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SolarWind

Coaching 5-6 years old: teaching the game

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I've gone through 12 years of hockey with my eldest, and now starting the journey again with my youngest so I realized that I never figured out what is the appropriate level of guidance for 5-6 years old when it comes to teaching the game itself?

When we run scrimmages they are extremely unstructured since it's the first year of organized hockey for more players, and majority are still just getting basics of skating/stickhandling so there is definitely zero awareness of any positioning or team play. As a result there is quite a discrepancy in the skill level between players since some of them had a head start while others just learning to skate. During a scrimmage with the exception of few timid outliers who are just doing their own thing, the rest of the 'pack' is usually chasing the puck. Once they all converge on it usually it results in a pile up, and most of the time one of the players just whacks the pack and it flies away in some random direction followed by the puck. This makes it really tough to 'read the game' for anyone due to pretty high degree of randomness to it. Players tend to fight for the puck even on the same team and passing is non-existent. 

Apparently this makes it quite frustrating for stronger players since unless they get to the puck ahead of the 'pack' and manage to skate in the open, or the puck just happens to pop to them, they really struggle to create any plays because puck movements are not very predictable and threats are abundant while the support is scarce.

Anyone who coached younger players must have observed it so the description of the chaos above is probably redundant. LOL

So my question is - what Individual guidance/instructions/strategy can we provide to stronger players to help them with their frustration?

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Depends first on the size of the organization.  We picked a large org because they had enough teams for red, white, and blue adm.  they have in-house up to 14 years old with multiple divisions by skill level.  If that isn’t possible then at least divide them into like skill groups for practice.  It’s also not linear, kids progress very differently, two months from now the pecking order could be very different.

At the end of the day, for 5-6 year olds games aren’t really important, nor is structure.  They play to learn, not learn to play so to speak.

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Probably the best short answer is to sign up for a level 1 USA Hockey coaches clinic and do the U6 age specific module. The modules are $10 and will give 3 or 4 hours of age specific guidance on the topics that will help you.

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9 hours ago, clarkiestooth said:

Probably the best short answer is to sign up for a level 1 USA Hockey coaches clinic and do the U6 age specific module. The modules are $10 and will give 3 or 4 hours of age specific guidance on the topics that will help you.

Great idea, but I failed before I got going: "All coaches must be registered members of USA Hockey".

 

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10 minutes ago, shoot_the_goalie said:

Not to sound critical, but if a 5-6 year old kid is getting frustrated because he/she is a stronger player than the rest of the group...something has already gone wrong.  

Not necessarily, when hockey is played like tennis it can be very frustrating for anyone! 

Somehow almost every kid feels compelled to whack the pack as soon as they get in contact with it sending in a random direction. Work in progress… 

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At 5-6 years old, most if not all time should be spent on skating fundamentals and spacing. Pucks are a whackamole exercise at that age with few exceptions of the gifted kid here and there. I'm happy when a kid that age knows the difference between an inside and an outside edge.  Unless there is that "one in a million" Gretzky kid in the group...the attention span is about the same as a guinea pig, and most time is spent preventing 10 kids bunching in a 5 foot area.

Unless you have an abundance of coaches on the ice, individual instruction for both extremes of the bell curve (skilled and unskilled) is difficult at best. For the skilled, I chat with 8U coaches to get the skilled more ice time with structured practices that are challenging, and to the parents to get more ice time with jungle/open hockey sessions. For the unskilled, I bring them to learn to skate sessions where I can build more of those fundamentals and help out with the other younger kids. It's a difficult balance when coach constrained.

If you have enough coaches, splitting the ice to small area games will allow you to have a section of the ice to challenge more skilled players in practice. At that age, the struggle will be to get them to learn to leverage the strengths and weakness of the other players in games vs their desire to skate around everyone and score goals.

Edited by MLSman

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