For a coach who can keep little guys and gals smiling or laughing for a solid hour of Learn-to-skate or Learn-to-play clinics, I really struggle with this one. (Just ask anyone who has seen me work, and ask him or her if this old coach knows how to make those clinics “fun”.)
At the same time, it drives me crazy that a lot of folks toss that term around as if, well, “The world is right IF a player is having fun!”
– Dennis Chighisola
Defining Fun — in Hockey, in Sport
Let’s try the Oxford Dictionaries this time (and it’s basically the noun version of the term we’re concerned about here)…
enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure: the children were having fun in the play area;
anyone who turns up can join in the fun
a source of this: people-watching is great fun
playful behavior or good humor: she’s full of fun
behavior or an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having serious or malicious purposes: it was nothing serious; they just enjoyed having some harmless fun
[attributive] (of a place or event) providing entertainment or leisure activities for children: a 33-acre movie-themed fun park
Well, did you learn anything from that?
I guess when it came to my Learn-to clinics, I was looking for those little tykes to enjoy their time with me, to be partially amused at my “Mr Rogers” approach, and to experience a lighthearted pleasure in that learning experience.
Of course, I don’t mind saying that I’m a really good teacher when it comes to little ones. And I point to the little ones because they are usually so easy to change in a matter of a few sessions — sometimes even in a few minutes. (Just try to change a 19-year old overnight. Ain’t gonna happen.)
And therein lies a problem, in that enjoying a clinic — or being amused — only goes so far. But, let’s compare two different approaches to see what I mean…
In one scenario, a pretty good coach makes the clinic fun, and also teaches well enough that his or her kids feel kinda proud of their accomplishments.
In scenario two, a coach goes to great lengths to make the clinic fun, but he or she isn’t able to really progress the kids in their skills.
Now, I used to put in my Learn-to promotional materials that I had nearly a 0% dropout rate. Honest to God, I mean that. The funny thing is, I never attributed that to the fact that I made the clinics fun.
Here’s why I think kids seldom quit my little guys’ and gals’ programs…
I had an eagle-eye when it came to equipment. Trust me, that kids feel a lot of pain and experience a lot of frustration if their skates aren’t supporting them properly, or if some other article of gear or clothing is holding them back. A lot of other instructors never even thought about the impact such things had on a youngster’s enjoyment — or his or her progress, and they hadn’t a clue why the little tyke ultimately never showed again.
I also communicated pretty well with the parents. I never feared their questions, but I’d more often go seeking a parent out because I had a suggestion about something that would help his or her child.
And, don’t take that earlier point lightly — in that a lot of instructors don’t even know when or why a kid drops out. In other words, a little one struggles or skates in pain without the instructor really noticing, the kid tells his or her parents he doesn’t want to go to the rink anymore, and he or she just disappears from the game — for good.
Does it matter that I or any other instructor makes the learning fun? Sure it does. However, is it the determining factor in whether a youngster is ultimately happy or not? No dawgone way! Does a clinic being so-called “fun” prevent a kid from quitting? I’d say it might keep him or her attending for a little longer than if the instructor was on the gruff side. Still, let me tell you that young kids are no dummies, and they can notice pretty quickly that they’re losing ground to the kids around them. And, as soon as they do recognize that, the class stops being fun.
Yes, the kids around them… A handful of kids in every clinic arrive having skated before, they have older brothers or sisters playing whom they emulate, or they catch on to the drills easier than the average kid. That handful of kids eventually start buzzing around and making the lesser kids nervous and/or self-conscious.
And that’s why I’m making such a big deal out of the teaching. Again, young ones are extremely malleable. So, it’s not all that hard to quickly get an entire class of 5-year olds gliding around forward, moving themselves backward, and executing snowplow stops. Aaaaah, talk about feeling good about themselves.
Now, I feel the need to stray off on a slight tangent — oh, I think it’s related to the main topic, but it’s still slightly off on a tangent…
What I’m getting at is crowd control, or discipline.
Picture for a moment that one kid in an entire class of 40-ish is out of control. Actually, one kid like that in a group of 4- and 5-year olds can be dangerous at the worst, unsettling to all the other kids at the very least. And, while one little rascal may stick out, it’s likely that a large size class is going to have a few more than that. As a matter of fact, one or two kids drifting on their own are liable to distract all the others, and they are bound to lessen the effectiveness of an instructor.
Getting back to my own clinics, I’ve already said how things were run in a fun manner. At the same time, you’d better believe that every single session was run with a quiet discipline. I don’t think anyone was ever intimidated by it, if they even recognized it. Yet, I’ll bet that most parents knew the inmates weren’t running the asylum. Everything was as organized as it could be (although the kids should have believed it was very disorganized).
Okay, I really made the bulk of this about Learn-to clinics, because conditions are simpler at that level, and it’s easier to identify the so-called fun areas, etc. What I’d like to talk about now are the teams that follow right after…
Mites — or kids up through 8-years old — are still relative babies. Yet, they have to execute some relatively high level skills, and they also have to start learning some team play strategies.
I’d say that 9- and 10-year old Squirts or Atoms aren’t really babies anymore, and their game can call for some higher level strategies.
I love Pee Wees, because at no more than 12-years old, some teams at that level can actually look and move like the big boys.
Bantams — or young guys up through 14-years of age — can be all over the map — skill-wise, size-wise and emotionally, mainly because the lot of them are going through puberty.
Now, I mentioned all those various levels so that I could address the issues of fun and discipline on a differ plane. And, from my perspective all of them deserve a combination of the two.
My way is to start with discipline first — with every age group. Maybe hockey is different than a lot of other sports, owing to its cost and limited amount of practice ice-time. In other words, I feel the pressure of getting tons accomplished at practices, and that there’s little room for distractions.
Most of the time the discipline-first approach works well. And, once the kids gain of a sense of what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior, I can begin loosening the reins. Like anyone else, I like to run a relaxed ship. However, relaxing beyond a point can bring on the problems again. So — again, players on just about any aged team have to know that the discipline is there, they have to know what they can and can’t do, and then everyone can tend to relax and have some fun.
As an aside here… One of the things that tends to get my ire in some sport forums is someone suggesting that a lack of playing time leads to kids quitting. Hmmmmmm…
Personally, I think this might be one of those “chicken versus the egg” problems. I mean, what’s the chance that the disinterested kid does (or doesn’t do) a lot of things that influences his playing time. What I’m getting at is the probability that a young player might be well on his way towards quitting BEFORE a coach decides to cut back on his play time.
As yet another aside… I have never truly enjoyed golf. Oh, I love the atmosphere, and I’ve almost always enjoyed the company. I think the problem I always had was a lack of practice time, which meant that I never had a fair chance to play as well as I’d like. The fact that I packed it in wasn’t the fault of anyone else. Nor was it the fault of anyone else that the game didn’t prove to be “fun” for me. Ya, believe it or not, there doesn’t have to be a culprit just because a game isn’t fun for someone.
Come to think of it, that last collection of points might be just the right place for me to end. As I suggested in the start, fun alone isn’t going to keep many kids involved in a game, because fun is also going to ultimately be tied to a feeling of accomplishment. Then, as I suggested in the end, athletes — young and old — deserve the right to spend their free time any way they choose. And, if they opt out of a given game, some one else doesn’t necessarily have to be responsible.
Lastly, if there’s a topic I’d love feedback on, it’s this one. So, please do let me know how you feel through a comment box down below.
One would think that I’d be shocked by some things that come across my laptop screen — ya, one would think. No, I guess after all the years I’ve spent in the game, not that much surprises me anymore.
What I’m getting at this time is an email that arrived yesterday, that from the parent of an Atom (or Squirt) player from Western Canada, describing the title theme…
– Dennis Chighisola
After Game Punishments
The dad, who prefers to remain anonymous, started by wishing the old coach good morning. He then went about describing what he’d recently witnessed:
“I am fairly new in the grand scheme of things when it comes to coaching. However what I witnessed last night made me go “is this really necessary?”
The winning team was out doing laps after the game. I can only presume because their coach thought they had not played well enough. Or perhaps they didn’t beat us by enough goals. I personally don’t see the point to this type of discipline. The parents of the kids in question didn’t seem to have a problem with what they saw after the game or if they did they were not saying anything. (They’re 9-10 yr olds doing stairs in full gear after a hard game in full view of anyone at the rink.)
I know if it was my kid being forced to run after a poor game I’d been hard pressed to hold my tongue to the coach in question. I have heard at clinics of worse things than this happening. Seems to me this guy shouldn’t be a coach.
What’s your take on this?
Did I say earlier that nothing surprises me anymore?
Well, one of my long time students told me it happened to him, but it was while playing Junior hockey in Western Canada. I know that team was hand picked to vie for the national championship later that year. So, with all the talent, I can see the coach keeping his thumb on that group, and keeping their minds on business.
Some on-ice sprints after a game — and after the lights had been turned off — wasn’t the worst of it, though. No, not by a long shot.
As I heard it, the team was returning one night from a distant away game, when the coach asked the bus driver to stop a few miles outside the team’s hometown. I understand that the snow was coming down pretty good right then, too, as the coach ordered everyone off the bus. Yup, he had each player grab his gear from down below, toss it over his shoulder, and trudge those few miles home to town.
Cruel? Abusive? I guess. However, I guess no ones life was put in jeopardy that night, I guess there was probably some decent bonding that took place between teammates, and I guess the number of guys from that squad who went on to play high level college and pro hockey afterward may have even thought such things helped with their toughness, whatever.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not condoning that stuff, but maybe just rationalizing it a bit.
As for Squirts/Atom or any other youth level, I say, “No dawgone way!”
As an aside here… We don’t know for sure what actually happened between the above described team and their coach. I mean, if there was a behavioral problem that took place during the game, I suppose some sort of punishment might be in order.
Also, I’ll let hockey parents in on a little something here… For, certain coaches can growl and make it seem like they’re being mean, but they’re not really. In other words, a few runs up and down stairs can or might not be really hard on the players. I’ve done a few things with my players (but not young ones), where some were actually hiding giggles as they endured my supposed punishment.
From my perspective, though, here’s the real problem with what that hockey dad described… I have left more than one game bench where I was hot, and wanted to kill my players. Given the time to wend my way from the bench to the dressingroom, however, always gave me time to think — or to pinch myself, and realize that right after the game wasn’t necessarily the right time to let into kids. Naw, I could mention what I thought went wrong, and suggest that we’ll have to work on that at our next practice. The kids go home in fairly good spirits, that way, while I have a day or so to think about if I’m going to kill them or not.
I hope CoachChic.com members enjoy that I remember a lot of what I’ve seen in the past, and I hope that you also ultimately benefit from what I’ve seen others do (or not do).
With that, the following centers around a brief conversation I had with another hockey parent some 30-ish years ago.
– Dennis Chighisola
The Cost for Hockey Success
Up front, let me say that my reference to “Cost” in the above title doesn’t necessarily mean a financial one, although it sometimes can. Just as often there’s a “price” one needs to pay in the way of commitment, effort, or extra discipline, if one wants to be successful — at anything.
Now, as I think about that long ago conversation, I’m also reminded of some other things that were going on around that same period…
Every time I envision the era in which my story takes place, I can’t help thinking about a lady who was a frequent visitor to the rink I was working at. Actually, you couldn’t miss her whenever she did show, because she always looked like she was ready for a magazine photo shoot. Come to think of it, I did see her in magazines, modeling some of her family’s pretty expensive furs — furs, by the way, that likely went for more than my car was worth. Of course, I didn’t drive a Jaguar as she did. None of those things are the reasons I remembered here, though. No, it was because part of my job as the resident hockey guru for that rink was to also help advise folks about their equipment purchases at our pro shop. And an even bigger reason for me to remember her was because her young son played the game in pure agony, because she wouldn’t spring for anything beyond the cheapest pair of skates I could find on our shelves. I know… I know… I shouldn’t be so judgmental, and I’m not usually that way. Still, you decide if she was being fair to that boy, weighing diamonds and furs and the Jag versus a pair of almost cardboard-like skate boots.
Surrounding that same time period, I was running a weekly skills related course that some might call “powerskating” (ugh). One thing that was unique about that program was that it ultimately counted as members a bunch of future NHL draft choices, a handful of future AHL players, tons of future Division I college players, with all the rest at least becoming high school and Junior hockey stars. There were a couple of other fascinating things about those sessions, too, including the fact that they attracted kids from as far away as 30-miles, and that they took place at the ungodly hour of 6:30am (which makes you wonder what time those kids had to get up each Saturday morning). Of course, the earlier example of a cost for some success was dollar related; this one, however, really wasn’t. My classes were only $5 per session, and purely on a pay-as-you-attend basis. So, what parents had to weigh on their side was the value of the commitment, plus whether they could maintain the discipline to attend often. The players, on the other hand, had to decide if they were willing to put in the effort under a fairly demanding coach.
My final memory of that time concerned one of my long time students from the above hockey skills program. The kid matured to be an Adonis, at about 6′ 1″ and maybe 195 pounds, while having the skills usually associated with a smaller guy. He was smooth, too, and he could really fire a puck. So, don’t you know, he’s drafted as he’s leaving the local high school, at 18-years. If there was a problem, the NHL team that selected him didn’t know what the heck to do with him over the next 3-years or so — as he was expected to grow and develop for their big club. He didn’t have the grades to get into a major college, so that was out. Nor was he mature enough to enter the pro club’s minor league system. So, they instead found him a spot in Canadian Major Junior hockey where it he could blossom into what they expected. Or, so they thought. As the story goes, though, the boy reported to that Junior team, dressed for one game, took a punch in the mouth, and decided that wasn’t for him. Needless to say, a whole bunch of kids in my class envied him, as did many of his high school teammates. So, the rest of that story goes, he returned home to ultimately partner with his dad in a small, family run service business. As for categorizing the cost to succeed here, I guess it would have to do with commitment and effort, although I’m not sure how one judges the need to take some physical abuse on the way to achieving a possible big-time payout.
Before leaving those stories, I have to say that I’ve only given my own impressions as I was watching things unfold. To be honest, however, I think it’s fair to say that there’s no such thing as a right or wrong answer to any of the decisions the described players or parents had to make. I really mean that. God still loves us whether we wear quality skates or not, I’m quite sure there were plenty of successful young men who didn’t attend my early morning skills sessions, and it’s quite possible that former 3rd round draft pick is totally content with his life today.
Okay, so how about the conversation that started me on this long rant?
Well, I happened to be off duty one night — not coaching, but instead watching my son skate in a local hockey skills clinic. I’m guessing he was about Squirt/Atom or Pee Wee age at the time, and he was taking advantage of a free program his organization was offering on some summer ice the rink had given them.
That it was a freebie must have been sticking in one hockey mom’s craw, because she ultimately leaned toward me and whispered something to the effect that, “It’s a shame how many kids are missing these sessions.” And, proving she at least knew something about the game, she added, “And it’s the ones who could really use this kind of help that are missing!” Right she was.
I know that I didn’t add any question marks at the end of her sentences, but you can be sure she was waiting for my opinion on what she’d said.
With that, I politely agreed with her observations, while also suggesting that, “Things need to be this way.”
Seeing her nose wrinkle some, I added that, “A little at a time kids will be sorted, with them all going one way or another, based on the decisions they make over several years.”
Obviously, there’s no rocket science behind what I said then, or what I’m suggesting now. The equation is pretty simple, as a matter of fact: make a lot of decisions in one direction, and you’re days are likely numbered in the game; be willing to meet certain conditions, and the chances are at least a little better that you’ll have some say in your final fate.
Actually, I guess everyone I’ve described in this piece had a say in his or her final fate. Still, returning to something I said a little earlier, there’s likely no right or wrong to any hockey related decision. What might be wrong — as happens in most other areas of our lives — is the notion that we can succeed without paying some sort of price.
Always looking to add more benefits to CoachChic.com membership, I’ve just created a (members-only) Chat Room!
I’ve linked that here, but a link will also always appear up to the left on the topmost menu bar.
Don’t you know that I was immediately asked what the difference is between the Comments that appear below various posts, and what can be attained in a chat session. The answer, I think, is easy…
Comments tend to come in the form of statements, with no further conversation necessary. Sometimes others will — but maybe they won’t — comment further.
Our chats should be totally different. First, they’re in real-time. Secondly, within those sessions we should be able to go back and forth on various problems, as well as share ideas for ways to resolve them. I’m hoping members feel it a benefit that I’ll be available for the length of a session. However, I think it should be just as helpful that we have a lot of very experienced members here who can add a great deal more to the conversation.
As sort of a test, I’m going to hold the first chat session on this coming Thursday night, at 7pm ET. Over coming days I’d love to get feedback from members, perhaps giving me ideas for something more convenient.
Now, I hope you’ll put that time slot on your calendar, and also jot down a few things that you might like to toss around. I’ll be up for it.
– Dennis Chighisola
PS: With the Thursday “test session” out of the way, and knowing everything works okay, I’ll be moving that chat to Tuesday nights for now on — same 7pm time slot.
Hopefully members will take some notes on problems they see during this weekend’s games, and bring them along to hash over.
Grrrrrrrrrrrr… Actually, despite being a head coach for most of my adult life, and despite needing to deal with plenty of tough situations and tough customers, I think that most folks would say that I’m a pretty easy going guy. Only once in awhile will I lose it, and this might be one of those times…
– Dennis Chighisola
The Goalie is Your Teammate!
I’m kinda shaking my head, thinking about a few times I had to raise the roof with my old high school or college players…
Just picture, if you would, that I happen to glance from another pre-game duty to see my starting goaltender bent over in pain off to the side of his net. Ya, some knucklehead had dinged our guy off the mask when he was barely warmed up.
At yet other times I’d see some of my skaters making themselves feel good by lasering shots to the corners during our pre-game warmups. Right. They evidently felt their egos needed boosting by firing pucks from like 5′ out. (If there was anything remotely funny about this, it’s that the guys who needed such an advantage during the warmups usually couldn’t even register a shot on goal once the puck dropped for real.)
As if that wasn’t enough, I recall one guy who couldn’t put a shot on the net in either warmups or the games. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times he’d hit the clock that was hanging some 20′ up on the wall behind the net.
Just so you know, I coached a lot of great kids — or great guys — over all those years. And, for the most part, the crazy occurrences described above usually happened before I put things into a better perspective for them.
It usually started with a common sense question… “If you guys have an influence on your goaltender entering a game, would you prefer that he be confident or shaken?”
Is there any doubt how my guys would answer? To a young man, they all wanted their buddy to feel good about himself. If there was a problem to that point, it seems that few of my skaters had ever had this kind of picture drawn for them. I’m pretty sure they wanted to do the right thing, but…
One quick aside, just in case some readers don’t know why it bothered me that a guy hit the clock on a number of warmup shots, or that others acted selfishly with their shots…
What a goaltender would really like is a batch of pucks directed at his stick, at his leg pads, at his blocker and at his catching glove. He wants to get “a feel” of the puck during the warmups, and shots that knock out people in the rink lobby just don’t do anything for him.
Teammates should also want their goalie to feel good about himself, and torching him during the warmups surely doesn’t boost his confidence any.
Okay, long time members know there had to be something that got me all riled and on this subject. What it was, though, most of you probably won’t believe…
The way it was related to me by a Florida local, was that a young Pee Wee goalie came to his team’s bench between periods the other night, much like most goalers do. If there was a difference this time, it’s that the game had turned lopsided – not in his team’s favor, and the young guy had tears pouring down his cheeks.
Of course, even that might not be uncommon in games when a young netminder feels overwhelmed. That, though, wasn’t the problem.
No, amid the sobbing, he related to his coaches that teammates were skating by the front of his net and (so I’ve heard) they were telling him something like, “You suck!”
Now, how’s that make you feel — fellow coaches, hockey moms, hockey dads, and older players?
Yet another aside… I think there’s something inside many of us adults that tends to give some space to young kids. In other words, like my old high school and college guys, those 11- and 12-year olds might not have initially realized the damage they were doing to one of their own.
And, just like I’d dealt with such things with my old teams, the head coach in me would have turned that into another of those proverbial “teaching moments”. At least one would think that a good idea, huh?
Ya, one would think… The problem, as I hear it, though, is that the head coach of that Pee Wee team said absolutely nothing. He didn’t take the bull by the horns, he didn’t console his goalie, and he didn’t set his skaters straight. Bottom line: The young goalie quit the team (or his parents pulled him).
Relating this story to a friend over dinner just awhile ago, we both agreed that the whole incident smacks of bullying. That, however, is probably a topic for another time.
Anyway, with my heart rate ever so slowly coming down, I’m trying to think about how the above described situation could have been handled a little better…
Number One, I think a head coach would have to realize what happened was wrong. (If he or she doesn’t, God help us all.)
Ironically, I’m reading often lately that a big part of youth sports is supposed to be about learning life’s lessons. And, if the above incident doesn’t involve a life’s lesson, I don’t know what does.
Truly, such behavior has to be nipped in the bud — I mean, quickly.
And, if one is thinking about the team here, or about winning hockey, I’m going to suggest that a squad with those kinds of problems is going nowhere but down the tubes. There will be a new scapegoat once that goalie is gone, you can bet on it. And there will be at least a handful of kids who will believe forever and ever that someone else is always at fault for the team’s failings.
With all that, I never get into these things without telling you exactly what I’d do. And, although I may have already suggested that in the very start, here goes…
I think the whole thing should have been diffused the instant a problem was recognized. In other words, I’d have consoled the young goaltender right there at the bench, I’d have briefly chomped on the entire team, and I’d have let all the skaters know that I’d be looking for just one player to do the wrong thing again that night.
However, I think the real problem would have to be handled pretty close to the way I’d done it with my old high school and college teams. I’d have to put it to the entire roster, asking if they wanted a goalie who was focused on the opponents and trying his best, or if they wanted him to worry more about what they thought. (If the young goaler has in fact left the team, I might have each of the skaters rotate in goal for now on, just to give them a taste of how difficult the position is. Having heard that the team in question gets smoked in most games, I might also enlighten everyone about the fact that it’s the skaters’ fault if the team is giving up a kzillion shots on net each game.)
And, make no mistake about it, I would feel compelled to “fix” anyone who didn’t act like a good teammate henceforth. However, before you think that’s because I’d want to be mean or sound tough, naw…
Understand that a coach isn’t doing a kid a favor by letting bad behavior go. Do you think a higher level coach is going to want a problem player? Do you think future coaches will want someone who isn’t a good teammate? In fact, as I hinted at earlier, a player who blames everyone else for losses — and doesn’t realize his own shortcomings, is basically done growing in his game.
Of course, I’m going to keep my ears open in hopes of a better outcome than what’s transpired so far. In the meantime, I’m reminded of an old political expression I’ve found the need to use on occasion in hockey. So it goes, “A fish rots from the head.”
In this case, I understand that the team is part of an organization that is owned and overseen by the local rink. Beneath the rink owners is a manager, a hockey director, someone else who the head coaches evidently answer to, and then the head coach.
Lastly, CoachChic.com members know that I’ve been around the rinks for an awful lot of years, and you probably also know there’s little that happens nowadays that I haven’t seen before, probably countless times. With that, I’m going to leave off here feeling for that young goaltender, as well as for the rest of the kids on that team who likely need better guidance.
Knowing we have quite a following of former goalies, goalie coaches and goalie parents, I’m just dying to hear their feedback.
Then, because I sense there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye, I’m going to add a Part Two down below in the form of a PS.
PS: Again, if you’re looking to point a finger, I’ve suggested already how that Pee Wee fish started going bad at the head. In other words, the rink owners or upper-management has to ultimately be held responsible.
On the other hand, I believe the folks at the very top wouldn’t be thrilled about looking so badly. So, for that reason, I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll never know what really happened.
No, somewhere in that rabbit’s hole of middle managers, I’m guessing the truth is going to be either totally buried or twisted quite a bit.
From my perspective, three things can possibly happen now:
1) the head coach gets canned immediately;
2) the head coach and other powers that be come to a resolution that pretty much mirrors the (positive) suggestions I made above;
3) the entire thing gets swept under a rug.
The tell-tale sign to me is if those in charge opt for the last one. Why? It’s because one or several folks within the chain of command can’t admit that they’re wrong without putting their own jobs in jeopardy.
In fact, if that incident does get swept under a rug, I think we can start to look at that rotting fish from the other end… I mean, the coaching director either does or doesn’t condone what took place. With that, the hockey director could — and should — step in and deal with both people in his charge.
Oh, one other thing here… It seems to me that a rink manager shouldn’t care about anything BUT whatever is right for the business. True? Heck, anyone or anything that is costing the rink money — or damaging its reputation — ought to call for immediate action. Right? Well, ya, IF this latest incident isn’t just one of many that have already cost the rink quite a few other customers.
Over my 40+ years in coaching, I’ve come to realize that there’s something a little different about a coach’s son (or daughter) — or, should I say, there’s usually something kinda unique about the offspring of a pretty insightful coach.
– Dennis Chighisola
A New Way to Practice Your Hockey?
Expounding on my opening statement, let me suggest that young humans are unbelievably observant, and they/we notice most anything that grownups do. Whether we want to believe it or not, it’s likely that youngsters are picking up on the television programs their parents watch, the books their parents read, and the topics of adult conversations that take place within the house. That said, I could as easily be talking about the household of a doctor, a lawyer, a school teacher, an automobile buff, or just about any other vocation or avocation that tends to stir extra interest.
I don’t know if it was by coincidence or not but, my dad was a baseball coach, I’ve been a hockey coach most of my adult life, and my son has just embarked on a pro hockey coaching career.
Perhaps just as interesting, however, is that I was the oldest of five children, with only the sister closest to my age going into anything remotely like coaching, in that she was a long time dance teacher. I mention that because we were the only ones old enough to remember dad coaching; the other three came along after he’d retired from working the ball fields.
I started things this way so that I might credit dad with the outlook and a lot of the methods I’d later apply to my favorite sport. And, make no mistake about it: dad was an innovator. I actually have to laugh some 50-years later when I see magazine ads and TV infomercials showing gadgets that dad had fashioned by hand to help me and his teams with various baseball skills. So did dad arrive at some truly unique teaching methods, I suspect mostly gleaned from all the reading he did on a wide array of scientific subjects.
To this day, only one of his principles from back in the 1950′s and 60′s has proven wrong. Back in that time, he wanted me and his other players to rest as much as possible right up to game-time. Quite comically, I argued like crazy with him on that topic, especially once I reached my mid- to late-teens.
I’m sure you know that most pro and college teams (or the ones that own their own arenas) hold a “morning skate” or “game day skate”, and the old Soviet teams were known to hold full scale practices — weighted jackets and all — on days when they had a game.
To be honest with you, I don’t know if there’s ever been a scientific study to show the benefits of a game day workout. However, I can tell you that the biggest benefit I ever experienced from a decent workout on such days was that they proved to be awesome tension removers. I mean, working up a good sweat always tended to get me loose, and rid me of the otherwise usual pre-game jitters.
Then, after nearly a decade since his passing, dad has been proven right about one aspect of practice…
If you’re into baseball, try swinging a bat with a book balanced on your head. Dad’s thinking was that it steadied the head and eyes — quite obviously, but it also kept the entire body in alignment during each swing. I mean, try to be herky-jerky and keep a book steadily atop your head! Of course, in the early going, it’s helpful to do this kind of thing very slowly. However, as a switch hitter in my younger days, I eventually got so I could take a full speed cut with the bat from either side without the book on my head even wavering — honest to God.
Well, dad believed back then that one should practice a movement slowly for hundreds upon hundreds of times — while attempting to do it closer and closer to perfect each time, and that such a movement could eventually be increased in speed without losing technique at all. The whole idea made sense to me, and I soon started applying the same principle in my hockey coaching… Go slowly at first, gradually perfect the movement, and then try to bring the perfected movement up to game speed.
Oh, but wait a minute… A number of years after I’d already achieved quite a following in my hockey skills clinics and camps, I returned to college to get my Physical Education & Coaching Degree. And, although a course called Principles of Motor Learning was my favorite, one of those principles directly conflicted with my and my dad’s beliefs…
Ya, don’t you know, my favorite college prof said something to the effect that, “Movements that have to be used at a high speed must be practiced that way from the get-go.”
Hmmmmmm… I wasn’t buying that, and I even argued the point in class. No, I didn’t have any scientific data to back up my approach, but I had already poured out hundreds of highly skilled hockey players, with plenty of them being able to execute those skills at a break-neck pace, and a number of them performing well enough to reach the NHL and other pro leagues.
No, while I did begin blending more and more motor learning principles into my teaching, I never wavered one iota from the belief that practicing certain movements slowly in the start was getting me the results I wanted for my kids.
As an aside here… I think you know how much I believe in the sciences. In fact, I’ll often take other coaches to task for trusting their eyes and ignoring the sciences. At the same time, I’ve come to trust my eyes — or my gut — in certain instances, and they seldom ever let me down.
Talk about atonement… Sixty-years after dad said slow practicing worked, 40-years after I’d found it the best way, and then almost 30-years after a college textbook said it was wrong, hmmmmmmm…
One of the hottest topics in youth sports circles in recent years has been the release of a book entitled “The Talent Code”. In essence, the book suggests that athletic achievement has less (or nothing?) to do with genetics, and far more to do with the number of hours dedicated to training. In fact, the author of that book puts a number on it, suggesting that it takes about 10,000 hours for an athlete to reach an elite level of proficiency. (Don’t panic on that figure, because I’ll be telling members in some future articles why that might not be so daunting.)
Okay, so what about the title of this piece — about that new way of practicing? Like a lot of “stuff” nowadays, someone has put a fancy label on a principle my dad knew at least a half-century ago (and I’ve perpetuated for more than 40-years). “Deep practice” is what they call it. In an oversimplified definition, we might say that it’s about slowing down a movement, “feeling” oneself doing it, and thus memorizing the correct movement once it’s achieved.
A funny thought just struck me… Ya know, if you go back through my many posts on learning the slapshot, you’re going to discover countless ways I’ve applied that deep practice approach.
Indoors in The MOTION Lab, I’ve had my players practice the movement slowly in front of a mirror. Having their eyes up to inspect the movement is actually a good thing, but the main idea is for the player to “feel each movement”, gain a sense of whether it’s right or not, and then make further adjustments with each new shot. I encourage breaks, however — more often to help with the shooter’s concentration, so that when he or she returns to shooting those feeling sensations are kinda renewed.
Out on the ice, my guys grab a handful of pucks and then stake claim to a spot about 8′ off the side boards. I don’t want minutes to go by before they get a followup shot, so the idea of this layout is to allow them to shoot, get a feel, shoot again, get a feel, etc.
In closing, I sense that I’ve already given readers some ideas that few others will ever know. And, while I might leave this article free to non-members for a time, perhaps they’ll gain a sense of just how in depth the next posts in this series might be for my members.
With the youth hockey season now underway in many parts of the world, I think this might be a good time to revisit something I see as an age old problem, not only in hockey, but in other team sports, as well.
– Dennis Chighisola
Should Young Hockey Players Be Paid to Score Goals?
Although I’m going to relate this topic to a couple of stories from recent generations, I seem to recall parents offering their kids bribes going back to my childhood, and most certainly to my son’s earliest years in the game, a good 40-years ago. (I’ll return to my use of that term, “bribe”, in a little while.)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a lockerroom following a youth hockey game, when I’ve seen dads (or especially dads) peel off bills from their wad, much to the satisfaction of their own child, and oftentimes to the chagrin of nearby parents and players. Ya, before we even get into other ways this practice affects a youngster and his or her team, maybe parents who’ve done this suddenly have a different perspective on how they might be perceived by those around them.
Aaaaaah, yes, the “team”… For those who might just be getting into hockey, and don’t really appreciate the game’s niceties, perhaps he or she should realize that players of all ages have numerous responsibilities during a game…
Even when I’ve coached a young team, I’ve talked to my kids at practices and showed them how we should perform various plays. I’ve also always reminded them later — in the pre-game lockerroom, and again at different times from the game bench — about the way to play our game rightly.
In other words, players of all ages have responsibilities as a game goes on and, because ours is a team sport, the fulfillment of our duties — or the lack thereof — usually impact on those around us.
I’m shaking my head right now, as I recall a player from about a decade ago…
As a young teen defenseman, I initially thought he had some real potential. With his great individual skills, I suspected he was going to be a high school star, and I even thought he’d be able to go on further. That, however, was my first impression; within a few months, I was wondering if he really had the head to play at a very high level. I mean, at times, he would do some really, really dumb things.
Of course, I love potential in young kids. So, I’d work with him often, especially in the area of decision making. I thought he was the kind of “D” who was capable of running our offense and our powerplay — his skills were that good. And, because my program was all about development, I figured the boy’s future coaches were going to love a skilled player who could also think the game.
Ugh. As it turned out, the boy’s dad had other plans. Believe it or not, the son was 14-years old, and his dad was still paying him for each goal he scored. Remember, that I was frequently scratching my head wondering what was going on in that kid’s noggin’. And it took another team parent to clue me in on what was really happening. Oh, the dad swore up and down that he wasn’t paying his son for goals, but the boy ultimately told me it was so. (Nice, huh, that the dad would lie in front of his kid?)
Needless to say, the boy eventually disappeared from the hockey scene. I think he did fairly well as a high school player, but he didn’t come close to achieving what I thought he could.
Was the simple act of being paid for goals what did him in? Naw, I wouldn’t say so. What I think was his undoing was the fact that he never really got a chance to concentrate on the right things, as many of his teammates were.
As I said in the start, players are being asked to do a lot of things on the ice that parents can’t be totally aware of. Worse yet, most parents don’t really appreciate all the thinking — or reading and reacting — their youngsters have to do in the heat of battle. And, there is absolutely no room in a player’s thought processes for extraneous pressures.
To carry that one a little further… A player moving up-ice with the puck has to assess all that’s happening in front of him or her, and then make the right choice — whether to pass, keep carrying, or maybe dump the puck. On something like a 2 on 1 rush, the player with the puck should ultimately make the right decision when it comes to which guy or gal should get the shot. And similar decisions have to be made as a pointman attempts to either (wrongly) go for the long distance goal, or (rightly) try to put a low shot into traffic in front of the net. So again, can you appreciate the internal wrestling a kid is experiencing, between making the right play or pleasing his or her parent?
Of course, while the above story suggests ways both a team and an individual player can be thrown off their game, let me share this one, if only as food for thought…
When my grandson was about 5-years old, that thing about other dads paying their kids for goals reared its ugly head in his team’s post-game lockerroom. Yup, there was a dad — not quietly — flashing the green.
My guess is that most other families had to deal with this the same as I, as in answering our own youngster’s plea, “Why can’t I get five dollars for scoring a goal?” (Have I said, “Ugh!” yet?)
When young Anthony hit me with that one, I had to do some long, hard thinking — well, maybe it wasn’t all that hard…
What I eventually did was ask if he got a thrill when he scored a goal. Thank God, he did. Actually, even in the team’s practices, I noticed he couldn’t leave a puck hanging near a crease without whacking it home. And, should he miss the first time, he’d go back and whack it again, until that little black thing found its rightful resting place.
