Whether it’s regular hockey or ice hockey, it’s never to early to start playing. Toddler-friendly equipment such as lightweight, plastic hockey sticks with a larger head and softballs are a great way of introducing the concept of the sport, and there are plenty of opportunities for young children to get involved, whether it’s at nurseries, school holiday camps or leisure centers.
How young is too young?
Lee Landsdowne, a British hockey player who now coaches Junior squads in the US, says that five years old is a great time to start playing. He explained that young children do not realize how much they are learning through play, and it puts them in a good position if they decide that they want to take the game more seriously later on in life.
If your kids can walk, they can skate. Children as young as two years old have been known to take to the ice. Landsdowne, who began ice skating at three years old, believes that teaching the basics of skating to the under-fives gives them confidence on the ice. Once the basics of skating have been mastered, it is easier to concentrate on the skills involved in the game. He said that not having that additional time on the ice early on could be a disadvantage.
Growing with the sport
In the UK, ice hockey is still largely a minor sport, although the number of rinks is increasing now, and the sport is beginning to attract some good youth coaches. However, field hockey has been thrust into the limelight recently through the gold medal won by Team GB’s women’s hockey team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. As reported in the Newark Advertiser, as a result of the win, hockey clubs have seen an increase in interest in the game.
For kids in particular, however, the emphasis should be on having fun. As Lansdowne says, the essence of fostering a love for the sport is to let them enjoy it and learn from their own mistakes. While skill development is important, this will come if you allow the child to just enjoy playing.