Philosophy: When to Start Teaching Hockey Systems?

How early can youngsters be taught to play “systems hockey”?

Many people have varying opinions on the correct answer to this question… and, as is often the case with philosophical hockey questions, there is more than one correct answer. The answer depends on the physical skills of your players, the mental maturity of your players, and the manner in which the systems are taught and implemented. In this video, I discuss my own personal opinions on the matter, and why I believe what I believe.

When I was 8 years old, my dad had this idea of taking the top-caliber kids from around the city, and keeping essentially the same kids together for 5 years. The end goal of his vision was to win an Ontario Championship at the “AAA” level.

As 8-year-olds, we were taught to play systems hockey based on a “color-coded” breakout set-up. Our individual skills were advanced enough that we were able to complete the patterns of a structured breakout system, even though we weren’t quite ready to read the play ourselves. So, my dad gave each breakout option a color, and he would read the pressure and call out the play from the bench. We would hear it, and react accordingly. As we got older, we were taught to read the play for ourselves and make our own decisions.

This color-coded breakout system allowed us to learn “systems hockey” years before other teams in our league. I mention a few of our team’s successes in the video.

WARNING: Do not let systems and positional development rob individual skill development. They can both be developed simultaneously if practices are structured correctly.


6 thoughts on “Philosophy: When to Start Teaching Hockey Systems?

  • Tyler Eaton

    Hi Jeremy, GREAT site. Love the info and the videos to go along with it. I also like the fact of starting them off younger, I am coaching Atoms this year kids aged 8-9 and teaching them systems and I have had higher rep teams looking at playing my team. I have also had a coaching mentor rave to hockey NS how unselfish, positionally strong and respectful the team is. Goes to show that young kids can be taught systems at a young age it is just how you present it to them. Love the site and your father was a smart man. Congrates on all your achievements past and present.

    • Jeremy Weiss

      Thanks Tyler! Sounds like you’ve got a fantastic team coming together. Keep teaching them the game, kids are like sponges and can soak up a lot more than people give them credit for!!

  • Hay Jeremy!!

    Got to say I’m lovin your site so far! I’m just starting out coaching and this blog has made things somewhat clearer.

    Thanks again

    Jimi D

  • Jeremy Weiss

    Thanks Petri! We started with a team of 15. Every year we’d swap out two or three players, so by the time we were 13 there were about 5 or 6 of the original team left.

    Doing it that way allowed the new players to pick up the systems REALLY quickly each year, because the whole team was already executing at a high level.

  • Petri Väisänen

    Good stuff, thanks Jeremy! I agree and share your vision. How large was your group when the 5 year project started and how many were still on at the age of 13?

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