Initiation hockey inspires me.
The best part about coaching young hockey guys and gals is that they’re relatively free of poor habits.
These are all habits that can be taught at a young age.
But the habit-building doesn’t stop at ice level. Being small and uncoordinated makes it incredibly difficult to feel comfortable in hockey gear. It’s tough to out-perform your equipment, so let’s make sure we’re giving our cookie monster graduate the best possible equipment they need to succeed.
Keep your eye peeled for these typical equipment malfunctions.
If you can’t skate you can’t play. The amount of times I’ve seen young kids sized up with skates that don’t fit is astounding. You can tell by the way the ankles bend when they glide or try to push off. If your son or daughter looks like Bambi on ice and their ankle joint bends harshly, it’s probably the skates, not the athlete.
The length of your hockey stick is mostly determined by personal preference at older ages, but while you’re young it’s important to learn how to stickhandle with the right size of stick. Somewhere between the top of the chest and the chin is usually ideal. Longer than that and the player will stand upright or they’ll twist their top hand over and around the top of the stick, eliminating their wrist strength and running the risk of developing one of the hardest habits to break.
Ok, so this one you can’t spot on the ice, but as a parent of a child who can hardly tie their own shoes let alone dress themselves, it’s your responsibility to outfit them with comfortable under-gear. I bring this up because yesterday I taught a session with a peewee player who was wearing his collared school uniform under his equipment. So, it happens at various levels. Let’s build habits at initiation and outfit our kids with smooth, sleek shirts and hockey underwear that breathes well and makes it easy to move.
It might be tough to justify spending money on pants that will need to be replaced in 3 months, but you chose to have a child, so it’s your fault. Pants that run past the knees or stop 3 inches down the thigh drives kids nuts. The problem is that they don’t realize what’s causing them discomfort, so they just get frustrated in general because they think hockey is a movement-inhibitive sport. It’s not. The same goes with shin pads, though the shorter the better. It’s tricky to find the sweet spot with shin pad length, but the key is to have no gap between the top of the skate and the bottom of the shin pad.
I know I said ankles and skates are the most important elements to get right, but that was before I got to this bullet point and I realized just how much time I spend dealing with kids who complain about headaches (even if they’re just being soft, MANNIX) or their hair being in their eyes. Helmets shouldn’t move when they’re on a player’s head. They should fit snug and comfortable an inch above the eyebrows.
So parents, please don’t chuck a helmet on your child and then chuck said child on the ice with a helmet that restricts their vision or comfort. I know sometimes things are crazy and busy, but it’s a lot easier to build habits on the ice when we’re comfortable in our gear.