Fun Youth Hockey Drills
Hockey is an excellent sport for anyone of all ages to get active, be competitive, and most of all, have fun. Hockey can, however, take some time to learn and develop skills for and certain drills are ideal for cultivating this. What are some fun drills for youth hockey teams and players?
Some fun drills for youth hockey teams and players are 4-corner target shooting and figure-8 skating drills performed by the players, breakaway saves, and post coverage drills conducted by the goalies.
In this article, we will be discussing different positions in the sport of hockey and the unique demands of each one. Next, we will be talking about the different types of drills and what they have to offer. Finally, we will recommend some things that players and teams can do off the ice to improve their game and prevent injuries as well, so keep reading.
Hockey is a kind sport that demands speed, endurance, intuition, strength, teamwork, and an unbreakable mindset, and for that reason, there is simply no other sport like it in the world.
There are multiple different positions in hockey, and each one of these positions serves a different purpose and fills a different role. The three positions are the forwards (left-winger, center, and right-winger), the defence, and the goaltenders.
Because hockey is a free-flowing game—meaning unlike baseball where the positions are rigidly fixed, hockey players move around at their own will a lot more loosely—players must be adaptable and able to think creatively on their skates.
This section of the article will break down these positions, their responsibilities, and what specific attributes are most desirable for each. This will help us better understand what drills an athlete should focus most intensely on.
The first position we will go over here is the forward. A forward’s job on the ice contributes to their team by attacking the opponent’s net with an offence as they attempt to score.
As mentioned above, there are three forwards on the ice at a time, which consist of a center whose job it is to take face-offs (puck drops) and play the middle region of the ice, and a right and left winger who plays the ice respectively on their assigned sides.
To be effective in the forward position, a player must have a very well rounded base of skills, which include:
- Skating speed
- Great passing accuracy
- Superb stickhandling
- High-level cardiovascular endurance
- Intuitive perception for recognizing and capitalizing on windows of opportunity as they present themselves
The forward position is the position that boasts the most razzle and dazzle in the game of hockey. They score the goals, make the assists, and get the hero treatment, but they are also expected to have the broadest range of mental and physical ability.
For some forward specific drills, you may want to check out our article describing 7 Great Half-Ice Hockey Drills For Forwards.
Now onto the defensive position; in hockey, the defender’s job is to keep the puck out of their zone (the third of the ice where their own net is located). Also, they need to assist the goalie by blocking shots and preemptively stopping the opposing team’s forwards from creating goal-scoring opportunities.
The defence must be very good at passing the puck up the ice to the forwards to clear their zone and very good at recognizing angles and using their bodies as a barrier between the shooter and the net.
Many times defenders are also known as “enforcers” on the ice. This means that they protect their team’s star players from opposing enforcers who attempt to hinder them. You need to be incredibly aggressive for this position, and scoring points are generally secondary thoughts compared to defending against the opposing team.
The defence, first and foremost, must be brutally tough and fearless. They must show no hesitation to get in front of a puck travelling at full speed and must be willing to lay themselves on the line at any cost to protect the net.
The defence requires a great deal of skill, which differs from that of a forward in many ways. The defence is the last line of protection for a goalie, which would otherwise be left vulnerable. Some of their most prominent skills include:
- Hard, powerful slapshot ability
- Physical Strength
- Mental and physical toughness and durability
- Recognition of angles and positions
While the defence is not known as much to score goals and assists, they must be ready to step up and handle anything that may arise. The defence bear a lot of responsibility for whether or not their team is ultimately successful.
Therefore, the defence must never leave a goaltender exposed or unprotected and must always be in position and ready to step in front of a puck, no matter the cost to their body.
Lastly, we have the goaltender: the hero of the game. The goalie has only one job on the ice, protecting the net at all costs.
The goalies have the most unique position in the sport, and as such, they also require a unique set of skills. For starters, a goalie must have incredibly fast reflexes. They must be able to cut down angles, dive, and block the net from any vantage point where an attacker may shoot.
A goalie’s hand-eye coordination must be on point at all times during the game because often a puck may ricochet off of another player and change directions, making for awkward shots.
