Yes, 8-11 year-olds are allowed to train for ice hockey.
The issue with that statement comes from how you would define the word “train.” At young (pre-pubescent) ages, the goal of training is to provide a robust range of athletic skills while improving the overall quality and competency in which those skills can be executed.
The challenge as a coach is to be able to accomplish this objective in a way that is fun, engaging, and also is cognizant of parents’ time and logistical limitations. I hope this blog provides some insight into how to accomplish an effective training strategy with younger athletes while being respectful of parents’ time and money.
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As an athlete graduates from one age group to the next, I have always been a proponent of the idea that they should be able to display a base minimal level of competency of specific athletic skills (similar to academics in school). For example, is that athlete able to skip athletically, can the athlete hold static body positions in mechanically sound ways, is the athlete able to display a high level of vestibule ocular skills (rolling, somersaulting, etc.) while maintaining control of their bodies?
The reality is that if the athlete cannot display the prerequisite level athletic skill and competency, they should not begin to “train” with more advanced methods of exercise.
Assuming that most teams meet 3-4 times per week, why not put together an “athletic upgrading” warmup that can be done before all practices and games that only takes 20 minutes? Not only will this serve the purpose of warming the athlete up, but it will look to enhance the number of skills and quality of skills the athletes can display.
Here is a short example of they type of “athletic upgrade” warmup pre-pubescent teams could utilize:
1. Warrior lunge walk: 2 sets of 15 yards
2. Single leg deadlift walk: 2 sets of 6 reps per leg
3. Slow reverse bear crawl: 3 sets of 15 yards
4. Reactive ankle hops: 2 sets of 15 yards
5. Forward a skip: 2 sets of 15 yards
6. Scramble from stomach to sprint: 3 sets of 15 yards
If space permits you could add a somersault as an added level of complexity. You can also start the scramble from your back instead of your stomach.
7. Single leg drop to half squat: 2 sets of 5 per leg
This athletic skill practice session should take no more then 20 minutes and is absolutely not exhaustive in nature. To be able to implement this 2-4 times per week would be a fantastic tool of helping your athletes acquire a more robust range of tools to use as an athlete.
As I tell most of our parents, our young athletes are like mechanics, our job as strength coaches is to provide them with as many tools as possible so that no matter what “job” is asked of them, they can go and grab that “tool” and get the job done effective.