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Building a Foundation

By David Kittner - Youth Fitness Guy, 11/13/13, 10:45AM EST


Developing Coordination in Young Hockey Players

Your son or daughter wants to become a better hockey player and as a parent you want to help them get there. That’s great, but does that mean more and more hockey on the ice for little Johnny? More games, more practices, more instruction? More time on the ice will certainly help any young hockey player hone his or her hockey skills, at least until he or she decides to quit because of burn out, overuse injuries or the game becomes more work than fun. 

Improvement for young hockey players generally tends to focus on hockey specific skills. This is not necessarily a bad thing but for young kids there is far more you can offer them in addition to hockey specific drills that will not only help them develop as hockey players but more importantly develop as an athlete. 

Building a foundation of fundamental movement skills and physical literacy will go a long way in developing athleticism in your child. In short, exposing kids to a variety of non-hockey related activities will enhance their overall coordination. Keep in mind that developing coordination and athleticism is a long term process not an event. Patience is key!

Coordination is made up of several elements inclusive of balance, movement adequacy, kinesthetic differentiation, reaction to visual and acoustical signals, rhythm, and spatial orientation. 
Overall coordination is best developed between the ages of seven and fourteen, with the most crucial period occurring between the ages of ten and thirteen years of age. This applies to both girls and boys. 

There are three principals of coordination development: 

  • Start young - the younger the better
  • Challenge athletes at an appropriate level - some children will be better at some elements than others
  • Change activities/exercises frequently - Challenge athletes both physically, mentally and  emotionally 

The ability to optimally develop coordination ends at around age sixteen for both boys and girls. This reinforces the concept of exposing a child to coordination development at a young age. It is in the younger years a child’s nervous system is highly moldable and accepting to various stimuli. 
Coordination games, activities and exercises can be done pretty much anywhere, anytime: at home, at the park, at the playground and even at the arena. Below are examples of activities to enhance the coordination of young hockey players when performed on a regular basis:


  • Multi-directional forms of locomotion: running, jumping, hopping, skipping, crawling, climbing
  • Single leg balancing games
  • Multi-directional crab walks, bear crawls and log rolls
  • Jump rope in all directions using various foot patterns
  • Medicine balls throws, stationary and with locomotion 
  • Partner mirroring games
  • Various forms of jumping jacks in multiple directions while travelling between two points
  • Throwing and catching balls in various positions
  • Submaximal jumps or hops in place with rotational turns while in flight
  • Starting or finishing locomotive patterns using various positions (start sprints from belly or one knee etc.) and reactive starts 

It’s important to remember your child is not a miniature adult. Meet them where they’re at and set expectations that are challenging yet realistic. Create a dynamic learning environment and deliver games, activities and exercises in a fun and engaging manner. Overtime your child will develop more athleticism, become more confident, more injury resistant, and will become a better hockey player in the process.


Coordination - Sensitive Periods for Optimal Development

Elements of Coordination  Ages for Boys  Ages for Girls 
Balance 10-11 9-10
Movement Adequacy 8-13 8-13
Kinesthetic Differentiation 6-7/10-11 67/10-11
Reaction to Visual and Acoustical Signals    8-10 8-10
Rhythm 9 - 10  7-9
Spatial Orientation 12-14 12-14

Source: Children & Sports Training, Józef Drabik, Ph.D. © 1996


About David Kittner

 David Kittner, aka the Youth Fitness Guy, is a passionate, caring and dedicated individual with over twenty years’ experience working with children. 

David conducts athletic training and development programs, workshops and clinics for youth athletes, youth sports teams, parents, teachers and coaches, and internationally presents at Fitness, Coaching and Physical Education conferences. 

He serves as the Youth Fitness Contributor for CTV Ottawa Morning Live and for TV Cogeco’s Wallis on Wellness. David is also a contributing author for the international bestselling book, The Definitive Guide to Youth Athletic Strength, Conditioning and Performance. 

For more information and to contact David please call 647-504-7638 or visit his web site at

David Kittner

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