The goalie must have incredible flexibility to get into positions that allow them maximal net coverage and lessen the available open space for the opposing team to score.
Because goalies are required to wear extremely bulky pads, helmets, blockers/gloves, and carry a large, heavy stick, they must be physically strong.
If we are to list the most essential skills that any qualified goalie must possess, it would have to include:
- Quick reflexes
- Composure under pressure
- Physical strength
Unfortunately, goalies all too often take the brunt of the blame for losing a game. Still, a hockey team is a cohesive unit, and if all don’t perform well, they lose together.
Regardless, goalies are bestowed with the most responsibility of any position on the ice. Therefore, they must possess outstanding leadership qualities and nerves of steel.
Now that we have gone over the different positions and provided an in-depth look at what makes them unique and which skills are most necessary for each, we can now describe the various drills that will be best suited to develop each skill.
Although all players will be required to practice all of these skills to round out their abilities, some players will need to focus more on particular areas in the name of specificity. For example, a forward will want to train heavily on their skating speed instead of a defence who will want to train many different blocking drills.
There are many ways that these drills may be modified, but these are the most basic and straightforward variations, and that makes them great for youth hockey players who may not have much experience and are looking to first get the basics down. As the player’s skills improve, creative modifications can be made to these drills and exercises at the coach’s discretion.
When it comes to skating, the main areas we want to focus on are all-out speed and agility (the ability to stop, go, turn, and pivot). When practicing skating, it is necessary to carry a stick and a puck to replicate the experience of being in an actual game.
A great and straightforward drill for youth hockey players looking to develop agility on their skates is the Figure-8 drill.
To perform this drill:
- Set up two pylons across from each other at a distance of your preference (the closer they are, the more difficult this will be.
- Next, the athlete will skate to the pylon, turn around it, and skate back toward the opposite.
- Each time the athlete pivots around the pylon, they will cross over to the inside of the other, forming a figure-8 pattern.
Perform this repeatedly with the intent of gradually increasing the speed. Still, the speed may only be increased provided that the player can maintain good skating form and technique while controlling the puck.
Another simple but effective drill is the all-out-sprint drill. This drill is performed for one purpose, building top-end speed. This will be particularly useful for gaining and capitalizing on breakaway opportunities.
There are two ways that this drill can be performed: The first version simply requires the athlete to skate in a straight line, the entirety of the ice as fast as possible while still maintaining control of the puck, then turn around and sprint back to the starting position. This will teach players to burst and explode with all the speed they can muster.
The alternative and more elaborate version of this requires the athlete to sprint down the entirety of the ice, but upon reaching the destination, the player will abandon the puck and skate backward across the rink to where they started. The ability to skate backward is critical for playing a defensive position.
Because aggressively bursting in this manner will zap a lot of energy, take at least two minutes to rest between each interval.
The next skill on our list is stick handling. Stickhandling, otherwise known as puck handling, describes the act of maneuvering the puck on the stick in a multi-directional motion that makes it hard to predict what you will do. Good stick handling allows the player to confuse the other team and keep them guessing, creating openings to score.
Here we will provide the reader with the instructions to perform two basic stickhandling drills:
- Lay out twelve pucks, evenly spaced 1-2 feet apart (the closer the spacing, the more difficult to perform), in a straight line.
- While carrying a puck on their stick, the player will skate alongside the row of pucks and weave their puck back and forth between them, utilizing both a forehand and backhand carry alternatively.
- When the player reaches the end of the line, they will simply pivot around the final puck and repeat the drill all the way back.
Again, only move at a speed that allows you to maintain control and clean technique.
This next stickhandling drill is ideal for versatility and building puck-control fluidity.
- Lay out a dozen or so pucks in random order, within a small area, and spaced out with roughly a foot between them.
- Next, the player will control one puck and navigate it through the other pucks in a very sporadic way.
The best part about this drill is that there is virtually an endless number of potential options, directions, and patterns used, closely mimicking in-game stimuli. This drill is ideal for anyone from a brand new youth, just starting out, to the best in the world. The techniques you can come up with here know no bounds.
We have also developed an at-home stickhandling training aid that players can use. You need a mobile phone running the Stickhandling PRO app or a USB camera attached to a laptop or PC, which is aimed at the floor to track a real puck or ball.
