11 Tips to Run a Great Novice Hockey Practice for 6-8 Year Old Balls of Energy

Novice Hockey Practice: Tips for Coaching kids
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Planning a novice hockey practice for 6-8 year olds can challenge new coaches.  These 11 tips stop your hair from turning grey.

A Hockey Drills customer recently asked me for help with the soft skills required planning and running one of our station based practices.  We get this question a lot. I know many  of you out there wonder how in the world you will get through the next 60 minutes!  Thanks for checking out this post.  (I originally wrote this post in 2014 and it has consistently been our #1 read post by minor hockey coaches year after year.  Updated Nov 23, 2017)

11 Novice Hockey Practice Planning Tips:

(In no particular order)

  1. Limit down time by keeping many players moving in every drill.
  2. Work to Rest Ratio: Have 1/2 the group doing a drill, while the other 1/2 watches/rests.  Switch on a whistle.  Many drills can keep every player moving.  Novice players don’t need rest like high performance players.  Do the drill for a few minutes, then if you feel they need a quick break, take a knee with them and ask them how it’s going!
  3. When you practice skating (ex crossovers around a circle), do it once or twice focusing on technique, then make it a race by sending a few players at once so that they can chase each other.  They love it!
  4. Don’t worry too much about technique.  Give 1-2 teaching points MAX!  Encourage them to go as fast as they can, add dives, knee slides, rolls, etc to increase agility, balance, and confidence.
  5. Use games like Squirrels and Nuts, Cross Ice Hockey, Cops n Robbers, Musical Pucks, Tag, British Bulldog, etc to start practice (Body and Brain Energizers).  This lets novice players blow off some steam before you try to teach them anything technically specific.  Starting with a game makes them excited to get dressed and on the ice on time!   (Click for explanations of these games in our complete season of practice plans)
  6. Alternate a mix of isolated drills and games throughout practice.  Limit to 6-10 minutes each.
  7. Use a tennis ball or soccer ball for cross ice hockey games for fun, hand eye.  Increased success for youngest and newest players.  They are easier to hit than the puck!  This also allows you to safely let kids play goalie, without fear of being hurt by a shot with a real puck.  Of course blue light pucks are also great (mandatory in the USA Hockey, I applaud you for so much you do in your ADM).
  8. Take a knee and speak softly while explaining a drill. Encourage the players to lean right in close to you.
  9. Don’t expect too much!  This prevents the grey hairs mentioned in the intro.  6-8 year olds don’t read Shakespeare at school.  They don’t need to run a reverse breakout, regroup, and 3 vs 2 attack in practice either!
  10. Kids love relay races with and without sticks.
  11. Sneak peak Game example:  Squirrels and Nuts:  Players are the squirrels, nets are the nests, and pucks are the nuts.  Spread the pucks out around the rink, make as many teams as you have nests, and on your go command see how many nuts they can get into their own nests, but they have to stickhandle the puck back to their net rather than shoot it.  They can steal a nut from another squirrel increasing competition and puck protection, but not from a nest.

Download 45 Novice Hockey Practice Plans:

Get 45 Practice Plans

Would you sleep better at night as a coach if you understood the game better?  Knowledge = power = confidence = impacting young lives.  We’ve written an online course for you.  www.howtoplayhockey.ca.

Please comment and share this post and good luck!
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5 responses... add one

Hi there good tips coaching novice and we are two months behind start of our season. Practice 2x a week need help

Hi Doug,

Thanks for your reply to our post. I am a Manitoba boy, and happy to help! Coaching Novice is fun because they still really want to please the coach! Here are a few tips:

1) Start with a game, whether it’s cross ice, 2 puck scrimmage, or another small area game you know. If burns some energy and let’s them know you care that they have fun.
2) Make use of your assistants – let them run drills on a portion of the ice. Even if they are new, they can run races, or simple obstacle course stations.
3) Don’t worry about coaching too many tactics like breakouts on the ice, you will lose your mind when they don’t listen! Instead, explain rules and basic tactics in small group of 5 players, in 5 minute chunks off ice, using your white board.

Our resources:
– Let us take the wait off your shoulders by planning practice for you. There are lots of resources out there you may like, and here are ours: http://www.lgsports.ca/hockey-drills. The Novice practice plans help break up the group into smaller manageable groups, and the small area games are a huge hit at absolutely every level. Start and end practice with them.

Good luck!

Hi Doug,

Thanks for your comment. Please let me know if this reply gets to you. With Novice players I always break up the majority of practice into small groups, focusing on individual skills and small area competitions. I use our hockey drill practice plans a lot. Try this link to our practice plans and let me know if I can be of further help. Nate

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