Youth hockey players spend a tremendous amount of time training to become better. Between team practices, private skill sessions, and off-ice training, youth players too often miss out on free-play hockey. Think of hockey players like toddlers – structured play time is important for developmental skills, whereas free-play allows a child to explore an array of other skills. Here is a list of reasons why youth hockey players should be given time to scrimmage amongst their peers, whether that be an allotted time during practice or for fun on the outdoor rink.
- Allows the player to be creative – During unstructured practice kids have the opportunity to be inventive with their skills
- Physically conditions the player without realizing – Playing on the outdoor rink for hours is awesome physical activity for kids as they are having fun and working hard without knowing it
- Small area skills are enhanced and practiced on the outdoor rink – When the whole neighborhood comes out to the outdoor rink or if the scrimmage allows for the entire team playing at once, space can be limited and therefore forces the kids to work on their small area game
- Scrimmaging and playing on the outdoor rink is a time for the kids to have fun all while working on their skills without even noticing – There is nothing like a good old game of shinny hockey with your friends and showing off your cool moves
Even Wayne Gretzky used to “play” hockey in his backyard, not do drills. He believes that players have become “robots” because they always play organized hockey with coaches constantly telling them what they can or can’t do. Youth hockey should be fun, and it is fun if you just let the kids play.