What are they doing?
Posted by Dean Holden at December 25th, 2013
by Todd Smith, 19 December 2013
Hockey season can be a grind. Parents, players, and coaches repeatedly move through a weekly schedule of practices, games, and tournaments. While this demanding schedule can create better players, it can also cause burnout. But some smart coaches know how to avoid this rut.
One method of minimizing the emotional and physical fatigue that can be triggered by a long season is to introduce unorthodox drills into practices. This not only helps freshen up practice, the non-traditional drills also enhance skill development which pays off on game day.
“This really needs to happen to make hockey better and more enjoyable,” says veteran hockey coach Richard Emahiser, who currently leads special projects for Minnesota Hockey.
Emahiser has created a new formula for hockey development for USA Hockey that involves building hockey skills with an emphasis on fun games and athletic activities. Here are a few tips for keeping practice fresh and implementing innovative, non-traditional drills:
Lose the Puck: The quickest way to change things up involves replacing the puck. Have players pass softballs, tennis balls, racquet balls, and rubber rings. Pucks can often mask poor technique. So, by using different objects flaws can be exposed and then corrected. For example, Emahiser likes to position players around a face-off circle, and they have to make diagonal and perimeter passes with lawnmower tires, which are roughly three times the size of a normal puck.
Don’t Pass Judgment: At first, seeing your child at hockey practice participating without a stick or even a puck might be cause for alarm. But if you look closer, more than likely, the player is learning a fundamental lesson. At a recent hockey practice in St. Paul, an Edgcumbe mite coach took away the players sticks and had the kids play a game of soccer while wearing their skates on the ice rink.
“I didn’t really get it,” Edgcumbe parent, Jim McGuinn admits. McGuinn’s son Jay, age 7, is a second year player. “But it really forced the mites to move their feet, to cut and accelerate, and since there are goals, the kids got way into it. The soccer on ice actually pushed their development.”
Battle Drills: These quick, intense drills can instantly spark a sagging practice. Battle drills such as going 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 in the corners and battling for puck possession are a staple of NHL practices because they teach the importance of winning the small battles on the ice which leads to winning more games. Battle drills teach containment, puck protection, and quick decision-making. Plus, you can divide up the ice and have multiple battle drills going at the same time and have the kids rotate stations every couple of minutes. This process breaks up the monotony of drills that go up and down the length of the ice, over and over.
Small Area Games: When a parent watches a flurry of five separate drills being performed simultaneously on the ice, it can look disorganized and unproductive. It’s hard to see the big picture when practice involves passing and shooting drills at one end, a battle drill at center ice, and two separate takeout and back checking games in the far corners. But inside this organized chaos, hockey skills can develop rapidly. This is because small area games create more touches and teach players how to read and react and to move the puck quickly. Plus, the rapid fire pace of the drills keeps players engaged.
Natural Play Games: Kids grow up playing tag, racing relays, and getting silly during all sorts of gym and playground games. For some reason, there is an urge to stop that once we hit the ice but incorporating what the children do for fun off the ice into practice on the ice is especially important during the early years.
“I have to give credit to our first coaches who were the ones that kept it fun when things started to get really hard for my son, Hayden,” says parent, Ingrid Soderberg. Hayden plays for the Minneapolis Hockey Association. “Practice looked weird with no pucks. They were playing these towing games and bumper cars and cop-and-robbers. But kids really love coaches-versus-kid games. It brings the most laughs.”
Passion for the Game: During the long practice season, it’s important to remember that when players get physically and mentally fatigued they stop learning. Keeping players engaged in fun games and drills in practice helps create positive attitudes and a passion for the game, two factors that are critical in player development and lead to a successful season regardless of the team’s record.
Category: art of coaching, athleticism, creativity, decision training, deliberate play, deliberate practice, fundamental movement skills, game intelligence, leadership, learning, LTAD, motivation, parents, philosophy, physical literacy, planning / periodization, play, practices, Skills, small area games, tactics, teaching, transfer