Teaching Creative Fundamentals to Youth Players

Dan Arel

Dan Arel is the Director of Coaching Education and Development for the San Diego Oilers and head coach of their 12U A team. He was also named the 2020 San Diego Gulls Foundation's Coach of the Year. You can email him at [email protected]

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Players should be learning through mistakes and trial and error and not a rigid boxed system.
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At younger youth hockey levels, USA Hockey –following the American Development Model (ADM) recommendations– doesn’t want players learning complex team systems. That doesn’t mean, however, we should not be teaching them fundamental systems like a breakout, and how to move the puck through the neutral zone. 

The reason the ADM model doesn’t want complex or strict systems has a lot to do with stifling creativity. Players should be learning through mistakes and trial and error and not a rigid boxed system.

To teach these fundamental ideas, my team has a practice plan that incorporates these concepts, but leaves different steps open-ended so that they must make the best choices and find creative ways to problem solve.

The Breakout

In this drill, we run it as two stations so that players are working the breakout on both sides of the zone. The coach dumps a puck behind the net and the three players in line skate into the zone. The first skater is the defense who goes behind the net to retrieve the puck. Second in is the winger who skates down low and then opens up on the board for a pass. The third is the centre who does their best to shadow the defense and be there for support. 

Players should be learning through mistakes and trial and error and not a rigid boxed system . . .

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