Anyway, once Tony C acknowledged that it did excite him to score, I suggested that that’s all the reason in the world to do it, and to keep playing the game. For, somewhere in there, I think I also told him that, “If you don’t get psyched when you score a goal, maybe you ought to give up hockey and look for something else.”
To be honest, I haven’t a clue if our brief discussion had anything to do with my grandson being a top scorer to this day (right up through college for now). It may have helped some, although I recall that he still wasn’t happy with my explanation at the time.
Lastly, that thing about the bribe…
I can almost appreciate a parent wanting to reward his or her youngster for the very first goal. In a way, it’s a milestone, and it’s something a lot of folks want to get out of the way. (I watched a televised MLB game yesterday, and a big deal was made out of a young rookie achieving his first Major League home run.) As a teaching coach, I can also see dangling a carrot out in front of a young one as incentive, then praying that little guy or gal will love the feeling of burying the biscuit.
On the other hand, I’ve suspected on too many occasions that the hockey parent teased his or her youngster for very selfish reasons. And the more one does that — beyond the first goal, the more it looks like a bribe to me — as in, “Come on, son (or daughter), give your dad (or mom) something to brag about at work tomorrow!” What would cause the dad of a 14-year old AAA player to keep it going? Hmmmmmmm…
As with a lot of philosophical discussions here, you can take what I say with a grain of salt. Are the ramifications of paying a youngster for scoring goals real? I firmly believe so. Is there a better way to handle things than I did? I firmly believe that’s possible, too. So, if you’ve managed to solve what I see as an age old problem, perhaps you can share that below with other members.
You know I always get to have all the fun. After all, I’m constantly asked to do something new in hockey, and most of those things turn out to be a blast for me.
Anyway, let me tell you about my latest undertaking.
– Dennis Chighisola
Something New Coming to Hockey
Over recent months, I’ve been working with a small group of hockey enthusiasts in hopes of developing something that maybe was long overdue.
What I’m talking about is a website that is almost an on-line magazine about US youth hockey. Oh, I know USA Hockey has a fine site, several states have a presence where they feature hockey within their boundaries, and there are obviously a number of places that try to match CoachChic.com in solving hockey training problems. None of them, however, cover grassroots hockey in the US on a state by state, coast to coast basis.
As for my involvement, I believe I will have a short space where I’ll offer some hockey tips. Looking to expand my horizons, though, I’ll get to deal directly with fifty state correspondents and a few feature writers, and I’ll also have my first real experiences working with advertisers.
For obvious reasons, we can’t spill the beans too much more right now. At the same time, as we near launch time, we do need to get some information out to anyone who might like to become involved…
With 50 US states to cover, we could still use a few more volunteer writers in a number of states. Experience isn’t as necessary as enthusiasm and a willingness to gain a pulse on what’s happening in your home state. I’ll help with some great resources or contacts, while I have a suspicion that hockey people will seek out our correspondents once we get underway.
Once the big launch does take place, we’ll also be willing to accept worthwhile youth hockey articles from anyone. (We even expect to share some great stories from the Canadian provinces and other hockey playing nations.)
Oh, and we plan on also ultimately having something special for hockey moms, coaches, game officials, league and organization administrators, arena managers and state officials (we’ll help spread word to your USA Hockey or AAU members).
Because we want this site to be an awesome new resource for everyone involved in youth hockey — from beginners through Midgets, we’ll relay certain public service announcements, and especially keep teams abreast of things like tournaments going on (at least) across North America.
For profit groups will also have rather inexpensive access to what we expect to be a huge readership. Local companies may focus their messages toward those in their home states, while national and international businesses will have the opportunity to reach readers from around the world.
Anyway, I thought I’d tell all my CoachChic.com friends about this new venture, as well as give them the chance to become involved. So, in the event you’re interested in any of the above, please Email Me as soon as possible. If you’d like to be a correspondent for your state, please Click Here to receive much more information.
Oh, did this old hockey coach really screw up!
I was supposed to change the price on this book several days ago, and just totally got lost in a number of other project!
With that, I’ve decided to leave the price as it is right now (at $19.97), and keep it that way as sort of a Labor Day gift for all my hockey friends.
I do have to go up on Tuesday morning, though, so take advantage if you think this manual can help your hockey coaching.
– Dennis Chighisola
If you’ve been waiting for the re-release of my hockey coaching manual, “HOW TO COACH A YOUNG HOCKEY TEAM“, it’s on the cyber bookshelves right now! Not only that but, there’s a $5 discount and Bonus Audio for those purchasing within the first few days.
Want to know a little about the background to that manual? See the article on “Naming A Hockey Manual Ain’t Easy“!
Then, if you’d like to grab a copy before the discount time expires — and if you’d like that bonus item I’m including, just go to the Hockey Tips & Tricks Store’s digital download section right now!
If you think I’m funnin’ around here, know that I’m not. I have it from some very reliable sources that, small area games can do all that and even more.
– Dennis Chighisola
Can Small Area Games Really Cure All the Hockey World’s Ills?
Up front, let me tell you that I’ve come to really love LinkedIn, and it’s quickly becoming my favorite social media site. For one thing, most of the conversations there are pretty stimulating, and I’ve also been fortunate to meet some great guys and gals over there — including other hockey coaches, sports medicine folks, and specialists in areas like strength training and mental training. Just as has happened through Twitter and Facebook, a number of those LinkedIn people have actually become my good friends.
The LinkedIn group format generally allows for better communications within certain kinds of enthusiasts. Twitter’s 140 rule surely doesn’t allow that. And, while Facebook lets us pretty much write as much as we want, it’s hard to have a deep, meaningful discussion with countless other friends and family members jumping in and out.
On the flip side, I have to say that a lot of the LinkedIn discussions have also frustrated me quite a bit. Why so? Ugh, read on…
I guess I have to start by suggesting that it’s the way certain members toss around their favorite modern day buzz-words that tends to annoy me. It’s not really the words themselves — at least usually, but I’ll explain that momentarily…
Those who just happened by here might not know that I studied in the old Soviet Union many years ago, and I actually had the chance to see some early, scientific forms of “dryland” in Moscow and its surrounding communities. I actually learned about “plyometrics” long before folks on this side of the pond even heard about that form of drilling, and I got to witness an “over-speed” workout when I actually wasn’t supposed to.
Of course, those were buzz-words of their time — or considered more like magic bullets, and there have been quite a few others since then. And, to varying degrees, it was said about each of those — at least by some youth coaches and parents — that they could cure what ailed any hockey player.
Now, my personal take is that new, less experienced hockey coaches like two things.
Actually, maybe even more experienced coaches seek the first one, in that they tend to love new drills. In fact, go to any coaching seminar and you might find a good many coaches snoozing during lectures on nutrition, physiology, and the likes, while you’ll see nearly everyone frantically taking notes when a presenter starts drawing new drills on the board.
Enter the next buzz-word or hot item known as “flow drill”. This kind of drill has 200 hockey players moving at the same time, 42 pucks flying around, and the whole circus affair impresses the parents in the stands no end. Yup, and it doesn’t matter if their Little Johnny misses every pass made to him, it doesn’t matter if he makes horrible passes to his mates, nor does it matter if he seldom has a puck by the time he arrives at the net (and he misses that by 8′ should he have a puck). The main thing is that there’s plenty of activity — it looks awesome, and again the folks up in the bleachers are impressed like heck.
The second thing at least some newer coaches like is a drill that helps hide their lack of game knowledge, and maybe even helps hide the fact that they’re a little lazy when it comes to coaching responsibilities.
Come to think, flow drills tend to help satisfy both of those needs. I’ve seen it, ya know, when coaches would start the flow, step back and sip on their coffee, and shoot the bull with other coaches for the next 10-minutes. That’s the nature of those drills, in that there’s not a lot of room for a coach to jump in the middle and provide feedback or guidance to the players. In fact, it’s virtually impossible — with all the craziness going on — for even the caringest coach to get involved and “teach”.
And that brings me to the very latest in youth hockey buzz-words or magic bullets, in those good old “small area games”.
The way I hear it, they’re known to cure acne, they can bring your old girlfriend back, and they can easily fix anything you say is wrong with your hockey team. How do I know? It’s because every question ever asked in a LinkedIn hockey related forum ultimately gets around to small areas games being the answer. Yup, just have your kids play a few small area games, and everything turns rosy.
For sure, small area games cover some other important criteria… I mean, they are easy to run, they surely dupe uneducated observers, and they free the lazy coach from having to do much. For, as small area game disciples are known to say, “This form of drilling allows the kids to solve problems on their own.”
Okay, I try never to leave a subject without lending some positive thoughts. So, since I’ve bashed the notion that small area games are some sort of magic bullet, let me tell you what I think about those and the other buzz-words I’ve mentioned to this point…
Honest to God, I believe in small area games, and I’ve been known to use them — often. If there’s a problem, it’s that they are not a cure-all, or the end all to be all. They are but one small group of tools an effective coach should have at his disposal.
Believe it or not, I also sprinkle flow drills into my older guys’ practices. The way I run things, the teaching is rather deliberate. So, I think it helps to shake my guys from an isolated slower drill by having them flow all over the place for a few minutes. As a matter of fact, when I was recently considering running a training camp next summer for pro players, a number of flow drills came to mind as a means of keeping those guys moving and readying them for their game action.
Having mentioned plyometrics and over-speed concepts earlier, let me just say that those are constantly on my mind. In particular, the idea of over-speed training influences the gear I recommend to my kids, as well as the way I structure some of my drills.
Then, since I can just sense someone is going to read this piece and mumble to himself or herself, “You can’t do plyometrics with young kids,” guess again… Would you allow your little one to skip rope? Plyometrics. Would you allow your youngster to hop and skip? Plyometrics. So, like a lot of other terms in coaching circles, this one is misunderstood, and the idea of avoiding “heavy plyometrics” work with young kids is taken waaaay, waaaay out of context.
As I said above, so is over-speed training part of my teaching plans, either directly or indirectly.
Oh, but there is one more buzz-word I can’t stand. I mean, what’s with “touches” — as in small area games tend to get kids a lot of touches? That statement is such a crock, and if you ever hear me use that term (other than here), just shoot me…
Put 5 versus 5 out on the ice, and the best players will have the puck most of the time. Make it 4 versus 4 or 3 versus 3, and I’m going to suggest that the same exact thing is going to happen — the guys who need puck work hardly get it, and the guys who don’t need the work have the puck all the time. Geeeeeeeze… Touches?
How about we instead give every kid his or her own puck and see how many so-called touches each gets. Better yet, coaches might do as I often do with young players, and have one with the puck attempt to try his or her moves against a slightly passive defender? Of course, this would mean we’d be doing drills instead of games, but…
Winding down here, let me make a further comparison… Just supposing my young defensemen need some work on their slot coverage. I know I can create a drill that gives them each probably 15 reps in about 8-minutes. In my form of drilling I’m able to be right there to provide feedback, and I can stop things at any time to make corrections or offer some advice. You run your small area game and hope you come close to those reps in 20-minutes, and you really can’t stop things often in the spirit of what you’re supposed to be doing. I could say the same thing in reference to just about every other small “part” of our game. (Actually, the “Whole:Part Theory” is one of the important motor learning principles I learned in my favorite Physical Education & Coaching course, and a willing-to-work coach would be wise to find a book on that subject.)
This aside… Coaching is actually hard work — it can be fun for guys like me, but nonetheless it takes a lot of effort. I can put in a good couple of hours designing one night’s practice plan, and then my assistants and I will always bust our buns cramming as much teaching as we can into our allotted time with the kids.
Lastly, please do me a favor and argue with me (if you can). And you might also argue with my theory about those small area games and the idea of teaching with stations: because I’ve had a feeling that they were created in order to make up for a preponderance of poor coaches at the youth levels. In other words, if most youth hockey coaching is ineffective, encouraging kids to stay moving and competing for the bulk of their practices is probably better than nothing. As for me and my member friends here at CoachChic.com, we have over 600 articles, audio programs and videos to guide us, and they’re all aimed at taking the smartest and most effective route, be it the easiest or not.
Plenty of details can be found by clicking the photo to the left. Again, this is a new concept, and pretty exciting.
– Dennis Chighisola
PS: After battling with some lost information over past weeks, I’ve been able to finally update My Weekly Hockey Reading List (for members only). There’s some awesome stuff there, including a video on virtual reality that might both scare and excite you.
I suspect a lot of very advanced level coaches — in many sports, athletic directors, and strength coaches are going to like what I’m about to share at the end of this entry. In the meantime…
I’ve always called myself lucky in my work, because I (somehow?) get to know about some really cutting edge things. I know I do my part by remaining open minded about new training ideas and gadgets. At the same time, those with great ideas seem to find me.
Such has been the case with numerous training devices I ultimately incorporated into my teams’ or clinic workouts, and I’m talking about some gear that few others in my profession even knew about. And, as you’ve probably already surmised, recently lucking into yet another pretty fascinating piece of strength training equipment got me thinking about the subjects at hand.
– Dennis Chighisola
Building Strength, Stamina and Teamwork!
As most members know, I like to present as much as I can in practical terms, and with as much common sense as I can. For sure, I know the sciences of training. However, since I deal mostly with amateur players, their parents, and their volunteer coaches, my aim is to never snow anyone, or to heap a ton of Latin or medical terms on their heads. With that, let me share some advice when it comes to building strength, stamina, and — believe it or not, teamwork…
Of course, I could start nearly any discussion about physical qualities with a picture of the human cell, as well as the idea that the human body has a fantastic ability to adapt. Even more so do I feel the need to introduce these when I talk about strength training…
Just so you know, the cells that make up your body right this instant are a result of all you’ve done to this point in time. I mean, your body is adapting every single minute, hour and day, according to the workload you’ve prepared it for. So, since the current discussion has to do with strength development, remember that your body — and especially its muscle cells — are constantly adapting.
Most strength coaches would tell you that your muscles need to be “overloaded” in order to spur growth. In other words, you need to work slightly harder today than you did previously in order to cause the earlier noted cell adaptations. I’m sure that adding resistance to a given movement immediately comes to the reader’s mind, but doing added repetitions with the same weight also brings about muscle cell growth. (I might add that changing the intensity of a given exercise also has a bearing on the muscles.)
So, here’s the gist of what happens surrounding a strength workout… Overloading a muscle causes its cells to break down. Our remarkable body, realizing it has to now ready for even greater workloads than in the past, goes about the process of building bigger and more efficient cells to meet the new demands. If there are a couple of things I’ve noticed overly eager hockey players doing wrong, it’s their failing to realize the body’s need for rest and proper nutrition in order to build the bigger and more efficient cells. They bust their buns — maybe too often, and can’t understand why they never gain size, weight, better efficiency, etc.
Stamina? I sometimes refer to it as staying power, or the ability to keep working while others might drop by the wayside. With that, let me begin with a couple of stories…
As a young coach, one of my idols was the late, great football coach, Vince Lombardi, who preached, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Think about that one, if you will. For, I’m going to suggest that, when two athletes do battle, the one in the best shape is going to win out most of the time.
A number of years ago, a really “with it” figure skating coach asked me if I’d run an off-season program for her skaters. Part of the reason I thought her “with it” was because she had a Psyche Degree, and I could tell she used that in her teaching presentations. Yet another reason I thought she was my kind of thinker is because the first thing she asked me to do for her skaters was to improve their stamina. Of course, figure skating is a far cry from the kind of team sport and face to face matchups Lombardi was referring to. On the other hand, my skating coach friend knew full well that an athlete loses his or her technique — and especially the fine motor skills — as he or she tires. In my sport of ice hockey, a tiring player can eventually be just a tad off on his puckhandling, passing or shooting accuracy; I think gridironers can mishandle the ball and miss connections on passes when they’re tired, and I’ll suggest that the same happens to tiring basketball players.
Then, here’s something that I thought about as I studied the new training device I’ll tell you about later… I’m an old guy, but I still try to get some exercise in each day. Being a former athlete and a long time coach, I also tend to think about some things as I experience them…
Living in Florida now, I try to make it to the pool nearly every day. I’ve also gotten into the habit of swimming under water cross-pool a number of times, at a distance that’s probably close to the length of most family sized pools. Again, I’m an older guy, so I’m kinda proud of how long I can hold my breath. Anyway, I mostly make it across the pool with plenty of air to spare. Yet, once in awhile I’ve wrongly calculated the distance, I’m surprised that I might have another 15′ to go, and I kinda panic to the surface for air. The more I’ve thought about that, the more I’ve come to believe that the only difference is my mental state. I mean, I begin most laps with roughly the same amount of air, and the width of the pool certainly doesn’t change. So, what else could it be but something mental?
I also love working out on my Whole Body Vibration machine. Again, as an older guy, I’m mostly into performing isometrics and dumbbell exercises on that device, and I’m also into higher reps instead of heavy weights. It’s the reps thing I’ve found interesting, though, and I don’t think it differs much from what happens to me on occasion at the pool. What I’ve discovered is that I start feeling the burn during each set when I hit about the last 5 reps. And, while you might think this is natural, how about if I lower the reps for a given exercise but still feel like I’m maxing out over the last few? Yes, I’m thinking it’s a mental thing, with my mind telling my body, “I only have a few more to go,” no matter how much weight or how many total reps I’m doing.
Okay, so how does teamwork fit in this conversation? Well, under normal conditions, probably not at all. Since I came across that new training device, however, working together has everything to with strength development and stamina. First, though, let me tell you about my experiences in this particular area…
Believe it or not, there is an entire industry based on “team building”. Major corporations and even smaller companies hire specialists in this area to come in and run a day of both indoor and outdoor games. Not unlike our sport teams, businesses see the merits of everyone pulling together towards a common goal. (Picture competitions like three-legged races, that might be played at the typical company outing, and envision folks from different departments — or folks who don’t even know each other well, working together and cheering for each other.)
It’s only been in recent years that I’ve realized my hockey teams are really a mish-mash of players from all over. Some are outgoing, while others are quiet (and find it harder to make friends). Worse yet, school teams can become caste systems, with groups of guys often keeping to themselves based on their grade or popularity.
Little wonder I ultimately started searching the Internet for ideas aimed at promoting teamwork. Of course, few of the games or competitions I found were even close to my sport. Adapting many of them wasn’t hard, though. Relays, for example, will work — in hockey, football, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and most other sports. And I’ve found that in no time, kids get laughing like crazy and cheering each other on.
Then, as for that last part — about rooting for others… Right from the start, I knew I had to pair kids in ways that would break down barriers and help them be better teammates. Let’s face it, everyone — and I mean EVERYONE — has to depend on someone else in our real games. So I matched shy kids with outgoing ones, older guys with younger ones, as well as kids I sensed didn’t really like each other. And, just as I’d hoped, the pairs and small groups started laughing and pulling for each other.
Okay, my hope is that every reader has benefited at least a little from all the above, no matter his or her sport, and no matter the age group he or she works with. However, as I hinted in the start, I’ve all along been making my way towards a special new training device I believe can enhance the three critical attributes described above. Yes, and once you watch a video I have for you, I think you’ll appreciate how older, higher level teams can vastly improve their strength, stamina, and teamwork with just one machine.
The device I’m talking about is best suited for teams or training partners — since guys (and gals) always have to work in pairs. The types of teams I envision using it would at least include high school and older hockey players, footballers, b-ballers, rugby guys, and certain track and field athletes. It’s also a large and fairly costly piece of equipment, so it’s best suited for a high school, college, pro team or specialty training facility (if you own a facility that preps players for their “combines”, you absolutely NEED at least one of these).
With that, I highly recommend that advanced level coaches, strength specialists and athletic directors click this link: Building Strength, Stamina and Teamwork!
Maybe some of my hockey friends will find the following amusing, while others might not appreciate my sense of humor. No matter, I really do need some help, from other CoachChic.com members, as well as from all my friends in social media. As the title above states, naming a hockey manual ain’t all that easy.
– Dennis Chighisola
Naming a Hockey Manual Ain’t Easy!
Actually, the hockey manual in question just might be released for the third time (although I can’t promise that). As for the earlier two…
About a decade ago, it was printed in hardcopy, and shipped to hockey coaches around the world. Then, a few years ago — when the ink and paper version of that manual finally ran out, I decided to make it available in ebook form.
As you can imagine, the printed copies sold well — and sold out, but so did the downloadable ones do well — for awhile. Ya, for awhile…
Maybe it was more me than anything else. However, I decided to pull the second version of that manual not long after it first started selling, mainly due to a couple of exchanges I had with other coaches in a LinkedIn hockey forum.
Now, perhaps because I see some others do it rather shamelessly, I’ve always tried to avoid plugging one of my books, videos or whatever in those kinds of venues. I figure hockey folks are looking for honest help or advice there, and I’m not about to steer the topic off towards one of my products. I did do it once, though…
What happened was that a seemingly new coach was asking for some ideas for running his young hockey team, and I noticed a bunch of early comments recommending to him a few decent manuals and videos. If there was a problem, I didn’t think any of those products were what he really needed. Again, he was looking for help on coaching a team, and the stuff being recommended to him had more to do with disconnected drills or drills having to do with skill development — helpful, sure, but not what he was asking for help on.
That’s when I said something to the effect that, “I hate mentioning my own manual here but, it might be just what’s needed.”
Unfortunately, the original title of my manual contained the words “playing system”, which caused a couple of guys to jump all over me. Ugh.
Most of you know that I’m not the shy type, and I’ve spent the better part of 40+ years defending what I know to be right in hockey coaching. You might also know that I’m able to string words together well enough that I can undress just about anyone in a written exchange.
Surprisingly — perhaps to both you and me, I let the first attack go. I figured the loser in the whole exchange was the poor guy who was asking for help, but I feared causing a scene if I did snap back at the guy who criticized me (or my book).
The second guy who tried to embarrass me wasn’t nearly as lucky. No, I took him for kind of a mamby-pamby, politically correct type, as well as a guy who didn’t have a clue — about hockey, about coaching, or about much else.
One thing those two did bring about was my decision to not promote that manual again until I’d done some real serious thinking, mainly about that “playing system” part of the title.
Part of the my problem, as it turned out, was that USA Hockey’s ADM Program had reached the masses by then. I mean, there were seemingly a kzillion (mostly inexperienced) youth coaches so high on the USA Hockey Kool Aid that they couldn’t see that there’s more to coaching a young team than to toss a puck in the middle of a “small area game” Nor did they have the good sense to understand that a couple of on-ice stations won’t get the rest of the teaching job done.
If I had to define those types, I’d suggest that they’re too literal — in believing that the latest thing they’ve heard at a coaching seminar is gospel, or that it’s some sort of magic bullet. The second guy — or the one I lit into — couldn’t be reasoned with at all, which ultimately had me believing that he fell into yet another group. Ya, the other group needs something like the ADM Program as a crutch, because those kinds of guys can’t coach in a traditional sense.
Okay, so about my manual… I wrote it as if I was talking to the young Coach Chic, or the young guy who found it awfully difficult to get help. Back then, when I first switched to the other side of a clipboard, I’d have just died to have someone tell me, “This is exactly what to do!”
Moreover, my way of sharing information has never been to only tell someone how to do it, but I’ve always wanted to arm them with why things probably should be done in a given way. I think that builds a young coach’s confidence, and it gives him or her enough information to make some further decisions without me.
Anyway, attempting to share as much as I could with a fairly inexperienced coach, here’s the table of contents that resulted:
Chapter 1 – PRE-SEASON PREP
Chapter 2 – THE PLAN
Chapter 3 – PRINCIPLES OF MOTOR LEARNING
Chapter 4 – ALTERNATIVE TRAINING
Chapter 5 – ABOUT PLAYING POSITIONS
Chapter 6 – The NEHI BUILDING BLOCKS APPROACH to SKILLS
Chapter 7 – BACKGROUND HOCKEY KNOWLEDGE
Chapter 8 – TEAM DEFENSE
Chapter 9 – TEAM OFFENSE
Chapter 10 – FACE-OFFS
Chapter 11 – SPECIAL TEAMS Play
Chapter 12 – Playing THE SCORE, THE CLOCK, and More
Chapter 13 – FINAL TIPS
If you might notice, only Chapters 8, 9, and 10 really have anything to do with teaching a playing system — that’s three out of thirteen. However, I latched onto the eventual title, “How to Teach A Basic Playing System”, for what I believed to be two very good reasons…
First, with the hundreds of new or less experienced coaches I’ve interacted with over 40+ years, most of them really struggled with the X’s and O’s. In many instances they hadn’t played the game much, or they played somewhere where they hadn’t really grasped how a coach goes about putting a team together.
Secondly — and I’d like to hear your arguments when I claim that, a bulk of hockey’s most important playing principles have to be intertwined within the playing of X’s and O’s. But, hear me out on that one…
- How do you ever convince players not to bunch-up unless they understand that different players should have different roles?
- Along that same line of thinking, how do you help two kids rushing for the puck decide which should probably keep going, and which should hold back a little?
- How do you ever get across the idea of a “transition sport” and “reading and reacting skills” without explaining how player roles change with each change in puck possession?
- I know that fans in the stands scream, “Backcheck! Backcheck!” Still, isn’t there a correct way to do that, maybe even based on which zone play is in?
- It just so happens that there are decisions to be checked-off by a puckcarrier as he or she moves up-ice — I mean, when it’s right to carry further, when one must pass, and even when the smartest thing to do is to just dump the puck.
- Come to think of it, doesn’t the type of dump-in — or the location of that dump — have something to do with a team’s X’s and O’s?
- Whether attacking or defending during rushes, should 1 on 1′s be played differently than 2 on 1′s? And, if so, doesn’t it make sense to teach these within the context of the X’s and O’s?
- I might also ask whether there are smart ways to position while covering an enemy pointman, and when initially covering in front of your goal. For, if those are important game playing principles, I’ll suggest that they also have to be taught within the context of a team’s X’s and O’s.
- Then, I’m wondering… Does not moving the puck out of one’s own end involve a number of playing principles — from the goaltender helping mates to defensemen moving the puck rightly to forwards getting open in high percentage passing routes?
And, if you get the feeling I might be able to go on from there, rest assured I could probably double or triple the above list.
Of course, there’s the chance someone is going to tell me that young kids don’t need to know that stuff. Hmmmmm… My guess is that the second heckler described above would agree with you. What he’d likely say is that the next level coach will teach it — mainly because he can’t. Unfortunately, though, what I’ve seen is that the Mite coaches say that, but then so do the Squirt/Atom coaches. And before too long, everyone is passing the buck and leaving the real teaching of the game to some poor coach who expected many of those basics to already be ingrained in the kids who come to him.
One thing is for sure, most new coaches could use this book, if only to fill in the gaps in areas of the game they’re not totally sure about. (Actually, I’ll never forget one CoachChic.com member — who is a pro coach — telling me that he uses my opinions here as a way of validating a lot of the theories he’s developed over the years.)
Oh, and by the way… My feeling is that several areas of my manual cover semester long courses I took as a Phys Ed and Coaching Major. Just within Chapter 3 a coach can discover how to create new drills or to distinguish between good drills and not so good ones. Again, though, take a look at my table of contents, and tell me those aren’t all areas a guy or gal running a team through 10-years old should be aware.
All that said, I am sincere in asking for help here…
If you have a better title for my book, I would be extreeeeeeemely grateful if you let me know. Learning from my earlier mistake, I know now that I have to name it something closer to my real intent — about how to coach a young team, or maybe about things that will help both new coaches and young kids understand the game better.
I would also enjoy a discussion here. Honest to God, I won’t bash anyone who is sincere. As folks may have noticed in other comment exchanges on this site, I thank folks who can point out an error in my ways.
So again, please do help me with this, either with your argument for deep-sixing this manual to a better name if I decide to put it out there again.
I was thinking to myself this morning as I fielded this question, “I wonder what kind of answer this coach would have received had he asked some other (self proclaimed) hockey guru.” My inference in this case, is that I don’t just study hockey, but as much as I can I’m into just about anything that could influence the playing of our game.
– Dennis Chighisola
Growth Spurts in Hockey Players
What my UK Facebook friend told me in a private message was that they (presumably he and other coaches) have noticed that the shooting accuracy of their kids has seemed to go awry within their group of 14- to 16-year old kids. With that, he asked if there’s evidence that shooting accuracy could be connected with growth spurts in such an age group.
My answer to him, “Absolutely! If you can picture it, those kids are getting out of bed every morning with a new body. The lengths of their limbs are different, the way the muscles and limbs work together is different, and so much more. And, with all that, the first thing to go out of whack are the fine motor skills.”
A funny story… The year my son turned 14, I watched him play in a spring league with his high school team. And I was aghast at the fact that he couldn’t skate. I mean that. The young guy who was known for his stylish stride was tripping all over himself, almost as if he was a beginner. Nor could one of the area’s trickiest puckhandlers tote the biscuit more than a few feet. And the worst part? There I was sitting and thinking — as probably the area’s most popular hockey skills instructor, “God, my own boy can’t even handle his feet or hands!”
If you hadn’t guessed it, that was the first time I’d run across the effects of a growth spurt (about 35-years ago). Quite obviously, I quickly got to researching to see what was going on, and I ultimately arrived at what’s shared here and elsewhere in this site.
Then, since my Facebook friend seemed at a loss as to what to do, I went on to suggest that he let both the kids and the parents with his team know exactly what is happening, and to also assure them that it’s a very natural thing. (As far as I’m concerned, a bigger and stronger hockey player in the end is worth every bit of the frustrations experienced during a given growth spurt.)
As an aside here… I was mentioning in a LinkedIn forum the other day my suspicions that there is a connection between the kids getting out of school and then suddenly going through their growth spurts. I mean, over 40+ years of observation, I’ve seen those spurts take place mostly during the summertime, and I can’t think of any other changes in the kids’ lifestyle other than the fact that they’re allowed to sleep-in often, and they don’t have the (academic and/or social) pressures normally associated with school. (I’d like your opinion on this, so I’ve entered a poll down below.)
Trying to help my friend further, I recommended having the players do some balance, coordination and skills-type things. I’ll help my players through such challenging times by having them do simple gymnastics stuff, rope-skipping and tricks with balls, along with plenty of other basic hockey skills work.
It’s only my personal feeling on the latter type work, but it just makes sense to me… Those kids are going to be a mess for a time, but things will ultimately come together. If they’re working on coordination stuff through that period, I think such work will prevent them from going too far off their regular game, and it will also pull things together quicker once they begin settling into their new bodies.
Anyway, if you want to know if there’s a difference in the kind of advice you can get here as opposed to elsewhere, maybe this post provides at least a hint.
PS: The aside above gave me a great idea for a poll. So, what do you think about my connecting growth spurts in teens with their long recess from school?
Trying to put myself in the shoes of my CoachChic.com members, I’ve come to the realization lately that there are an awful lot of articles, videos and audio programs to wade through here (over 600 at this time). For sure, that’s good, since just about every aspect of our great game is covered, and under a myriad of categories.
Hopefully the many categories (off to the right) are easy for you to understand. One contains numerous subcategories that help members develop what I like to call Highlight Reel Skills. The physical side of hockey being taken care of there, all the X’s and O’s and the mental side of hockey can be found under Thinking The Game. Then, in what ends up being our catchall section, lots of great information that doesn’t quite fit in the physical and mental training areas falls under Special Subjects.
With that, I introduce to you today a new category that helps solve the problem I hinted at in the first paragraph. What I’m trying to do is make it easy for a member concerned with a specific age group to immediately find the most important posts from the many hundreds. I may decide to slightly adjust the following levels as I begin composing them, but here’s what I envision at this writing:
- If I Had A 4-year Old Wannabe Hockey Player
- If I Had A 6-year Old Hockey Player
- If I Had A Mite Hockey Player
- If I Had A Pretty Good Squirt/Atom Hockey Player
- If I Had A Pretty Into-it Pee Wee Hockey Player
- If I Had A Pretty Into-it Bantam Hockey Player
- If I Had A Pretty Serious High School Hockey Player
- If I Had A Serious Junior Hockey Player
If you can tell, I’m going to be writing these — or putting them together — as if I’m the hockey dad, just so you know I’m gathering the best advice I can possibly point out to a parent, coach or player in a given age group. There will be no political correctness in what I tell you — and I won’t pull any punches. Instead, it’ll be the best information I know, and according to the very latest known to science.
Lastly, I believe this new category alone will make membership worthwhile. So, none of the above listed posts will ever be made available to non-members.
We’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes work on the CoachChic.com site. As often happens, numerous positive changes tend to come with a few glitches.
Unfortunately, a change in the area where we store all the media files has caused a number of videos and photos to not appear within their respective posts. I’ve begun the task of looking for those and repairing them. However, it’s virtually impossible for me to find every single one within over 600 entries.
With that, I wonder if members will comment under any post where they stumble upon a video and/or photo missing. I’ll be sure to fix it right away, and I’ll be eternally grateful for your help.
Erik W is a hockey coach from Sweden, where he has worked mostly with younger players over the past few years.
He wrote me recently, especially in reference to my long ago article on “Spotting the Real Goal-scorer Early“. Erik has some very good observations that ultimately resulted in a few pretty interesting questions. So, thinking this discussion is going to really help member coaches and parents — in most age groups, let’s get into this (I can hardly wait).
– Dennis Chighisola
Revisited: Spotting the Real Goal-scorer Early
As I intimated above, Erik’s side of this conversation is pretty interesting in and of itself. So, let me begin by sharing his observations and thoughts, followed by mine:
“Hi Coach Chic! The other day I linked up with you on LinkedIn. I have read some of your entries on the Hockey Coaches group. That drove me to your coachchic website. Very interesting!
I just have to comment on your article “Spotting the Real Goal-scorer Early“. I am coaching a strong U10 team, and from day 1 (tree years ago) I could see two kids on my team that just wouldn’t stop shooting, and that always wanted to finish their attacks with a goal. And right from the initial games they were among the most frequent scorers. Last season (their third) one of them averaged over 3 goals and 1 assist per game, and the other a little over 2 goals and 1 assist per game. In total they were responsible for over 50% of all our goals. Do they practice shooting off ice? More than almost all kids that age I believe – one of them has already passed 8000 shots since we got off ice in May. I have a question for you, coach. When looking at young kids like these two, how do you distinguish “talent” from early development? We all know about research on what is referred to as the “relative age effect” – that kids that are born early in the year have an advantage in the early career. With your long background as a coach, how do you define talent? A gymnastics coach I talked to held the opinion that talent was the ability and willingness to practice. In his opinion, unless you have a motor skill disadvantage, it is 95% a matter of training enough. Although extensive training is fundamental in all sports, I feel that “talent” in a complex game like ice hockey probably is more than just loads and loads of training.”
I think one of the most important points in this whole discussion is Erik’s mentioning of the way his two star players work on their game, at home or away from their formal training sessions. That one thing is so important, I’ll suggest, that I’ll probably need to revisit it quite a few more times.
For the time being, however, let me tell you that that’s something I’ve been talking about for a number of years, in that kids who leave the rink feeling good about themselves tend to love extra chances to work on their game. They love hockey, and they love both playing and practicing. And, since between the lines of Erik’s writings I get the impression those two boys usually leave the rink feeling good about their game, the rest just necessarily follows.
