I have talked a lot on this blog about my favorite team, the Bruins, but I thought it was about time to talk about something else very important to me: playing hockey. I’ve played hockey since I was a youth, and I’m still involved with it today. That love of the game has spread to my family, as well. My twins have been playing since they were three years old. It is a great bonding experience, a great way to teach your kids grit and determination, and a great way to get kids active in a world of videogames and smartphones.
From USA Hockey, the Three Promises of Youth Hockey:
- PROMISE OF FUN
The thrill of carrying the puck up the ice, the exhilaration of scoring their first goal or the camaraderie of skating with friends is possible due to the fun and encouraging environment youth hockey provides to try new things and grow as a person.
- PROMISE OF GUIDANCE
Youth hockey is unique because a new player must start from the very basics of essentially learning to walk again. Your local youth hockey program has instructors that are able to teach the sometimes challenging skills of ice hockey in a fun, engaging manner.
- PROMISE OF ACHIEVEMENT
You will be amazed at the progress your child will make in a short amount of time. Both you and your child will walk away from the rink each day, excited about all the new things that your young hockey player has started to learn on the ice.
Want to enroll your kids? Are they interested in learning? Don’t know where to begin? Here are the basics of getting started:
- First, you have to find a place to skate. Find the nearest ice rinks near you (You can use the USA Hockey phone line (719) 538-1124) and ask if they have Learn To Play or Learn To Skate programs. These programs are recognized by USA Hockey as the best systems for youth player development. Even if you child has been skating before, it is still wise to look for one of these programs, as they teach the fundamentals required to play hockey before your kids are on a competitive team.
If you do not know how to skate, now would be a good time for you to look into it yourself, as well. It’s certainly not a requirement, but there is some great fun to be had in practicing along with your kids.
- Next, there’s the equipment. Many rinks and supply stores have rentals of hockey gear. This may be an ideal situation while you try out the sport with your kid to see if they like it, without spending the money on a full kit right off the bat. TotalHockey.com has an Equipment Guide put together to make it easy to purchase all the gear you’ll need in one location, but make sure you do some research on your own to make sure you are getting safe, effective gear in your family price range!
Gear is important for your child’s safety, so make sure you get quality equipment. But I do not recommend shelling out for the more expensive gear for the sake of having fancy gear, for a couple of reasons. First, your kids might not fit in with the group of students or team if they are running top-of-the-line kits and everyone else isn’t. Second, kids grow fast, proper fit is the most important thing, and hockey gear isn’t cheap. Plan on replacing equipment as kids grow, this isn’t a long-term investment!
All of the gear is important for keeping kids warm on the ice, and safe from injuries. But MAKE SURE that there is a helmet, neck guard, and mouth guard for your kid. You’ll need the full set of guards and pads to keep from broken bones, but neck, head, and mouth are the injuries to be most worried about.
- Practice. Take them to rinks during hockey practice time, and avoid open skate unless they just need ice time to get steady on their skates. Roller skates might also be a good idea, because even though it’s not the same as skating on ice, practice with some techniques can happen at home. Again, if you can learn to play with them, or already know how to skate, I always vouch for practice sessions together!
It is also important to encourage kids. Root for them, but don’t push too hard. Let them know it’s okay to fail, but it’s important to get back up and work more to keep it from happening again. Watch professional hockey games and talk about strategy. Talk about passing, and how working with a team makes you a better player. Teach them how to take care of their equipment, first aid when they hurt themselves, and how let emotions out by playing hard but not getting too emotional about the game. Don’t let them quit when it gets hard, but don’t make them miserable for years if they don’t like playing.