When I first started at Micro Ice, we have 2 mite teams. I had never coached mites before, and had no idea what to do and/or expect. Then I started thinking…If I had a child that wanted to play hockey, how would I design the program? (I didn’t have children at the time.)
- I would practice practice practice. The kids who have access to more ice, get better. It’s not a magic formula, it’s actually an easy formula. Get them out on the ice more often, in practice situations.
- Have great practices. Deliberate practices. Game like practices. Whatever terminology you want to use, the kids need to be out there, doing things that happen in games. No flow drills. No 3v0 back door passes on goalies. Drills, or what I like to call, scenarios, that force them to “read, plan, and do.” That’s where development really happens. I’m there to guide them, not tell them the answers.
- Limit games. Besides the travel, time investment, and lack of actual playing time/development in games, I didn’t want there to be game fatigue. Mites play the same amount of games as NCAA Division III teams. Squirts play more than NCAA Division I teams. 8 year olds are playing a college schedule. I want the kids to compete and have fun at the rink. Not just go through the motions. That’s why I politely decline scrimmages.
- Take a long term approach. Expect mistakes. Let them learn why not to pass the puck in front of their own net. Let them try to stickhandle through people and turn it over. Let them over-pursue the puck. Force them to get involved instead of hanging back. Force them to look and make a play, rather than firing the puck away. Let them try goalie, see how hard it is.
- Value the process, not the results. I want to win, I am a competitive guy. I attribute my success as a player and coach to the fact that my hatred for losing is greater than my love of winning. HOWEVER, that’s where I am currently at. To expect the same from kids 6-12 is wrong. So I want their best effort. I want them to compete every shift, every drill, and every game. I want them to learn from mistakes, not constantly make the same ones over and over again. But most importantly, I need to emphasize the important things: being a great teammate, bringing a positive attitude, and consistent improvement. The longer they play, the better they will get.
What I am most proud of is the excitement the kids have throughout the whole season. The kids are lined up raring to go to practice from September through March. We had a skate with the mites two weeks after their season ended and the kids stayed out there for two hours. That’s when I knew the season was a success.