To really understand what I’m getting at here, picture the kid who just left the rink with head down and his tail between his legs. Chances are good that he doesn’t want to watch a game on television, and he doesn’t want any part of playing with a stick and ball or puck, or doing anything that reminds him of his failings (or maybe even his mediocrity).
As for Erik’s main question — about how to distinguish talent from early development, I’m going to suggest that it might not really matter.
Just as lots of seemingly average adult citizens are able to far surpass some geniuses when it comes to being productive, a new theory in sport circles suggests that work will trump genetics every time. Doing my best to paraphrase what I recall of that theory, it suggests something to the effect that, “It takes about 10,000 hours of quality practice for a player to reach elite status.”
With that, let’s return to my earlier theory, believing that success at the rink breeds more success, and the results of extra practice breed more success. It’s kind of a snowball effect, as far as I’m concerned. And I’ll even suggest that the snowball rolls in the opposite direction for kids who don’t experience as much early success, and thus they go backwards in their development. Combining that with the other theory, and I’ll offer that Erik’s two young stars are already getting a head start on their 10,000 hours of work.
Does a kid’s “relative age” compared to others in a given level factor into this? I’d say so (although I’ll suggest it isn’t a hard, fast rule).
As an aside here… A generation after my son found it easy to conquer most hockey skills — one might have said he was “a natural”, along came his son, who had a completely different body type. Ya, my old eyes told me things weren’t going to come as easily to my grandson, so helping him was going to require a whole different approach.
At 4- or 5-years old, he was a little chunky, he didn’t take too much to skating, but did he ever love to shoot a puck. I mean, he could lift a heavy, regulation puck almost from the first times he hit the ice.
What to do? I decided to do two things — or maybe just one… Encouraging him to keep doing the things he already loved — like shooting and fiddling with a ball, I decided the easiest way to help him love the game was to help him score goals before all else. I further reasoned that working on skills like skating would have to either wait or be introduced to him in subtle ways.
Just as I suspected would happen, he really got the bug once he started burying pucks in early games, he went back home most nights feeling good about himself, and he eventually came to me a few years later and said, “You know, Gramps, I think I really need to start working on my skating!” (Don’t ya just love it when a plan comes together?)
My reason for telling that story is two fold… First, it adds a little more support to my snowball theory. Secondly, however, it gives me the chance to mention that my grandson’s late-July birth date could be overcome from extra work and wisely focused work. Looking at that in another way, which would you choose: an older kid who doesn’t work on his game much, or a younger one who can’t get enough of his sport? Because of his want to practice some things that produced positive results in games, my grandson was always picked for A, AA or AAA teams, and most likely over kids who were a few months older.
Still, is that “relative age” theory valid? I’d say it is, but only when all other things are equal. In other words, if two kids of close to equal skills are vying for the same spot, it makes sense that the bigger and more mature kid would have an edge. But, does that matchup occur very often within a small organization? I suggest not. And that’s when the kid who has worked harder to develop good skills wins out over the one who only has the age factor on his side.
Erik’s other question — about distinguishing talent at the young levels — might be a littler harder to put into words. I’d love to say that a talented player just jumps out at me. But, I’ll try not to take the easy way out on this one.
Thinking about this, I’m reminded of the first summer I began running dryland training at my summer hockey schools. Important to know here is that the off-ice session took place outdoors, and several hours before all my students took to the ice.
So, there we were out in the rink’s parking lot, with the kids doing all sorts of athletic feats, stickhandling balls in and out of pylon courses, etc. And my eyes would light up at the sight of some new kid who was dazzling beyond everyone else, including looking better than some kids I knew as top hockey players. Oh, I just couldn’t wait to see the new hotshot inside on the rink.
Ya, you’d think. In almost every case, however, the new kid got on the ice and fell somewhere near the bottom third or fourth of his group. Hmmmmmmmm… What I came to understand was that the stars on the ice had far more experience — or they were well on their way to those 10,000 hours, while the newbie just plain lacked experience or ice-time.
With that, I have always challenged even pro scouts to tell me which young kids WILL ultimately “make it”. Oh, they and I and your Aunt Millie can probably tell you who SHOULD reach the top of the game. The ones who should will likely demonstrate the ability to handle their bodies in ways that help them look rather natural. I’ll suggest instead, however, that they’ve basically gained more experience working at the right things. The reason I say certain kids should make it — but without a guarantee – is because there’s no telling which youngsters will continue doing the right things as they mature. (Being good in the early years requires work at fun things, while a lot of older players drop by the wayside when it’s time to start lifting weights, running and playing the physical game.)
Then, I love it that Erik included those comments by the gymnastics coach, because that guy pretty much echoes my sentiments. Everything I’ll say here also presumes that kids don’t have some sort of physical disability. And, for sure, I believe that work is the one ingredient common to most athletes who make it to the top of their sport.
I do want to clarify one thing, though… A high level roster usually includes body types, personalities and capabilities of all kinds. In other words, all guys aren’t the same size, each is more or less intense or even meaner than others, some are extremely fast, a few might be like magicians with a puck, and so on. With that, I’m going to suggest that players might ultimately compete within small groups for high level positions — like one or two guys emerging from those with good size and strength, a few rising to the top from among the playmakers, probably quite a few coming from a decently skilled but smart group to act as the foot soldiers, etc. If you get my drift here, in the end there is no a cookie-cutter or mold for elite level players, and it’s probably as important that teams fill various roles with effective but very different players.
Then, with all the above said, about the only thing Erik wrote that I will disagree with is his dismissal of the importance of work, or tons and tons of training. To the contrary, I’m in agreement with that idea of a player requiring something like 10,000 hours of training to reach anywhere near the top.
Erik ended his first email with a nice plug for one of my products — …
“And I just love your chop sticks! Low tech, low cost, and very efficient. Looking forward to hearing your opinion!
Best regards, Erik W – IF Swede”
Actually, he got the spelling wrong, but my Chopped Stix (found here on this site) are really awesome — for puckhandling, core strength, and athleticism.
My new Swedish friend wasn’t done with sharing some really good thoughts, however. So, a few days later he sent a second email:
It may be argued that it is too early to start thinking in terms of talent in the age of my young players, but almost all my kids are active with other sports as well, competing over time and focus. That’s all fine, but to me it seems that most of my more advanced kids are also fairly or very successful in other sports.
In Sweden many of the young ice hockey players also play soccer and just about the age of 10 to 12 they are forced to start making decisions over what they like most and in what sport they will be more successful. There will simply not be enough time to fully pursue both sports with full focus and attendance any longer. And that involves the parents and initiates the discussions over talent and potential and if it is really worth all those hours (and money) to go for a full hockey engagement with all the hours of extra practice, all summer camps screwing up vacation plans 6 years ahead, all the money for special skating and stickhandling instructors, etc.
So when I am asked if I belive their son has potential enough, I need more ammunition than just saying “he needs to practice really hard” (although that is always true). It seems that that kind of ammunition comes mainly from long personal experience, which I don’t feel I have yet. How should less experienced coaches make such judgments? Or maybe we shouldn’t…
Best regards, Erik W
I have some good news for Erik, in that it is never too early to get working on a youngster’s skills, athleticism and other important physical qualities. In fact, if members see my videos on “Critical Periods in Motor Learning” (beginning with Part 1), they and Erik will discover that many of those attributes MUST be established before the so-called windows of opportunity close. Having watched that video series, I think one will understand why certain very young athletes can be recognized as having special talents.
As for Erik noticing that certain successful hockey players also seem to do well in other sports, I’ll suggest two reasons… First, a lot of skills translate back and forth between sports. Secondly, I’ve noticed that hockey players — and especially the better ones — tend to carry an aggressive nature over to other sports (and I’ve often seen young hockey players eat other, non-hockey types alive).
When it comes to multi-sport participation, I’m both for it and against it. I mean, I don’t believe in specialization at a young age, although I do believe a young body has to early-on start forming the motor pathways for certain sport specific movements. I also believe young minds and bodies need a break from the same-old, same-old, and that they also gain a lot in athleticism and new mental and physical skills from certain other sports. I am not in favor of kids playing so many sports that they become a “master of none”. Worse yet, their failing to excel in a sport, just might start the negative snowball rolling. Lastly — on this subject, I don’t have a set number of sports a very young one should be limited to, but I think that young teens should be down to two (perhaps complimentary) sports, and then gradually pick the one a little later that’s their favorite.
If I had to add a couple of things to that last point, I’ll suggest that… 1) I’ve mainly been talking about kids who have some sort of future in the game; I don’t think all that much care has to be taken with a player who is going to continue in sport just for fun. 2) A youngster’s favorite sport is probably the one he should stick with, since a lot of hard work is on the horizon, some of it fun, and some of it not so much.
As for providing Erik “ammunition” in answering parent questions, or in advising them and their youngsters on their future in the game, I’ve probably only given him enough to answer — with more conviction — that one can’t really tell. About all he might be able to say is that it LOOKS like a given youngster has a chance to do well down the road, or that the boy might have to do some things differently in order to get that old snowball rolling the right way. If he needs more ammo, it would be that there is no telling the effects a girlfriend, the want for a part-time job, or a myriad of other possible distractions can have on a youngster’s want to keep playing and training.
A few years back I tried something new with the parents of any kid I had to cut from tryouts, advising them that, “My decision is based on how I see things today, and today only.” In other words, today I see their son as not quite up to some others who will make the team, but that seeing him a year or two down the road could result in a totally different evaluation. In fact, I’ll tell them that it’s possible their youngster might ultimately go farther than anyone I’ve picked. That might not be any consolation to the parents or the boy, but I am telling them the God’s honest truth in my mind.
No matter what we tell a family, the decisions are still theirs. Erik is right about the things a family often has to give up to help their youngster excel — at anything. He can’t decide for them how much money to spend for extras, or how much of their lives have to be given up. Again, parents have to decide, and the parents also have to aid in an honest appraisal of their youngster’s potential.
Ugh… I hate questions that require more philosophy than science. However, since I’m the guy folks most often turn to when they’re scratching their heads over a hockey matter, I won’t duck the tough questions — like this one.
– Dennis Chighisola
Why Do Hockey Players Switch Teams?
The latest toughie comes from Carolyn B, a hockey mom from the Southwestern US. She has three children playing the game, and she’s quite obviously seen enough players jumping around to pose the following (slightly edited) email:
“Hi Coach Chic,
… I have three sons ages 13, 11, and 9 who play hockey. I have what I think is a simple question for you.
Why do so many kids hop teams/rinks?
Short back story… My two sons are going on their 6th year of playing travel hockey. They have played all six years for the same organization… They are the last two remaining kids from their respective Mite A and Mite B teams that are with the organization. I realize that travel hockey is a business and people can go where they want but it seems that so many get stars in their eyes like their kids are going to make it in the big leagues. Only my 13 year old has asked if he could possibly try out for (another organization) as that is where his best friend has gone to play. I simply tell him that as a mom of 4 who lives 7 minutes from our home rink I am not driving across town so that he may be able to win a few more games. Am I wrong?
We are trying to teach our kids life lessons here… How to be responsible, how to be organized, how to be a good teammate, how to be a leader, how to win graciously and lose graciously (not an easy one for my oldest). They have learned that many friends come and go but those who are your true friends will remain so even though they may play somewhere else. They have witnessed terrible parent behavior in the stands and my oldest has even been sworn at by a coach during a game.
This is a new year approaching. My oldest was so happy that he made the Bantam AA team that he jumped for joy. Now, he’s watched three of those players peel off to another organization because those parents feel the other team will be “better”. My oldest said it best when I asked him how he felt about it… ‘It’s not a big deal mom, it’s just for fun!’
I don’t feel that everyone should just play at the rink near their house. But, I do question parents motives who move from team to team…searching for the big win. I WANT my kids to win and lose. It’s easy to win. It’s a lot harder to lose.
Sorry, guess this wasn’t so short but I see it happen every year to my kids with their friends peeling off and it bothers me.
Thanks and have a wonderful day!
Actually, I’m glad Carolyn went into such detail in her email, because she’ll help me later explain at least a little of what I’ve seen in youth hockey over my many years.
As for the things I’ve seen, let me suggest that there are a lot of reasons families leave one youth hockey program for another. Some reasons are good, and some not so. I think Carolyn also reminds us that families are involved in hockey for a myriad of reasons. From where I sit, however — and within reason, I find it hard to judge what another family chooses to do — with their time and with their money.
Before going any further, I guess I have to explain my frequent use of the term “family”, instead of always talking about the player or players. In most instances, decisions to stay or go usually involve a family commitment based on a lot of things. Besides, kids don’t write checks, kids don’t drive the car to rinks near and far, and kids don’t usually get to weigh the difference in one commitment or the other.
And here’s something I’ve always said (or written)…
I honest to God believe there’s a spot in hockey for all sorts of approaches.
At one end of the spectrum, I can totally understand a youngster (with the help of his or her parents) wanting to go as far as possible in the game. Can anyone truly blame him or her? And, can anyone blame a parent for helping a youngster who displays a great deal of interest — in anything, be it scouts, go-carts, chemistry studies or hockey? (More on that last sentence in a few secs.)
But I love just as much the kids (or families) who can get all they want from hockey in a lower-key, fun approach to the game. Truly, you don’t have to be a hockey nut for me to like you, and you don’t have to eat, drink and sleep the sport to make me happy.
Again, I think there’s a spot for all different approaches or attitudes towards hockey. If there’s ever a problem with that, it’s when the two extreme mentalities are forced together on the same team. In other words, there’s bound to be a clash when several families want to do the extras and another segment of the roster is satisfied with the bare minimum.
Something just came to mind as I wrote that last paragraph… In most instances, youth organizations I’ve dealt with have had several competitive levels within a given age bracket. That’s a good thing for a lot of reasons, including usually separating families of different intensity levels. I mean, the more into-it players usually make the A team, while the less into-it usually play on the C’s.
What just struck me is that some more intense players might want to strive for a AA or AAA team, and that often requires moving to another program.
Then, before getting to the heart of this topic, let me mention one more problem I see far too often. Actually, this is probably one of two things that drives me crazy the most. For, there are some out there who say they’re serious about hockey, but their commitment level tells a different story. You can identify this one — usually led by an overbearing parent who wants his or her child on the highest level team. The problem is that the parent knows in his or her heart that the family won’t show a serious commitment once the teams are picked. (Heart be still… )
Then, pardon my crudeness for suggesting that moving, solely to play on a winning team, is pretty close to idiotic. I say it’s close, since it might make sense if a kid is one of the top players on a top team — and there’s a chance he or she might have some sort of future in the game. On the other hand, if a youngster is on the lower third of a successful roster, there’s the likelihood he or she is a non-factor, and can be replaced with almost anyone. Oh, it might sound good when mom or dad brags at the office watercooler, but the reality is that there aren’t usually that many great players on a great team.
What I also can’t handle is the kid or family that moves a lot, either because they’re never happy, or because they can’t get along with others for more than one season. My prediction for those types is that their so-called careers are over before they’ve even begun. Down the road, no coach is going to want to touch them with a ten foot poll.
Okay, so what are some of the good reasons hockey players (or families) switch teams?
I’d say that the best — and maybe the only really good — reason is that the family is looking for a better bang for their buck (although money doesn’t have to enter into this). Just as American’s move to a pricier neighbor or switch to a luxury car when conditions warrant, I see nothing wrong with a hockey family deciding to “move up” — to what they perceive is going to include better coaching, better practices, a more competitive playing schedule, etc.
Very much connected with the above is the fact that kids change as the years pass by, and this is something I think Carolyn has to understand… In most organizations, 50 or 60 smiling little tykes attend a beginner clinic on close to the same level. Over time, however, some kids take to the sport more seriously, some seem to be naturals or they work hard and excel, while some others remain average or just a hair to either side of average.
What I’m getting at here is that it should make sense for children to change with each new season, and that their needs, wants and aspirations should change accordingly. Again, I said earlier that I appreciate all the different approaches to hockey, and I’m suggesting right now that we should respect any family’s interest in either staying or going elsewhere, to find either a faster or slower paced program.
Now, Carolyn seems like a great lady, and I’m not about to give her a hard time here, especially since she’s entrusted me with answering her question. Still, there are a couple of things in her email that need addressing…
For whatever reason, it’s become fashionable for folks to bash any youngster who takes the game extra-seriously, or for the parent/s who try to help their youngster excel at something he or she loves. I presume it’s still politically correct to tell a kid that he or she can grow up to become president, and it’s likely okay to tell him or her that becoming a doctor or lawyer or architect is okay. On the other hand, we’re evidently not supposed to ever mention a kid’s want to be a professional athlete of any sort.
Actually, I don’t encourage kids to think about the pros, myself. I don’t discourage them, though, either… I will support a youngster who wants to strive for a high school and/or Junior team. And, if they find success in Juniors, they have every right to aim for playing at a good college. Of course, a kzillion things enter into a player being worthy for the pros a little later, including luck. But again, if Carolyn is willing to tell one of her kids that he or she has no right dreaming about becoming president, I guess I can tell hockey players henceforth that they have no chance at playing pro.
Oh, and there’s one more thing… I know I at least hinted at this a little earlier, in that I see no reason for one family to second guess another when it comes to staying or going.
Oh, I totally agree with Carolyn’s desire to find the best situation for her entire family, and that includes picking a program and rink that is convenient to her home. Why go elsewhere if she doesn’t have to? Of course…
Ya, of course… If we respect her decision to remain with the home program, year after year, wouldn’t it also be fair to respect the decisions other families are making?
What I’m hoping isn’t happening is that Carolyn is looking for company in her misery. In other words, the choice to remain close to home seems important to her, but she can’t hold it against others if they’re not seeing things in the same way. And, by what her email is suggesting to me, those who are moving elsewhere seem to be in the majority.
Lastly, something else has been bothering me as I’ve typed this piece. For, I’ve been thinking more and more with each paragraph that there’s perhaps something wrong with Carolyn’s home program and something right — or more attractive — to the place or places her boys’ teammates are going. If that’s the case — and if Carolyn really cares, it might be a good idea that she not only stay at home, but also stay and fight. I mean, if her home program is lacking in some areas, perhaps it’s worthwhile for her and some others to make things right. The effort, I’ll suggest, just might be worth it.
Just in case you still might doubt this old coach is ahead of the curve…
– Dennis Chighisola
Don’t be the Last in Hockey to Discover Innebandy!
Some of your favorite European players, who are showing their stuff in the NHL today, grew up with innebandy (or floorball). As you’ll discover in the following video, the National Hockey League is getting into it, Hockey Canada started using the sport about 8-years ago, while I learned about it and started promoting it — as a great cross-trainer for hockey players — about 3- or 4-years ago.
With that, don’t take my word for it, but check out this video…
Now, long time members know I’ve forever been steering my students, players and you away from year-round hockey, or specializing too much in that sport. As I’ve suggested, playing ice hockey for close to 12-months out of the year tends to limit a developing youngster’s growth in athleticism, and I even believe it ultimately subjects players to certain kinds of injury.
So, probably since about 1980, I’ve been recommending that players put their skates away for at least a few months, and undertake the likes of dryland exercises, strength training, and certain track events, as well as sports like baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and roller hockey. For sure, I’m thinking about the physical benefits involved here, but I’m also very much concerned about the awesome mental distractions — and mental challenges — these activities promise. Better yet, I like my guys to get away and try something else so that they ultimately die to return to the ice.
Now, along comes innebandy — or floorball, offering a myriad of physical and mental challenges that are close to hockey yet far enough removed to make an off-season fun and extremely productive — especially for young hockey players.
So, want to find a floorball program in your area? Or, might you consider starting a program yourself? Stay tuned, because I think I (and a number of others) will be able to help you very soon!
This late update (June 14, 2013): About a week ago, when I posted this article, I felt it served two purposes: 1) to promote a great new sport, and 2) to call this new sport to the attention of my loyal hockey following.
Now that this post has taken off, though, and now that it’s probably received as many comments as any hockey related piece I’ve ever produced, I think I have to talk with my CoachChic.com members one more time…
First, I am a “hockey guy”, I have been since I was about 9- or 10-years old, and I’ll remain one until God assigns me a new lockerroom.
On the other hand, I have fallen in love with floorball — for that new game’ sake, for the wonderful people I’ve met within that game already, and most importantly, for your sake. Yes, if you take a few minutes to scan the Floorball category I set up (under Highlight Reel Skills) a few years back, you will find some interesting articles, and especially some interesting videos. And, if you try to watch those through my old eyes, you should see how I envision that game enhancing a young hockey player’s stick skills, offensive and defensive thinking, and conditioning. In fact, I’ll also suggest that floorball encourages the trait of athleticism better than a lot of games we Americans traditionally play.
With all that, here’s the article…
The title question is one I hear often these days. But the fact that hockey people in the United States have been exceedingly slow in getting on the floorball bandwagon doesn’t surprise this old hockey guy one bit.
Before digging into this subject, appreciate that I am mostly going to attack this from the youth hockey perspective. In the end, though, I’ll try to also address the problems related to floorball’s introduction to adults, and to the general public or non-hockey people.
Oh, and while I always attempt to deal fairly with any subject, know that I can’t help expressing a lot of my personal feelings when on a subject like this.
– Dennis Chighisola
Why Are US Hockey Folks Slow to Embrace Floorball?
Earlier today I made mention through the various social media sites about working on this article. A long-time hockey friend from Texas messaged shortly after that, informing me that, “This should be interesting “ I knew quite well what he was getting at, because I guess I have become rather well known for calling things the way I see ‘em. With that, here goes…
If you want my personal (and professional) opinion, and a short answer to the above question, it’s that most hockey folks tend to be slow to get on board with anything new, and they’re especially slow when it involves anything outside their comfort zone.
To be even more blunt — but as honest as I can be, I’ll suggest that the youth hockey masses tend to be sheep-like, and tend to only follow when someone they know has dared to try something new, and then recommends it to them.
I am not putting down my fellow American hockey friends. I’ll always love them. However, I have found the above to be true in countless circumstances.
Now, in recent years, I guess I’ve been known for pioneering a number of new approaches to hockey training. The label, “pioneer”, wasn’t my idea, but instead it came from a lot of others who either did or didn’t join me in exploring new ways to do things.
This aside… Many years ago, I read from a pretty wise man that, “You can always tell the innovator. He’s the one with arrows in his back.”
Oh, did I ever know what he was trying to say, because I’d already accumulated a closet full of bloodied shirts.
What happens when one proposes something new, is that folks come out of the woodwork to shoot him or her down. It’s not the regular hockey guy or gal who does it, but more probably a few with agendas of their own.
Ya, those with agendas of their own… No matter what an innovator might be proposing, there’s always someone out there seeing any kind of change as a threat. For some, it’s a threat to their pocketbooks, while to others it’s a threat to their status or ego — in that someone else has the gall to steal a little of the limelight and maybe help quite a few of their followers.
I saw that stuff happen when I returned from my 1979 studies in the old USSR. I brought home with me some ideas for off-ice training, plyometrics and over-speed training that would take a good 15-ish years to become relatively accepted in US youth hockey circles. Of course, coaches at the highest levels of North American hockey were adopting the Soviets’ training methods, ever since the ’72 Showdown at the Summit. But there were as many less aware skills instructors who were afraid of change, and they were bashing anything that wasn’t done a kzillion years ago, by the likes of Cyclone Taylor, Eddie Shore or Rocket Richard.
And, oh, did the powerskating gurus scream when I unveiled the best skating invention ever. Of course, perky little figure skaters who’d found a home (and a lot of bucks) in hockey, screamed because they hadn’t a clue about the science behind my Skater’s Rhythm-bar. So did the local skating gurus — who were actually climbing off telephone poles or out from under lube jobs — fear that opening folks’ eyes to the science of skating would undermine their loyal following.
Ironically, I don’t think the fallout was quite as bad when I recommended using in-line skates for ice hockey training. As for the pioneering, I didn’t invent in-lines, nor did I cause the craze that had ice players twirling around nearly every driveway and parking lot from coast to coast. What I did do was discover that I could teach almost everything I’d previously done on the ice with future pros and college stars, without the need for costly ice. Better yet, I’d discovered that — with a few caveats — there were some physical qualities that could actually be gained easier on wheels than on blades.
Trust me, that there were more instances where I’d attempted to convey a better way for hockey training — or cross-training, and that some group always seemed to take offense, spread falsehoods about the new idea, and prevent a lot of players from becoming even better.
Two other factors also tend to undermine the general acceptance of new ideas…
Old wives’ tales drive me crazy. The problem is, as off the wall as most of them are, they’re real and true in the minds of those who continue to spread “the word”.
So are the loud ones in the stands or lockerrooms oftentimes dangerous, as they freely spread advice — as if it was gospel — from someone who has less of a clue than they. In other words, a guy who really doesn’t know what he’s talking about tells another who is absolutely lost who tells another who hasn’t a clue.
My point to all the above is that the naysayers do a lot of harm, and they’re quite often responsible for slowing the progress of America’s hockey development.
Now, just so you know, I don’t just believe every new idea that comes down the pike. So, don’t think that’s what I’m suggesting here. However, I do give just about everything a chance, I try to compare it to what I know about the sciences, and I also attempt to use some common sense in evaluating the new idea. My hope is that I do just the opposite of those earlier described naysayers, and get the word out about things that can help players, parents and/or coaches. I hope I never hype anything or shoot it down purely for selfish reasons.
All that said, how about floorball?
It’s quite possible there are some out there who are talking it down — because it might hurt their business, or because they don’t understand what that sport might be able to do for a lot of ice players. The wives’ tale thing might be in effect some, with old-time coaches and parents thinking a game isn’t good unless it’s hockey. I’ll argue both points, though, believing floorball could be extremely helpful to our game (in ways you may not have realized), and also believing more good can come from that relatively new sport than any harm.
On the latter… With all the hype about floorball’s potential for enhancing offensive skills, my mind has been racing lately with the ways I could reinforce defensive principles and positioning within the floorball game. I’m serious; just watch some floorball action to see what I mean.
Still, I sense that floorball isn’t getting the resistance some other new hockey related activities have. Instead, I think that most hockey people don’t even know it exists. Ya, in other words, I’m partly blaming some of the problems on the floorball people who need to somehow find more or better ways to promote the game.
Personally, I grumped quite a bit when I first became interested in floorball. I mean, strongly believing in the way it could help ice players, I was willing to promote it — with a little help.
My way of seeing things led me to believe that the floorball equipment companies were going to benefit greatly in the end from my efforts. Yet, they weren’t willing to help one iota, maybe with some discounted sticks and balls, for example. That seemed penny wise and pound foolish, if you ask me, that they wouldn’t seed their sport in as many areas as possible. After all, they’d stand to gain hugely once leagues and training programs were established.
And my take is that leagues aren’t going to get going without some prior exhibitions. So my thought was to invite a bunch of kids local to a given area, give them some quick skill demonstrations, maybe show a short video on what the game looks like at higher levels, and then dump a bunch of sticks and balls out for the kids to fool around with. I’d do other things, too, but I’m sure you get the general idea. You’re probably also sensing that a lot of kids would have a blast fiddling with a stick and ball, and they’d surely love playing a brief game. So, why one equipment company wouldn’t see the same value in that is beyond me.
Oh, excuse me… There ultimately was a great guy from Texas who visited with me back in MA, and I was so grateful for the help he promised that I planned to dig right in. The prospects of moving and coaching hockey in Florida waylaid that, however, and I’m bummed that it did.
FYI… I think that guy I met last year has something going down there in Texas, and I know my friend, Mike B, has done a great job in promoting floorball up in Wisconsin. I understand there’s also something going on south of me here in Florida. Still, that’s not enough. It’s awesome that the guys I’ve mentioned have done what they’ve done, but the promotions have to be done on a far greater scale to really sweep the nation. (Oh, if I could have grabbed the floorball promotions by the horns way back when.)
Now, having given my impressions of what has really slowed the expansion of that awesome sport, let me share a few more thoughts on the subject…
First, if there happens to be a backward thinking rink owner or USA Hockey exec reading this, I know there’s the possibility that you — like some of the earlier noted nawsayers — might believe a new sport will take some money out of your pockets. Ha. To me, that’s a small way of looking at things.
I’d much prefer to consider a mom or dad who is a hockey fan, but either can’t afford youth hockey payments for their child, can’t afford ice hockey gear, can’t make the commitment required for an ice team, or just isn’t sure whether the child will like the sport or not. Floorball offers an answer to all of those problems, being far less expensive to outfit and play, it likely requires an easier commitment, and it basically gives anyone a chance to experience near-hockey action without skating as a prerequisite.
I’ll suggest that three things are going to happen once youngsters get involved in floorball… 1) They may not like it and they’ll drop out. 2) Some will find it their cup of tea, and they’re going to stick with the sport for a long, long time. 3) More than a few are going to excel, and both they and their parents are going to begin wondering how they’d fair on the ice. Hmmmmmm… Could it be that floorball is a perfect stepping stone or intermediate step towards ice hockey participation? I think so.
And, while I’ve mostly focused on youth players here, I’ll suggest that floorball is an awesome sport for men and women. Just watch some game action to see how it could be a blast for hockey enthusiasts, and great exercise for those looking to stay fit. Better yet, I think the same three things noted above could happen with adults, and I also suspect that parents who play floorball would be inclined to get their children involved in that sport or the ice version. Again, we’re creating more hockey fans through floorball, and we’re also offering a similar experience to ice hockey for any NHL fan who gives floorball a try.
This late entry… My Facebook friend, Kevin S, made a very valid point today, and one I completely forgot about when I composed the original article. Kevin reminded me/us that thousands of guys already play another version of off-ice hockey, variously labeled as dek hockey, street hockey or ball hockey. I’m sure his inference was that most of those participants are satisfied with their game, and that they wouldn’t be interested in a new one. I have a slightly different feeling, and I’d just love to put a floorball stick in some of their hands — let them fiddle with a ball a bit, and just see if they aren’t psyched to try the new game.
Secondly, I don’t think most ice (or roller) hockey players realize just how close they might be to making a US National Team. Yup. Our country already has such a thing for floorball, and I’m guessing that the competition isn’t nearly as intense right now for that team as it will be down the road (or as it would be to make the National or Olympic teams on-ice). Right now, I think experienced ice hockey players have an advantage moving into floorball — with both puck-skills and an ability to think the game.
It also kinda makes sense to me, that the floorball door is wide open to athletes across this great continent. (How many kzillion is that, anyway?) In other words, I’d surely invite ice and roller players to give it a try, but without the need for skating skills or expensive gear, the floorball powers that be should look to attract any youngster or oldster willing to give the game a try.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve heard the plaint about US hockey not attracting as many great athletes as other sports. I’m sure you can appreciate that. Youngsters (often encouraged by their parents) in places like Canada and Russia, among others, die to play their country’s favorite sport. And with that, many of their nations best athletes play hockey. On the other hand, it’s more likely that kids in the US (encouraged by their parents) are more likely to think baseball, football and basketball first. Add to this hockey’s cost, and the fact that it tends to be played more in pockets spread across the land, and it’s probably easy to understand why a Michael Jordan, a Mickey Mantle, or a Jerry Rice didn’t think to play ice hockey. And, if any of the above made you think “inner city” or cooler climates, consider that floorball can be played just about anywhere.
One last note… I know that floorball has been gradually catching on as a gym type sport within Canadian school systems. I can see that, since it’s a safer indoor game than ball hockey, and it also lends itself well to coed games. I’ll suggest that that’s an easier sell north of our border, too, just because of its closeness to hockey. I don’t see it being as easy a sell here in US school systems. Naw… First, varsity coaches down here — many of whom are Phys Ed teachers — push for their own sports to be played in gym classes. With that, my guess is that floorball will likely have to be popularized elsewhere before schools think to take it on.
In closing, I totally agree with my floorball friends, in that it’s a shame such a great sport just hasn’t caught on yet here in the states. However, I don’t believe all the usual problems associated with a new sport or a new form of cross-training are in play with floorball. Instead, I’m kinda blaming the floorball people — from enthusiasts to equipment companies — for shooting themselves in the foot.
I often joke that I deal with hockey folks from around the world. And I do believe I’ve either helped or exchanged ideas with guys (and even gals) from just about every hockey playing nation in the world. India, though?
As members should know, I’ve for a lot of years been using other sports to enhance my players’ ice hockey skills, and I even pioneered the use of in-lines for a very different way of cross-training. And it’s no secret that I’m into floorball lately, even hosting a special section on that awesome new sport right here on CoachChic.com.
Maybe it was for that reason Mrinal Naugain contacted me for help in developing a floorball league in his native India (or maybe it was also because I have over 15,000 social media contacts who might be able to help the both of us in this endeavor).
With that, here’s where Mrinal needs our help…
– Dennis Chighisola
Help for a Floorball Man in India
Here’s a message from Mrinal that surely made me smile:
My name is Mrinal, I Play Floorball for Delhi State Team in INDIA and train Kids in Schools and Universities with an Academy. As U are a well known figure in Sports with lots of experience, I was thinking that may be U could suggest me and give some advice..
We are Planning to form a Floorball League for School Kids and want to make it interesting for the kids as well as their parents.
I’ll appreciate it if U could Help Me With that with Ur Knowledge.
Actually, the day before posting this, I sent Mrinal some ideas of my own. A lot of folks who undertake a project like this make note of the most important things, while they often fail to list the simplest or most obvious ones. On the other hand, I shared with Mrinal my way of using visualization to not miss a thing. For example, with eyes closed or not, I’ll envision various events that would take place in a typical day of floorball.
Before a team even gets underway, it’ll have to have a table of organization — in a school setting that might include a director of athletics, a head coach, perhaps an assistant coach or two, someone qualified to care for injuries (like an athletic trainer), and maybe a team doctor. Since Mrinal’s league would include schools, each probably already has a team nickname, logo and traditional uniform colors. But the new floorball team will likely require home and away uniforms, and the equipment required to play the game — from sticks to goalie gear to nets to lots of practice balls to a first aid kit and other related tools. Spare gear ought also be considered, along with special balls to be used for games.
Envisioning league operation, it would be beneficial to have someone in charge — like a league commissioner, to help with the early organization, to pull everyone together, and then to oversee the season-long adherence to league bylaws and rules. And the latter suggests that a meeting of league organizers will have to decide on whether to join an international group or federation (if there is one), and to draft or sort out the bylaws, as well as review the rules the league will play under. My guess is that there aren’t many (if any) experienced floorball referees floating around India, so it’s possible a stable will need to be recruited and then trained. A league commissioner could surely assign game officials, but most ice hockey leagues have a referee in chief take care of that. A league playing schedule with a playoff format also has to be devised. And in this day and age, a league website seems a necessity, and so could each member team have an on-line presence.
Sitting back and picturing a typical game day, travel to away games has to be planned, perhaps with the added costs of meals or even overnight accommodations. Hosting a home game can go from basic to fancy, but at minimum the playing arena will need a working scoreboard and clock, along with an official scorer. Some leagues in ice hockey require an on-site athletic trainer and/or other emergency medical staff. At the completion of each game, there should be a designated method for conveying official stats to the league office, with results and other pertinent announcements ultimately being posted on the league website.
Phew… That’s it for me. Having had my say, I know quite a few floorball experts pass through here, and I would love their input. (Administrative types from either ice or roller hockey might be able to help, as well.)
