Why should kids under age 10 rotate positions?
Let’s begin with what Hockey Canada’s/CAC’s Long Term Player Development model. Hockey is a late specialization sport. In other words, fundamental physical literacy skills such as agility, balance and coordination do not come easily nor do they begin to develop till about age 10. In fact, the LTPD document states that a child should not be identified to a specific position before age 10. Until they do, which is usually by the pre-teen years, we actually do the kids a disservice by limiting their developmental options which can lead to burnout, overuse injuries, poor physical literacy, and so on.
When the children reach ages 9-10, says the LTPD document, “players have the best opportunity to learn and begin to master fine motor skills that can be used in combination with other skills.”
So goes the theoretical argument. Anyone reading this whose kid is a strong forward or defenceman would argue the child is doing just fine, thank you, and leave well enough alone. Therein lies the problem. The kid is doing okay this year. But is it in the best interests of his/her development over the next few years?
From a practical standpoint, learning to play the game is a long and complex process. And as any coach knows all too well, just because something’s been taught doesn’t mean it’s been learned. It makes no more sense to tell eight or nine year olds they’re wingers than to slot third or fourth grade students into subject areas according to their current aptitudes. Parents would see that as ridiculous. Why do we promote or allow it in hockey?
Like most things in minor hockey, rotating positions, in whatever format it takes, has to be presented carefully, with planning and forethought, early in the going. In fact, the coach should inform the association that taking this team means rotations will be done. At least that way the association has no choice but to support the coach because they knew about from the outset. However, it’ll be the parental units who will need to be sold on its value. You can’t do it easily, if at all, once the season begins.
How many games or practices will the child stay at the position? What happens if a child (and the parent) are adamant? Does the fact it’s a house league/recreational setting mean anything? Would you dare try it atom AA or AAA?
Learning the game from different perspectives, stretching one’s physical and mental skills, developing an appreciation for in-game issues are some of the reasons supporting rotation. Then all you need to do is sell it.
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