating the game they have also to learn to use their teammates with clever playmaking and passing. The vision-guy will find that if he wants to reach the next level he also has to learn how to score, to shoot the puck, they will find out that it is most exciting if the opponents never will find out what I will do next, passing, going 1:1 or shooting. But don't punish them too early with not allowing to do this or that. Let's them develop their speciality and if the kid is really passionate about the game, curious about the whole game, it will ask about players, about strategies, about different skills and assets of great hockey-players, curious, passionate kids want to know everything early enough and will adapt what is needed to become a more or less well-rounded hockey-player. Lazy kids, who want to stay in their comfort-zone, will just go on with just shooting, just skating or just passing. Try to observe this and if you find curiousity, passion to learn additional things, it tells a lot about overall talent - if the basic-mechanics and maybe the one or the other speciality are there.

I do also agree with a former poster who tells that you need also a certain amount of basic talent. Yes, this is true, you need to have certain mechanics in your movements, a certain level of body-coordination, of hand-eye-coordination. If you don't have this it will be very difficult. But again...you also can improve your body-coordination, you als can learn this. A well respected Russian figure-skating-teacher did tell me once, - when my son was very small - send him to gymnastic-lessons and you will see how much of a better skater he will be after all... I guess she was right. Of course you can't do everything, you have to set priorities, but again, work more - maybe even gymnastics - and you will be a better player. When I was very young my father wanted me to play the violine, I was pretty good at this, did win even a nationa-junior-championship but unfortunately I didn't like it too much - would have preferred to play hockey. When I was big I played more hockey and wondered why I had astonishing good, soft and quick hands and hand-eye-coordination and I guess part of the truth was my extremely developped hand-eye-coordination from playing the violine for years, I also did easily learn to shoot the puck pretty well with my backhand and this also had to do with my certain mechanics, developped in my left arm/hand from playing the violine. Don't get me wrong: Don't make your son playing the violine if he wants to become a hockey-player... I guess you know what I mean. Actually I was never was a good hockey player - average to bad skater, small and slim...actually now I started to become fat...smile...


Last edited by Pokechecker: 03-28-2010 at 02:58 AM.
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03-30-2010, 12:17 PM
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rtl1334
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One of the biggest reasons you cannot project youngsters at that age is due to external factors. Many kids I've seen excel at such an early age, they were essentially groomed by their parents. The only exposure they had was to hockey and little else. As they become older their interests expand. Once girls, high school parties, facebook et al enter the picture...things may change.

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