U12 Development Philosophies


U12 Development Philosophies

Please note that every team/player is different and the path to development is not always linear. This video is to be used as a framework for U12 and adjusted accordingly based on your players and their skill levels. We hope that some of the ideas are adapted and used to create a fun environment where they can improve and fall in love with the game.

U12 Learning Environment

The learning environment at U12 should have an emphasis on fun while starting to introduce competition and team play. There is more of a purpose behind what we’re doing and it should start to sting when players don’t get the results they want. We want to encourage our players to be engaged in the process and ask questions during practice and games.

One of the best ways to create a fun and competitive learning environment is to implement small area games and competitive races (see links to activity ideas below):

We also want to make sure that we work on technical skills in every practice and put them into small areas games where they have the chance to use it either successfully or unsuccessfully. Be sure to reference our Skill Development page for breakdowns on how to teach the fundamentals of skating, passing, shooting and stickhandling. Some of our favorite videos on this page are the Quick Fix videos from Dwayne Blais that help identify and address common skating issues many players face at U12.

U12 Team Play

At U12 we want to expand the focus to 3 v 2 and 3 v 3 situations. This will encourage them to use their teammates, start to find open ice to provide puck support and to make more decisions per second both on offense and defense. Here are links to some activities to use to help develop team play for U12:

You can also progress to add a player into some of the 2 v 2 activities we recommend for U10 and U12 to create more 3 v 2 situations.

U12 Character Development

U12 provides a great opportunity to develop the character of your players and their commitment to the game. Character development at this age includes being a good teammate and having roles and a level of accountability. Whether it is listening in practice, picking up pucks or even cleaning the locker room, having roles and holding your players accountable to standards you set will help with character development.

You as the coach need to set the standards and set the example on what accountability looks like. For some advice on setting standards and how to hold your players accountable we highly recommend watching our 2 minute video on Accountability (by Topher Scott).

We also have a deep dive on accountability by Topher Scott if you want to get in depth on the topic: Accountability Deep Dive (by Topher Scott).

Having a strong and sustainable culture will put you in the best position to develop the character of your players.  Be sure to check out our Culture Page for some tips on developing a lasting culture.  Some of our favorite videos for U12 are listed below.

U12 Goal Setting

Goal setting is an important part of developing a positive team environment so that your players are able to work towards something both individually and as a team. Goal setting looks different at all age levels, but at U12 it could be as simple as setting a team goal to have the fewest penalties in the league and/or an individual goal to be a great teammate. Having specific goals can really help your team come together and work towards something more than just winning.

It’s important to give your team and players recognition when they make strides towards achieving their goals. As Alyssa Gagliaridi mentions on The Hockey Think Tank podcast, asking your players what can prevent them from reaching their goals is an effective part of the goal setting process as it allows them to understand what external factors might get in the way of reaching their goals. We highly recommend listening to Alyssa’s Full Interview on The Hockey Think Tank Podcast, but if you want to listen specifically to the in-depth goal-setting conversation you can hear it from 31:24 to 41:16.

U12 Off-Ice Training

U12 is a great time to start to develop players away from the rink. This can be done through stickhandling, shooting, bodyweight exercises and playing other sports. Anything that can be done to improve their general athleticism to reinforce some of the things we’re doing on the ice.

Below are helpful link to exercises that your players can work on away from the rink to improve their on-ice performance:

Adding Decisions & Cues to Practice

It’s critical to prioritize implementing game-like decisions in all activities we are thinking about when developing practice plans. The environment provides the information where players have to make decisions. So it’s crucial for players to make these decisions in practice and get used to keeping their heads up, scanning their environments for threats, opportunities and actions so when the game comes it feels automatic that they can read the entire environment.

Here are some of our favorite drills for U12 that implement decision making:

You can also view all of our U12 Practices here.


Many thanks to Alyssa Gagliardi and Ben Eaves for their dedication to the game and their willingness to share their knowledge with the IHS community.