And, besides needing to hear any corrections on what I’ve said or missed, there are a few things I sense those more qualified than I could offer young Mr Naugain…
- Has anyone ever created a checklist/s for running any phase of a team or league — for either hockey or floorball?
- Can you point Mrinal towards some sample bylaws, and/or special rules you may have used for a floorball league?
- Even if you don’t have any written materials, perhaps you could let Mrinal know of any problems you’ve seen that he might be forewarned about.
Again, this is a chance to help a fellow sportsman, while also helping advance a great new game. So, please leave your advice and comments below. ~ Thanks, from Mrinal and me.
Talk about a program whose time has come. But, let me jump right into it and explain why. (This program will definitely be for members-only.)
– Dennis Chighisola
Help with Age-specific Hockey Training
If I’ve ever had a knack, it’s for solving hockey problems. Of course, that’s easy to say, but it really involves a lot more.
In many instances, solving problems requires knowing what to do during a given time in a player’s development. Some of that might come naturally, but I also believe that it comes from having so many experiences in the game. In my case, having coached for over 40-years, and having dealt with hundreds of players per year, there’s a likelihood that I’ve seen the same problems arise numerous times. You can also mix in there my scientific studies and especially what I’ve come to know about the principles of motor learning.
With that, let me share a couple of personal stories that will help members appreciate where I’m going with this…
In all honesty, my methods weren’t all that scientific when I first started teaching. In fact, my way was probably more artful than scientific in the earliest years, and I was mostly learning the science of training as I went along. I’d already started borrowing from other sports, though, as you shall shortly discover…
My son was coming along in my early clinics back then, and I’m glad that he and my other students of that time got a great skating foundation with lots of work on edge control. If there’s one thing I didn’t realize back then, some of those edge drills tend not to be so good for certain players as they mature. Still, by putting video to use and then delving into the science of skating ultimately helped all of my students of that era become technically solid in their skating mechanics.
At one point, I took an interest in the training methods used by the former Soviet Union coaches. Their idea of asymmetric stickhandling was one of the first things I built into my clinics and camps, and it has to be one of the reasons my son and my other students were ultimately known for their puck skills. My 1979 studies in Moscow of the USSR brought lots of off-ice training ideas to my training, along with an emphasis on athleticism. (It was the summer of ’79 when jump ropes first became prominent at all of my clinics and camps.)
The shooting progressions I devised back then were actually borrowed from what I knew about a football quarterback’s training. Strange, maybe, but true. You see, QB’s of that time practiced often by throwing while on one or two knees, this to isolate and strengthen their arms. I reasoned the same approach would benefit hockey shooters if they were able to propel a puck with only their upper bodies. (Boy, did I take this form of drilling to another level for the next generation of skaters.)
Perhaps the best thing that happened to me, my son and all the other kids in those early classes was that I became pretty good at solving the younger Chic’s skill related problems. For example, I invented the ToeDrag skating drill — partly in answer to a request by the head coach at Notre Dame University, but that and some adaptations to that drill were ultimately perfected in my clinics and hockey schools. Noticing that my son and some other top students needed even more help with their speed, I gained the advice of a speed skating instructor to totally change the way I’d have certain players’ skates shaped and sharpened. And, I borrowed a drill from tennis that did absolute wonders in helping my son and others develop very quick feet.
Much like the adjustments we made to the kids’ skate blades, I discovered that a hockey player could borrow from certain strengths to gain in other areas. As an example, because my son had become such an excellent stickhandler, I learned that we could lengthen his stick slightly — to enhance his shot — without his losing much in the way of puck control.
Talk about solving a problem, consider me being challenged to help an absolute beginner make her first hockey team within about 2-months…
Actually, the young lady called my office with that request, and I didn’t know what to tell her (other than I’d try). I’m sure she’ll admit today that she was pretty awful back then (and I still have the video to prove it).
As for that video, I almost wore out the tape, running and rerunning it until I arrived at one of the best hockey inventions ever.
Typical of all beginners, that young lady moved in a very uncoordinated way, with her hands and legs being totally out of sync. So, what I decided I had to do — in a hurry — was to slightly fool her tryout coaches, and make her at least look like she’d been skating for years. I accomplished that with my new invention, and she ultimately did make that team (phew).
And, like all the drills and new methods I’d developed for my son’s sake, the Skater’s Rhythm-bar later helped every one of my future skaters.
Now, I’ve taught literally thousands of beginners, and I’ve taught thousands more middle aged kids and older guys (and gals). However, it wasn’t until the early-90′s that I was able to guide a youngster from his first time on the ice until went off to college.
Ya, enter my grandson at about 4-years old. If he was going to be involved in the game his dad played, I’d have to be the one to help him do it.
Again, it was the early 1990′s, I’d worked with a couple of generations of players by then, I’d developed one of the most popular Learn-to-skate and Learn-to-play programs in the New England area, and I’d done that mostly from a combination of knowing the sciences of young bodies and knowing how to keep little ones laughing and coming back for more.
To my grandson’s benefit, he came along quite awhile after I’d developed an interesting off-ice form of drilling I dubbed SkateDrills. I’d used them with the likes of high school players, but some simple adaptations made them awesome for beginners. So, throughout his earliest years, my grandson was able to work on skating and footwork — at my weekly clinics, in my summer hockey schools, and even at home if he wished.
By that time I’d also begun pioneering the use of in-lines as cross-trainers for ice players. In fact, I’d discovered that I was able to use most of the same drills on wheels that I’d long before used with kids who would become NHL draft choices and other high level players. With that, the youngest Chic probably spent as much time on wheels as on blades.
Now, as I’ve said in one of my most popular videos, “I seldom did anything extra for that young guy, other than give him access to what I believed was one of the best training programs around.” And, despite having by that time worked with plenty of elite level players, I never rushed things, or taught him stuff that was beyond what he needed to conquer his own level. What that means for my members is that everything needed to help a very young player (as well as most older ones) can be found right here in the CoachChic.com site. The real secret to getting the most of all that information is to use it at the right time in a youngster’s development.
A funny thing, in reference to that kind of information being readily available… In the earliest years, my grandson played in the local town youth program, and then supplemented that ice-time with a weekly clinic and some summer hockey schools with me. Through those early years, I frequently fielded questions from his teammates’ parents, and on occasion I’d offer a suggestion or two. I found it both funny and sad, however, that few folks heeded my advice. So, while my grandson might be dribbling circles around others with a super-light stick (because the science suggests so), most of his mates couldn’t move the puck a lick with long, heavy ones.
At just 7- and 8-years old, one guy at the rink used to say about my grandson, “I get goosebumps every time I see him shoot the puck!” That guy knew a really wispy shaft was what sent pucks flying off the stick-blade like a slingshot, but evidently none of the other parents cared. Oh, well… I think he led just about every team he played for in scoring through his youth hockey years, and most of the years he was in high school, prep school and college.
I can’t remember exactly when I invented the SMG (the plastic simulated goalie), but it became a fixture in my little guys’ clinics and in our driveway. Little wonder my little buddy began sniping at an early age, and picking corners around defenseless little goalies.
As I wrote recently in another post, I kinda skirted USA Hockey’s no body-checking and no slapshot rules — well, at least when it came to training. I know the slapper takes coordination, so he polished that skill in the driveway for hours at a time. He also learned to angle and steer early-on, and to be the last little guy standing during Mite and Squirt game collisions, these skills mostly mastered while attending my body-checking clinics and camps.
Through the years, my young buddy also had access to programs I’d put together or invented for developing the mental side of the game. I’m sure he still recalls by heart my “Rules for Winners”, he learned positioning working within my MP Drill Format, and he was certainly challenged while engaging in my Think ‘ Skate program.
By the time he got to high school — and later in college, the Motion Lab and my weekly off-ice training sessions proved awesome for my grandson’s speed, strength and conditioning.
Am I satisfied with the way he developed over all those years? I’d say so. I know he felt good about himself during his youth hockey years — one of my biggest aims for any young player, and it had to be a boost to his confidence later when he became a two-time high school all-star and all scholastic, when he set a number of scoring records in college, and as he currently entertains feelers about continuing on into pro hockey.
Okay, I hope you found these sample stories interesting. However, my real point in all of this is to suggest or emphasize two things to my members…
1) No matter the age group, I’m pretty good at knowing the appropriate physical and mental traits that need to be developed so that a youngster feels good about himself or herself. Get it at the right time and you’re likely golden; get it a few years too late and there’s a good chance your game will always suffer. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
2) Almost everything I’ve mentioned above is explained within the 600+ pages here at CoachChic.com. I’m not hiding anything, although there are a few things I still need time to write about or produce a video about.
Still, if there’s one thing I’ve realized lately when it comes to this website, it’s that there are almost too many entries for one parent, one coach or one older player to sort through. Sorry ’bout that, but I haven’t ever wanted to miss an opportunity to pass on more advice or information to you.
Along with all the above, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this one… “Coach Chic, what would you do if you had a __-year old player?” Quite obviously, I’d have the answer to that one, just as I did for my son, for my grandson, for the young lady who inspired my Skater’s Rhythm-bar, and for countless other students. That’s kinda what I do, really, pinpointing where a player is in his or her game, helping him or her catch up, and then sending that player on the way to feeling good in the game.
So, here’s what I’m planning… My first entry here is going to be titled something like “If I Had a Toddler”. That entry is going to include some new ideas, but it will especially link to articles, videos and audio programs from within this site that I deem important to parents of 3- and 4-year olds (hey, I have to start somewhere — ). I might have to think a little on the next entry in that series, but it’ll probably focus on a youngster in the 6-year old range. From there, I suspect I’ll move up the latter, going from Mites to Squirts/Atoms to Pee Wees to Bantams to high schoolers and so on.
I know these will be something special, which explains why they’ll always remain within the members-only area.
For those (outsiders) who hope to gain access to that program, I’ll briefly continue the following deal…
Just click the link below to have total access to everything in this site for just $1.00 for a full month (actually,
it’ll be for 32-days). Understand that you can cancel your subscription at any time. After your $1 trial month is
over, you’ll be billed just $9.97 per month (less than the cost of a skate sharpening), but you can cancel at any time…
Aaaaaah, should young hockey players be allowed to body-check or not? That’s a question that’s raged on for a lot longer than many of today’s hockey parents and coaches might think.
Actually, my son, now in his mid-40′s, just escaped the first passage of such a rule. I mean, he was just moving into Pee Wees when they (AHAUS or USA Hockey) eliminated body-checking for all levels below that. So, whether it was good for him or not, Michael was able to give and take body-checks from his very first game (at 4-years old) to the very end.
Just thinking back, and trying to remember… I don’t believe Mike experienced more than a few dings in all his years of youth hockey. (As I joked often back then, he was safer being covered from head to toe with hockey armor than he was playing or riding a bike around our neighborhood.) For sure, the game got rougher, and he sustained more than his fair share of injuries beyond youth hockey, but that was as he passed through high school, Juniors and the pros.
Way back then, I was writing a hockey advice column for a popular magazine, and I lit into the powers that be pretty regularly and pretty strongly. What might surprise you was that I spent more ink on their removing the slapshot from lower levels than I did in reference to body-checking. First, my claim was that such a shot took skill, and it was — like most skills — better learned at a young age. Secondly, I was noticing that kids weren’t out shooting in their driveways as often as they’d previously done, probably because the most exciting shot of all had been taken from them.
When I did go on a tear about body-checking, though, my frustrations were directed more towards the youth coaches at Mite and Squirt/Atom levels. I just wanted to scream to them that, “They’ve removed BODY-CHECKING from your game, not checking!” In other words, while the big hits were no longer allowed, the kids still should have been learning how to angle and steer and trap an enemy puckcarrier.
On the latter, one of the funniest and saddest things I’ve seen is when players just entering a body-checking level run straight at a puckcarrier — because they don’t know how to steer and trap, and they plaster themselves against the boards-glass like Wiley Coyote!
In more recent years, my feelings haven’t changed much on the need for slapshots and “checking” to be viewed as skills. And, in my teaching coach’s mind, body-checking would be easy as pie to teach if a kid already knew how to steer and trap a puck-carrying opponent.
Okay, so the arguments started all over again just a few years ago, when it was learned that USA Hockey intended to move body-checking up yet another 2-years. Things got particularly heated among those dealing with the affected level, or mainly parents and coaches of Pee Wees. Could I (or we) blame them? For, whether they were right or wrong, the whole matter was personal to them, and it involved their kids and their teams.
Understand that I’ve only had one dog in this fight over 30-plus years, that being Mike’s boy — my grandson, who wasn’t permitted to body-check or use the slapshot through his Mite and Squirt years.
Already having been able to observe the goods and bads of those rulings over a generation, I knew how to handle things for Tony C’s sake. I encouraged him to practice the slapshot at home in the driveway, and to this day (having just completed his college career), folks will tell you that his slapper is pretty frightening.
What many fail to realize about the non-body-checking levels of hockey is that they still contain frequent collisions. So, Anthony got plenty of early practice with contact — in my body-checking clinics and in my summer hockey schools. That’s yet another thing that seemed to stick with him, too, because he’s been super-strong on his skates ever since.
I mentioned most of the above for a specific purpose, that being to suggest that I view more of these types of topics from a teacher’s perspective than anything else. Even my magazine column zingers aimed at USA Hockey were from a teaching coach’s point of view, and had little to do with what most youth parents or youth coaches were screaming about.
I’ve also always at least tried to be a voice of reason (even if I might occasionally wield a venomous pen). And in that frame of mind, this whole thing about body-checking has me really, really thinking…
Although I sometimes accuse USA Hockey of being little more than a huge insurance agency, and making many of their decisions based on the costs of such, I think I understand their outward want to limit contact related injuries in the younger ages. I believe I’ve also heard them suggesting that some kids at younger levels quit playing because they’re intimidated by opponents who grow a little faster than they.
I might argue with the former, suggesting instead that more injuries occur because kids haven’t the skills to negotiate themselves out of trouble, nor can they control a fall or collide with the boards without serious consequences. I’ll also take exception to the latter excuse, believing that more kids quit at the Bantam and Midget levels — because hockey is no longer all that enjoyable, and because they’ve developed more interest in another sport, another hobby, girls/boys, or the chance to work.
Still, for the sake of the rest of this discussion, I want to focus on some things I’ve read and heard having to do with the need to reduce specialization in a given sport, to lessen the emphasis on winning, and to just generally make the game more fun for the kids.
That being said, I’m here to suggest that ice hockey in the US might be ripe for a bold new step (and so might Canada and many European nations consider it). Ya, what I’m proposing is the possibility of two separate forms of the game…
Those on the politically correct side of this issue will tell us that the game should be more like pond hockey for the kids. Having done much of that in my youth, I can vouch for the fun part. I also joined a lot of my old high school buddies on late night rental hours at local rinks, where we had a ton of laughs playing a game we loved. And so did I play a little adult men’s hockey, which was at least intended to be purely recreational.
On the flip side of the ledger, I grew up in youth hockey a kzillion years ago, and at a time when hardly any real teaching got accomplished. (In fairness to my old coaches, maybe it’s better to say that they just didn’t have access to all the resources current day coaches do.) The truth today is, many players want to keep improving and improving, and so do their parents want that for their kids.
So, at least personally, I see a huge wrestling match going on between those who want to see the game played purely for fun, and those who want to see their youngsters learn and develop skills and smarts for a possible future in the game. Oh, and before anyone climbs all over me at that so-called “future in the game” statement, I don’t have to be talking about making it to the NHL, but I could be looking to help kids who want to someday play on their high school’s varsity hockey team, and maybe even hope to get a crack at playing in college.
That stuff in mind, here’s my proposal… Why not create a separate track for hockey that is totally geared toward recreation — toward having fun? Given some time, I know I could arrive at rules that would prevent a single grownup from taking the game away from the kids. At the same time, youth hockey as we know it today could be left alone in a totally separate track.
Much like pond hockey and pickup games, no body-checking would be permitted at any level of my new kind of league. (For those who don’t know me, my brain isn’t wired like most others, and I’ve realized in just the last few minutes how no score would be kept for these games, but kids would still be psyched to come and compete.)
Okay, so that’s it. Call me nuts, if you will; I don’t even mind. At the same time, I’d like anyone passing through here to tick one of the choices in the below poll, and even leave a comment below that. You have my blessing, whether it’s with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. What I’d really love, though, are some positive ideas for ways something like this could become a reality. I think the idea could make just about everyone involved in hockey happy.
If you think my approach is a little (or a lot) outside the box, wait until you see
my scientific approach to all our game’s skills and tactics… Click here to gain one month’s
access to over 600 articles, videos and audio programs — for just $1.00.
With the hockey off-season now upon us, I thought my friend Jeremy Weiss’ recent podcast episode — on spring and summer training ideas — would be perfect for my CoachChic.com members. For sure, I already have tons of info on that subject here (with more to come), but it’s always a good idea to consider the ideas of others.
– Dennis Chighisola
Off-season Hockey Training Ideas — For Players and Coaches
Just click the arrow below to listen to Jeremy and his guest discuss their views on spring and summer off-season hockey training — for players of all ages, and their coaches…
Now, not everyone can piece together their own off-season off-ice training program. However, Jeremy has done just that in a program he calls the “S-3 Formula”.
With that, I’ve included below a short video on the S-3, and down below that an opportunity for you to sign-up for a spring and summer’s worth of great training aimed at helping any player dominate his or her opponent…Loading...
If you’d like a program that is done for you, Jeremy has just that for you. Click the following link for some great introduction videos, plus an opportunity to Train with the S-3 Formula
Yes, CoachChic.com does act as an affiliate for the S-3 Formula training program.
I’ve been working on three entries over the past few days (and nights), all with a common theme, as in the value of knowing as much as we can about a given topic. For sure, that’s what my first article, “Knowing Lots of Hockey Facts“, was about; that one set the tone for “All You’ll Ever Need to Know About Skate Sharpening” (coming soon); and it surely forms the background for this one.
Up front, let me tell you that this will be more than just an advertisement for my new on-line venture. I’m instead adding lots of good food for thought for anyone who might like to someday do what I do, or for anyone who oversees a rather large hockey organization.
With that, let’s explore my recent experiences in the Junior hockey game.
– Dennis Chighisola
A New Junior Hockey Scouting Service
I’m sure most members know that I got back into Junior hockey coaching last spring, and that I also doubled as the team’s General Manager for my brief time on the job. That’s the way duties are usually assigned, ya know — from Juniors and on up into minor pro hockey.
Most of you also know that I never really got out of that mindset — even when my team’s owner went off the deep end, or even when the fledgling league went belly-up. No, I continued helping some of the teen players I’d originally recruited, and then I continued to help recruit for two other Florida-based Junior teams.
As an aside here… I always considered myself lucky when I ran hockey schools and clinics, because I’d gotten to see the game from both extremes — helping beginners from what I’d experienced with pros, and actually sometimes helping the pros because I understood how some of their strengths and deficiencies began decades earlier.
What I’m suggesting is that my years of working on both sides of the Junior level also helped me a ton. I mean, it helped immensely that I dealt with recruiters as a former high school coach, and I ultimately became a pretty good recruiter myself when I later head coached in college. In fact, so did it help me as I followed my son through all the steps until he reached the pros, and then later followed my grandson through a similar path. (Actually, I also ran a summer Junior team for AHAUS back when I was coaching my high school team.)
Anyway, once I did get on the job down here in Florida, I made note of everything that worked and didn’t work in the recruiting game. I also built “systems” that I knew would not only work for our startup, but also ones that would work for a lot of years down the road.
When I say systems, in this regard I’m talking about arriving at methods that were written down and deemed repeatable.
Documenting how things should work included spreading certain steps on a calendar that spanned a year (although most of the vital stuff would take place over a six to nine month period).
I’ve mentioned a number of times elsewhere within these pages that my dad was a successful baseball coach, and that I was scouted a bit (probably by a blind guy) as a pretty speedy, switchhitting short stop. My high school football coach was also ahead of his time, and he went on to rate recruits for the New England Patriots via college game films. So, beyond knowing about talent “scouts” — the big boys, I also knew a lot about so-called “bird dogs”, or the guys who really beat the bushes for talent. Consequently, I built a system of bird dog types who promised to keep their eyes open for me in just about every corner of the hockey world — or from across both the US and Canada, and into most European hockey hotbeds.
What I learned in my few months on the job as a Junior team GM and coach would prove even more valuable to my latest endeavor. For, not only did I get to gain by my own day to day experiences, but I probably learned as much from my frequent interactions with guys in similar posts.
Quite obviously, those other guys were experiencing some of the same problems I was (some of them to a greater degree).
For sure, I learned from the other guys in our league. However, I think the seeds for running my own Junior Hockey Scouting Service first sprouted when I discovered what hockey execs in other leagues were willing to do in order to fill their rosters with good players.
Make no mistake about it: inking a single player to a Junior roster is a time consuming and expensive proposition…
Even if a worthy player initiates contact with the club, and expresses interest in signing, there’s much to be done to officially bring him into the fold. And I’d say the same for returning players from the previous year’s team who are eager to re-up.
The easy ones out of the way, though, an awful lot goes into completing the roster, with a lot coming out of the staff’s hide — with repeated phone calls, emails and social media messaging. Smart teams have impressive websites, and the smartest of them have a promotional video showing highlights of the organization, the home town, the home arena, and any extra amenities (like a team bus, off-ice training facilities, and more).
A team’s budget can take a pretty good hit when it comes to sending members of the staff to summertime showcases (or tournaments) where Junior eligible players are attempting to demonstrate their skills and game savvy to potential suitors. I’ve heard about some recruiters doing well at such showcases, while I know an equal number who have come up empty after spending quite a sum — on flights, car rentals, hotel rooms and lousy meals.
So do some teams or leagues run tryout camps yielding mixed results… If there’s something sad about these, it’s that such camps are run with drastically different things in mind: with some organizations having legitimate openings; while some need few or no players, and they’re only operating to pad their wallets.
Among the things I personally learned on the job is the fact that a lot of players lie. Yup, that’s right, even if they’d be doing themselves a favor by telling the truth. Here’s what I mean…
I don’t blame a kid one bit for hoping to make a really high level or a very prestigious team. And so would I understand if he’s hoping to stay closer to home by making a local team. What I don’t appreciate is the boy lying about it.
Of course, what the kid might not realize is that I (and lots of other coaches) catch on to that stuff pretty quickly. So, at least in my case, I sometimes pretended to hold a spot for a player I knew was telling me stories, while I’d written him off after about the second or third excuse. On the other hand, I was willing to do anything for the kid who told me right out of the gate that he was waiting to attend a very high level tryout camp, or waiting to hear from a specific team.
I think readers who haven’t yet been involved with Junior hockey might find one other thing fairly interesting, that having to do with the funding behind various levels of the game…
There are only a handful of leagues in the US and Canada where players don’t have to pay to play. In fact, the players in those leagues are treated extra well. For the most part, teams in those leagues play in great arenas and in burghs where a Junior hockey game is close to the only show in town. If you can appreciate it, such organizations can operate like mini-NHL franchises, with similar revenue streams — like ticket sales and some pretty lucrative sponsorship deals.
The greatest number of Junior teams across North America, however, are considered “pay to play”. In other words, while most teams in that category might bring in some revenue from ticket and ad sales, the bulk of their budgets are derived from what the players pay.
Consequently, a comparison of the two main types of leagues ought to suggest to you which kind requires the most effort to fill a team roster. Sure, execs at the highest levels have to do a great job at evaluating talent, but every player in the land wants to play for them. On the other side of the ledger, those recruiting for the pay to play type levels have to bust their buns to fill their rosters and ensure they have a season’s worth of operating capital.
If you understand the latter described group, perhaps you’ll appreciate the pressures I and my fellow Tropical Elite Hockey League GMs were under. I mean, we had to recruit between 20 and 25 players in order to satisfy our owners, outfit and equip our players, pay our own salaries, contract for all our home game and practice ice, fund the team’s travel to various showcases, and more.
Despite the fact that I’d signed more players than any other GM in our new league, it’s well documented how my owner panicked and ultimately limped back to Alaska.
If there’s anything I’m grateful for in all that transpired, it’s all the extra things I learned about the recruiting process, most of it described above. In particular, I discovered the relative costs of acquiring a player. And that kind of knowledge is what’s led me to form the Junior Hockey Scouting Service. As a matter of fact, I mentioned elsewhere on-line within the past few days that, a service such as the JHSS might not have only saved my job and my team, but it very well may have saved our entire league…
I mentioned earlier how much it costs to secure a player — in time, and in chasing around the country to various showcases and camps. Yet, what if I could pay a small fee for access to hundreds of players who say they want to join a good Junior hockey program. Hmmmmmm… It’s true, ya know, that there are likely thousands of kids out there right now who want a home, there are tons of organizations in need of good players, and the only real problem is in connecting the two. So, in essence, that’s what I’ve created within the Junior Hockey Scouting Service.
Lastly, as for the tie-in between this piece and those other two articles… Once again, I hope you see how learning more and more about a given topic helps one solve problems. In my case, the past year’s experiences showed me that there is in fact a problem, and that problem extends pretty much across North America, within USA Hockey and within AAU affiliated leagues.. Better yet, knowing more and more about the Junior hockey recruiting process helped me reason with better and better founded common sense. Ya, knowing a lot of hockey facts definitely does help one become a better problem-solver.
Update: Only a few days old, the discussions in this group are already proving to be on a good high level, with a lot of very insightful posts and comments.
Talk about something that just had to come, sooner or later…
As much as I like to stay positive — about hockey, and everything else in my life, the bulk of what I hear — around the rinks, on the telephone or on-line — tends to be a little towards the negative. Ya, parents are paying a lot of money, so they have certain expectations; the coaches are asked to meet some rather high expectations; and game officials struggle to meet their own responsibilities. Then, stuck in the middle, obviously, are the players.
So, as you’ll soon see, I’ve created what I hope is an awesome outlet for all us.
– Dennis Chighisola
What’s Wrong With Amateur Hockey?
A big fan of social media, and especially appreciative of the options provided within Facebook, I’ve created a new “group” setting I’ve dubbed “What’s Wrong With Amateur Hockey?” Here’s what I’ve said about it in the description:
“My hope is that we — hockey coaches, parents, players and I — can explore this topic with some seriousness. Chances are we’ll find it easy to list our complaints — and that will give us a good start. Maybe down the road, however, we’ll even arrive at better solutions than those currently entrusted with that job.”
In a way, I’m almost looking at that group as an extension of Coachchic.com, and here’s why…
Feedback is critical to me keeping a pulse on your hockey lives. Sure I love to hear about your accomplishments or how the information here might have helped you or your player/s. Still, I mainly deal with problems, or the things that aren’t going so well for you. As you’ve likely heard me say numerous times here, “I see my job as a problem-solver.”
With that, here’s a link to that new group on Facebook… What’s Wrong With Amateur Hockey?
If you’re on Facebook, just go to that page and ask to join the group. I’ll be sure to get you in, as soon as I see the request.
Call it nostalgia that had me post this old and faded photo here, because it sure will be a good reason for me to smile each time I pass through…
The 1977-78 Hobomock Chiefs
If I’m not mistaken, that was taken during the Montreal North Tournament, perhaps one of the nicest and best run tournaments I’ve ever been involved with.
Now, although I can recognize most of the guys (I did do a double-take seeing myself in the back there with the long hair and mustache), I’d love for passersby to help me identify everyone for sure.
As importantly, I’d love to be reminded of the few guys who were with us but didn’t make it into this photo. I know my son, Mike Chighisola, was out with a seriously cut finger, and I notice that a team captain and alternate are missing, as well as our other goaltender.
So, maybe anyone passing by could spread the word on this, and help to bring back a few more good memories.
Especially, I would love it if each of the players (and coaches) would leave a message below and let me know how you’re doing.
Thanks for the memories, guys
– Dennis Chighisola/
PS: I wouldn’t mind at all if other former Chiefs said hello, as well. We’re all family in this wonderful game!
Dennis suggests that members will gain even more from each show by downloading the MP3 file and listening to it — while driving, working, walking, exercising or relaxing. Oftentimes — within “the theater to your mind”, you’ll find that even new ideas will come to you (it works that way for Coach Chic)! To listen to the show on-line, just click the arrow on the player below.
Episode 2 — Show Notes: – Behind the scenes at “Coach Chic’s Hockey Secrets” – Hot Topic: Dealing with team water bottles – A different way to view penalties – The art and science of hockey training – The benefits of playing “off wing” – Tip: Taping the hockey stick blade
As members will come to realize, I laugh at myself plenty. Actually, I’ve always said that was a common trait among my many students who went on to play in the NHL or other elite levels. Hopefully (and I actually know) it serves me well in all that I do — in hockey, in business, and in my personal life.
I say that because I was probably the least techie guy you’d have ever met some 20-ish years ago. As I’ve written often, a good hockey friend (Roland Lacey of MediaRight Technologies) and some members of the MIT Women’s Hockey Team dragged me kicking and screaming onto the Internet.
Rolly Lacey is the one who really did it for me, though, and he actually built this site (and it’s forerunner) probably a dozen years back. You should have seen my face, though, the day Rolly told me that this site was almost complete, but that his own work was becoming so demanding that he’d have to “turn over the keys” to me. Gulp! (No, I’ll never forget those words, about his turning over the keys to me!)
Miracles of miracles… I’ve done okay for myself in catching up, as Rolly said I would. And I’ve even gradually dared try some new things within CoachChic.com. I’ve also more recently gotten to discover more about the guts to WordPress, or the inner workings of this site, thanks to my social media friend, Mike Mahony.
No fault of his, Rolly could only take care of those things that were needed to run a pretty darn good membership site. Still, I’ve just started discovering yet some other things — beyond the real essentials — that can help make CoachChic.com work all the better.
Until just recently, I never knew that new members could receive anything more than a thank you note when they joined. Forever, though, I’d wished that first-time members could be advised on how things should really work here, and I especially wanted them — or you — to know how to get the absolute most — from this site, and from me. Soooooo…
What I just discovered is a way to henceforth have a Welcome Letter delivered to each new member upon signup. If there’s a problem, long time members never received an introduction to the way things should work, or advice for getting the absolute most from their membership.
With that, I hope everyone (including non-members) will click the following link and scan that new Welcome Letter.
– Dennis Chighisola
PS: Don’t forget to tell me if you use either a smartphone or a computer to view this site.
Okay, don’t you dare laugh at The Old Coach on this one! Yes, despite the fact that I can do some things on a computer that would challenge most average folks, I must admit the following…
You see, I’ve never had cause to own a smart phone (nor have I really wanted one). Over recent years, I’ve either been working at a rink, driving to or from a rink, or close by my trusty laptop. Truly, there was just never a reason for me to have something bulky in my warm-up suit pocket or on a team bench (and, hey, I am kinda dedicated to the job when I’m at the rink).
Oh, I promise to get up to speed on that device pretty shortly. However, in the meantime, I’m hoping you can help me with something. Initially, just your answer to the following will help me — a lot:
– Dennis Chighisola
Lastly, although just those answers should really help, that poll’s structure doesn’t allow me to gain an even deeper understanding of your experiences here on the site. So, should you have more to share, I’d love to hear from you in a comment box below. The only way I can make things better for you is to get a better understanding of your difficulties or the way you view CoachChic.com.
Late Addition: It’s become apparent that few view this site on their phones. My problem now, is wondering if that is by choice or because it’s too difficult to negotiate or to enjoy all the site’s benefits from your phone. So, I’m adding a second question…
with your host — Dennis Chighisola
The show that offers you insight, tips, tricks and shortcuts to superior hockey play!
Coach Chic’s Hockey Secrets first aired in October of 2007, as a standalone on-line radio program (or podcast) offering serious hockey parents, coaches and players great insight, tips, tricks and shortcuts to superior hockey play. In March of 2009, this radio show became a special addition to the CoachChic.com membership site. Only for the sake of revamping this site was the show briefly removed. Henceforth — as of January of 2013, all the past episodes will be reintroduced, and then new shows will be produced right on their heels.
Dennis suggests that members will gain even more from each show by downloading the MP3 file and listening to it — while driving, working, walking, exercising or relaxing. Oftentimes — within “the theater to your mind”, you’ll find that even new ideas will come to you (it works that way for Coach Chic)! To listen to the show on-line, just click the arrow on the player below.
Episode 1 — Show Notes: – Hot Topic: Adapting to new rule interpretations – Promises for “Coach Chic’s Hockey Secrets” – Observations at a tennis tournament – Gap control in the defenseman’s 1 on 1 – Tip: Taping the butt-end of a hockey stick
Let hockey folks know their services are needed!
If you have a hockey related position available in your organization, please use a comment box below to explain. Also be sure that your post includes all of the following:
- List the position title, including the level of play if that’s applicable.
- List just a brief outline of duties necessary to that position.
- Note whether this is a paid position or whether it involves volunteering ones time.
- Note the starting date (month and year) that position must be filled.
- Note the location of this position, as well as whether travel is involved.
- Include minimum requirements for a successful applicant.
- Please advise applicants on a way for them to contact you.
- Your posting must include a valid email address (a telephone number is optional).
This should be just a cursory posting announcing the basics. It’s presumed a thorough investigation into an applicant’s qualifications will be carried out after initial contact.
All comments must be approved prior to posting. So, please allow one day between submission and its appearance here on the site. If there are problems within your posting, we’ll need your email address to clarify matters.
We reserve the right to change the above conditions at any time. We also reserve the right to screen job listings for anything that might be offensive or illegal. We further reserve the right to bar advertisements, information or applications from obvious CoachChic.com competitors.
Let hockey folks know you’re services are available!
If you have hockey related skills you’d like to make available to those in need of such services, please use a comment box below. You may post in a short story form, but be sure that post includes all of the following:
- List the position you’re interested in, including the level of play if that’s applicable.
- Note whether you’re seeking a paid position or you’re willing to work as a volunteer.
- Note your available starting date (month and year)
- Note the location you’d like to work, as well as how far you’d be willing to travel.
- Include just a few experiences/accomplishments that might interest a potential employer.
- Your posting must include at least your first name and last initial.
- Your posting must include a valid email address (a telephone number is optional).
This should be just a cursory posting, letting others know the basics. It’s presumed you have a complete resume ready to be submitted upon request.
All comments must be approved prior to posting. So, please allow one day between submission and its appearance here on the site. If there are problems within your posting, we’ll need your email address to clarify matters.
We reserve the right to change the above conditions at any time. We also reserve the right to screen applicants for anything that might be offensive or illegal. We further reserve the right to bar advertisements, information or applications from obvious CoachChic.com competitors.
Don’t panic, CoachChic.com members, if this home page starts looking a little different.
In the start, some categories might disappear. However, trust me, that they’re not gone, but just being redone and reorganized.
The reason for the changes? There are a few VERY exciting NEW categories coming!
Should I let you in on those new categories? Hmmmmmmmm…
Aaaaaw, what the heck…
- For starters, I’ve received a lot of contacts from coaches (and other hockey personnel) who are looking for jobs. I’ve also had more than a few organizations asking me if I know of any good people who might fill key roles in their programs. So, one new category is going to be something on the order of a “Hockey Job Fair”.
