When it comes to sports, young athletes need to be approached and trained differently than those in high school or college. Whether they are novice or a gifted young athlete, working on drills has many purposes.
Drills should be short, focused, and basic. The young athlete is building a foundation to help them grow in the sport. There are basic, foundational drills for young athletes starting in hockey that can help solidify skills and prepare the athlete for more advanced work and avoid injury.
Young hockey player ready to make a strong shot against ice arena background
This is a novice drill but a key one on teaching young hockey players how to fall on the ice and get back up again. Have the players start at the goal line, skate to the closest face-off circle, dive, or fall onto the ice in a Superman pose with the arms outstretched overhead. Instruct the player to get up as quickly as possible by first getting to their knees and then standing up. The athlete will then quickly skate to the next mark on the ice and repeat until they’ve crossed the rink. When the athlete becomes comfortable with this, have them complete the drill holding a hockey stick. This drill not only helps to reduce the fear of falling on the ice, but improves reaction time to get back up and moving as soon as possible.
Tennis Ball Bounce
Bounce a tennis ball on the blade of a hockey stick. All the team members can do this, and the last one who keeps the ball bouncing on the hockey stick wins. While the drill is going on, encourage the athletes to use other parts of the stick besides just the forehand. Use the backhand, the stick shaft, or the butt-end. This drill helps to improve hand-eye-stick coordination, timing, and soft-hands.
The coach sets up half the team on one half of the rink and the other half on the other. Have two players start in opposite corners. When the whistle is blown, the athletes begin skating around the face-off circles in a figure-8 pattern. Skate circles is a simple but effective drill as a warm-up before a game, to build speed, and agility. Every player should complete 4-5 rounds of the drill.
Create obstacle courses on the ice to challenge player’s speed, agility, and control. This could include setting up cone patterns for weaving or sharp turns, hockey sticks on the ground to jump over, targets to shoot at, and even some selected areas along the boards for the player to collide with.
This drill will require some supplies but is a great way to work on accuracy. On the goal, use string to hang paper plates, or balloons, around the goal to create five targets:
- Left High
- Left Low
- Five-hole (Space between goalie’s legs)
- Right High
- Right Low
The hockey player is positioned in front of the goal with plenty of pucks scattered about their feet. The coach will then call out a target, and the player must hit the selected target with the puck.
Sharks and Minnows
The drill begins with the minnows lining up along one goal side, with one player, the shark, in the middle of the ice. At the command of the coach, the minnows skate their way across the ice to the opposite side, weaving around the ice while handling a puck as they avoid the shark’s attempts at knocking the puck away. If minnows make it to the opposite goal, they are safe. If the shark manages to steal the puck from them, they too become a shark. The game continues until the last minnow is left. This drill helps young hockey players with stickhandling, skating, and learning how to skate under pressure.
When working with young athletes, it is essential to focus on simple drills to improve endurance, coordination, focus, and sport-specific skills. There are dozens and dozens of drills – all beneficial – but working on a few simple drills can help keep young, new hockey players focused and not overwhelmed. Remember, they will have many years to progress on the ice.
Read More: Hockey Players: Increase Your Skating Speed with These Starting Tips