Sometimes that’s all an initiation hockey coach can say when watching a new group of young’n’s motoring around, for more than a few reasons related to poor-fitting hockey equipment. At older levels of hockey, coaches can usually spot the gamers simply because they can see their equipment fits properly. When a player looks comfortable in their gear, it’s usually because they are comfortable.
With that in mind, here’s why it’s crucial to dress our little guys and girls in hockey equipment that fits right.
The boards, the net, each other - heck, even the coach is treated like an over-sized traffic pylon from time to time. Whether it be a stick or a well-placed headbutt, at some point during the season the coach is going to feel the brunt of impact from a crazed little guy or girl skating around with their eyes closed. Without proper fitting helmets, the cage can shift and leave the jaw vulnerable. Shin pads that are too small can easily slip down and expose knees. Not fun for the player, (less so for the coach) but completely avoidable. And yes, this point is largely self-serving.
Youth hockey is all about building habits through repetition. Growing accustomed to gear that’s too big promotes bad habits and poor technique. Only with perfectly-fitted equipment can players perform and retain skills. Gear that slides around, such as elbow pads or shoulder pads, is literally the source of most of my nightmares. I can’t even imagine the frustration for young goalies with ill-fitting equipment, let alone players trying to shoot the puck with gloves that don’t fit … (puts on sunglasses) … like a glove.
The day initiation hockey starts including tryouts is the day I hang up my dog whistle, uh, I mean coach’s whistle. However, if there were tryouts, the degree of sideways ankle bend in various players would be all I’d require to build the team. I really want to believe that hockey shops these days don’t sell skates a size or two too large so the player can grow into them, but I still witness bone-crushingly poor-fitting skates that leaves me wondering. Skates are not the area to save money from season to season. Buy second hand elbow pads or shin pads or even pants (as long as they fit), but invest in proper fitting skates. Please.
I’ve been coaching hockey for nearly 15 years now, and in the thousands of hours watching kids turn sharply and hurl themselves into tangles of bodies, I’ve not once seen a player seriously hurt in a practice. Games are another animal, but the only way to truly protect your son or daughter is to dress them in equipment that fits. Hockey is expensive, but a child’s health is priceless, right? Well, maybe not, hockey gear is pretty expensive.
Parents also deserve to feel comfortable knowing they’ve done everything in their power to maximize their child’s performance. I’ve had parents wonder why their child was behind with regards to skating technique, implying it was the fault of the coach despite sending him onto the ice wearing Shaquille O’Neal’s skates.
Ok, I might have made part of that up, but only just barely. The point is that it might seem difficult to justify the price tag on equipment at such a young age, but unfortunately that’s the nature of hockey right now.
Proper gear is crucial to the early developmental years.
Plus it looks cool. Look good, feel good, play good, right? It’s why I was such a good hockey pl- oh who am I kidding?