At the same time, you will need to run a Stickhandling PRO browser-based game from your laptop, PC, or Smart TV. This will allow you to do virtual stickhandling drills in the comfort of your own home while forcing you to keep your head up while controlling the puck or ball.
This off-ice practice will translate into valuable on-ice skills!
When we talk of shooting in hockey, there are many different techniques that this can refer to. The three main types of shots in hockey are the slapshot, the wrist shot, and the backhand.
- The slapshot requires that the player load up with maximal power and then “slap” the puck, following through with a full range of motion. This is the hardest and fastest shot in hockey and is excellent for the defence to clear the puck out of their zone. This shot’s drawback is that it is more pronounced hence more apparent, and its trajectory is easier to predict.
- The wrist shot refers to a technique where the player “cradles” the puck on their stick, drags it across the ice while applying tremendous pressure, and then shoots it with a motion that somewhat replicates a throw or a flick. This is the most accurate shot in hockey and is excellent for targeting openings that the goalie may not foresee.
- And finally, the backhand is when a player will use the backside of their stick to produce a shot or a pass. The backhand is not ideal for power or accuracy. Still, it can be useful on the fly when no other options are available. They are also very deceptive.
This drill is the number one drill for developing accuracy. The net will need to be fitted with four circular targets, one on each corner, to perform this drill. A player will then stand and shoot from various distances and positions and try to hit each corner. Even if the player fails to target any of the targets on their first try accurately, the very act of attempting to do so will help improve their accuracy.
Any of the three shots mentioned above may be taken here to hit these targets.
If you are interested in purchasing net targets to improve your accuracy, consider these Hockey Revolution Corner Targets. They are sure to enhance your accuracy after just one use.
A one-timer shot in hockey refers to a shot where a player shoots immediately, upon receiving a pass from a teammate, without ever gaining control of the puck. It is a devastatingly powerful and effective shot, which, when done correctly, can be a game-changer.
To perform this drill, a player will stand in one spot and have a coach or teammate pass them a puck horizontally across the ice. The receiving player will already be loaded up to unleash a shot. As soon as the puck is in reach, they will release and shoot for the net in one continuous motion, from A to B to C. The coach or teammate will continue to pass the shooter pucks until their form begins to falter, at which time they will rest and recover.
The last two drills outlined in this article will pertain exclusively to goaltending.
The first goaltending drill on this list will not require a puck or additional player and is performed solely by the goalie. The main idea here is just to get the goalie used to moving between these different defensive positions.
- The goalie will first push off their right skate, propelling themselves leftward, and cover the post tightly to block all gaps.
- They will then cross over the crease to cover the opposite post in an identical fashion.
- Immediately after covering the second post, the goalie will drop down into a butterfly position in the middle of the crease and brandish first their blocker as if anticipating to deflect a shot with it, and finally their glove, like they were preparing to catch a puck.
The breakaway drill is a very common drill that many goalies will practice immediately before the game.
- To perform this drill, the goalie will first take their position in the net and prepare to defend.
- Each player will line up at center ice with a puck, and one at a time, they will skate down the ice toward the goalie and attempt to score.
- As soon as the attempt is made, the goalie will immediately reset and prepare for the next player until the entire team has made a breakaway attempt.
If your practices, or ice time, only allow for using half of the rink surface, you might be interested in taking a look at our other article, which covers five half-ice hockey drills that are ideal for mites and other youth players.
While it is important to practice skills on the ice in full equipment to prepare for the specific situations that will be encountered during actual gameplay, there are a number of drills and exercises which should also be performed off the ice, in the gym, to facilitate the player’s athletic prowess further.
Here we briefly outline different exercises that will provide the most return for the time and energy invested. The three different physiological categories which we will seek to develop are strength, agility, and cardio.
When looking to build a solid base of strength for functional athletic purposes, it is highly recommended that hockey players perform compound lifting exercises. This means they will be performing movements that recruit multiple muscle groups simultaneously, as opposed to isolating one muscle by itself.
