8U Q-and-A: Bored at 8 years old?

By Jim Clare, AHAI ADM Chairman

“Bored” – That’s one of the responses we often hear when we talk to parents and coaches in relationship to their issues with cross-ice hockey. Kenny Rausch, former Boston University player and Assistant Coach, explains his observations about the subject in the article below. After posting this article on Facebook, we received some interesting comments from random readers of the article. These are unedited and no, we did not only print the positive replies; they were all engaging and positive thoughts on the ADM and cross-ice hockey. They are listed just after the article.

By Kenny Rausch, Youth Hockey Manager

3v3-YHK20141228a-0233_large (1)Q: My son is in his fourth year of 8U hockey. I’m afraid that playing cross-ice is holding him back and that he will get bored with four years of this structure. What should I do?

A: Playing cross-ice hockey will not restrict a young child, because it’s an age-appropriate playing surface size designed to maximize long-term development. Conversely, playing on an ice surface (or field) that isn’t age appropriate is more likely to inhibit development. One way we can prove this is through a formula called Game Intensity Index (GII).

I recently read an article by a lacrosse coach that discussed Game Intensity Index. “Intensity” was defined as the likelihood of a player to have an opportunity for direct participation in play. The lower the GII, the more intense (engaging) the game becomes.

To determine GII, take the square footage of the playing area and divide it by the number of players. If you examine full-ice 8U 5v5 hockey, the GII is 1,700. Compare that to a cross-ice 8U game played 4v4, which produces a 637.50 GII. That means the cross-ice game is producing more thandouble the engagement and intensity level.

Reducing time and space and creating more decision-making opportunities at 8U never hurts development.

As for getting bored, for two reasons, I chuckle when I hear this.

First, when I play cross-ice hockey, I’m never bored. In fact, I’m more engaged because I know that I’m going to get the puck more. Getting the puck more means I have a chance to make more plays and score more goals. Since I didn’t get to score enough in my college career (do we ever get to score enough goals?), I still like scoring today.

When I coach older players and we play small-area games, I have yet to meet a player who was bored. In fact, they’re usually disappointed when it’s time to end the game. Secondly, if a player is bored after playing four years of cross-ice, what happens after they play the ensuing four or more years of full-ice hockey? Will they be bored and need to play on a Lake Superior-sized rink? Doubtful.

When you think about it, after a child’s 8U seasons, they have a lifetime of full-ice hockey ahead of them. And seeing how many adult hockey players are still lacing ‘em up – evidently not bored after countless years of skating on the same sheet of ice – I don’t see the 8U boredom argument as being valid. Besides, left to his or her own thoughts, the concept of being bored with cross-ice hockey isn’t something most 8-year-olds would conceive. Those kinds of ideas come from another source, e.g., the mind of an adult.

As parents and coaches, it’s important that we support our children, allow them to be young kids, and fuel their developing minds with positive, productive thoughts.

Parent Comments:

Kipley W: My daughter is playing on a U8 team that is not part of the cross ice program and while she enjoys the practices, the games are full ice and she often seems overwhelmed and exhausted. She is the youngest one on her team and sometimes goes entire games without touching the puck. She would definitely have benefited from cross ice games this season.

Kyle Y:  cross ice is the best way for them to play. He would be real bored if he was playing full ice. Far less touches of the puck and contact with other players.

Bill F:  I think the person asking might want to ask if there are other issues at hand. My son, who is also U8, grew bored as the season wore on last year. We made a point of having him play no summer hockey, and he came back in the fall raring to go. Some kids can play one sport 12 months a year, but it’s only natural to put the skates (or bat, or cleats, or whatever) away for a while.

Tina W:  The issue I see in my son is the desire to play other kids/teams. It doesn’t have to do with full vs cross ice. He does get bored of playing the same 5-10 kids in his adm. Anytime there is a jamboree or something there is a different attitude and smile.

Jim P:  I have yet to find an 8U player not like half-ice games ~unless~ a parent or parents are upset that their child is not playing “real hockey” (full-ice). I often wonder if these same parents feel the same about other sports that play one age-appropriate playing surfaces (smaller baseball diamonds, smaller football fields, smaller soccer fields, shorter basketball hoops on smaller courts, etc).

Matt H:  Two things about hockey, you can never have enough skill development, and if you can’t make quick decisions in traffic you’re going nowhere. Cross ice teaches these things. Give the child time and let them develop.

Brad M:  When you think about it, it’s funny that it has taken this long to adopt to appropriately sized playing surfaces. Can you imagine an 8U little league game with 90 foot bases, the mound 60′ 6″ away from the play, and a home run fence 375 feet away?

Liz E: Great answer. I think it’s the parents who are bored….but it’s not about them.

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