- My duties over the past months have also changed considerably, ever since I moved to Florida to assume the GM/coaching reins for a Junior hockey organization. Oh, the league I came to ultimately folded, but I’ve hardly missed a stroke, working behind the scenes to help my son with his Junior team, especially in the area of scouting and helping him recruit new players. Over that time, I’ve seen some unique needs arise — for players at that level, for those who run teams at that level, as well as for those who recruit from that level for their college or minor pro teams. So, look for a new section here aimed mainly at helping those involved in Junior hockey.
Knowing all that, I’m hoping current members and those passing through will spread the word. If all goes according to plan, I’ll have the new stuff in place within a day or two.
– Dennis Chighisola
Non-members may now purchase hidden articles or videos as they become available. Click on a link below for more details.
Articles available for your Kindle or other electronic reader:
How to REALLY Tie Hockey Skates — Less foot pain! More ankle action! - 99-cents – In hockey, if “skating is the name of the game”, skate tying has to be one of the most important first steps in playing well, playing relatively pain free, and achieving maximum support with sufficient ankle flexibility. Ask anyone in the game, and they’ll tell you that Dennis Chighisola troubleshoots every phase of hockey with a combination of science and common sense. “Coach Chic” is also famous for explaining his solutions so that virtually anyone — at any level — can understand. This article (along with the included bonus article) is guaranteed to answer any question you’ll ever have about hockey skate tying.
Coach Chic’s Building Blocks Approach to Skills – 99-cents – Few hockey players, coaches or parents realize the way various individual skills build upon one another. Moreover, few realize the significance of prioritizing skills — like skating, shooting, puckhandling, and passing — to help make the complete offensive player. As you’ll discover, “Coach Chic’s Building Blocks Approach to Skills” is unique, and a must read for anyone who influences a hockey player’s development. It’s short, but it explains well the whys or hows of the way all individual skills are really connected.
Hockey Line Changes – WHEN & HOW to teach them to young players - $1.97 - This article was inspired by a CoachChic.com member and youth hockey coach, asking for guidance about when and how he might teach his relatively young players to change on-the-fly. With that, Coach Chic goes as deeply into line changes as he does most other hockey subjects. He more than answers the coach’s question, but he also suggests how those coaching teams in buzzer hockey might start introducing a basic concept involved in proper changes. Even advanced level hockey coaches might discover — or be reminded of — some important principles necessary to clean and effective changes. And, as always, Dennis explains things in a common sense way, so that even the very inexperienced hockey coach will feel comfortable teaching this phase of the game to his or her players.
If you see a special article you’d like released through Amazon.com, please let Coach Coach know. Also let him know if there’s a topic you think he ought to cover within these pages. Leave a comment below, or Email Coach Chic.
Many more coming.
Videos available through the Hockey Tips & Tricks Store:
How to Assemble & Teach A Basic Hockey System – $21.97 – By Dennis Chighisola (“Coach Chic”) 40-years of Coach Chic’s Hockey Coaching Experience Packed into 72-pages! A downloadable ebook you can either read on your computer or print to make a hardcopy manual. No coach should be without this in depth handbook!
Incredible Stickhandling – $9.97 – This 14-minute video begins with some advice that you’ll probably never hear anywhere else. (I don’t know why other hockey gurus do it, but they too often skip right into the drills without sharing the kind of background information that can make those drills all the more productive.) You’ll discover 16 easy-to-do puckhandling skills that lead to some very complex moves. (I’ve helped 8- and 9-year olds learn the “spinarama” made famous by several past NHL stars, just by helping them master two, very basic stickhandling skills.) Despite my 40-years as a coach and skills analyst, I consider myself a teacher, first and foremost. And this should be evidenced in the very methodical approach I use to order the drills, demonstrate them, and explain each one to you. I think you’ll also appreciate the way I wrap-up your video with suggestions on getting the very most from the overall program.
Analyzing the Forward Stride -$9.97 – Discover the REAL mechanics of hockey skating — as understood by PhDs in biomechanics and physiology, as well as top instructors around the world (no wives’ tales here). Besides describing problem areas in the forward stride, I’ll also share a number of drills that help a skater be faster and more energy efficient. (What is a smooth, powerful stride worth to you? A whole lot more than $9.97, you can be sure!)
(3 videos) Must-do Skating Drills (for Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced skaters) – $14.25 each, $28 for the set - These are the scientific, time tested skating skill drills required of players as they climb the hockey ladder from learn-to-skate clinics to advanced level play.
Chop Stix – $4.95 – Coach Chic made this collection of training aids for about $2 (and anyone could make them). So that puts the total cost of all the gadgets — and the video outlining countless drill ideas — to under $10. And they include fun and challenging exercises — for core strength, balance, and lots of asymmetric stickhandling! They’re suitable for players from near beginners to adults (so a set could be used by every hockey player in your family). Coach Chic even has an entire team train at once with their Chopped Stix!
If you see a special video you’d like released through the Hockey Tips & Tricks Store, please let Coach Coach know. Also let him know if there’s a topic you think he ought to cover within these pages. Leave a comment below, or Email Coach Chic.
Many more coming.
I feel like I’ve been on kind of a roll lately, having added a great many new posts over the past few weeks. Not that I haven’t always tried to keep the good content coming for my members — it’s up to nearly 600 articles, videos and audio programs right now.
The reason I’ve been on that roll? It’s because of you. It’s because you’ve asked me to deal with some really meaningful questions lately, and it’s because you’ve also contributed some awesome comments after the various posts. And, trust me on the importance of those comments, because they always add a great deal more value to the topic at hand.
A couple of things that bother me, however…
First, I want every single one of you to use your membership to the max. If the content here already suits your needs, that’s okay. At the same time, I know that every hockey coach, parent, and adult player finds himself or herself challenged at some point. And, that’s what I’m here for: to answer your questions or help you over a hurdle. Sometimes, as a few higher level coaches have told me, it can also be nice to have me to bounce your ideas off.
Secondly, while I’ll always be sure to pass along information I believe you should know, I’d also like you to steer the conversation.
Thirdly, even though non-members don’t have access to all the content here, a lot of folks don’t realize that I do welcome your questions. No matter where the questions come from, they’re bound to help lots of folks, including CoachChic.com members.
All that said, here’s my plea: Please don’t be shy, please get involved, and let’s work together to make this the best hockey resource site in the entire world!
Also, remember that you can use the link up above (Ask The Coach) to submit any questions or difficulties you might have.
Yours in hockey,
You really should read a very recent post I did on “Having the Skills to Make It!“, because it provides a lot of background to the following line of thinking.
– Dennis Chighisola
The Importance of Hockey Specific Drills
As you’ll discover from reading that article mentioned above, this whole subject came about as another Junior hockey scout and I watched a local tournament here in Florida. The kids were mostly 18-ish, and they weren’t bad, on average, but they still had some deficiencies the other guy and I recognized rather easily.
You ought to know that the other scout and I come from both similar and then really very different backgrounds. I taught and coached him early-on, but then he went off to play a lot of minor pro hockey, while I mainly continued teaching, analyzing skills, and coaching some of the developmental levels of our game. I describe all that to suggest that we saw a lot of the same things during the tournament games, but then we also saw some things quite differently.
In my case, I know the difference between good and not so good coaching, and between good and not so good drills. And it’s in reference to the latter that you’ll often hear me grump about so-called “vanilla drills”. Ya, they’re kinda nothing drills — because there’s hardly any benefit to them, except that they sure do contain a lot of activity, and they surely do look fancy to the folks sitting up in the stands. You can usually recognize them when you see six pucks flying every which way, players going in thirteen different directions, and the coaches standing back idly and just watching.
The main idea of a good drill is repetition, or repetition of the right mechanics. And an effective drill also requires constant feedback from knowing eyes. Hey, to keep going without correction means a player is going to most likely just keep reinforcing the same (and often incorrect) mechanics. So, when it comes to those Junior players again, I’m thinking that they haven’t done a whole lot of stuff other than fancy looking vanilla drills.
This aside… Where do so-called vanilla drills come from?
I’d say coaches mostly dig them out of drill manuals, or they sometimes see them performed at a coaching clinic or at another team’s practice. Oftentimes the drills are very good ones, but they’re bad — or an absolute waste of time — if used with a different age group or a different skill level.
What also sometimes goes wrong is that a coach can watch the fancy drill, like how it looks, but not really understand what the purpose of the drill is, or what corrections should be made along the way. (Man, years ago I was at a Canadian coaching seminar where I overheard a guy who worked with Mites get all excited about borrowing a drill some Bantams were doing out on the ice. If you now understand my concerns, there’s no way that guy’s Mites were going to be able to perform even the basics of that drill, never mind all the other crazy things that would ultimately go on.)
Okay, getting back to that Junior level tournament… The things that jumped out at me, in general, were the kids’ skating postures, and the way they carried their sticks. A correct skating posture is covered in numerous posts — and videos — throughout this site, most of them under the Skating section within Highlight Reel Skills. What I’d like to devote some time to here is the proper use of and carrying of the hockey stick.
For some in depth ideas on how many hands to use on the stick at various times, I direct you to my post on “Two Hands or One on the Hockey Stick“.
One thing that drove both the other scout and me crazy was the way kids were carrying their sticks up in the air, and sometimes waving them in the faces of other players. (I’m not suggesting they were trying to play dirty; what I am suggesting is that many of them were carrying their sticks up high without even thinking about it.) The other guy — the long time pro — would think they were playing dangerously, while I saw it more as a skill deficiency.
I will oftentimes trick my older players into believing they should carry their sticks low… I’ll call them in around the center circle while I’m handling a puck. Then, noticing a player with his stick up at the waist, I’ll slide him a quick pass. You have to know that the puck always flies far beyond him, because there’s no way he can react quickly enough to get the stick down to grab the pass. Point made, I’ll go on to suggest that they should always travel with the stick held low or on the ice. And I’ll usually add, “Hey, you can even get lucky when an opponent throws a puck near you. There’s no way you can get lucky with the stick held high.”
And that brings me to what I really want to tell you about and then show you. For, on the way home from the rink that night — which was something like a 90-minute drive, my mind began to wonder in and out, between a conversation with a friend and a possible solution to those flailing sticks.
Ya, if you hang with me at all, you have to get used to the fact that I can get lost in space at times. Trust me, that it’s seldom a reflection on my company, but more my urge to daydream. Anyway, maybe you’re getting a sense of how my brain tends to function…
Probably about halfway along on that drive, I began envisioning how I would have liked to have seen those teenage kids move. For sure, their posture could be better, but so would they look far better if they were traveling with their sticks held low, and with their sticks held in two hands most of the time.
So, do this along with me… I’m picturing those kids moving just as I’d like to see it. I’m correcting their posture as they go past me, and they’re beginning to get more and more comfortable with their sticks held down and steady.
As I’m doing that, I’m starting to think that it matters not whether they’re on the ice or performing those movements in a local parking lot. Hmmmmmmmmm…
Okay, so I’m going to show you the drill I concocted, and then I am going to have MUCH to say about it in reference to it being “hockey specific”…
What I’d done is locate a straight line in my complex’s parking lot (I had a bag of playground chalk handy in case I needed to draw my own line). I then set a small pylon a ways away and perpendicular to the way I’d travel, that pylon representing a teammate holding a puck and looking to make a pass. Not knowing where that player will eventually move the puck, all of his or her teammates should be moving in support, just in case.
In the first video, I’m moving on that perpendicular course, stick down and steady, with my eyes (always) on the puck. Most players don’t have a problem with showing a forehand target, but a lot do when it comes to moving in the other direction and showing a backhand target extended far out in front…
In this next video clip, I’ve had to reverse directions… In other words, maybe I’ve run out of “good space” at some point, and I now have to head back in the other direction.
Now, a lot of viewers may have thought that first drill was on the really simple side. Maybe so, maybe not. However, the following movement — of changing directions while maintaining a fairly consistent, steady target — is done wrongly far too often.
Notice, if you will, that I’m going to switch the stick towards the new direction before I actually make my turn. Why? I do that so that a potential passer is given a warning that my turn is coming. (Too often a player makes the cut, he or she next switches the stick, and the pass has already been sent to where the passer thought his or her mate was going.)
One reason I wanted to show these drills in an off-ice venue is so that individuals could be helped as well as a team. I mean, an adult player could practice these movements on his or her own, and a parent should be able to easily find a spot where he or she could help a young player perfect the moves.
Now, before anyone thinks that those drills were overly simple, I’m going to agree. At the same time, however, I am going to tell you that those drills are “specific” to the problems I recently saw kids having. And I’m going to further suggest that all the fancy drills in the world won’t cure what ails those older teens. These absolutely will! So, are these drills simple? Yes. Are they of the vanilla variety? Definitely not! These simple drills will fix the problems at hand.
For sure, those drills could be taken to the ice. All a coach needs to do is substitute a blue line or red line, and place a puck or pylon somewhere to simulate the passer. The drill could be made to look fancier — if a coach is worried about the folks up in the stands, but simplicity — and repetition of the right movements — is still the key to getting what you want.
At some point — or after the basic skills are learned, a player at a time could skate around a face-off circle while continuing to watch the puck, keep a steady target, and at the right times switch the stick to show an intended turn.
Quite obviously, that’s not the end of helping players move better, or helping them solve passing and receiving problems. At the same time, it gets them well on their way. In fact, I would use this form of drilling — either off-ice or on, and then gradually start adding passes. Even weeks after I abandoned the simplest form, I’d likely bring it back again now and then.
In closing, I’m reminded of the old television advertisement hyping frequent oil changes. The message was that frequent changes were a whole lot less expensive than the engine overhaul that might be needed if oil wasn’t regularly changed. Or, as the punchline went, “Pay me now, or pay me later.” What I’m getting at is my recently observing a bunch of older players who weren’t demonstrating some of the skills a scout might like to see. If the kids knew what my fellow scout and I were seeing, they’d be disappointed, as would be their parents. Where would the blame fall? It would likely be on the shoulders of coaches who used more of the meaningless, vanilla-type drills, and not enough of the type that actually solves problems.
A lot of members have written to ask if there will be changes to CoachChic.com, now that I’m moving from my past duties to those involved in my role as the General Manager and Head Coach of the St Cloud Thunder Junior “A” team.
– Dennis Chighisola
There’ll Be Hockey Changes — But Not Many
I’ve written often here, that I might be more fortunate than any other hockey coach in the world. You see, for close to 40-years, I’ve been able to go back and forth between all the various levels of hockey, and this is an experience even the most noted coaches in our game have never had.
What I’m getting at is that, even the Scotty Bowmans and Jack Parkers haven’t had the need to troubleshoot problems experienced by beginner skaters, Pee Wees, Bantams, and so forth. No, they basically get the cream of the crop, and then work their magic from there.
Nor have guys of that ilk had the chance to note the good, the bad and the ugly of their players, and then go back to influence the development of younger kids.
So again, I’ve had what I consider to be a luxury… Probably 20 or so of my former students went on to play in the NHL, with hundreds of others reaching the higher levels of college or minor pro hockey. So have I been asked to help many high level players fix small problems in their game. And, with all that, I’m one of the few who gets to turn around and work with younger kids (or their parents and coaches) based on what I’ve seen in those older guys.
Okay, so here I am moving on to work with a squad of pretty high level young guys from about ages 15 to 20…
Having already begun evaluating players and offering certain ones contracts, I’ve come to realize that many of the kids I’ll have are only a year or so away from being drafted or being offered a slot in a quality college program.
Despite my respect for their current abilities, however, I’m going to try to look at each for both their strengths and their weaknesses. As I’ve also written often within these pages, I want to help them build upon — or magnify — their unique strengths, while I’ll also try to help them overcome any of their shortcomings.
And it’s that latter point that should help CoachChic.com members immensely. In other words, parents or coaches of beginners through Midgets ought to benefit from the way I’ll deal with each, and outline my ideas within these pages.
Oh, and by the way… Without stepping on any of the toes of those who currently work so hard within the Kissimmee-St Cloud area, I’ve already offered to help the local youth organization in any way I can. Ya, you know me… I love working with younger kids of all ages, I love advising their parents as best I can, and I also just might look for a way to help the local coaches, too.
Anyway, perhaps you can see how things might not change a whole lot here at CoachChic.com. On the other hand, I have a new crop of fairly elite level players to evaluate and help, and I suspect members will benefit plenty as they follow me doing just that.
As the old adage goes, “The wheels of progress turn slowly.”
That’s been the case as the new Tropical Elite Hockey League has started to come together, and so has my involvement with the new Florida-based league been sort of a slow transition.
With that, I’d like to update members on what’s been going on for me, and I also want to let all of you know how my move will affect CoachChic.com.
– Dennis Chighisola
Yes, It’s Official!
Let’s cut to the chase, or at least to the recent word out of the TEHL Office down in Kissimmee, Florida:
June 3, 2012
ANNOUNCEMENT: Coach Dennis Chighisola (Coach Chic) is the first coach to be named in the Tropical Elite Hockey League. He will be heading up the St. Cloud Thunder of the TEHL!
Man, what a turn of events for me, both exciting and panic provoking!
Quite obviously, the excitement for me is in getting back to work with high level players again. A part of that is the fact that most of them — the junior players, I mean, by their very nature, will be highly motivated. (Oh, not that my old high school and college guys weren’t into their games. However, many of them knew they were near the ends of their competitive playing careers, and it was understandable that their priorities were really split. Again, though, Junior players have their eyes on a bigger prize — for sure hoping to get to a good college, with some of them hoping to even play pro down the road.)
Ugh… The part that has me kinda in panic mode…
You know my life is going to change drastically. A quick check on Google says that I’ll be relocating some 1,300 miles from my lifetime home, and that the Kissimmee-St Cloud area of Florida is about 23-hours away. Oh, believe me, I relish the opportunity to live and work in a place dubbed The Sunshine State. The scary part is the logistics — or the physical part — of transferring all my personal and work stuff that far away.
I’m also panicking a bit with the drastic change in my responsibilities. I mean, for those of you who don’t know, I’m the type of guy who has to really get his head into something. And, given that chance, I can usually out work most other coaches on the planet. What’s troubled me most over recent weeks is going from an all-in approach to working with younger, developmental level players to a similar approach to elite level athletes, with an unnerving state of flux in between.
Ya, that state of flux… The killer part of the whole thing has been in the not knowing where I’d end-up come this August, or in my not being able to tell local hockey folks where I’d be next season.
The panic doesn’t end with those two things, however… Suddenly, I find myself in a race to get some talented players to play for me. For sure, there are great Junior eligible kids out there. The problem for me is in connecting with them, or in letting the right ones know the great opportunities that await them in the new TEHL.
For those who don’t know, Junior players can range from 15- to 20-years old. In a perfect world, I’d look to some older guys for stability and leadership, the bulk of the roster would be made up of 18- and 19-year olds, with a sprinkling of younger kids in the mix as my future stars.
The beauty of the new TEHL setup is that I can draw from literally the entire hockey world. That’s right… I am currently dealing with kids from the US and Canada, in the UK and across Europe.
Oh, don’t think I don’t respect the local talent, too. I know that the hockey in Florida has come a long, long ways, so I’m really hoping a few homegrown kids will make our roster. In fact, I’ve written a lot over the past year or so about the vast improvements in hockey throughout the south, so I’m also scouring places like Georgia, Texas and even out in California for the best players I can find.
My team isn’t going to be for everyone, however…
How so? Well, not every player (or parent of a player) sees the need to get away from home. From my point of view, however, a lot of the home distractions disappear when a player lives far away. And, for the most part, TEHL players (and especially my guys) are going to have to focus on academics and serious training. Ya, they’re sort of a captive audience under such conditions, thinking mainly school and hockey for at least seven straight months. (Not that there won’t be plenty of rec time, socializing and sending pictures home from poolside in January !)
Something else has also come to mind as I’ve spoken with a couple of potential players lately — especially ones from as far away as Western Canada, Norway and the UK…
For example, I’m think about a really talented forward from Manitoba, and how he can easily stay close to home and play in a very strong Junior program. The first thing that makes me think of is that he will probably continue getting the same kind of training and systems work as all the other local players. In contrast, I think that a move away from home is going to slightly break the mold, and help him add some new dimensions to his game.
At the same time, I’m thinking that his skills and style of play might keep him partially buried among similarly skilled players back home, and among kids who have developed in pretty much the same style of play. This line of thinking originally arose as I thought about the Norwegian boy who has developed in the same program — with mostly the same group of players — for a good 5- or 6-years. What’s the chance of him looking unique and really being appreciated back home? Hmmmmmm… And, what’s his chance of dazzling some college recruiters or pro scouts in a very different setting here in the States? Again, hmmmmmmmm…
In a way, it’s going to be my hope that my players also learn as much from their teammates as they learn from me. Ya, every player is going to arrive with his own unique strengths, and it should be interesting — and beneficial — as they work together over a long hockey season.
Am I dreaming here? Absolutely! I’ve mentioned that often in previous articles, about the way every coach looks forward to their newest coaching assignment. If there’s a difference with this one, well… The talent pool for youth coaches can sometimes be confined to a very small circle around the local rink. So can the same be true for high school coaches. Come to think of it, even non-scholarship college programs are limited by academic requirements, tuition costs and other things. Not so with the higher levels of Junior hockey, though, where the world really is the limit.
Anyway, I know my CoachChic.com members are dying to know how things will change around here. And my first guess is that they’ll be subtle, at the most…
For sure, a lot of my articles will be influenced by what I’m seeing during my Junior team’s practices and games. In a way, however, that doesn’t represent a huge change, because a lot of the advice I’ve provided within these pages has always been based on what I’ve seen in my highest level players. If you’ll recall, I taught a great many who went on to pro and Division I college careers, and I’ve always used the good, bad and ugly from their games to develop new training ideas for the youngest kids.
Then, although there’s nothing in the works right now, you have to know that I’ll ultimately work at least a little with the youth level kids down in Florida. I know they’re crazy about the game there now, so I sense they’re going to appreciate some of the things an old coach from the hockey hotbed of New England might be able to show them.
So, can you understand my current excitement — as well as some of the logistical craziness I’m likely to face over the next few months? Ya, it’s now official, and I’m promising to take you right along for the ride!
I don’t use these pages to sell things to my CoachChc.com members, and that’s not my purpose in this posting.
That said, I do have to show you a video I’ve been getting around to others, mainly because there’s some important stuff in it I’d like you to know.
So, right after you watch the video, let’s have a conversation about a game you may or may not have heard about.
– Dennis Chighisola
(Re-)Introducing “Box Hockey”
Although that game — box hockey — may be new to you, you should have discovered that it’s actually been around for about 100-years. Only recently has there seemed to be a re-emergence, maybe because several companies have decided to mass produce nice looking game boards like the one shown in that video.
As for me, I stumbled across the game some 15 or so years ago — and I can’t for the life of me remember how that came about.
Anyway, at a time when my hockey schools were booming around the New England area and beyond, I carried a trailer full of unique training equipment to each venue. I had wild off-ice gear, equipment to run two different video stations, and even a ton of on-ice stuff that I occasionally try to show my members.
Better than a decade ago, then, I built my own box hockey game that we used in an outdoor station. And, let me tell you, kids of all ages fought to get their turns on that.
My kids’ enthusiasm for that game wasn’t the only thing I noticed, however. No… For, what I saw each day was kids really battling — I mean REALLY battling — to move the puck up the box hockey surface. And I’d stand back to be really fascinated by how much that game encouraged aggressiveness. (Actually, my grandson was only a young Mite when we used that gadget a lot, and I now have to wonder how much that had to do with him being so aggressive for the puck through his older youth, high school, prep and college years.)
As an aside here… You can imagine how many questions I get from hockey parents and coaches over the course of any given week. What you really need to know, though, is how helpless some moms and dads sound when it comes to dealing with their kids’ lack of aggressiveness. I mean, I feel badly for them — partly because they usually live too far away for me to personally help, and partly because the only thing that would really help is if a coach ran some drills that specifically encourage the youngster at that. Even with all the troubleshooting I’ve done for such things, I can’t for the life of me think of a drill that can be done at home to help that area of a kid’s game.
Hopefully, you can picture how excited I was when I connected with the people at HBox. I mean, I knew that game would help anyone who wanted to instill a hunger for the puck in their youngster. And now, I am able to point them right to the gadget that will help get that done.
As yet another aside… My homemade box hockey board was busted a few years ago by some workers who had access to my equipment storage room (Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!). Fortunately, I have a new HBox version right now, and I’m itching to use it. I’ve just picked my new AA Mite team for next year, and I’m just beginning to design plans for our off-season and beyond. And I’m just thinking, how difficult my little guys will be to deal with, IF they all get lots of work at that game. I’m talking about all of my kids here, too, top of the roster to the bottom, being willing to fight you tooth and nails for the puck. Oh, and I’m also thinking something else… I know it’s always difficult to get everyone to practice on time. However, if they have the incentive to play box hockey before each on-ice practice, I have a feeling my little guys will be driving their parents nuts to get them to the rink rather early!
Okay, I said from the start that I’m not trying to sell you anything. So instead, what I am suggesting is that you do as I once did, and make a box hockey game of your own. One sheet of plywood would probably do it. And, there aren’t any dimensions that are critical, other than to make sure the puck fits through the various holes — in the dividers, and in the end goals.
Then, just in case you would prefer to take the easier route, an HBox game can be purchased through my affiliate link (which means I get credit for the sale): Just Click Here
Well, those who haven’t yet gotten with the social media craze ought to think again, since I met a number of our top guest writers through either Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Such was the case with this article’s author, the personable and very bright Cynthia King.
Actually, this article kicks off a special series Cynthia has in store for us… Each month, henceforth, she’ll provide a new exercise specific to goaltender training.
With that, the following acts as an introduction to Ms King, along with a basic philosophy that should carry over to those future monthly articles.
– Dennis Chighisola
Goalie Off-ice Training (from an unlikely source)!
By Cynthia King
As I was gathering my thoughts to write this article, my first concern was, “Who is going to listen to goalie off-ice training advice from me?”. There are a few reasons why I asked myself this question. The first is that I am from Mississippi originally and had never seen hockey until 2004. I reside in the Atlanta area now, and a family friend is the majority owner of our local ECHL team. He introduced my sons and myself to the game, courtesy of the Gwinnett Gladiators (www.gwinnettgladiators.com). The second reason is that I am a 45 year old Southern mom. The third reason is that I am just a personal trainer.
However, when you combine all 3 of my concerns, you get 3 very important pieces to a puzzle that is still being assembled.
Shortly after seeing our first hockey game, my youngest son gave up being a baseball catcher and became a hockey goalie. Simply having said son explains concern number 2. Concern 3 was eased a bit as I train, and have for years at a fantastic fitness center, Body Plex of Newnan, GA and I spent 2010 training with one of TV’s current Biggest Loser trainers. Concerns 2 and 3 led me to an amazing opportunity which gets me here.
In July of 2011, I was offered a chance to help with off-ice training at Pro Tek Goaltending Camp in Montreal, Canada (www.protekgoaltending.com). My son was participating in the camp. My mind was in overdrive trying to figure out how in the world was I going to prove myself around the professionals that I was about to join. Yet from day 1 of camp, I knew I was just given a gift and realized that THIS is just what I wanted to do.
My first order of business was getting 70 French speaking goalies to say “Bonjour y’all”. They complied and that became our greeting everyday. After that, I knew that talking to these goalies and asking them questions was my best way of understanding exactly what their specific training issues are. As a trainer, I already had an idea of what needed to be strengthened and stretched. Watching them on the ice and discussing their specific, or lack of, training methods, allowed me to tweak some of what they already do and introduce them to new goalie specific workouts. I particularly enjoyed working with players at the Junior level. They were eager to learn and apply the new techniques to their training program.
An obvious point of concern for goalies is the lower back and core. I was rather shocked to learn that so many do not realize the importance of good core strength. With so much emphasis placed on legs, goalies may not understand the role of stabilizing muscles in their often sudden, quick bursts of play. I use medicine balls, BOSU balls, bands, and ropes to help improve balance and engage the core. If your core routine only consists of sit ups, then you are severely limiting the power and stability that is afforded with solid core strength. Conditioning the lower back is IMPERATIVE to a goalies overall performance and injury reduction. I incorporate all of the equipment listed above when targeting the lower back.
I like to work on different stretching movements for inner thigh. As you know, groin injuries are prominent with goalies. They can be reduced or heal faster if inner thigh regions are properly stretched and strengthened. I like to use certain cable exercises that can help target some of the harder to reach muscle groups that are so easily injured. There are several variations of lunges that I also prefer to help engage inner thigh muscles. Each muscle group must be utilized during a session to give a goalie his best defense at warding off the dreaded groin injury.
As I continue to learn this sport, I am in awe of the athleticism that is required. Even as I watch the youngest on the ice, I appreciate the fact that I could never be even a mediocre hockey player. To achieve professional level astounds me. I congratulate you all who have. As a trainer, I truly enjoy learning and improving hockey specific training…especially goalie specific. I really love talking to coaches and players and understanding their needs. I must say that I do smile when I, of all people, can show a coach or a player a new move and they realize the value of that move. I always enjoy exchanging ideas and thoughts with those coaches and players and working together on ways to improve their longevity in this sometimes brutal sport. Learning from those who actually play, helps me as a trainer to gain more insight into their off-ice needs.
It is my hope that you understand the importance of core conditioning. A strong core is vital to your performance as a goalie. Even though I’m just a hockey mom from Mississippi and at first glance, an unlikely source, I am always happy to help any way that I can. Until then, Bonjour Y’all!
See our Goalies section for all of Cynthia’s drills! * * *
Cynthia King – NFPT Certified Personal Trainer/NFPT Certified Advanced Weight Training Specialist
Freezing cold temperatures have been slow to arrive in the Northeaster United States this winter, which should explain the lateness of this post. If I’d have had my thinking shoes on, however, I’d have probably helped my member friends all the more by giving them some time to plan. In other words — for reasons I’ll explain later, perhaps the best time to start thinking about a backyard rink is during the summer or early fall.
Yet another reason I’m posting this right now is because my good friend Christopher has been working on his own backyard rink, and — running into a bit of difficulty with that — he just wrote me seeking some help.
Actually, I’m a bit embarrassed that I don’t have a quick answer to Christopher’s question, despite having long ago built a dozen or so rinks for my son and grandson. So, I’m thinking that this post might prove a great way for all of us to share ideas or experiences on this subject.
– Dennis Chighisola
Build a Backyard Hockey Rink
This project caused me to scurry through YouTube.com to see what others had done so far in this area. To be honest, almost all the various videos on backyard rinks are nearly the same, with most of them only varying in extras — like lights, high boards, doors in the boards, etc.
I finally settled on the following video, mainly because it’s a really basic set up, and because it gives a pretty good view of everything. So, please have a look before we go further on the subject. (Don’t panic that you don’t hear a soundtrack; there is none for this video.)
Having built a number of these, I can tell you that finding a truly level area is critical to preparing for a backyard rink. And, that’s part of the reason I suggest planning things earlier in the year, when the ground is still soft and workable. Truly, spending some time in the warm weather leveling the planned area for your rink might be the best thing you ever do.
I also suggest erecting the boards section of the rink while the ground is still relatively soft, so that some stakes can be driven into the ground to hold the boards in place.
I highly recommend thinking about disassembling the rink as you plan its assembly. I mean, large screws and metal brackets can make things a whole lot easier to take the boards apart at season’s end, rather than using large nails or spikes.
I might also offer the idea of buying the plastic liner beforehand, just so that you can design the rink’s measurements accordingly. (There’s nothing worse than discovering you have to piece together several sections of plastic in order to get coverage, knowing full well that there’s a strong chance the thing is going to leak with each thaw.)
As an aside here, you know I’m all about teaching, or development. So, let me share a philosophy I’ve held for a good many years…
The kind of discipline I provide in my clinics and practices is essential to players acquiring all the skills and smarts necessary to play at a high level. Hey, there are proper ways to move on the ice, puckhandle, pass, receive, shoot, check, deal with critical situations, what have you.
Beyond that, however, I’ve always said that the mark of a “real player” is based on what he or she does in his or her spare time. In other words, gain discipline from proper instruction, but then go freelance as much as possible to truly separate yourself from the pack.
In-lines can help us do that during the warm months, as can dryland training and even floorball. However, I think the backyard rink is an awesome place for a youngster to really experiment — or hotdog a bit — during the hockey season.
Okay, from here onward, let’s consider this YOUR post, or a place where anyone can share ideas, ask questions, etc. I’m even going to leave this available to the public, just so we can gain even more input.
Christopher will actually kick things off, since I’ll post his current problem first. Hopefully, we can find some help for him and many future rink builders to follow.
The singer of this song actually stopped by here to suggest that I share his video with other backyard rink enthusiasts. So, enjoy (and, thanks, Geoff)…
Oh, man, I hope my friends don’t hurt themselves laughing at what I’ve entered down below. But, here’s a little history to all of this…
A few weeks ago, someone turned me on to an interesting program provided over on YouTube.com. That program gives anyone the chance to create cartoon videos from a host of characters. I settled on a pair of robots, and a Facebook friend ultimately named them SlapShot and HatTrick.
Hoping not to waste my efforts, I thought to use that format to at least share some worthwhile information — first letting folks know how to pronounce my name and nickname (Introducing Dennis Chighisola), and later how the unique spelling of my nickname came about (SlapShot & HatTrick Explain Dennis Chighisola’s Nickname). I must admit that my earliest works weren’t all that polished (the program is kinda tricky to use). Oh, I have gotten better at producing the videos, although they’re still probably as stupid today. (I’ve joked to one Facebook friend that the red robot is my alter-ego!)
As you might gather, however, my eventual thinking was that I could have some fun, perhaps give some social media friends cause to laugh, and also get a little advertising crammed in between the lines. So, maybe you’ll at least see a little of each within the following video…
– Dennis Chighisola
About the Skater’s Rhythm-bar
My (again, stupid) cartoons somewhat explained, I just posted a new one to My YouTube Channel last night and to Facebook this morning.
At first, I thought to apologize for promoting one of my products within these pages. However, I then thought it might be just as unfair if I DIDN’T let you know about this…
Over the years, many members have actually written me and asked about the Skater’s Rhythm-bar. I think that stemmed from my occasional mention of it, or my once in a while showing it in a video.
With that, I am practically going to give this closely held secret away (and I’m serious about the almost giving it away part). You’ll have plenty of time to consider things, though, as well as learn a lot about skating and my problem solving methods along the way.
All you need to do to be notified of it’s release is to “Like” this page (using the “Like” button up at the top)… Perfecting the Hockey Skating Stride.Loading...
Ya know, even after 40-ish years of doing what I do, I still sometimes have difficulty defining the uniqueness of my style — or how my approach to the game tends to be different from most others.
Sometimes reality hits from out of the blue, though, maybe even as I read an article like the following.
– Dennis Chighisola
The Need to Compete!
The article I’m referring to now is about Sweden’s new-look hockey model paying dividends.
As many others have been doing over recent years, the Swedes began looking deeply into the changes needed at their developmental levels to remain among the world’s elite hockey-producing nations.
“It wasn’t too long ago the Swedish Ice Hockey Association was forced to come to grips with the fact its educational and developmental methods had become outdated.” The Swedes knew they had to make changes in their education system, their coaching, and especially, attitude. And they’re now believing their ability to improve those areas “… at an early age has played a vital role” in accomplishing their goals.”
