Improving a Youth Player’s Decision Making with USA Hockey’s Ken Martel

"It's not about teaching complex decision making, it's about teaching them to move in space."

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Improving a hockey player’s ability to make quick decisions comes down to creating the right environment in practice. But in an increasingly fast and fluid game, how can that environment be established?

Ken Martel, USA Hockey’s Senior Director of Player & Coach Development, believes the idea of decision making begins with teaching young players to move in space and allowing them to be comfortable with their surroundings.

“At 8U, 10U, the biggest rate limiter moving forward is not that I can stickhandle and do all these fancy moves, it’s just that I can have a puck on my stick and look around a little bit and pull in information,” says Martel. “If we can solve that problem for them and improve in that area, it unlocks other things that they can become better at faster.”

A great, fun way to introduce the idea? The game of Tag.

“It’s not that decision that we’re making in a hockey game, completely, but it is getting them to start learning to react and adjusting to things in the outside environment.”

Check out episode #203 of the Glass and Out Podcast, as Martel shares his thoughts on whats next in the evolution of player and coach development, how he approaches developing hockey in non-traditional markets, and the experience of growing up playing hockey in a pre-Gretzky California.

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