The hockey coach stands before the young kids on his team, blows his whistle to signal the start of the drill, and yells, “Go!” The skaters execute the assignment. The coach then blows his whistle again and again and again: “Go … go … go …”
Practices are intended to help teammates improve their fundamental skills and better prepare them for their next match.
But the best hockey drills for kids are effective and enjoyable. Most young players are eager to learn, and if coaches stress consistency in their repetition and use positive feedback, the kids on the team will find the hockey drills fun.
Watching hockey videos for kids is also helpful for youngsters, and allows them to visualize the training it takes to succeed.
Hockey Drills for Beginners
Coaches overseeing the development of young players implement a variety of exercises throughout the season.
Here is a look at three popular hockey skating/passing/shooting drills for kids; these drills introduce the sport’s fundamentals to youngsters who practice them.
1. Skate Circles
One of the most basic drills coaches use during warm-ups, this drill places two skaters at adjacent corners and, upon hearing the whistle, they glide around all face-off circles while executing figure 8s.
2. Star Passing Drill
This half-ice exercise helps players focus on passing and receiving the puck from stationary positions. Coaches begin by dividing the team into groups of five and placing the players at different face-off circles. Then, in a continuous fashion on the forehand, and later the backhand, the drill features one skater passing to another, who then delivers a pass to another, and so on.
3. Horseshoe Give and Go
The intention of this drill is to improve the players’ skating speed, stick-handing, and passing skills. Cones are placed in the middle of each face-off circle. Players build up speed by skating horseshoes around the half-ice cones. Upon reaching the “go” line, the skater is joined by a teammate, who passes the puck with the intent of hitting the skater in stride.
There are plenty of other effective drills for beginners that help build basic skills.
Fun Hockey Games for Beginners
Hockey practices can be grinding, but some of the ‘drills’ can be fun games for youngsters.
Here are a few examples:
Coaches like to drop the puck on a five-on-five scrimmage—it’s one of the best ways to develop chemistry among the players while adding a little fun. What’s better than playing a friendly game with teammates? And cross-ice three-on-three scrimmages provide a chance to work on skating, passing, and shooting fundamentals.
Shootouts allow skaters to work on their skating with speed and dekes with the puck, while allowing goalies to develop confidence by facing skaters one-on-one. Beginning with skaters taking the puck at center ice and racing toward the net, shootouts are entertaining for all—even teammates watching from the bench.
3. Sharks and Minnows
Stickhandling and skating under pressure are key skills to develop. Sharks and Minnows help young players improve in both areas. The drill begins with the minnows lining up alongside the boards with pucks, while one shark opens in the middle of the ice. Attempting to skate dot to dot, minnows weave around the ice avoiding a shark’s attempts at knocking the puck off their sticks. If minnows make it to the area between the dots and the boards, they are safe. If they lose control of the puck, however, they also become sharks. The game ends when all the minnows get their pucks poked away.
4. Relay Races
Helping to enhance the players’ balance and agility, relay races can include obstacles such as sticks they must jump over, and cones for skaters to work on sharp turns. With the team divided into several groups, teammates enjoy racing each other.
Hockey Goalie Drills for 12-Year-Olds
There is more to playing goalie than standing before a shooter and stopping pucks from crossing the red line.
Detecting shots through screens, moving laterally in the crease, and playing the puck behind the net are different skills young goalies must work on during practices. Goalies playing at the Pee Wee level (11- to 12-year-olds) will benefit from practicing these and other drills:
This drill helps goalies focus on positioning and reacting quickly to rebounds. Coaches place two tires in front of the goalie. A shooter has the option to shoot over the tires, forcing the goalie to make a save, or bounce a shot off the tires where two skaters at each side of the net stand ready to retrieve the rebounds and attempt to shoot past the netminders.
Shot – Recovery – Rebound
Recovering rebounds is a big part of goaltending. With two pucks placed off to the side of the net, and players positioned in the high slot area, goalies can work on this aspect of the game. The skaters take a shot and no matter what happens, they race to the side of the net and attempt to jam home the rebound. Goalies learn to encounter a shot, recover, and attempt to deny a rebound.
Hockey Off-Ice Training for Kids
Hockey training is a year-round activity, and includes training on and off the ice. While there is a plethora of drills designed to help ice hockey players, there are similar floor hockey drills for kids, who can use them to improve their skills.
Off-ice training starts with a nutritious diet, followed by dryland training. Here are a few training tips for kids during the off-season:
- Mountain Climber Push-Ups: At the conclusion of a push-up, continue with bringing a knee up to your shoulder area and ease it back into place.
- Skate Walks: Mark out a flat area of around 50 yards and imitate a staking stride.
- Sprints: Pick out a steep hill of about 50 yards or a series of at least 20 stairs and go … go … go …
It doesn’t take much to motivate eager young hockey players. Most are excited to experience as much of the game as possible.
Practices are designed to help players improve their fundamental skills and gear the team up for their upcoming opponent.
Practices can be hard. But they don’t have to be a drag.
Quality coaches understand the best hockey drills for kids are the ones they can learn from and still enjoy executing.