Also like a lot of other hockey playing countries, the Swedish hierarchy noticed a point in their history when their players weren’t keeping up with others. “Realizing this fact, Sweden’s director of youth development, Tommy Boustedt, initiated a Commission of Inquiry on junior hockey in Sweden in 2002. The meeting included 120 people, including junior coaches, club executives and scouts. The professionals were broken down into groups, some working with coaching and education, others critiquing player development.”
“Everyone came up with ideas on how we could change our hockey,” Boustedt told NHL.com. “Some of the important things we learned were that we had to revise the demands on the coaches and educate much better. Our education material was old-fashioned … it was built by way of the old Swedish style and the old European style.”
“Boustedt and his group also reached out for the advice of many of the game’s finest Swedish players…”
“The No. 1 reason they provided us was the leadership they had growing up,” Boustedt said. “They all said they had great coaching. That being said, we had to raise the quality at the youth and junior coaching levels.”
My personal take-away from that article was the Swedes’ huge improvement in coaching, bottom to the top. And as Devils’ goalie Johan Hedberg noticed about fellow Swedes currently playing in the NHL, “The education level for coaching from a young age to the junior ranks is really, really high. I think that has a lot to do with there’s a lot of young guys coming in now and being as prepared as they are. They’re getting great teaching from an early age.”
Ah, yes, “from an early age”.
As I hinted at earlier, the Swedes also began paying more attention to the demands of competing in the current day game, and especially those things they’d need to do better to be successful in the NHL. Major among these was to improve play around the net and in the corners.
As for my “Aha!” moment, well…
“If you want to be on the elite level, you have to compete in everything you do from the beginning,” Boustedt said. “The best competitor ever was Peter Forsberg. If we could take Peter Forsberg’s mind and put it into all our talented players that would be perfect. Being competitive is more important than skating fast or shooting hard.
“Let’s face it, the word ‘compete’ was obsolete in this country — we haven’t been in a war in 200 years and we have a classic social democratic system that built this society, and to ‘compete’ has historically been a bad word.”
Today, having that competitive spirit in everything associated with Swedish hockey is what has changed most, according to Boustedt.
“The word ‘compete’ is a good word again in Swedish hockey,” he said. “Our message to the kids is what they need to do to become an elite hockey player. It has to do with hockey skills and tactics and all types of physical training. We have psychologists speaking to the kids, explaining what they should and shouldn’t do.”
“North Americans are very competitive, they go to the net, crash and are good along the boards,” Boustedt said. “(North Americans) can body check and take a body check … areas where we have been very soft before, but that we’re now incorporating into our development. The area we need to get even stronger, though, is in shooting and goal scoring.”
Ya, my “Aha!” moment…
Without doubt, the need to “compete” is vital to being successful in our game. Every critical moment that takes place in a hockey game represents a competition between small groups of players — 1 versus 1, 2 on 1, 2 against 2, etc.
And that brings me to the way I usually develop my drills, as well as the countless posts I’ve offered within these pages having to do with skill progressions.
As if members don’t already know, I like to begin with progressions that one of my social media friends would call “easy peasy” — . I want them to be do-able, not threatening in the least, and even great confidence boosters. Thereafter, though, I’m very gradually attempting to make my drill progressions come closer and closer to what it’s really like to play the game.
You’ll even see the above happening if you scan through my three “Must-do Skating Drills” videos… Kids laugh like crazy as they attempt the drills demonstrated in the Beginners’ video, while there are some pretty touch challenges offered in the most Advanced one.
Over the early part of this winter, I’ve probably overdone the mention of two simple drills I see as key to a hockey player’s ability to “compete”. What I’m getting at, of course, is isolated games of Tag and similarly isolated games of Keepaway. In essence, the skills those games enhance ARE the basis for being successful in match-ups like the 1 versus 1, 2 on 1, 2 against 2, etc. Come to think of it, those drills increase resistance as the players mature. In other words, using it on some nights provides the challenges two Mites give each other, while on other nights a pair of Bantams provide a very different level of challenge.
However, those drills are only the tip of the ice berg. I mean, every single skill we can think of should have its own system of progressions — from easily do-able confidence builders to wild and maybe even more-difficult-than-the-actual-game type drills.
And that brings me back to the chance to better define what I do. Hmmmmm…
For sure, the idea of helping players to better “compete” is one of them. Still, I don’t rush to accomplish that. No, I’m very, very careful — or methodical — about bringing kids along slowly, mainly because their confidence — and even their love of the game — depends on it.
All this said, any of the posts here that explain my inner feelings are really intended for other coaches (or even member parents). In other words, I want to share my feelings, so that you may begin to formulate more of your own. You don’t necessarily have to think exactly as I do. However, I really would consider incorporating more and more drills within your progressions that have players “competing” in practices, much like they need to do to succeed in their games.
I don’t think I’ve ever done this before — pointing our CoachChic.com members to a specific blog post. At the same time, I think the following is rather special, and it should prove to be hugely helpful to some older players, parents, coaches and hockey administrators.
I went on sort of a tear the other day, that leading to a special “Coach Chic’s Hockey Diary” post which ignited some interesting feedback. So, not only might you read my original entry, but you ought to keep checking back, because the earliest Comments have been as good as my original. As a matter of fact, I’d love your feedback too!
Just click on the link below to start.
– Dennis Chighisola
I’ve seen versions of the following numerous times over the years. And, while each point is valid, I’ll suggest that key “commandments” in hockey probably aren’t limited to just ten (in fact, I’ll someday let you know my rather extensive list).
Anyway, I happened upon the following graphic on Facebook yesterday. And, although I shared it with my many friends on that site, I thought I’d try something a little bit differently for my CoachChic.com faithful.
With that, I’ll show the original graphic down below, and then I’ll do what I can to better explain each of the ten listed points.
– Dennis Chighisola
The 10 Commandments of Hockey
Those 10 Commandments of Hockey — Coach Chic Style
1) Without doubt, face-offs ARE important. For sure, young players tend to dismiss them as necessary evils — like, “Come on, ref, just drop the puck so we can play!” Still, I sometimes see that same mentality carrying over to older guys and gals, almost as if a given face-off isn’t important.
Of course, draws become more crucial the closer they’re held to our own net. However, every face-off quickly determines who is going to control the puck next. And, since the object of a game is to score more often than our opponents, it makes sense for us to want to control the puck more often than they do. So, yes, thou SHOULD concentrate on every drop of the puck — from the centerman to every other player on the ice for us.
2) In general, this one is obviously correct. If I had to question it — just a hair, it would be that a player usually needs to coast at times, then burst all-out, with a typical shift being a series of alternate coasts and bursts. By all means, though, shifts should be kept short, with players staying intently focused for something like 30-seconds or so.
Personally — when it comes to keeping shifts short, I’ve always had as much concern for players on my bench as I do for those on the ice. In other words, if players stay out too long, there’s the chance that the guys who are sitting are getting cold, and they’re especially getting out of the flow of the game. (This is never so evident as when a team takes a series of penalties, forcing some players to sit for a very, very long time.)
3) Ha. Penalties can just kill a team. I’ve noted one way this can happen in the previous paragraph, but needless penalties can also be huge momentum killers or shifters. Of course, some penalties can’t be avoided. At the same time, I’ve written elsewhere within this site how most penalties can be categorized — as showing a lack of discipline or selfishness, or demonstrating a mismatch in skills between two players (in other words, if a player is slow or out of shape, he or she is very likely to take penalties like tripping, holding or hooking).
4) Obviously, this one relates more to those levels where body-checking — or at least some body contact — is permissible. And it’s as important a principle as any for a player who finds himself or herself closest to a rival puckcarrier. In fact, if you want to play right into a fancy puckhandler’s hands, just look down at the puck for a second and see how he or she turns you inside out. Ya, focus on the man’s body if you’re the closest player to a puckcarrier.
5) I don’t have a lot to add to this thing about forechecking, except to share some points I often talk to my older players about…
If you think about it, our opponents want to do what they want to do as they gather a puck in their own end of the ice. An enemy defenseman might want to feed a nice pass up to a near winger, and that winger might want to relay that pass to the centerman swinging by. Yup, all neat and clean, and a nice way for them to begin a rush towards our net.
My guys, on the other hand, want to force the enemy out of their comfort zone — and make ‘em do what we want them to do, until we’re able to gain the puck back.
For sure, there has to be a design and a purpose to our forecheck, and that’s the job of a coach. From there, all 5-skaters have to know the different roles by heart — or apply them by instinct, knowing each teammate depends on the success of others. Yes, forechecking is a 5-man job, with its true success depending on each player being able to do his or her own job exceedingly well.
6) Without question, a successful team protects its goaltender, and gives him or her freedom to move in the crease area and a clear view of the puck. I tend to get really into this aspect of play, adding these pretty important principles…
First, “enemy sticks score goals”. Consequently, any enemy stick not somehow negated around the goal is very likely to catch a pass, deflect a shot, bang home a rebound, or prevent your goaler from covering up a loose puck.
Secondly, our guys covering in front of the goal must do so according to the location of the puck. In other words, if an opponent controls the puck in a corner, the main danger is a pass to his mate out front. On the other hand, when the puck is located out at a point, our defenders must clear the area — to prevent deflections, and to allow our netminder to see the puck.
7) Ugh (because this one has already happened several times in my Bantam team’s first few games)… I’m kinda surprised, in a way, that this happens too often in older level games. I’d have thought the principle of not making cross-ice passes in front of ones own goal would have been taught very early-on.
No matter, I actually take that a step further, by borrowing from the great Anatoli Tarasov, who suggested that straight-ahead and lateral passes are safest in your own zone, while long diagonal passes are rather dangerous. In other words, that long diagonal pass crosses too many lanes and likely goes by too many enemy stick-blades.
Oh, ya, Number 8… Thou shalt dawgoned backcheck! In fact, every player coming back should realize how important he or she is — from the first backchecker to the very last one coming into our zone (I think we’ve all seen a fourth or fifth attacker go to the net and whack home a rebound). And, going back to an earlier point, let me suggest that any one of our checkers who nears our net should be negating the stick-blade of their man. Again, enemy sticks score goals.
9) You’d think it would be instinctive for our players to crash the net when they see the puck move that way. Ya, you’d think. Yet, I see far too many supposed attackers sit back as observers and miss some great scoring opportunities. Of course, we coaches wish our players would react in the right way. However, I accept part of the blame here if my players don’t. I mean, I’m the coach, and it’s up to me to create drills that instill the proper reactions.
10) Hmmmmm… Finish thy check…
For the longest time, I’ve blamed television commentators for confusing this issue, mainly because they tend to use that “finishing the check” expression when a big hit occurs, or when the hitee is knocked down. To my way of thinking, though, the idea of finishing a check is to tie up the former puckcarrier so that some other things may or may not happen.
If the puck is still nearby, the body-checker’s job is to focus on his man’s body, and to keep him momentarily tied up so that a teammate may grab the loose puck. On the other hand, if your man just dished off the puck to a mate, finishing the check — or staying on your man for an extra few seconds — prevents him or her from jumping back into the play for a return pass.
Okay, that’s my two cents worth when it comes to these important playing principles. Do you have any further ideas, or can you expound on what I’ve said? I won’t be offended in the least if you can add to (or argue with) any of these.
The following piece was so moving that I couldn’t go without placing it somewhere within this site. But, where? Well, I suspect “My Hockey Experiences” is a fairly appropriate spot.
Then, before turning things over to the star blogger, Jeff Chick, I thought I’d tell my own quick story…
For, you see, although Jeff currently resides in Texas, he calls Whitman, MA his hometown. Yup, he’s from the same tiny town as I. Jeff and I aren’t related, though. In fact, we didn’t really know each other until a mutual Whitman friend sent me the link to his article (she knew I’d enjoy the hockey connection).
There IS more to this story, however… Jeff’s dad, Dennis Chick (can you believe that?) and I grew-up together, we played against each other in Little League baseball, and then we were teammates through higher levels — into high school and American Legion Baseball. (I can’t recall if we played semi-pro together.)
And, in a town of only about 5,000 people back then, you can just imagine the occasional confusion when folks would mention one or the other — Dennis Chick or Dennis “Chic” Chighisola. In fact, to this day, I’m always teasing “the other Dennis” about getting me in trouble with all the girls in town.
That out of the way, the following is a lot more somber, and something we’ll probably remember for a long, long time, mainly because it has to do with the plane crash that just killed members of the KHL’s Lokomotiv hockey team. Enjoy it — if you can, but have a tissue ready.
– The REAL Chic — Dennis Chighisola
By Jeff Chick
My day was supposed to be over a little after noon today, but as I dropped off my last client, the office asked me if I could do one more run at 2 o’clock. Being the team player that I am, I said I would. I had 90 minutes to drive back to our company lot, switch into a van and then go to the pickup. Plenty of time to stop for some lunch and mess around on my phone. Peace of cake.
After making the vehicle change, sucking down a burger and fries from BK, and washing it down with a Coke Zero, I proceeded to my pickup location, a full 40 minutes ahead of schedule. I am a happy chauffeur……….for the moment.
I locate the residence that I need to be at, but being that the pickup is at 2, and it is only 1:20, I park a couple blocks away, per usual, and pickup my Thunderbolt to check FB and do some surfing.
First check of FB is littered with numerous comments and links about the tragic plane crash in Russia. 40+ people dead. NHL players, past and present, coaches, prospects and flight crew. Very sad news. I had been reading and hearing about it, off and on, all day. The ramifications reaching virtually all parts of the hockey world, and in less than 5 minutes, ME.
After my FB pitstop, I open up the trip ticket info on my phone, to see who I am picking up. Aaaah, another Dallas Stars transfer to the airport. That explains the van. These hockey guys always have big bags because they are usually traveling overseas. The last name, Skrastins. Never heard of him. No first name. I’ll have to google him. Google search: Skrastins Dallas Stars.
The rush that comes over my body is unexplainable. I am just staring at my phone. He was on “that” plane and he is dead. I am sitting 200 yards from his house and I realize what this pickup is all about. I am about to pick up the family of this man. A family that went to bed last night without a care in the world. A family that had no plans to board a Lufthansa flight to Europe when they woke up this morning. This explains why it was added to my schedule at 12:15 today. Is this for real?
It’s finally time to go down the street and pull in the driveway. Within a couple of minutes, a man comes out to let me know that the family will be out in a few moments. He alerts me to the situation, and tells me not to offer condolences because the children don’t know, and then he returns to the house. I can’t even imagine what his widow must be going through. My heart weeps for her. I am so glad this will be a short ride.
Then it happens. 2 girls, about 2 and 5 come running out the door, completely elated about the trip they are about to go on. Long blonde hair, blue eyes and giant smiles. I nearly burst into tears. My body gets tight. Every second feels like an eternity. The pain inside me is almost unbearable. I don’t even know these people and I am on the verge of a breakdown, right in their driveway. Knowing that these girls are utterly oblivious, to the true nature of their trip, is agonizing. I can’t help but think of my own children, and what it would be like if they woke up tomorrow and I was gone forever. Devastating! The wife and mother in law finally come out and we are on our way.
The entire drive the widow is on the phone. She, as well as the rest of the family, are not speaking English. Although, this would seem trivial, it is not. I don’t understand a single word she is saying, but the pure pain in her voice tells the whole story. The mother in law is keeping the kids entertained in the back of the van, while she sits up front and seems to be getting everything in order, over the phone. I sense sorrow, trepidation, confusion, and despair. Just a few of, what I imagine have been, the many emotions that she has experienced since she woke up today. Again, my heart weeps for her.
We finally arrive at DFW airport, and a liaison from Lufthansa is waiting curbside for us, with a security escort. He “quietly” offers his condolences to the widow while the girls are still getting out of the van. Personnel grab all their bags, and they are off. Girls still giddy about the trip. I, however, am a mess.
I barely get 100 feet away from the terminal when I lose it, crying uncontrollably. I feel stupid, but I don’t care. I can’t get the image of those girls out of my head. The idea that they have no clue that they will NEVER see their father again. What’s worse, is that they probably haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks, and expect to see him when they get where they’re going. Utterly heartbreaking. What a way to end the day.
So, as I sit here recapping this gut-wrenching afternoon that I have experienced, I would like to end it with a final thought. It makes no difference to a child what happens to you when you die. They are going to be devastated either way. Just make sure they know what they mean to you. Remind them EVERYDAY. Hug them EVERYDAY. Kiss them EVERYDAY. Most importantly, love them EVERYDAY. Unconditionally. Because, you never know what tomorrow will bring.
Jeff Chick writes a sports related blog called A CHICKS PERSPECTIVE
Contributor: Seth Dussault, MA, USA
Drill Category: Shooting, Screening, Deflecting, Rebounding, Defending Slot and Goaltending
Rebound Control Drill
Thinking about most drills — the ones that aren’t expressly designed for
goalkeepers often aren’t very helpful for them. When most drills involve
the goalkeeper, it’s only to stop an initial shot, and nothing else, but
what’s just as important as making the initial save is getting in the
habit controlling where rebounds go. Too often, drills designed for
forwards will allow goalies to leave ugly rebounds. Why not design a drill
that helps forwards and defensemen work on important skills and forces the
goalkeeper to do the same all at once?
To that end, this simple drill will help goalies with rebound control as
well as two other important skills, seeing through screens and dealing
with deflections. At the same time, it will help your forwards with
attacking rebounds and creating tips and deflections, and your defensemen
with protecting the crease in such situations. I call this the “Rebound
Set up your goalie in his/her crease with two forwards at the top as well
as a defenseman. Everyone else should be set up in an arc around the
offensive zone, with one puck each. (see diagram of set-up below)
Now, as with a normal warm up shooting drill, the players will shoot one
at a time. However, we have bodies in front this time. The forward nearest
the puck will attempt to tip the shot, and both will go after rebounds if
there are any. The defenseman’s job is to prevent the forwards from
grabbing the rebound if a bad one does come back. Once the puck has been
knocked out of the front of the crease, reset and the next player shoots.
Repeat until everyone has shot.
What you’ll hopefully find is that the goalie will learn to either put the
rebound out of reach of the players in front (i.e. deflect it to the
corner) or catch the puck, rather than kick a rebound out into the middle
where a second chance can be had. If you do this at both ends of the rink
and have four or five shooters per end, you can rotate through and have
everyone work on defending and attacking pretty quickly.
No video is available for this drill.
I have new member, Gareth, to thank for the inspiration here.
Shortly after he joined CoachChic.com, we connected in a Facebook Chat. And it was then that he mentioned a want to delve through these pages and “…back up a lot of my thoughts.” As Gareth continued, “I think coaches just need some guidance and confidences to do what they believe…”
And, ooooooh is he ever so right! A head coach’s job is a lonely one in some ways. I mean, the weight of a team falls on our shoulders, and there are usually few people ready and able to counsel us when we reach various sticking points. Ha, want to talk about the many who second-guess us? Well, I’ll tell you that we coaches — or at least the good ones — second-guess ourselves even more.
Then, before getting further into this, let me suggest that a parent often feels the same loneliness when his or her youngster meets any sort of crossroad or obstacle. Oh, the rinks may be filled with opinionated folks. But, it’s still the parent and his or her kid who lives or dies with a final decision.
– Dennis Chighisola
Challenging Hockey’s Status Quo
What echoes and echoes from my brief conversation with Gareth is that part about needing the confidence to do what he believes. Oh, man, have I been there, done that.
Of course, back in the dark ages — when I began coaching, there was little in the way of help. There weren’t even that many hockey textbooks, never mind videos or Internet websites. Consequently, I second-guessed nearly everything I was doing, skills to X’s and O’s.
My confidence grew with several events that just plain happened (and I’ve documented these in more detail elsewhere). It was at least comforting when one minor league pro player affirmed my beliefs about defending a 2 on 1, and I got all the more psyched when an NHL defenseman suggested I saved his career with a special skating maneuver. Some years later, I felt on Cloud Nine when my MP Drill Format was selected as one of the best drills at the 1980 NHL Coaches Symposium.
Those things, however exciting, were only little bumps of adrenaline — positive jolts, for sure, but not all that lasting. No, the lasting boosts in confidence came with something you’ve probably heard me say before, and it’s something you’ll hear a lot more about in the near future. What I’m getting at are what I’ve come to call “Coach Chic’s Rules for Winners”.
Here’s how that collection came together…
Maybe in my earliest days as a coach, for example, I started seeing something like a turn over in neutral ice really matter. In other words, we may have been controlling a game, and then a neutral-ice cough-up of the puck resulted in an opposition goal. Of course, something like that happening just once only causes a coach to shake his or her head. However, when it happens every few games, I tend to think there’s more to it than just a rare mistake.
Explaining the problem only briefly, I’ve come to think that a player just exiting his own zone or just trying to enter the offensive zone has his teammates thinking attack. I mean, most mates — whether they should be or not — are likely leaning forward and they’re not prepared if the puck is suddenly lost. And off to the races go one or two opponents, walking easily right through our still startled defenders. Now, I intimated that all our puckcarrier’s teammates shouldn’t be looking to follow the attack. However, I do believe in human nature, and I do believe it influences even elite players to do the wrong things at the worst of times. So again, if our puckcarrier isn’t careful near either blue line, there’s a good chance of putting us in trouble.
Okay, so I started seeing something like that happening more often than to believe it’s just a freakish, once in awhile thing. And I’m thinking also that it’s a principle I need to hammer into the minds of my skaters.
Problem: I’m maybe a 20-something coach, kinda new on the job, and I’m wondering why I haven’t heard any experienced coaches mention this, never mind suggesting a way to deal with it. Would there be a confidence problem here? Think again: 20-something, new at coaching, and not hearing far more experienced coaches address it. Hmmmmmm…
Well, to me, I could only wait so long — and see that kind of mistake happen so often — before I decided I was right. Damn other coaches; maybe they know about this, maybe they don’t. But, I only needed to see my team get burned so many times before I felt the need deal with it.
Now, I think the last time I checked, there were about twenty-one points listed under my “Rules for Winners”. I don’t think you’d find any of them earth shattering. If you’d be surprised at all, it might be that I’ve found these kinds of things to be hugely responsible for a team’s success. As a matter of fact, if a player wants to play smartly at a high level, he or she would be helped immensely by knowing and doing those things instinctively.
Notice, though, how much I anguished over that earlier point. Ya, that kind of internal wrestling took place often during my earliest years — in coaching, and in parenting a young hockey player. Like many others here, perhaps, I was constantly asking myself, “Am I right?” Or, “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”
And that brings me back to what Gareth and I both believe when it comes to the value of the CoachChic.com website.
There’s little doubt that beginners will find enough information here to bring them quickly to higher levels of knowledge. Hey, there are currently over 500 posts on everything from tying skates to over-speed training.
But it’s the advanced player, parent and coach that Gareth reminds me about. Ya, all of us need someone to talk with when it comes to troubleshooting a problem. And we all need someone we can bounce our own ideas off. Frankly, we’ve had a number of spirited — but fun — philosophical arguments within the Comments area, but I’m dying for more. (I learn as much from those as our members do.)
Finally, speaking of learning… I’ve found through the years that I’ve strengthened my beliefs about a given principle just by having to explain it to someone else. Think about that, and then shoot me your thoughts — on unique skill applications, tactics or strategies. I’d be loving it!
PS: Oooops! Any time you’d like to start a new topic, don’t use the Comments area, but instead give that topic a chance to have its own area. In other words, use the Ask The Coach link up above, and I’ll begin the new topic for you. We can go back and forth through the adjacent Comments boxes after that.
Oh, boy, do I have a story to tell. But, let me do that after you’ve had a chance to see the video and hear this special song…Loading...
Please DO share this page with anyone you think would enjoy the video (especially hockey moms and hockey dads?).
And please DO add your Comments below in the provided box.
If you’d like to immediately download the song, “Tommy’s First Pair of Skates” (minus all the crazy sound effects), just CLICK HERE — in the event you’d like to play it lots of times yourself, or if you’d like to give it as a gift to someone special.
Okay, as long-time CoachChic.com members may have gathered, I’m breaking a little with tradition here — because *Gifts are normally reserved for you only. In fact, if you don’t mind, I’m going to keep this one available to the entire hockey world, mainly because I believe it deserves that kind of attention.
I’m hoping this makes sense to you, because my dream is to give this song a chance to become a hockey standard.
Of course, I couldn’t ever do something like that alone. So I’m hoping you’ll help, and possibly share this page with anyone you know in our game. (Come to think of it, you might have the chance to be a part of hockey history here, being one of the very first to hear John’s song, and also being a part of spreading the word. Actually, you can even go on record as one of the very first ever, just by leaving a Comment below.)
As always, thanks in advance for all your help!
– Dennis Chighisola
As for the Story Behind the Story…
Several years ago my youngest brother sent me a collection of songs he’d written, composed and sung for me to use as background music in some of my videos. Those who have seen the video featuring me and Chomper (the NEHI mascot) have heard my brother on that soundtrack, and you probably also know that he’s a real pro — using the stage name John Stevens, and entertaining regularly on cruise ships and around Orlando, Florida, at Universal Studios and sometimes at Disney World.
Anyway, the CD John sent me sat for a week or so before I had a chance to browse it for a video I was planning. So, there I tinkered in my office studio, all alone at about 2 o’clock in the morning, as the third song started to play.
Gulp… Almost immediately I got a lump in my throat and my eyes began to water. Ya, it was — it is — THAT kind of song.
It didn’t take long for me to know what I wanted to do with something so special. However, it has taken me forever (like almost three years) to gather the right video footage and photos, and to envision exactly how things should go together. And it’s even taken me about the past month to work with all the assembled resources in hopes of releasing something hockey folks will truly enjoy.
As far as your enjoying it goes, well… That’s for you to decide, and perhaps tell me about. I know several hockey moms have already written to let me know they cried hearing that song. So, if you might use the box below, I’d love to hear you impressions, or even how my brother’s story relates to your own. Again, I’d really, really appreciate hearing from you.
I think it’s really neat all the wonderful people I’ve met in this game. And I count Cathy Cuff Coffman as one of the nicest of them all.
Actually, we go way back to when her oldest son first attended one of my summer hockey schools in Reading, PA. Back then, I didn’t know the story she is about to tell, but it would have explained why Cathy knew what she was talking about whenever we discussed the game.
Her boy Tim and my grandson attended that first school together, and ultimately became great little friends over several more summers. And, while the boys eventually went their own ways in the game (both now starring in college hockey), Cathy and I have attempted to stay in touch.
As you might gather from her style, Cathy Cuff Coffman is a freelance writer (and a very good one). I know you’re going to enjoy the following, and there’s a pretty good chance that a lot of members will connect with her story.
– Dennis Chighisola
We Are An Ice Hockey Family (Thanks To My Dad)
My Dad did not play hockey. His sport of choice growing up in Brooklyn was baseball. Ice hockey was always around Philadelphia in one form or another—several minor league teams trekked their way through Billy Penn’s town, and my dad would frequent the games. If there was play by play on the radio, you can be sure our transistor was tuned to the game.
But when Ed Snider gambled and brought the Flyers to Philadelphia, my dad was one of the first to sign up for season tickets. The year was 1967. I was five years old. And so began, in earnest, our family’s love affair with ice hockey.
I’m the oldest, and grew up as a rough and tumble tomboy. I was, in essence, my dad’s first born son. Sports brought us together. I played softball at a competitive level, and also played field hockey and lacrosse. A rival school had a girl on the field hockey team that also played ice hockey. I wanted to do that. “Learn to skate backwards,” said my Dad. And so I spent my allowance at the local rink, skating and working on cutting “C’s” in the ice to skate backwards.
I told him I learned—and he still wouldn’t let me sign up for the local team, the Springfield Quakers (named after one of the minor league teams that briefly made Philadelphia their homestead). Later on—as an adult—I realized that ice hockey was just too expensive for a truck driver’s salary.
But I digress.
So after a few years of season tickets my Dad and his friend worked their way into the front office of the Flyers—literally. He became Ed Snider’s bartender. He and his friend shared the job, and the job came with two season tickets in Section X of the famed Philadelphia Spectrum.
So while my Dad tended bar just 10 rows away, I and a sibling got to watch Flyers hockey from atop the opposing players’ blue line. After the games we would go to the Superbox—Snider’s private suite—and clean glasses while my dad entertained the players after the game. We were privy to these young heroes as they drank and regaled in stories of the game. This was before they headed out to their favorite watering hole in South Jersey, where most of them lived. It just didn’t get much better than that.
My Dad’s love for the game was infectious in our family—even my Mom, the most non-sporty person there is, watched with intent and knowledge. One of my favorite pictures of my Dad is one where he’s in his recliner, covered by an afghan, watching the Flyers on TV. His hands are raised above his head, and when I look at that picture I can here him yelling “Score!”
Fast forward to 1991. My four-year old son, Tim, decides to trade in all the birthday presents he received for roller blades and a stick. I obliged. No kiddie rollerblades—inline three-wheelers with no brake pad. The little guy—who had seen enough hockey on TV, transferred what he viewed to his feet. The boy could skate. The next year, he was on the ice, skating as if he had been doing it all his life. He went right to the Mite A team. And my Dad couldn’t be prouder.
My Mom and Dad came to as many of Tim’s games as they could. One particular match was against a team coached by Ed “Boxcar” Hospodar—a former Flyer who my Dad had served in the Superbox. Tim’s team was down by two goals, with a minute left to play. Tim, in quick succession scored three goals to put the game away. Dad didn’t have much to say—he was proud—turned to me and said, “That boy is fast.”
The next year Tim made a Tier I AAA team and the realization of travel set in. We had two other children at home and I was afraid the travel would be too much. Not to worry. Dad went out and bought a conversion van and said he’d take Tim to as many games as he could.
That never happened. That summer Dad passed away suddenly. My Mom sold the van. Our daughter Kelly was bitten by the hockey bug, and she turned into a fine Tier 1 boys’ goaltender. Our youngest, Joe, eventually laced up the skates as a happy recreational player.
But it’s my Dad and his infectious love of the skill and effort put out by hockey players that turned my family into a hockey family. My husband is from West Virginia and knew nothing of the game. When he took a job in Philadelphia, my Dad welcomed him to our town with the season tickets in Section X. Dad was tending bar, and snuck us a bread bag filled with jumbo shrimp. My husband felt the energy in the Spectrum, I don’t remember who the Flyers were playing. But I remember the feeling of passing something along to my husband that colored the fabric of my life for as long as I could remember.
Our involvement in hockey is winding down. Tim is a college player entering his senior year. We make as many of his games as we can. Kelly laces up the skates as a Flyers Skate Girl, working the ice during Flyers’ games. And Joe is a midget defensemen who calls his brother with highlights of his Tier II games. A corner of our basement is filled with used hockey gear. And every once in a while, each of the kids will say, “I wonder what GrandDad would think?”
His hands would be raised above his head, and he’d be shouting “Score!” And then he’d serve up another drink.
As I mentioned earlier, Cathy is a freelance writer located in Elverson, Pennsylvania. So, if you’re interested in asking about her services, just email her.
– Dennis Chighisola
As always, we enjoy your Comments. Also, if you have a story to tell –
about a special hockey memory, this is the place for it!
I know lots of my friends here are tech-savvy. At the same time, I can appreciate those who are not (personally, I’m good at some technical things, not so good at others).
Anyway, I’d hate to think that there’s a single member who misses a new hockey post when it initially hits CoachChic.com (or one of its sister sites).
With that, let me make sure everyone is up to speed on a few conveniences that might not be all that noticeable…
– Dennis Chighisola
Never Miss Another Hockey Post — Again!
Right up at the top-right of this page are two orange buttons. The left-most — and the one shown in the adjoining photo — when clicked upon, will make sure you’re alerted every time I or a guest writer posts a new article or hockey video to this site.
Not shown in the photo is the right-most button, which when clicked will make sure you’re alerted each time a new Comment is added here at CoachChic.com. (This can especially help anyone who has Commented already and is patiently — or impatiently — awaiting a follow-up.)
Coach Chic’s Hockey Diary
If you look at the links located at the top of any CoachChic.com page, you should see one that goes to “Dennis’ Blog”.
My hockey diary is located at a different site, mainly because I address some issues there that are only slightly hockey related, or perhaps don’t have a lot to do with the teaching/coaching process. In many instances they’re opinion pieces. Still, members should find most entries interesting, if only food for thought.
Anyway, clicking on that link — to Dennis’ Blog — will get you there. Then, once you arrive at that site, you have similar options as I described earlier, except that that blog’s format shows them in a slightly different way. I’ve listed quite a few helpful links to the right of that blog, this to include writings by some truly great hockey people from across North America. Partway down the page you’ll see that header that says “Subscribe”, and under that the links that will allow you to be notified about new Posts and new Comments.
Hockey Tips and Tricks
This can be yet another helpful site, my on-line store where lots of hard-to-find hockey aids can be explored.
The other two symbols are a little different… The small “t” will bring you to my Twitter homepage, while the small “f” takes you to my Facebook page. And, hey… I’d like to get to know you in yet other ways, so please do connect with me!
All the CoachChic.com Category Links
If you’ve never taken the time to explore all the various areas within CoachChic.com, at least be aware that they can be accessed through those two rows of links that sit atop each page.
Finally, I thank my lucky stars that my techie partner long ago selected WordPress — for your sake and for mine. Yes, Roland Lacey made it so easy for us to host videos, audio and writings, and it really should be easier for you to negotiate this site than in most other formats.
Still, that said, please let me know if anything here ever confuses you (or whatever). Your experiences should be as easy and enjoyable as they are informative.
I don’t usually like to sell anything within these pages. At the same time, I’d feel rather badly if I didn’t let my favorite hockey people know about something unique, or something that could save them some money. So, please allow me to do this just once…
– Dennis Chighisola
My New Hockey Coaching Manual
A number of years ago I wrote what I felt was THE definitive manual for coaches of young players, and I titled that “How to Assemble & Teach a Basic Hockey System”.
That 72-page book sold awesomely, but the loss of a key office worker ultimately put the sale of hardcopies on hold (mainly because I just didn’t have the time to do the physical things involved in the sales and shipping process). Nor could I take the time to retrain a new office worker.
Let me tell you, though… That manual was awesome AND THOROUGH. Hey, if you’ve come to know me by now, I tend to always act like a teacher, so I undertook the writing of that manual as if I was holding a new coach right by the hand, and telling or showing him or her exactly how a young team should go together. Again, if you know me, you know I over-explain absolutely everything, just so that the information I share is perfectly clear.
Okay, so the world has changed — a lot — since I first wrote that book. And mainly I’m talking about the arrival of the Internet.
Now, two recent events got me to thinking about that manual again…
First, I was searching for a way to help the young assistant coach who was about to take-over a team I’d coached this past year. I mean, I wanted to arm him with all the background information that caused me to decide on a given forecheck for our kids, the whys and wherefores of our breakouts, face-off plays and so forth. In other words, I wanted to share with him how I think when it comes to putting everything together for a young team. And then it struck me: almost everything I could ever tell him about is contained in that earlier written manual, “How to Assemble & Team A Basic Hockey System”!
