1) There is a big difference between making the wrong play, and not being strong enough to execute what was actually the right play. Don’t yell at your kid for a turnover that was a good look. They just weren’t physically strong enough to make it happen yet.
2) Choose your kid’s youth team based on who the coach will be and the location. Find a coach in your area that knows what they are doing and is good with the kids. Having a good coach during the prime development years is more important than a program’s pedigree.
3) If your kid is right hand dominate, don’t assume they need a “righty” stick. Most likely they should be using a “lefty” stick. This means their dominate right hand will be on top, controlling the stick. Your best bet is to give them a stick with no curve, and see what they do with it.
4) Don’t buy your kid stiff skates or wrap tape around their ankles. It is like learning how to skate in a cast. Yes, there will be more support but they will be relying on the boot and won’t learn how to properly use their steel and edges. Equipment companies make them stiff so that kids have an easier time standing up when they start out. This makes them more likely to keep playing, meaning you will have to purchase more skates and gear from them in the future.
5) Once your kid decides to sign up for hockey, you need to push them to play for at least two years. Unlike other sports, it isn’t fun at all until you learn how to skate. Many kids quit too soon because of this. I dreaded going to “learn to skate” my first couple of years. It was boring and hard. My parents weren’t hockey people but they made me go because I decided to sign up and made a commitment. Thank God they wouldn’t let me quit or I would have missed out on so much.
6) Enforce that school comes before hockey. Kids need to learn time management skills and should finish their work before practice. Far too many kids are doing their homework in the car late at night, on the way back from a far off rink. That is no way to develop good study habits.
7) A young player shouldn’t use a stick with a crazy curve or open blade face. The bottom should always be flat on the ice, and the face should be closed. Both of these things will ensure that the puck is always flush to the blade. Too many kids can’t give or catch passes because they are using an open curve with a rocker on the bottom.
8) The majority of the time, youth hockey should be fun, but it shouldn’t be rainbows and butterflies 24/7. Youth sports are a great vehicle for learning life lessons. Let them experience the lows that come with any long term commitment. Going through adversity and coming out the other end builds confidence in a child.
9) Don’t put your kid on a team that is above their playing level, just for the status. They will spend the year fighting to keep up and they won’t have the chance to develop any new skills or see what it’s like to have a positive effect on the play.
10) Play. Other. Sports. It doesn’t have to be on an organized team. Urge them to go play some pickup basketball or soccer. Hell, have them join the Gryffindor Quidditch squad if they want, just be active in other ways. Participating in an array of activities allows kids to develop different coordination patterns, proper muscle development and motor skills.