The best exercises for hockey players to build strength in the gym are:
- Bent-over rows
- Bench press
- Overhead press
Always start light and prioritize good form and technique over poundage. Work within your limits, and take the required time to learn each movement.
For more information on this topic, we have an article which describes Youth Hockey Strength and Conditioning Programs to Follow.
Contrary to strength training, which relies on brute force, agility requires more speed and rapid muscle recruitment.
The best exercises for developing agility in youth hockey players are:
- Box Jumps
- Ladder footwork drills
- Skipping rope
Make sure everything performed here is oriented towards speed and coordination.
Cardiovascular training refers to training the heart and lungs to work at high rates of effort for extended periods. This is crucial for hockey players because when you become tired, you can’t perform well. Cardio essentially gives you a bigger gas tank and reduces fatigue.
There are many different ways to enhance cardio through exercise, but the preferable methods are:
- Running stairs
- Swimming laps
- Jump rope
- Elliptical machine
- Battle ropes
Whatever you decide to do for cardio, make sure it elevates the heart rate and gets the sweat flowing.
Warm-ups are very important for hockey players and lessen the chance of injury while simultaneously preparing the athlete for the gameplay intensity.
A warm-up drill should be something adequate to get some blood in the muscles, induce a little bit of sweat flow, and slightly raise the heart rate without causing excessive fatigue and tiring you out prior to the game.
Warm-ups should be done intuitively, meaning that you do not need to count sets or repetitions, simply listen to your body and go by what feels right. Warm-ups should also be movement-based and not static.
The best warm-up drills to prevent injury and increase mobility and readiness before a game or practice are:
- Arm circles
- Leg swings
- Jumping jacks
- Bodyweight jump squats
- Walking high-knees
- Neck circles
- Wrist rolls
- Walking forward lunges
The purpose of warm-ups is to simply loosen up and get your body moving, so don’t overexert yourself on them.
Cool-downs are different from warm-ups because they are to be performed following a game, practice, or workout instead of before. Cool-downs are designed to retain flexibility and muscle and joint health and prevent muscle tension from leading to chronic injuries later on.
Cool-down drills should be slow, controlled, and relaxing. Statically stretching muscles and holding them in an extended position for 10-30 seconds works best.
While stretching, remember to breathe deep into the diaphragm, hold for three seconds, and then slowly release. Deep breathing exercises further promote relaxation and release and relieve muscular tension, which you may not have even been consciously aware of.
When stretching, never push past the point of pain or excessive discomfort. If you are cringing and making faces while stretching, you need to reduce the intensity. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most intense, you should aim for no higher than a six while holding a stretch.
Injuries can plague a hockey player and compromise their entire on-ice future if severe enough. The good news is that many injuries are entirely preventable with a little bit of awareness and mindfulness.
One of the most basic but often overlooked keys to injury prevention is hydration. Over half of our body is composed of water, and the muscles require proper hydration to function correctly. Dehydration leads to muscles becoming tight, taut, stiff, cramped up, and susceptible to injury.
Another easily correctable cause of injuries, surprisingly, is lack of sleep. Sleep is the time when our body heals, recovers from the stresses we put on it during the day, and rejuvenates itself. Without enough sleep, athletes will feel sluggish, weak, tired, lazy, unmotivated, and unfocused, which in turn can lead to them functioning in ways they otherwise wouldn’t and getting hurt. The proper amount of sleep per night is eight hours. Anything less than six is entirely inadequate.
Never get too lazy with these injury prevention methods, as they may just be the key to a long and illustrious career in the sport.
In this article, we set out to learn some fun drills for youth hockey teams and players.
While there are many drills, the main ones should address skating, shooting, and stickhandling. Depending on a player’s role on the team and their position, they should focus more on the drills pertaining to their duties.
Training skills off the ice and in the gym is also necessary for players to develop their strength, endurance, and cardio.
Always have fun with these drills, and do your best to improve a little bit each game.
- Wikipedia: Power Play
- Wikipedia: Extra Attacker
- Wikipedia: Ice Hockey Forward
- Wikipedia: Defenceman
- Wikipedia: Goaltender
- Wikipedia: Breakaway
- Amazon: Hockey Revolution Corner Targets
- Wikipedia: Butterfly Style