12U athletes, according to the Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) Model, experience what is called the "Learn to Train" phase. During this stage, the objectives are to develop overall athleticism while working on specific sport skills. As a result, athletes are encouraged to play multiple sports to avoid the adverse effects of early youth sport specialization. Research has shown that specializing in a sport too early can develop imbalances in musculature and set the athlete up for inevitable overuse injuries. Ice Hockey is a late specialization sport and contrary to the "10,000 hours of practice" ideology, developing efficient movement patterns with a solid athletic foundation is far more important.
Psychologically, there are two keys to achieving the phase objectives:
- Developing healthy training habits
- warm up/cool down routine
- proper nutrition
- movements and technique
- Learning to appreciate a healthy lifestyle
- value of education
- healthy social life
- healthy habits in sports
Fun Fact - Most players in the NHL don't enter the league with more than 5,000 hours of hockey practice.
Athletes can attain overall athletic skills through playing multiple sports and developing strength, flexibility, endurance and speed through training. The train ability windows typically include an emphasis on speed and the beginning stages of aerobic stamina. In addition, it is also important to monitor growth spurts as they can last between 18-24 months. Because of the sudden changes in the body during a growth spurt, monitoring flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back is equally important.
Selecting ambidextrous sports such as: gymnastics, swimming, wrestling and martial arts are very effective in the construction of the overall athlete. From personal experience in coaching, the best players on my younger teams were always the multi sport athletes and not the players who necessarily spent the most hours training on the ice.
Here are some exercise tips specific to the 12U age.
During growth spurts, it is important to emphasize flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back
Core strength, upper and lower body strength can be developed using the athlete's own body weight, medicine balls and swiss balls.
Speed and Agility
Ladder drills, short bursts of sprints and hurdle jumps are just some examples. There is myriad of exercises to train speed and agility.
Sample Workout Plan
Dynamic Warm Up
- Hop Scotch
- Zig Zag Shuffle
- Zig Zag Crossover Shuffle
- Ski Jump
A1) 5 yard reactive start (tennis ball drop) 3 x each side
A2) 5-10-5 Lateral Agility 2 x each side
B1) Medicine Ball Chest Pass 3 x 6
B2) Squat Jump 3 x 6
C1) Inverted Row 3 x 6
C2) T Push Ups 3 x6
D1) Glute March 2 x 8 each leg
D2) Front/Side Planks 2 x 20 seconds each side
Focus - Speed/Power, Balance/Coordination, Flexibility