Yet something else struck me as I thumbed through what I was about to give to my young assistant. “Hmmmmmm…” I thought, “Even I’ve gotten away from a few of the important concepts I’d described in there!” Not only that, but it also hit me that most of that manual is appropriate to what I’ll need to do with my new Bantam aged team! Ya, hockey principles are hockey principles, no matter the level, and I knew that the things I outlined in that book apply to almost all age groups.
Anyway, if you want to know more about my new coach manual, you can go hear:
There IS some urgency, because the price will go up in a few days
(that’s why I’m tell you about it right now)!
The first discount deadline has passed,
but you can still save by ordering before April 30, 2011.
To be honest, I’m trying to almost give this away right now;
the eventual cost will be $27 by later this spring.
So much has changed in the science of strength training over recent years, with new terminology cropping up all the time. Truthfully, if you grew-up playing hockey (or any other sport) during the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, it’s best that you forget all you learned back then, and stay tuned here at CoachChic.com. (Topnotch specialists — like Scott Umberger and Jason Price — and I are sure to keep you abreast of the very latest in scientific developments. In fact, Scott and I have already done several in depth posts on the subject of “periodization”.)
– Dennis Chighisola
Periodization in Hockey Strength Training
Let me begin by once again providing you an oversimplification of this term…
Appreciate that our bodies adapt to training over a span of time. And, as a body gets used to the training, that training tends to have less and less impact. In other words, gains stall, or the athlete hits a plateau. It should make further sense that some staleness (or boredom) can also result from sticking to the same routine for very long (and this goes for any sort of training, not just strength related).
Personally, I’d learned this in my younger years as I engaged in strength training, ultimately reading that the best way to avoid plateaus was to occasionally — or, should I say “periodically” — change my training routine. Back then, the idea was to rotate exercises that worked similar muscles or muscle groups, thereby forcing the body to continually adapt to new conditions.
I said that was an oversimplification, because modern day periodization has been taken to whole new level.
Okay, so what got me going on this topic is the release of a new hockey readiness program being offered by my buddy, Jeremy Weiss. (Jeremy and I have known each other for a few years now, we come from similar Phys Ed backgrounds, and we’ve shared a lot of ideas when it comes to hockey training.)
Now, as many of us start to turn our attentions toward off-season training, Jeremy will ultimately offer a special program aimed at helping hockey players work at home without the need for costly ice (and you ought to know how strongly I feel about that). You don’t have to purchase his program, however, to have access to several awesome videos…
The first video has just been released, and it deals with the above noted strength-training concept called periodization. (As Jeremy describes it, “Periodization is a really effective way to keep consistent strength gains and to avoid plateaus.”)
Okay, here goes, on periodization…Loading...
Some time has passed since the above post, and all of the introductory videos have been taken down. However, I’ve grabbed them for you, with the ones on cardio training for hockey and nutrition to follow…Loading... Loading...
At this point, Jeremy has a new video posted on his site, this one explaining the off-season training program he’s offering. Actually, I thought it would be extremely expensive but it’s not. So, if you can’t get this old coach, Scott Umberger or Jason Price to train you live, Jeremy provides a different option by helping you train at home…
Please let me know what you think about those free videos, and about the idea of me sharing such within the CoachChic.com website.
Shaun Goodsell, MA
It is probably safe to say that every person has something they want that they do not currently have. For some it boils down to more success. Still others want less stress and heartache. So the question is, what is the critical factor that leads to accomplishment?
The most popular ideas include setting goals, hard work and having confidence in yourself. Although these are important, accomplishment requires that you are ACCOUNTABLE. In other words, you have a commitment to someone else to follow through on your word. Research shows that when you make a statement to someone else and are asked to “ACCOUNT” for what you have done or are doing to move towards that goal an element of “pressure” is present that is crucial for those that are serious about accomplishing their goals. In business it is often stated that what is expected gets inspected. In our day and age we have moved so far from this. Most people have stopped dreaming, and even more problematic, wouldn’t consider sharing their hopes and dreams with a person that would hold them to what they have said. Actually, in some circles if a person would provide accountability they would be chastised and told to mind their own business. The fact is that there is no accomplishment without discipline and follow through on necessary elements of success. The law of cause and effect dictates that effect is the by-product of cause. The concept of cause is what we do and effect is what we get. Mustering up the capacity to DO the things necessary is enhanced in a culture of accountability and a kind of “Peer Pressure” is formed. When this plays out in the right manner success is elevated at high rates.
If you are one that has a goal you want to accomplish here are three simple, but vital, tips in being able to realize your potential and accomplish your goal. First, write your goal down with clarity. Most important here is that you have to be able to measure it. Second, establish the actions and commitment required to accomplish your goal. Third, become part of a group of people that will “inspect” your daily actions to determine whether or not you deserve to accomplish your goal.
The Mental Edge has a new service launching in February to provide you with your own private web page that includes a place to record your goals, track your actions and have a Mental Edge coach overseeing your daily record of your actions and providing immediate feedback. All this can be done on your smart phone or home computer by registering for our Mental Edge Goal Achievement Program.
The Mental Edge is committed to training kids through these types of experiences. For more information and to begin your life training process give us a call today 763-439-5246.
My friends here at CoachChic.com might be interested to know that I had a plan concerning members going into this venture.
I’d set a certain number of early sign-ups that I would refer to as “Charter Members”, and I’d reward them with a special, reduced membership fee.
Having reached that magic number a few weeks back, I then set January 31, 2011 as the closing date for Charter Memberships (yes, the monthly fee goes up as of February 1).
Those currently enrolled at CoachChic.com will remain at the lowest rate as long as they remain members.
Then, always looking to give back to the game I love — and to my favorite people on the planet, members should expect even more within the CoachChic.com website over coming months (and years).
Thanks so much for your support;
I love you folks!
– Dennis Chighisola
I’ll begin this by saying that hockey actually began for me when I was about 9- or 10-years old. Up to that point I’d been mostly a baseball and football enthusiast, mainly because those were the sports my dad was most interested in. But then, my mom’s youngest sister married a guy who was all hockey, and he soon got me hooked on that game too.
This entry isn’t about those earliest playing days, though. No, what I’d like to share with members are my earliest days in coaching, when hockey REALLY began for me.
– Dennis Chighisola
How Hockey REALLY Began for Coach Chic
I’m guessing that those currently into hockey will find this kind of interesting, but when I was very young, most of the really good hockey in these parts could only be found in the big city of Boston, Massachusetts. And it trickled only slightly outside the major city to close by smaller burgs like Weymouth, Hingham and Arlington (to only name a few). My point: that there were no indoor rinks where I grew-up, some 30-miles outside Boston. So, any of us who really wanted to play would have to do out best at honing skills on the rural ponds and cranberry bogs the bulk of the time, and then commute closer to the big city to get some formal training and perhaps play a weekly game. A now long-gone rink in Weymouth, MA is where we Whitman boys would go to get the best youth hockey we could. Ya, so current day kids and their parents ought to appreciate the fact that there is now a rink just around the corner for you.
Thank God, that the Viet Nam Conflict affected me far less than it did some of my childhood buddies, and so many guys in my generation. Still, a military commitment did cause me — again, a lot less than many others — to alter my schooling and work, and to give-up some semi-pro level play in baseball, football and hockey.
When the chaos of those times did subside a little, I found myself coaching in all three of those sports, which brings me to something else current day sports enthusiasts might find interesting. For, there weren’t anything like baseball or football camps back in the 1960s, no clinics or AAA-type teams, nor any paid coaching positions outside school or professional programs. Hockey was different back then, though — probably owing to the local rinks’ needs to fill hours with the likes of summer hockey schools or camps and weekly skill-oriented clinics. And, fortunate as I’ve so often been, I found myself being hired by several local arenas to run a lot of those kinds of programs.
Now, did I just insinuate that I’ve frequently been lucky? Ya, and I’m going to suggest that I couldn’t have been more fortunate in my earliest coaching experiences.
You see, I’ve always been inquisitive. I mean, I like to know how things work, how pieces fit together, what makes things tick, and so forth. And, if I’m going to get into something, it almost always has to be all or nothing.
Is that good? Maybe not for my health — , but most surely for my future career in hockey coaching.
I started studying far and wide (and I’ve actually been through the old AHA/USA Hockey coaching certification program three — yes, I said three — times). And I also started collecting and devouring every hockey (and other related) manual I could find.
I also wrote to a few big-time hockey coaches, asking for their help. Ha, talk about future influences… Actually, several pro guys were unbelievably helpful, while a couple of the Division One college guys never even responded (which suggests — at least in my book — who is and isn’t really big-time). So, you might now appreciate why I answer every email and CoachChic.com question that ever comes my way. Yes, partly because of those long ago experiences, but also, I think, because I was brought-up dawgoned right.
Anyway, what this piece is really about is my feeling fortunate to be AN EMPTY sponge as I began my hockey coaching career. I mean, I’d had modest coaching in an equally modest playing career, so my mind was w-i-d-e open to anything and everything I thought could help me, my students and my players.
As an aside here… If there are some guys I feel a little badly for, they’re the ones who can’t get themselves out of the 1970s. In other words, they think that’s the way hockey is still played — ’70s style, and they think the kind of training they received way back then is how it should be done today. Yes, I feel very, very badly for them, and I’m also often frustrated by those types when I try to convince them there are better — more scientific — ways to improve hockey playing qualities nowadays. Ugh.
Oh, as I’ve mentioned in a few other posts here at CoachChic.com, I felt fortunate to have played for two of our area’s most innovative coaches. My dad was a creative genius when it came to devising baseball practice techniques, and so was my high school football coach far, far ahead of his time. In fact, borrowing from what I’d learned from them, I was probably one of the first coaches in our area who thought to use teaching stations within a practice or hockey school atmosphere.
Okay, so I was a sponge… And I also suggested earlier that I traveled far and wide to gain any sort of help. So, Canadian based coaching seminars were often on my summer todo list back in those early years, as were family vacations. In fact, two getaways to the north country helped to forever change my coaching methods…
Ah, I remember it as if it was yesterday, a camping trip we took to Ontario, Canada. After a day or so on our site, my family became good friends with an older couple who camped right beside us. Oh, and it didn’t hurt when we discovered we had a love for hockey in common.
Then, talk about luck… One night our gentleman neighbor announced that he had a TV set with him, and he was planning on hooking it up somewhere in the campgrounds where everyone could watch the start of the big series between a team of NHL all-stars and the Soviet Union’s so-called “Big Red Machine”. Yes, this was the summer of 1972, and that series now sits in hockey history as The Showdown at the Summit.
Don’t forget that we were in Canada. So, there was no shortage of local campers to gather in the campgrounds laundry room for the opening face-off of Game One. Yup, we were crammed-in like sardines, with most folks licking their chops in anticipation of the NHL pros destroying the “amateur” Russians.
Now, the pros didn’t letdown their faithful following, at least at first. For, they pumped-in a couple of goals right at the start, and it surely looked like the rout was on. Ya, it looked like it. However, the Soviets just kept coming — and coming and coming and coming. And, in no time, they had overcome the Canadians’ lead, and headed-off to their own rout.
Did I say that we were crammed into that small concrete structure? Ha… Little by little, the crowd thinned, and only my neighbor and I remained to see the final game action.
As a backdrop to the following video, let me say that the uniqueness of that famed Showdown at the Summit had to do with an anticipated David versus Goliath match-up. I mean, the pros were expected to kill the amateurs, but the games should have still proven interesting due to the drastically different playing styles, and the fact that pros and amateurs hadn’t been allowed to play each other in recent Olympic or World Cup tournaments.
I remember reading that legendary NHL goaler, Jacques Plante, felt badly for the young USSR netminder, Vladimir Trechiak. So he provided him some pre-tournament advice about various NHL snipers.
And there were even some other controversies going on behind the scenes… The great Bobby Hull (among others) was being excluded from the Canadian roster because he’d jumped from the National Hockey League to the new World Hockey Association. There was even a controversy among Canadian fans over the selection of the announcers who would broadcast the games. So, to put it bluntly, this tournament was big, and seemingly everything mattered, at least between the land of the maple leaf and the old Soviet Union.
Oh, one more thing… I grabbed this first video because it tends to depict some of the things I want to talk about here. I AM NOT INTO TAKING SIDES ON THE SERIES OUTCOME. (Actually, this video is obviously slanted with old Soviet bias.) What I was — and still am — very interested in is the impact this series had on hockey training methods. So, that said, take a peek, just to get a “feel” of things as they transpired back in the summer of 1972…
As a quick recap, Paul Henderson emerged as a true star in this series — at least in my book, ultimately helping Team Canada win the final and deciding tournament game.
Among some of the clips you might notice in that video…
For sure, there was a cultural exchange — and a mutual admiration — taking place over the length of this series.
Insiders were heard to say after the early games that the Soviets showed the NHL defensemen some moves they hadn’t ever seen before.
It shouldn’t have been difficult to spot the Canadians’ frustrations throughout that video. Actually, this is important to note, because the Russian players were trained to show no emotions (and this sort of goes along with current day psychological theories — about not getting too high or too low, but just staying on an even keel at all times).
You might also notice the Canadians losing a physical confrontation or two… Well, long ago thinking — for athletes in almost all skill-related sports — was that strength training was taboo. However, those on the Big Red Machine demonstrated great upper body strength.
Perhaps most frustrating to the North American skaters was the offensive patience shown by their Soviet counterparts. I mean, the Russians didn’t hurry plays, and would sometimes even pass on one shot in order to gain an even better scoring opportunity. No dumping and chasing for the Russians, either, but lots of puck control, and even something new in “regrouping” if they couldn’t immediately penetrate the offensive zone.
One thing common to European sport, I think, was the Russians inclination to play the whole game, and to not get too emotionally rapt in the score at any given time. And by this, I mean that the Soviets fell behind early on several occasions, but just kept playing — for the entire 60-minutes, and they won those games in the end. (This might be a hard concept to explain. But, two teams are provided so many minutes to out-score their opponents. It really doesn’t matter when the extra goals come, only that they do ultimately come. Get what I mean?)
One humorous time came during an opening ceremony… Phil Esposito slipped on a rose petal, and he played that to the amusement of the crowd.
Near the end of the video, that’s a young Bobby Orr shaking his head as he watches from the stands. Yes, one sad part of the tournament was that Orr was recovering from a knee injury, and unable to participate.
Finally, did I suggest there was a bias in that video’s production? Of course there was. And I’m sure we could have collected at least as many great plays made by the NHL stars. (So, apologies to all my Canadian friends.) Still, that particular production does provide a feel — or flavor — for the many things I need to point-out here. Then, before continuing, here’s another video that might give you a bit more background info on this series…
Interesting for me were my many trips to Canada over ensuing summers. Actually, I sensed I was frequently one of the few US coaches in the audience. So, I got a true feel for what was going on among those hockey leaders, as they seemed to speak Canadian to Canadian.
In the first few off-seasons I traveled up there, CAHA and Hockey Canada lecturers were almost apologizing for their prior training methods. Reflecting back, this may have been intentional, just to get their audience’s attention (as in shaking the shoulders of the guys and gals who held the future of Canadian hockey in their hands).
Up front, some in Canada knew ahead of time that their pros would be out of shape entering that series in mid-summer. The Soviets put an exclamation point on that one, though, skating as hard in their last shifts as they did in their first ones. (In recent years, I’ve advised my older teams to, “Make them skate with you!” Yes, if I felt we were in better shape than another team — which we almost always have been, I’d want my players to push their opponents to their limit early, and then have some fun after those opponents wilted.)
Of course, thanks in large part to that series, serious hockey players nowadays train nearly year-round, just as the Soviets always have.
Suddenly, the line-up of instructors also changed at most North American hockey symposiums. Sure, there were still plenty of high level coaches and NHL types speaking, but so were there physiologists, psychologists, strength coaches and nutritionists. And so were there as many suggestions for off-ice training as there were on-ice drills and systems advice. Athletic attributes — like speed, agility and the likes — were also mentioned right along with all the traditional hockey skills.
Okay, so I was loading my arsenal of hockey coaching ideas in those first few years after the Showdown at the Summit. However, another vacation to Canada — this time to New Brunswick — had an even greater impact on my future approach to the game…
My Canadian friends might not appreciate the difference between their bookstores and the ones down here in the US. However, every time I ventured up north, I’d load-up on pamphlets and manuals I’d never ever find where I live.
Your newspapers — even during the summer — also carry articles that wouldn’t be found down here in The States. And that brings me to a column I read by the campfire one day, this containing Fred Shero’s impressions after a recent visit to Moscow to study the Soviet’s unique training methods.
What? The Soviets are entertaining coaches from around the world to come study their methods? Where do I sign-up?
Well, it wasn’t until 1979 that I could pull-off that one. But I did. And let me tell you… I landed in Moscow thinking I kinda knew my stuff when it came to teaching our game. By the end of the first day of training, however, I realized I didn’t know a dawgoned thing. I mean that.
Again, we’re talking 1979, and I’m going to suggest that few back home knew anything about plyometrics. Nor did they know anything about over-speed training. (Actually, the Soviets weren’t showing us anything about the latter; I just happened to sneak-off from my study group one day and discover it on my own!)
Okay, so back to my title — “How Hockey REALLY Began for Coach Chic”…
What I am suggesting is that I was lucky to be influenced so much by that NHL versus the Big Red Machine series, and my eventual Soviet studies.
Although I’ve never been one to stay stuck on anything, my head was clear enough (or maybe empty enough — ) to really get into what is now considered the “modern way of doing things”. Yes, I do still have a tiny bit of my earliest hockey experiences to fall back upon, and I’m still influenced quite a bit by the way my dad and my old football coach did things. But, that first day of studies in Moscow really did it for: teaching me to keep my mind wide open for the very latest information.
That open mindedness has further influenced my studies of track athletes, tennis and soccer and rugby players, and I’m willing to look anywhere else if I can steal an advantage. Yes, I consider myself lucky that my attitude hasn’t changed — from my days as a 20-something beginner coach to my white-haired days today.
For your enjoyment, I found this clip over at YouTube that tells a little about the USSR philosophy, it introduces the great Anatoli Tarasov, and it also shows some pretty interesting Soviet training methods. Enjoy (and please leave a Comment below, huh?)…
Folks, our friend, Tim T, left a link in a Comment below for another awesome video. I couldn’t help adding it here, because it shows Tarasov putting his squad through their paces on the ice, and those guys are doing a lot of the things my high school players still do. Oh, by the way… I swear they’re at the Central Red Army rink in Moscow, a place I visited so many years ago. Again, this is awesome, once you get past a short Russian introduction…
I have my friends at the Sports Connection to thank for this extremely informative article.
I love that they’ve provided a brief history for floorball, and that they go even more into the rules than other articles I’ve published here.
So thanks, Sports Connection! And I hope my CoachChic.com friends find this enjoyable and helpful!
– Dennis Chighisola
Floorball: The Fastest Growing Team Sport
Floorball originated in the Scandinavian region in the 1970′s. Floorball is a fun,fast paced hockey game that is played on foot with lightweight sticks and a plastic ball. One of the absolute advantages of Floorball is that it is very easy to become a player. Anyone regardless of age, physical condition, or gender can grab a floorball stick and join in the fun. The object is to score a goal by directing the ball into the opposing team’s goal. This sport is growing fast and becoming very popular. Floorball is most popular in Sweden, Finland, and other European nations. It is actively played around the world in over 50 countries, including Australia, Japan, Canada, and the United States. The game is safe and fun for everyone.
It is commonly recognized that the roots of Floorball are to be found in the game of street hockey that was being played in Canada and The United States during the 1960′s and 70′s. Following the growth of the National Hockey League (NHL), street hockey developed as a cheap alternative to ice hockey for youngsters.
A Brief Introduction to Floorball
Floorball can be played indoors or outdoors, preferably using a rink of size 40 x 20 meters (131 x 65 ft). Height of the surrounding board is 50 cm or 20 inches. The goal is 115 cm high and 160 cm wide (45” x 63”).
Just like ice hockey, the game time is made up of three 20-minute periods with a 10-minute intermission between each period.
A team is allowed 20 players on its roster. Five field players per team are allowed in the rink plus a goalie who plays without a stick. You can play without a goalie in which case the team can play with 6 field players. Each field player has a stick and attempts to pass and shoot a plastic ball which weights 23 grams and is 7 cm in diameter (2-3/4”).
If a field player commits one of the following infractions, a referee will award a free shot to the opposing team or remove the offending player from the rink to serve a 2-minute minor penalty:
–Holding, shoving, checking, blocking or tripping an opponent
–Hitting, blocking, lifting, pushing down or kicking an opponent’s stick
–Hitting the ball with the stick or foot above the level of the knee
–Lifting the stick above waist level
–Kicking the ball twice
–Touching the ball with the hand
–Jumping up to reach the ball
–Playing the ball with any part of the body other than feet
Field players have a stick which can range from 65 to 104 cm long. When buying a new floorball stick, the length is very important. The stick should reach your belly button or just a little above. If the stick is too short, you have less playing range and it adds stress to your back since you will be constantly leaning over. If the stick is too long, your stick handling will be slower and you will lose power in your shots.
When determining shaft stiffness or flex, we are referring to how much the shaft is bent when you apply force to the stick. For all floorball manufacturers, the force is standardized at 30Nm. Stiffness is measured in millimeters of bend. The less the shaft is bent for the given force, the stiffer it is. Flex range for our sticks ranges from 24 for an extra stiff stick to 36 for a soft stick.
Face, Lie and Cavity:
These refer to various blade categories. Blade face ranges from 2X to 7X and indicates the curvature of the blade from heel to toe. An open face allows you to get the ball up in the air more easily. Too much open face might lead to shooting the ball too high. Cavity is a measure of the curvature of the blade from top to bottom when held horizontally. More cavity increases the ball velocity when firing wrist shots. Less cavity improves passing ability. You can modify the face and cavity of your stick by heating the stick with a hair dryer and forming it around a solid ball. Lie is the angle between blade and shaft. With a higher angle, you play the ball closer to your body.
Not just a team sport! Pro’s all over the NHL are using floorball sticks as training aids or warm up tools to helps “soften” their hands before a game. Its a great way to SAFELY work on stick handling indoors or outdoors. Best of all, Mom and Dad’s drywall will be safe!!
First, the following reminds me of a saying made famous by the great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden. For, having seen many of his former players mature to do great things in later life, one of his greatest pleasures was in saying, “I knew him as a boy.”
Ya, I knew the author of this piece as a boy, and I’m proud to see what he’s done with his life.
Then, let me tell you, that I had some difficulty arriving at a title for Frank Johnson’s article. As you’ll ultimately come to appreciate, though, it does run the gamut in emotions.
Between the lines, there are an awful lot of lessons to be learned from Frank’s long ago experiences, and I’ll suggest that we’ll all want to mimic the good parts and then try our darnedest to avoid repeating some of the not-so-nice ones.
That said, I think anyone who has ever been involved in youth hockey — in any capacity — is going to find the following very, very interesting.
– Dennis Chighisola
After graduating from Whitman-Hanson Regional High School (’87), Frank Johnson entered the health care/emergency services field, serving with fire and EMS departments in Massachusetts, Michigan, California, and Wisconsin. He now serves with the Pittsville, WI Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT and also functions as a Cadet Leader in an area youth program (assisting in the training and education of young, aspiring firefighters). Frank is divorced and the dad of two.
The Gamut in Youth Hockey Emotions
By Frank Johnson
At the age of 4 my parents both noticed that I seemed to be clumsier than most kids my age, and that my mind and body didn’t seem to be in sync with each other. They got concerned and consulted my primary doctor to look into this affliction. He couldn’t find anything physically wrong, and suggested that they get me involved in some type of game or sport to improve my coordination.
Football was out because I was too young, as was baseball. My dad suggested to my mother that I try hockey. Of course, being a very protective mom, she was at first against it, but my dad had already asked me if I wanted to play so she didn’t have much more to say about it. (Unless you count “If anyone hurts my baby, I’m going to be kicking someone’s a–!”)
So my dad brought me to Hobomock Arenas in Pembroke, MA to get me signed up for the Whitman-Hanson Youth Hockey instructional program along with my friend Kevin. My ankles were bending like hell and I was sore as all get out after my first practice, but I was okay from then on.
Kevin dropped hockey after that season, but I stuck with it and returned for the following year, again in the instructional level. I was mainly a defenseman, but I also had two games in goal, with one win and one tie. But I knew that I didn’t want to be a full time goaltender, so I returned to defense. There were only two instructional teams, the Maple Leafs (my team) and the Canadiens, and so we saw a LOT of each other.
In 1975 I reported for tryouts with the WH Mites, and it was here that I learned one of the harsher realities of sport. Ray Sanchez and the rest of the coaches didn’t see me as fit for any of the teams — either A, B or C, and they cut me after the last day of tryouts. This is in direct contrast to a lot of sports nowadays, hockey and otherwise, where everyone makes the team.
I remember driving home that night as my father ripped me up one side and down the other about my lack of ability and pretty much everything but my shoe size. I didn’t want him any madder at me, and if he saw that I was crying he would have been, so I just sat with my back to him and listened as his words hit me like a sledgehammer. He calmed down somewhat as we pulled into our driveway, and he offered at least a little bit of an apology. I ran inside and went to my room as he repeated everything that had happened to my mother.
I fell asleep shortly afterward, and didn’t hear my father get on the phone. I found out later that he had called my uncle Mike Flaherty (RIP Uncle Mike) and explained what had happened. Uncle Mike was now a coach in the Rockland Youth Hockey Mite program, and he told my dad that he would talk to a few people to see if “something could be worked out”. A day later he called Dad back and told him that I was welcome to try out for the Rockland mites, if I could secure a written release from WH Youth Hockey. “Oh don’t worry, I’ll get it,” Dad said. He then sat me down and apologized profusely for his outburst the night of tryouts. “It’s ok Dad,” I told him. “Do you still wanna play hockey?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said simply. He then explained that once he had gotten the paperwork squared away that I would be trying out with Rockland Youth Hockey (RYH). Well, he didn’t waste any time, and by that night he had the release in his hands, freeing me to make the transfer.
That weekend I found myself at the South Shore Sports Center (or Rockland Rink), along with a lot of other hopefuls who were trying to make the cut. Coach Bob Silvia was running the tryouts. And since I had missed the first day, he asked me who I was. I told him my name and why I was there, and he didn’t say another word about it. Well, I must have done enough things right, because my uncle selected me for the “B” team, and after the euphoria wore off, he sat all of us down, issued jerseys, and informed us that our first game would be the following weekend against the Abington Stingers. He also told me that he was switching me from defense to right wing, effective immediately. My only thought at the time was “it’s better than defense”.
Game time came and I remember being nervous but excited. That’s when I saw who the referee was. It was Coach Silvia, who had told us earlier in the week that he wouldn’t be able to make it to our game, but that he would be rooting for us. I put it out of my mind and concentrated on the game.
About midway through the second period I found myself with the puck on the Abington blue line and no one in front of me except Frank O’Rourke, Abington’s’ goaltender. Frankie and I would see a lot of each other in our youth careers, and we would go on to become friends, and later teammates. Anyway, I had the puck and I was all alone. I skated a few strides and “swept” the puck towards the net. O’ Rourke went down, but just a smidgen too late, and I caught the lower left corner. I was dumbfounded as I realized I had just scored my first goal. My dad said he darn near had a stroke when he saw my stick go up. In a flash, all of the bad memories of cut day were gone and were replaced by complete joy.
When I came out of the locker room after the game, my father grabbed me right there in the aisle and hugged me so hard that I thought he was gonna break a few ribs. After the game, he started telling everybody who would listen about my goal. “He beat him cleanly” and “The goalie never had a chance” were among some of his wording.
The following weekend we found ourselves up against the Stingers again, and I never expected to find myself in the situation I was in during the previous game. Apparently fate has its way. There I was on the blue line again, same goalie, same distance, same result! I can still hear the clang of the back brace where the puck came to rest in the net. Granted, the rest of the games weren’t that easy, and the goals didn’t always come that often, but I managed to put enough points on my record to be awarded the “High Scorer” award that I shared with my friend and teammate Jimmy Ewell.
The bottom line of that season was our loss in the playoffs to Abington’s premiere Mite team, the Hornets. We did NOT like each other, and it escalated to conflict both on and off the ice. The Abington newspaper carried weekly youth hockey results back then, and they took a lot of pleasure in writing about how the Hornets “shellacked” us, or how the Stingers “blanked” us. Both Abington teams had custom signs made to hang behind their benches, with their team name and logo, and that to us was both strange and intimidating. Not to be outdone, our coaches had a Rockland Bulldogs sign made up for our bench, and began submitting weekly scores to the Rockland newspaper.
Midway through the season we had a game against the Hornets. And, not to put too fine a point on it, they handed us our butts by something like 10-3. Ronnie Hedin was the Hornets’ coach, and Paul Mincone handled things behind the bench for the Stingers. (I would come to respect these men a great deal during my youth hockey days, and I also had the pleasure of suiting up for them many times as either a substitute player during summer hockey, or in the case of Mr. Mincone, as one of 6 Rockland players that joined forces with Abington in the Hobomock League during our Bantam year.)
After the beatdown by the Hornets, the Abington paper had a field day at our expense. This is where the “shellacking” comment came into play.
We faced them again 3 weeks later. And although we lost again (3-1), we turned in a much better performance than the previous outing. The paper even grudgingly showed us some respect in that week’s edition, calling us a “strongly improved Rockland club”. We did manage to take them down once that season. And outside of our double overtime win against Sharon in the Snowflake Tournament, that was our high point.
Over the next few years I advanced up through the ranks of youth hockey, playing next at the Squirt level, followed by the PeeWees. Most times I found myself relegated to playing “B” team hockey, although I suited up my fair share of times at the “A” level in place of an absent player or other such contingency.
As anyone who is familiar with the sport knows, there’s a lot more prestige playing at the “A” level, but with it comes a higher level of intensity and competition. I found myself overwhelmed at times, but I didn’t let that unnerve me. In Rockland, we always watched out for each other on the ice. So there were times when my “A” level teammates looked upon me as their “little brother”, and they’d take anybody to task who dared to mess with me. Some of the time, I was grateful for my teammate’s actions, while at other times I thought, “Hey, I can handle myself.” It was only after something like getting my mouth guard knocked out, or my helmet ripped off (more than once), that I realized that having a team full of older “siblings” really wasn’t all that bad. It also served to better prepare me for the somewhat lesser pace in the B program where I was a regular starter. My coaches also were pleased that they had a player who could “float” between the two levels and hold his own.
I had developed a reputation during those days, and it follows me even to this day. I wasn’t the most prolific goal scorer, fastest skater, or hardest checker. But I always gave 150%, every game and every practice.
I also developed a lot of friendships that would endure for many years. A good example of this occurred during the early part of the 1978 season, when I was playing in my second year of Squirts. I was hospitalized for 5 days with a particularly severe form of pneumonia, and I missed two weeks of practices and games. So one morning while I was lying in my hospital bed, my Uncle Mike and my cousin came in to visit with me. I asked how the team was doing, and they told me that they were thinking of me and were anxious for me to come back. It was then that my cousin handed me my stick. I asked what it was all about, and I was told to look at it closely. Upon examination, I found that it had been signed by all of my teammates, coaches and pretty darn near everyone associated with RYH. The inscription really got to me, though, a line written by the captain of the South Shore Braves, a New England Jr. Hockey League team based in Rockland. My teammates and I idolized a lot of the Braves players, and we hardly ever missed a home game. The Braves found out that I was hospitalized, and all of them signed my stick, along with the greeting, “Waiting for you – from the Braves”. It was then that I realized that I had a lot of compassionate and loyal teammates and friends, and that made me all the more determined to get back on the ice as soon as possible.
Three weeks later, with the help of the nursing staff at Brockton Hospital, along with my parents and coaches, I was strong enough to rejoin my teammates for a game against Dorchester Lower Mills. Not only did I get back on the ice at full capacity, but I also scored 2 goals and was voted the game’s #1 star. Hockey can teach you a lot of lessons that will carry over long after you hang up your skates. And this point was brought home with amazing clarity during that season.
Our rivalry with Abington continued during the latter part of my youth career. And if anything, the emotions got ratcheted up a notch during my Peewee and Bantam years. The games were more intense, and the physical aspect of the game itself was at an all time high. Skirmishes and fights, both on and off the ice, were a fairly regular occurrences. And to the casual observer it would appear that we were nothing more than “goons” or “thugs” who were more interested in hurting each other than in playing hockey. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were fighting for not only wins and points, but for, above everything else, respect. In this sport, the want for respect is not to be taken lightly.
We won our share of games and lost a few as well, but Abington realized that we were not the same doormat that we were in our younger days. I suppose it was inevitable, what began to transpire in the latter half of my 1st year in Bantams and into my second. It’s been said that if you combine two rival teams into one working unit, the results can be surprisingly positive. The coaches from both sides saw that: although we were wearing different colors and hailed from different towns, the division between us was really not all that great. None of us would ever think about turning down a chance to play, and thus, if either Abington or Rockland found itself short a player, kids from the other team were more than willing to step in and help. Granted, the first few times this occurred were awkward, to say the least. And under the façade that we would put on was the dominant thought that, “I play for Rockland, not Abington,” and vice versa. But it allowed us to diversify and at the same time to get to know the players behind the rivalry at a personal level. Before long, strangers would become teammates, and teammates would become friends. Of course, when we played each other, all bets were off, and the rivalry was burning as brightly as ever. Until the game was over, that is. The customary muttered profanity and begrudging acknowledgements in the post game handshake line were now replaced by “See you soon,” or “Great effort”, along with a firm hand grasp. We realized that we were growing as both players and young men. We would need that newly found maturity and acceptance midway through that year.
Coach Paul Mincone, the Abington Bantam coach, was planning as he had in years past to field a team for a league at the Hobomock Arena. He didn’t want to deplete either his A or B level teams by utilizing too many players, so he approached the RYH coaches and division director (my own dad) with a proposition. He had seen the way that we had interacted when we had played together, and the newly found respect that we had for each other. So he suggested a merger of sorts between the two towns. He would take 5 of our “A” level players and combine them with 10 of his own athletes to form a team. “It would be great for both sides,” he explained. And as he talked, the idea began to appeal more and more to the parties involved. The clincher was when Coach Mincone informed everyone that the regular team practices from the individual teams would count as one for the newly suggested organization. The response to the proposal was an immediate and enthusiastic “Yes!” When my dad asked about the selection process, Coach Mincone straightforwardly told him that it wouldn’t be necessary, as he already knew who he wanted from the Rockland ranks. Among the 5 selected were myself and my two cousins. I was thrilled when my father told me that I had been chosen, and I realized that we had been given a terrific opportunity.
To commemorate our new status as a team, our name was changed from “Abington” to Abrock”. We convened the following Sunday at Hobomock. Coach told us that he wasn’t expecting us to be immediately cohesive, but at the same time he rightfully asked us to give our best effort. As he gave the line assignments, I looked across the room at our starting goaltender. It was none other than Frank O’ Rourke against whom I had notched my first and second career goals back when we were Mites. We were now teammates, and I marveled at how we all seemed to be coming full circle. Mr. Mincone needn’t have been concerned with how we would play together.
