House League Program Update - 6 Year Old Tyke (2011), News (Whitby Minor Hockey)

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House League Program Update - 6 Year Old Tyke (2011)
Submitted By Jaclyn Morden on Monday, August 28, 2017
Hockey Canada is pushing for cross-ice games for five, six and seven year-old players next season and according to statistics youth players stand to benefit greatly from the additional skill development it will bring.

The rise in hockey talent originating from our US neighbours to the south and from our Scandinavian friends in Sweden have Hockey Canada taking note. In trying to reestablish Canadian Hockey Supremacy, Hockey Canada is reviewing development models in these countries to find insight into their recent success. All three nations (Canada, the US and Sweden) subscribe to age-appropriate, age-specific competition and training for boys and girls. All three nations also encourage station-based practices and small-area games and their programs strive to use limited ice time more efficiently and minimize the amount of ‘dead ice’ and ‘dead player movement’. Additionally, all three nations have focused coaches’ efforts and development to maximize the number of players in motion, deliver more repetitions, deliver more puck touches and promote more skill development per hour of ice time. However, one major difference is revealed and has been identified between the three nations at the youth development (ages 3-8) stage – the Canadian models’ non-use of cross-ice/half ice games.

In trying to heighten emphasis on skill development and long-term athlete development, both the US and Sweden have adopted half ice game play across all youth hockey levels; in the US up to age 8 and in Sweden up to age 10/11.  In both the US and Sweden, youth development programs have exclusively adopted half ice/cross-ice games/competition.  Parallels can be made to soccer, where smaller balls, smaller fields and smaller nets are used. Similarly, we find baseball introducing more advanced skill level gradually from t-ball to pitching machines etc.  Such sports have attempted at the youth levels, to make the playing surface or style of play more manageable for smaller people. As skill sets grow and as played ability and enjoyment of the game mature more features of the traditional game are introduced. But looking deeper Hockey Canada has identified skill development is vastly increased by the use of cross ice/half ice games.

Half ice/Cross ice games are thought to deliver more repetitions, more puck touches and more skill development per hour of ice time. But by looking at the data (hockey metrics fans enjoy) the altruistic arguments in favour of cross ice/half ice games become even stronger. Two years ago, USA Hockey conducted a study tracking a several groups of five and six-year-olds in half-ice/ cross-ice games. What was found is that with less game space, there were twice as many puck battles, six times the number of shots on goal, 1.75 shots per minute compared to 0.45 shots per minute on full ice, twice the number of pass attempts, five times more passes received per player and twice as many changes in direction per player. In short, the kids of all skill levels on the ice had more chances to shoot, stickhandle and battle for pucks rather than chase them around a full ice surface. Further by using the smaller ice space the pace of play was increased and players were forced to make quicker decisions in confined spaces.

Sports psychologist Dr. Stephen Norris said in a Hockey Canada video on the subject that “the research clearly shows, and parents should be looking at this, that their children are more actively engaged, which means they have the puck with them a greater number of times, they have the puck on their stick for a longer period of time, they’re interacting with the other players to a greater extent. They’re having to make more decisions, they’re having to control their bodily motions. So, the whole milieu of key performance indicators is raised.”  As Hockey Canada pushes forward in establishing principles and providing a blueprint for the best possible youth hockey experience, the adoption of cross ice / half ice games is being promoted/mandated. In re-examining development and individual involvement phycologist are touting the benefits of enjoyment of the player and their overall elevation of positive hockey experiences. Put simply, Hockey Canada in trying to promote the sports success in the country and is reexamining what’s best for kids.

Stay tuned for more discussion and information on this topic.

Colin Oldman

Tyke Director (WMHA)
[email protected]

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