Well, I hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve missed you. I’m Hockey Rob and I’m back for another round of hockey blogs. This session we’re bringing you a “Beginners” series which will focus on familiarizing parents and their young players-to-be of the ins, outs, dos, don’ts, rights, wrongs, and more surrounding the wonderful world of youth hockey. Let’s get started...
Begin at the Beginning
So you’re child comes up to you and says, “Mom, I want to play hockey like Ovie.” You’re thinking, “Oh great. Hockey? Really? Pads, skates, falling down a lot...can’t he just try swimming instead?” The answer is yes, he can try swimming. But he WANTS to try hockey. So relax, take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and follow me....
First, how do you know when your child is ready to play ice hockey? There really isn’t one right answer to this question because all children are different. But here are some things to consider...
- Trust your instincts - You know your child better than anyone. If you think he’s ready, go for it. If not, then don’t.
- Consider your child’s age and maturity level - Most kids aren't ready to try any kind of organized contact sport before the age of 6. Basic skills like running, throwing, balance and ability to track objects and judge speeds must first be mastered. As for maturity, your child is likely mature enough to play a team sport if he has a long enough attention span and enough self-discipline to learn in a group instruction setting. This ability comes with time. Please note though, playing sports DOES NOT speed up the maturation process.
- How do you feel? - Watching your child play a sport like ice hockey - where the potential for injury is somewhat greater than most other sports - can be very difficult for some parents. If you think you’ll feel the need to jump on the ice every time your child gets knocked down or runs into the boards, you may not be ready to handle the stress of his participation.
Having said that, let’s get into the fun stuff...
Unlike a lot of other sports, ice hockey requires a pretty important prerequisite: knowing how to skate. Believe it or not, some people actually think if they just throw some skates on their child’s feet and put a stick in his hand, he’ll eventually “pick up” the whole skating thing. It really doesn’t work that way. In fact, the most he’ll learn by this method is how to get back up after he falls again and again. Skating is a skill that must first be learned if it is ever to be mastered. A good hockey player knows not only knows how to skate, but how to use specific skating techniques in order to maximize his energy, speed, agility and endurance during the game. So first thing’s first, by your child some skates and start teaching him how to use them.
“I don’t know how to skate! How am I supposed to teach my kid?”
Not to worry. There is absolutely no shortage of classes available at your local ice rink for people of all ages. You can sign your child up for youth skating classes; yourself for adult skating classes; even both of you together for family skating classes. If you want to be bold, there are also adult hockey basics classes. Either way, get out there and skate!
When it comes to learning something new, the sooner you start, the better. Skating is no different. I know parents who’ve put their children in skates as young as 2 and 3 years old. If they can walk, they can learn how to skate. As for hockey, it’s usually a few years later - around 5 or 6 years old. That may seem really early, but try telling that to the 6-year-old who’s already been skating for 3 years.
Like all youth sports, ice hockey is divided up into several age groups. But unlike all youth sports, our age groups have really cool names...
- Atom (X-Ice): 6 years and under
- Mite: 8 years and under
- Squirt: 10 years and under
- Peewee: 12 years and under
- Bantam: 14 years and under
- Midget: 17 years and under
“X-Ice” refers to playing cross-ice hockey. Meaning, the games are played across the width of the ice rather than the length. This is done to compensate for the size and speed of the children in the Atom age group.
I’m not gonna lie to you. Ice hockey isn’t exactly the most inexpensive sport around. League fees for children can range from $600 to $3000. I know, that’s a BIG range. The reason for this is because the cost depends on a number of factors:
- Your child’s age
- Length of season
- Whether or not your child joins a travel team and/or participates in tournaments
$1500 is probably average for most kids.
In addition to league fees, the equipment your child will be required to wear can be somewhat pricey as well. However, I’ll give you some great tips on how to stretch your dollar on gear in an upcoming blog.
As you can see, hockey isn’t exactly cheap. But this is another good reason to get your kids skating as soon as possible. The amount of time and energy they put into learning how to skate should help you gauge their level of commitment to the sport long before you make any major investments.
Hopefully, now you have a slightly better handle on how to get your child started in ice hockey. If you have any questions, comments, or would like to share your own experience in getting your child into the sport, please post your thoughts below. Thanks!