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Position Specialization – What Not to Do

By Aaron Wilbur, The Coaches Site, 11/04/20, 1:00PM EST


Letting kids find their passion for the game through development

Photo Credit: Tim Bates/OJHL Photography

Kids don’t improve based on the outcome of games. They grow in an environment where emphasis is placed on deliberate skill development and hard work.

Jamie Storr isn’t afraid to think outside the box when it comes to minor hockey. The former NHL goalie and now the Oo-Owner, President and General Manager and Head Coach of the Oakville Blades has learned about the game from all over the world.

In Sweden, they’ve removed standings and statistics for players under 13 years old. Players don’t begin to specialize in a position until around that same time. While a controversial initiative, it reflects the country’s overall approach to player development.

When coaching with Valeri Bure in Los Angeles Jr Kings program, widely considered one of the best hockey programs for youth in the US, Storr was struck Bure’s though process about the youngest players. Bure says they should hang on to the puck for as long as possible. 

“If you can’t carry the puck and don’t learn how to create for yourself, why would I pass to you? Everyone has to learn how to create their skillsets.”

That early specialization applies to netminders as well.

“Don’t put a goalie on the ice for minor hockey practice. There’s going to be nothing you’re going to do to help a goalie at six years old. Throw every kid in net during games. You’ll find your best athletic kids are going to be your best goalies. As they get older, then put the kids who want to be in net.”

Storr touts small area games as a great development tool for any age group. They put players in situations that generate game-like decision making scenarios. It incorporates competition into practices and adds an increased tempo, engagement and fun, these games check all the boxes for what coaches want.

Keeping kids involved in the game by creating a positive, safe atmosphere is the best way to have them want to come back to the rink every practice.

“Find a way to get them all involved. If you’re not putting them on the powerplay, put them on the penalty kill… I want to see every kid feel good about himself when he finishes the game.”

It doesn’t take a hockey mind to help mould a player. Storr says some of his best coaches were carpenters and plumbers, the ones who gave him the needed confidence and belief in himself.

“When you look at the big picture, you want to see these kids in a position where they get the chance to be the best they can be and be in a safe environment that’s more about developing their skillsets and having their experiences.”

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Aaron is the Founder and CEO of The Coaches Site, the #1 online resource for hockey coaches, and also the host of the Glass & Out podcast. He is married with two boys, believes Major League is the best sports movie of all-time, is scared of heights and is mildly obsessed with the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

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