We laid a one sided thrashing on Marshfield, our first opponent. The scoring was well-balanced, with 3 of Rockland’s players notching at least one tally, (including my own unassisted goal), and my cousin turning the hat trick. When it was over and done, we had an 11-1 victory under our belts. In just one game we had meshed into a sharp, aggressive and volatile team.
Afterwards, on the drive home, my dad marveled at how well we had come together, and he asked me how we had done it. I looked over at him and said, very simply, “We know each other, and we know each other well,” He simply nodded understandingly, and let the subject drop.
The following Sunday we came together again for our second game, this one against Kingston. Granted, we didn’t light up the scoreboard as we had the previous week, but we still came away with a thoroughly workmanlike 5-0 shutout. For the first time in a long time, I managed to notch two goals in as many games, putting Abrock’s second goal on the board midway through the second period. After the noise and banter of the post-game locker room celebration died down, Coach Mincone asked for quiet, and within seconds he had the undivided attention of every one in the room. “Okay, fellas, great win today, excellent effort, but I’m about to give you a dose of reality.” He looked up and down the room and told us that the following week’s game was NOT going to be an easy one, and that we would be in for our first real test of the young season. “We’ll be playing the Hobomock Chiefs,” he said in a flat, calm tone. “They’ve won the Hobomock title twice in the last 4 years, and they know all about us now. We won’t get past them as easily as we did Marshfield or Kingston, you can bet on that. Think about it, have a good week and let’s be back here Sunday ready to play the best game we’ve played so far.”
Coach’s words stuck with us throughout the week, and by Sunday we were focused, determined and ready for whatever our opponent could throw at us. This was fortunate, because the Chiefs came out flying from the opening face off. They had obviously done their homework, and they realized that we were primarily a free wheeling, finesse type of team. They forechecked aggressively, they went after loose pucks like men possessed, and in short, did everything to throw us off our game. After the third or fourth bone jarring check laid out on an Abrock player, we realized that our game plan wasn’t working, and we decided to take on a “grind it out, hit everything that moves” mindset. It served us well as we came to the end of the period tied at 1. Periods two and three were repeats of the first, as the action was non-stop and wall to wall. I suppose that a game between the two best teams in the league was almost destined to end in a tie, which it did (final score, 2-2).
To this day, it stands out in my memory as the best game that I was ever a part of. The post game handshakes were those of two quality teams who had given their best and left everything on the ice. I was in the line behind my teammate Rick Clifford. And as he shook the opposing captains’ hand, I heard him say, “We’ll see you again.” His counterpart replied simply, “Looking forward to it.”
Talk about irony. After Coach gave his traditional pre-game analysis, he told us that our following weeks’ opponent was to be determined, but that he would get back to us ASAP with further details. Three days later we got some news that we were never expecting. Evidently several of my teammates’ parents had gone to our coach and complained about the lack of parity in playing time. Coach tried to explain that playing time was “earned”, and not given out freely. But his words fell on deaf ears. The Abington parents said that the Rockland players were receiving more time than the Abington kids, while the Rockland parents felt quite the same. So, to pacify everyone, Coach Mincone reluctantly disbanded the team. To say the least, this did not sit well with anyone on the team, and we all agreed that this was one area where the parents should have minded their own business. However, we had no say in the matter, and with that, the brief but fruitful merger between the two old rivals was over.
We all returned to our normal practice and game routine, but we couldn’t help but feel a genuine sense of loss at what had been taken from us.
In an almost fitting sense of irony, we squared off with Abington in the Bantam “A” finals that year, which would mark the end of our youth hockey careers. And just like in my first playoff finals all those years ago — in the Mite level, Abington swept us 2 games to none. I was saddened that it had to end this way, but all of us were looking ahead to the next phase in our hockey journey, playing for our respective high schools.
I would, of course, be returning to where it all had started for me more than ten years before. I began my tenure in WH hockey with a hard swallow of reality. Not only was this not going to be the safe confines of the youth hockey world, but it would require more self sacrifice than I ever dreamed of.
High school practices were held on Monday mornings at 5am, which is hard enough to begin with, never mind our having to rush home to get ready for seven hours of school.
As a freshman, I realized that I would have little chance of cracking the varsity team at Whitman-Hanson. So I settled for playing junior varsity hockey. My dad told me that it was a stepping stone to bigger and better things, and that I shouldn’t get down on myself. “Hey, a JV letter as a freshman isn’t bad at all, Frankie,” he said. “Next year, I can feel it; you’ll have a varsity letter on your jacket.”
My dad would turn out to be right. I did make the varsity team after investing lots of sweat, blood, battered muscles and sleepless nights.
I’ll never forget the first time I donned the Panthers’ red and black. It was during Rockland’s annual high school Christmas tournament, and our opponent for the day was none other than the Abington Green Wave.
My dad was up in the stands, and he had no idea what my number was, as I had just been named to the team the day before. Unlike youth hockey, numbers are assigned at this level, and you don’t have much of a say in it. I was given #20. And as we took the ice to a nice round of applause from the W-H fans, my dad craned his neck trying to catch a glimpse of me. My brother-in-law John looked as well, and then said to my dad, “That’s him!” Dad asked, “Is that number20?” “Yep!” said John. Dad told me later that he would never in his life forget seeing me in a varsity uniform for the first time.
The game itself was a lopsided affair, as we routed Abington, 7-3. As we passed through the handshake line, I was greeted warmly by nearly all of my old Abrock teammates. Yes, we were opponents again, but we were also friends, fellow competitors, and strongly focused young men.
All of us would have varying degrees of success in hockey during our post-youth careers. But all of us earned the right to wear our school’s colors, and subsequently earn a varsity letter. Several of my former teammates went on to play collegiate hockey, or pursued other avenues such as coaching or sports medicine. But one thing rings true to this day. A lot if not most of our important lessons in life were taught not in a classroom, but in broken down ice rinks, in locker rooms, and on team buses. And to tell the truth, even the bad times — in retrospect — weren’t all that bad. I tried to learn something from everyone I came in contact with, even though I may not have agreed with them or even liked them. Was it all worth it? Yes. And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
As a footnote… Frank moved from Massachusetts to Wisconsin some years ago. So, as we talked over recent weeks, I came to realize that he wasn’t privy to what had happened to a number of the characters he’s mentioned here. For sure, a few have passed on, including our mutual friend, Ron Hedin. Ironically, Bob Silvia still coaches a local high school team, and he also runs a summer pro-am team my grandson plays with when he’s home from college.
Mainly, however, I want to point towards the fact that a guy now in his forties still remembers those who touched his life so many years ago. And I guess I also feel the need to suggest that many of us are going to be remembered for years to come — in a very positive light, or maybe not so nicely. That, of course, it seems that’s up to each of us — as a teammate, as an opponent, as a parent, or as a coach.
Like this story? Your Comments are REALLY appreciated!
Although I’ve certainly enjoyed many of the videos I’ve seen on floorball, the camera work often proved distracting, as did the audio tracks (like awful music).
On the other hand, I think the following video shows this great game in all its beauty. And wait until you see some of the skills demonstrated by the world’s top floorball players. (Ya, I’d love every young hockey player to learn the skills and the playing principles nurtured in this relatively new sport.)
So, enjoy, and let me know (in the Comments area below) what you think…
– Dennis Chighisola
Scenes from the World Floorball Tournament
2010 FINAL FINLAND-SWEDEN 6-2
I have my good friend, Michael Borg, to thank for sending me the link to this one. And, besides the beauty of this game, I think the following video shows the excitement of this awesome tournament…
By the way… Just so members gain a sense of how this old coach views such things, I couldn’t help but make some mental notes as I watched the above game action. I mean, I am already thinking about some drills I’ll run with floorball-ers. Better yet, I suspect I’m also going to ultimately show you the way I’ll use those drill ideas with my ice hockey players.
Ironically, a request just came-in for a drill to help hockey players be more aggressive. I say ironically, because one of the dads from my AAA Mite team also asked the same thing a few weeks back.
The dad was concerned that his son wasn’t battling enough for loose pucks. So, since helping one boy usually also helps everyone else on the team, and because I’d started noticing the same shortcoming in a number of my kids, I created the following — very simple drill — to accomplish just that.
– Dennis Chighisola
A Drill To Help Hockey Players Be Aggressive
Well, I said the drill was simple. So…
All I do is form two lines of players out near a blueline, with the first player in each line laying prone (just to get a fair start between competitors).
I then call, “Go!” and send a puck towards a corner, at which time two players race towards the puck. (By the way, whistles for are stopping action and not for starting it.)
The objective is for the players to do a little battle, with the winner eventually gaining possession of the puck and firing a nice pass to my stick. (Although not heard so much as I’m taping the following video, I’m usually very vocal in my feedback, giving high praise for doing things right, and expressing disappointment if something went wrong.)
The drill only lasts a few seconds. And, with two coaches and lines working on opposite sides of the ice, a lot of players can stay involved in a fairly short period of time.
Anyway, take a look at a few of my kids giving this drill a try during one of my ADM segments…Loading...
I did make a few adjustments after running this drill once or twice…
I’m not crazy about the dangers of having two players going full-tilt towards the boards, so I now more often slide the loose pucks so they sit a ways away from the boards.
I also started changing my position on the ice — after I’d dumped the puck, just so the kids have to find me with their passes.
Later still, I discovered that we could return to working along the boards, if I just shortened the distance the kids skated (the aim was to prevent them from flying a long distance and risking going out of control). I did this by starting the lines and dumping the pucks from only about 8′ off the boards.
Well, I suppose I should ask you to watch the following video before I really get into what I feel compelled to say. Sooooo, please do…
– Dennis Chighisola
Ouch! Ouch! And ouch!
Okay, so trust me: that I can appreciate how countless 20-something fans can really get into hockey fights like the one you’ve just watched. Frankly, so did I when I was much younger. In fact, I can totally understand how hockey fans love to see a lot of rough and tumble things as they watch a game and cheer for their favorite team — including the big, bone-crushing body-checks, especially when these come at the expense of a not-so-well-liked foe. Ya, I can appreciate all of that.
Oh, I’m not about to tell you that I’ve grown-up, and that’s the reason I’m not so enthralled anymore with the likes of fighting or even those big hits. Naw, it has nothing to do with me turning 30, 40, 50 or the 105-years old am right now.
No, what happened to me is that I got deeper and deeper into coaching as I got older, and I especially got more into helping players at the developmental levels of our game.
This aside, however… A lot of years ago I had three minor pro coaching interviews. And, let me tell you, I’d have turned a pro team loose back then, IF it meant changing a game’s momentum or exciting our hometown fans. (Make no mistake about it: the pro game — especially in some smaller minor league markets — is all about putting fannies in the seats and bringing the fans to their feet on a regular basis. And I could have gone along with that way back when, as much as I go for the more stylish flow of an international game nowadays.)
But, as I said moments ago, I’m not coaching the pros. Instead, my job is to guide young players towards their maximum potential. And, that means I have to help them be successful through a number of levels before they have the chance to even think about the pros.
I mean, young players have to move through all the youth hockey levels, they have to play high school and/or juniors, and many of them will have to show their stuff at the collegiate level before they get a pro sniff. And, a player is NOT going to ever get that sniff — frankly, he’s never going to get ice-time at any of the lower levels — if he plays for himself, if he plays without discipline, and if he kills his team with needless penalties. (Actually, the penalties are so severe at the lower levels that an undisciplined player is going to be suspended or booted from his league in pretty short order.)
Again, this is NOT me being a bleeding heart or anything. I’ve already stated that I’d have gone for the rough stuff if I was coaching elsewhere. But, since I coach where I coach, the best thing I can do is to conscientiously guide the guys in my charge, and help them make their ways up the hockey ladder without incident.
I mentioned earlier about the big, sensational body-checks… Not that I’m against these. However, as one pro player famous for such told me once, “You can’t run around looking to make the big hit, or you’ll look foolish. Instead you just take them when they come.” In further talking on the subject, he mentioned that, “The highlight videos you see weren’t taken from one game.”
Personally, I think that some supposedly big hits can be risky. In other words, they can be too much of a gamble, whereby a player might win big by completing the check, but he might also lose big-time if he misses.
Oh, and another thing… I hope players (and parents) appreciate that coaches — at all levels — want control. Ya, sure, I personally might have an ego that requires my players to toe the mark. More importantly, however, I and every other amateur coach on the planet has his neck in a noose — as in having to answer to program heads, athletic directors and league authorities. And, make no mistake about it — and like it or not, every player on a team is representing his coach, his mates, his league and the sport. Said yet another way: I (and my program) ain’t going to look idiotic because of a single, loose cannon player. Ya, if it’s him or me, you can just guess who is going down the river first.
All that said, let me put the amateur level of our game in a slightly different perspective… You see, I usually look for a “teaching moment” whereby some player (and hopefully one that isn’t mine) does something to disgrace himself. (It happens often enough.) With that, I’ll talk to my kids about their love of the game — or, more specifically, their respect for the game they supposedly love. It’ll be a “shooting the bull” kind of talk, within which I try to draw from them a true feeling for their game, and a sense of how they almost always show their respect — or disrespect — anytime they’re at a rink.
Finally, I’m sure that not everyone will go along with me on the above. However, it all is stuff I really felt needed saying.
Do you have similar or different feelings? I’d truly like to hear them. And, don’t be shy if you don’t agree. I’d really like to know the other side of this issue.
You wouldn’t believe how many people arrive here at CoachChic.com having searched Google and elsewhere for help on how to hold a hockey stick! So, besides having provided some serious answers to this question already, I thought I’d also host a poll on how experienced hockey players HOLD and CONTROL their sticks.
What I’ve done is made it a two-part question, asking where they (YOU) place the dominant hand, and then which hand — dominant or non-dominant — is used to actually control the stick’s actions.
So, if you’ll just look up above for the page link — or click here… POLL, it only takes a second or two to register your vote.
And, won’t it be interesting to follow the results? (I’ll say!)
– Dennis Chighisola
Oh, by the way… Anyone can vote (either as members or non-members).
This hockey drill is an old standby many members might already recognize.
I’ve actually used it for years with my older players. However, having seen the need to help my young Mite AAA’s with their passing game, I thought I’d give it a try with them (if only as a test).
As you’re going to see, though, I am sticking with this drill with my young kids — for a long time to come.
– Dennis Chighisola
The drill is simple enough to assemble… Just place a small group of players around a circle, and then place one player in the middle. The objective is for the kids on the circle to move the puck around while not allowing the player in the middle to steal the puck. A player who makes a poor pass or loses the puck because he mishandles the reception has to swap places with the one in the middle.
As an aside… I prefaced the real drill by having my Mites initially just pass the puck around the circle. Once they understood that part, I then introduced the player in the middle, and explained the consequences of not executing their passes correctly.
Now, before showing you a brief clip of the action, let me tell you that I especially love drills that force players to do some problem-solving. And, in this regard, I was actually totally surprised at how well my group of fairly young kids did just that.
I mean, within a few minutes I saw kids attempting flip (or saucer) passes, and I even noticed a bunch of them realizing they shouldn’t telegraph their passes. In other words, they ultimately started to look or fake one way, then they shuttled the puck in an opposite direction. Unbelievable!
Okay, have a look at a brief video clip, and I’ll make another suggestion right after…Loading...
Now, I said at the start that I use this drill with older hockey players — and I’ve used it with my high school guys and my old college team. So, it certainly seems a good drill to use for enhancing the passing and receiving skills of all the levels between Mites and Bantams.
Actually, I will quite often introduce one-touch passing skills to my older guys, long prior to using the above drill. Then, with that, I can eventually ask those more advanced players to use their tap-passing skills during the Circle Keepaway drill.
By Dennis DeFrehn
My story might be a little different than the typical hockey player. Even though I grew up in New England, there were no local leagues around, or at least none I knew of. Hockey for me was NHL 94 on the Sega Genesis, or a Whalers game at the Civic Center, even though the Bruins were always my team.
I ended up going to school in Boston, right on The Commons. When winter descended upon the city the Pond in the Public Gardens froze over, and the Four Seasons would shovel it for their guests’ enjoyment. While that was all good and well, the Park Rangers didn’t take too kindly to college kids showing up with pucks and sticks. But, after dark, well into the night, the ice would be open. And it would be Ours.
We called it the Midnight Hockey League. Pure Pond Hockey, at its roots, in the heart of one of the greatest hockey cities around. We’d usually have about 6 people, all casual players, all fans of the game. Every player knows how it feels to step out on the ice, and have it to yourself, whether it’s a rink at 6 in the morning, or a local pond. There, in The Commons, it was an amazing experience. A mix of the chill of the winter air, paired with the fact that we weren’t supposed to be out there, playing in the shadow of the Prudential Tower in the middle of the night. A bunch of friends together, enjoying the game in it’s purest form. No score. Just the sound of the skates carving the murky ice, the puck coming off a stick, or the laughter that would ensue when somebody took a dive into the snowbank.
Those nights out on the ice are some of my fondest memories from college, and it cemented my love of the game.
With the help of others, I continue to study this exciting new sport.
I was fortunate to find the following video, which is an interview with an elementary school principal.
As my title suggests, it offers some valid reasons why floorball might be a better choice than floor hockey or street hockey. However, I like some of the insight offered (between the lines) about equipment options and the way the game is played.
– Dennis Chighisola
Just a Few Reasons to Start a Floorball Program
I have our friend Michael Borg to thank for the following video. And, as you’ll see, there’s some added information offered in this one…
– Dennis Chighisola
Another Introduction to Floorball
I just ran across this collection of floorball rules. I have a feeling they are an over-simplified version, and that they’ve been doctored by various authors across the Internet. That pretty much explains why I’m not sure who to attribute these to (although it does say down below that they were “prepared by the Ontario Floorball/Inihockey Federation”).
Anyway, I think they’ll prove helpful for all of us who are new to this seemingly great sport, and they just might give us a place to start if we’re considering organizing a team or a league of our own.
– Dennis Chighisola
Simplified Floorball Rules
Prepared by the Ontario Floorball/Unihockey Federation
1. Games can be played with three to five players and a goalie on the court for each team. The goalie may be substituted for an additional player if desired. For an official game, five players and a goalie for each team is required.
2. No catching ball or hands on ball, except for goalie, infraction results in a 2 min penalty.
3. No foot passes to another player, infraction results in a possession change, but players may kick the ball once onto their own stick.
4. No jumping (one foot must be on the ground when receiving the ball), infraction results in a free hit.
5. Players may not go down on two knees to make plays or block shots. Only the goalie may play from their knees, infraction results in a 2 min penalty.
6. Ball must be received on a stick below knee level, infraction results in a possession change. If contact is made with the ball above the knee, infraction results in a 2 min penalty.
7. Sticks must stay below waist level when shooting with a similar follow through allowed. Stick above waist on a shot will result in a 2 min penalty.
8. No stick checking, lifting, or slashing. A minor infraction results in a possession change, an infraction in a scoring position or repeated infraction results in a 2 min penalty.
9. No holding of stick, players, or shirt or general interference, infraction will result in a 2 min penalty.
10. No playing your stick between another player’s legs. Results in a possession change.
11. No body contact with the exception of incidental shoulder contact, infractions will result in a 2 min penalty.
12. No playing the ball with the head – infraction results in a 2 min penalty.
13. Face-offs: Face offs will be used to start the game at the beginning of each period and to re-start after each goal or if the ball is damaged. For a face-off, stick blade must be on the ground and perpendicular to centerline, feet parallel to centerline ball and the middle of the two players’ sticks. Players cannot reverse their grip or hold the stick below the face-off line. Play starts with a whistle blow.
14. Possession changes: Occurs in the situations cited above. Ball is played as a direct free shot similar to a soccer free kick, where the offending players must be 3 meters away and the ball must be shot or played to another player upon the officials whistle blow with a solid hit – not a sweeping motion.
15. Substitutions may occur at anytime.
16. Repeated infractions result in a 2 min penalty.
Floorball Rule Clarifications
To help us all better understand floorball, I am going to ask a number of current coaches (or otherwise experienced people) to clarify each of the 16 points shown above. So, keep checking back, as these should be added every day or so.
By Dennis Chighisola
I suppose the new USA Hockey ADM program first got me thinking about this topic. Then again, I guess I have been forced to ponder it a lot of times through my 40-ish years in coaching.
Up front, I want to let you know that I’m currently working in a local version of the ADM, and I can say that I believe I’m seeing some results with the kids in that program. So, while I might poke a needle at a part of the concept, I am not bashing the overall idea of the program, or the way things are currently going here locally.
My cause to “ponder it (the title topic) a lot of times” over previous years had to do with requests from other coaches to suggest what they ought to be doing with their kids, and that mainly had to do with giving those coaches exact detailed lesson plans for each nightly practice.
Also, as I’ll try to describe in the end, the challenges I’m going to outline from here onward have a lot to do with the way I’ve designed CoachChic.com’s unique format.
So, hmmmmmm… What’s my problem with all this? Well, there is always a problem in “knowing what to do next”. For that very reason, USA Hockey will likely only get to accomplish a percentage of what they’d really like from their new ADM program. For, you see, it would be impossible for ANYONE — including yours truly — to design a lesson plan in advance that will totally help a far away coach with his or her players.
Okay, as an example of what I’m getting at, let’s consider my current High School Prep team… You probably know from my recent posts that I’ve had this group since last early June, and that my entire reason for being with them is to help each kid make his own respective high school team. Of course, I had a plan in place to bring them from June to the end of November. However, can that plan really be carved in stone? Not on your life. Over those many months, individuals and the group will have slight setbacks. At the same time, they’re going to get the hang of some skills, some tactics and some conditioning exercises that really please me. What I’m getting at, obviously, is my need to constantly adjust things according to what I’m seeing at any given moment.
I’m sure you also know that I’m coaching a young AAA Mite Major team (that also happens to be part of the local ADM). Unlike the HS Prep team, though, the entire Mite program, their opponents, and even my own players are new to me. So, I’ve altered my planning a bit, only designing that little guys’ team according to some shorter term goals.
I’ve also just started my kzillionth year of running a Learn-to-skate/Learn-to-play program. And, while I have done it for that long, I can tell you that the nature of each new group is slightly different from the year before and the year before. In other words, while I might enter the first few sessions with an idea of what I want to accomplish with each group, I can’t just stick to some old lesson plans I designed 20- or 30-years ago.
So, when it comes to answering the above question — about What To Do Next, I’m going to state firmly: that’s where the REAL coaching/teaching comes into play.
No, there’s no formula for any of this. Instead, as I suggested above in reference to my HS Prep guys, readings have to be taken nearly every time we meet. And I’m talking about nearly every aspect of the guys’ games.
Going back to some younger kids right now (because the examples might be easier to explain)… The youngsters in my Learn-to-play clinic should be able to get around fairly well as we take to the ice next Sunday morning, with a number of them even being able to travel backwards, and perhaps do some sort of stop. So I’ll run several VERY basic skill drills with them, and I’ll be making mental notes on exactly where they are at that time — on things like their forward striding, their cross-overs, their stopping abilities, and their backward skating. And from those readings I’ll design my next week’s lesson plan.
Here’s the kicker, though… I can be absolutely sure that this group will do extremely well in given areas, while they will struggle with a few others. So it’s my job to 1) accelerate the teaching where needed, 2) go slower in certain areas, and 3) even take a step backwards to some remedial drills for a few other skills.
And I’m going to suggest that that exact process has to take place every single time we meet as a group. In fact, that exact process is taking place with my high school guys, it’s happening with my AAA Mites, and it’s happening with a group of kids I’m currently teaching in a weekly skills class.
Now, although most members are right now thinking they totally understand what I’ve said to this point, I’m wondering if they (you) realize the dangers in not doing it this way.
For example, can you just imagine how many players will be lost if a set lesson plan was put in place long ago, and then adhered to for the rest of the coming winter? My guess is that about one third of a given group would progress, while quite a few kids would be totally lost — 1) because we didn’t take the occasional backward step when they needed it, or 2) because we didn’t accelerate things when that was appropriate.
A couple of what I think are cute asides…
I’ve had a few parents very nicely express some concerns with their kids’ games or their skills.
One of my assistant coaches has been around the game for awhile, and he’s occasionally expressing some worries about our kids making certain kinds of mistakes.
Another experienced assistant is wishing I’d accelerate an area of the game where his son is concerned.
And in just about every one of those conversations, the parent or coach was dead-on. I mean, they were right in what they were seeing; it’s just that they were usually wrong as to when it might be appropriate to address their concerns.
I hate going off-track on you again, but here’s another aside, this one an example to make my point even further…
I’m working on puckhandling skills within the ADM program, and as each differently skilled group rotates to my station, I’m teaching that group according to all I’ve described above — from reading where they are at a given time, etc.
=> There are a ton of young parents watching each clinic, and I’m often thinking to myself that a few of the former hockey playing dads are probably wondering why I’m having kids stickhandle without ever mentioning their need to keep the eyes up.
Ha. My simple answer to that (if I could hang a banner over center-ice) would be, “Everything in its own time and place.” In other words, the stickhandling challenges I’m giving those kids right now are overwhelming enough, so I don’t want to complicate matters by tossing an extra challenge their way. (Down the road, I actually have an easy way to teach eyes up stickhandling.)
Okay, so let’s go back to a few of my opening statements…
I suggested that there’s at least the probability that any given ADM program might only achieve a percentage of its full potential. And the key words in that last sentence are “any given ADM program”. In other words, my pretty educated feeling is that each program is going to come closer or further from its true potential according to how well teaching adjustments can be made (ideally on a night-to-night basis). Let me repeat what I said earlier, though, in that kids ARE going to benefit from the ADM; my worry is just that some will benefit more or less.
Then, let me tell you that the guy or gal who authors a booklet containing perfect lesson plans for an entire season is going to become a millionaire. Of course, if you’re thinking about purchasing something like that, think again. As you should realize by now, it’s virtually impossible to create such a thing.
Oh, well… I actually have created something like the above — that really does work. And it’s going to be released here someday in the future, when I’ve had a lot of extra time to get it exactly right.
In the meantime, let’s talk about the CoachChic.com format for a few secs…
Most of what you’ll find within the current 400 or so postings are the result of my needing to problem-solve. In many instances I may have given you an exact way to deal with a given challenge, but I’m just as apt to have given members a few observations I’ve made, thereby allowing you to make some of your own (better founded) decisions. Yet another thing I’ve done in hopes of benefiting you is to divide a wealth of information into fairly easy to negotiate categories. Hopefully then, you can quickly find skating help, puckhandling help, help for goalies, important principles having to do with the offensive side of our game, and so forth.
Finally, if there’s one thing I’d like you to come away with here, it’s that there is currently no silver bullet, and no one-size-fits-all. No, I truly believe the best coaching/teaching is done on a day-to-day or night-to-night basis, and it’s predicated on really “Knowing What To Do Next”.
Today, October 1, 2010, brings a new and exciting category to CoachChic.com.
I’d like to think that I’ve pioneered a number of truly helpful alternative hockey training methods over my 40-years in our game, beginning way back in the 1970s with some unique hockey skills training sessions, later showing all those in (at least) the New England area new concepts in Soviet style off-ice training, and still later promoting the benefits of in-line workouts.
So, sensing I know something hot and hugely beneficial when I see it, today gives me great pleasure to begin spreading the word about floorball. And, no one could help me do that better than my good friend, Greg Beaudin.
– Dennis Chighisola
An Open Letter to the North American Hockey Community
By Greg Beaudin
Five Years ago, I learned about Floorball from Hockey Legend Borje Salming. At that time, I picked up a Floorball stick and felt the future of Hockey in my hands.
When introducing Floorball to new people, as I have done so many times, a common first reaction is to dismiss aspects of the game; The Stick is too short, The Ball is too light, The goalies have no stick?, But where is the ice? I would say a typical Canadian reaction to learning about Floorball is to pick it apart. Maybe that’s why we are the best Hockey Nation in the World, I don’t know, we are sensitive about our brand of hockey, and so we should be.
The key points get blurted out, affordability, accessibility, easy to play, a sport for everyone, the soccer of Hockeys, all you need is a stick and ball, it’s fast, fun, and safe, no hacking and whacking, adaptable, global, an Olympic provisional sport, professional leagues in Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, The Russian Olympic Hockey team used Floorball to get ready for Vancouver, NHL stars like the Sedins, Sellanne, Gaborik, the Hossa brothers all played Floorball growing up and many still play in the Summers…blah, blah, blah….the points come out, in staccato like fashion, and the words become just that — words.
And then, we take a shot… and it rips top shelf with a flick of the wrist. Then we stickhandle and feel, and tap, bounce and twirl, adjust, and shoot, and attempt to corral the ball, at first mostly getting air. For Canadians, this is not the Floor Hockey stick of the past, the one we all grew up with, it’s something new, fresh, cool, hip, ergonomic, familiar yet distant — It’s a Floorball stick, a “euro thing” that permeates through the hockey communities of Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, The Czech Republic and beyond.
…there is something about a Floorball stick, a certain magic to it.
Canada does have a national federation that belongs to the International Floorball Federation, it’s called Floorball Canada. There are Provincial organizations, leagues, Hockey Academies, Hockey Schools, Elementary Schools, Secondary Schools, Indepedent Schools, Universities, Private Clubs, Corporate sport groups. There is a National Championship, and a few big tournaments that take place every year.
Canada is becoming a Floorball nation, and it’s happening, virtually under the radar, with no funding, no corporate support, and very little media recognition. We need to talk about this, we must discuss why Floorball is succeeding wherever it goes, and why our Hockey Canada Skills Academy talent, AAA girls and boys, across the country, are honing their skills in school gyms and local rec centers with Floorball.
Recently, I conducted two week long Floorball Camps where parents would approach me afterwards and say that they preferred Floorball to Hockey, citing violence, the cost, and the early morning practices. The smiles, the sweat, the drills, the games, the growth that their kids displayed just validated to them that there could be an alternative to Hockey, that is technically Hockey without the skates and the smelly bags.
Many Parents feel mixed emotions about floorball because they played Hockey growing up and it shaped them as people like nothing else could, and although they want their own kids to learn about Team, Hard work, Dedication to Sport, Canadian culture and all of the wonderful things that Hockey brought them, they see so much madness connected to the game now. They crave the simpler times of Hockey, where it just happened without all of the big expense and the big fuss…and enter Floorball. Floorball is going to provide tens of thousands of Canadians an opportunity to “feel” Hockey and the sensations of scoring a big time goal and making a poetic pass.
No matter how much doubt and scrutiny you throw at the stick and the sport of Floorball, as it relates to Hockey, it counters back with an explanation, a smart take, a scientific observation, and a model of proof from blossoming Hockey communities like Gothenburg, Helsinki or Zurich.
For here is a version of indoor hockey that requires minimal equipment- a stick and a ball. It is played as a team game, it is very high tempo, high scoring, high energy, physical but safe, it’s easy to learn yet develops amazing skills.
Floorball should be in every school in Canada. Floorball is currently being utilized as an off-ice training system for Hockey Canada Skills Academies, coast to coast. Do your homework people, You will see! Floorball has arrived in Canada but needs a helping hand, as Floorball is a Sport for Everyone.
I remember reading the summary from the last Hockey Summit in 1999, and am happy to see the 11 recommendations come forward in a real way to develop Hockey players and enrich the Hockey experience.
I have personally witnessed thousands of smiles of bewilderment, as Young Canadians, New Canadians, Old Canadians, Disabled Canadians, pick up a Floorball stick for the first time. At first play, the ball is bouncing everywhere and you can see the power shift from the hockey players to the newbies. from the hack and whackers to the runners and the thinkers….it’s a mind shift that provides agility and skill to the Hockey player that already has the strength and force, and it’s empowering to an athlete who has never skated, and now can “snipe” one from 30 feet at 90km+/hr.
Floorball is an exhilarating game. It speaks to everyone. It enhances skills in a Young Hockey player and it brings skilled players into Hockey.
Canada has the infrastructure, the will and the desire to breed Hockey talent like no other nation. You will see Floorball as a solution at every school, rec center, sport club, minor hockey program, skills development center, high-performance academy, Olympic training program, and corporate fitness programs. Floorball is an important component of the Player Development matrix. It is also a potential gateway sport to assist many Hockey enthusiasts who are a bit hesitant to enter the world of Hockey participation. I have had many discussions with families that are using Floorball to hedge their bets that their children will one day wish to play Ice Hockey. So, by developing Hockey Smarts and Skills through Floorball, a young player can join-in on Ice Hockey years down the road, if the interest and/or passion is brimming.
Yes, Floorball is a global sport and it is used by Professsional Hockey players to maintain fitness and enhance skills. At the Top level, Floorball is vying for a permanent spot in the Summer Olympics. Universities dole out scholarships, and there is even opportunity for elite players to advance to Professional levels. However, this is not why I write this letter to you…
This letter is a call to action, it’s to initiate discussion about Floorball and other types of off-ice Hockey. As a nation, it’s like we are still skiing on wooden skis, when other countries have switched over to high tech parabolic ones or playing Tennis with “Bjorn Borg woodies” whilst there are oversized carbon graphite ones.
Greg Beaudin is the founder of Modern Hockey, a forward thinking Hockey company with deep roots in Ice Hockey and Floorball. Modern Hockey has worked with dozens of Hockey Canada Skills Academies to develop their Floorball cross-training programs. Greg is the son of the “Original Jet” Norm Beaudin, and grew up in a household where Finnish, Swedish and Swiss Hockey was always highly respected. Like the Oilers of the ‘eighties, Greg’s hockey philosophies were also shaped by the formidable International elements of the Winnipeg Jets of the seventies. It is this base knowledge that brings Modern Hockey to Floorball and why the push is on to grow Floorball in Canada.
To visit Greg’s site: ModernHockey.com
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering if floorball could help some of your hockey play (and your overall athleticism), take a look…
I have a nice young lady to thank for this entry. For, you see, my video on “Incredible Stickhandling” (plus the bonus video) has made it just about around the world — even to a lady hockey player from the UK.
Sometime near when she purchased and downloaded those videos, she expressed concerns to me. (I think she was praying they work, and she was even hoping they worked quickly enough for her next game — gulp, I hate that kind of pressure!)
Anyway, checking in with her earlier today, just to see how she was doing, I sensed she needed just a little more advice — and maybe some support — to go along with what is in those videos.
– Dennis Chighisola
Hockey Gains Come When You Least Expect Them
Now, I know I could take care of this subject with just one very old and time-worn expression, as in, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” Ya, that would do it. But, not really well enough for me (or my young UK friend).
Actually, my brief conversation with her on Facebook earlier today caused me to think back to some times long ago, when I came to sense the title of this post was true, that “hockey gains come when you least expect them”.
The most memorable of the events I recalled today had to do with a hockey mom and dad who came to me one day all excited about the play their son had made in a recent game. Paraphrasing the way they explained it to me, I guess their boy went on a rush, got tripped-up, fell to his knees, he kept stickhandling while down on the ice, ultimately recovered to his feet, and then fired a nice shot into the opposition net (which is kinda my description of a highlight reel goal).
I tell this story because the drill we use for practicing dribbling while on the knees was one of probably 25 I used regularly in my weekly skills clinic. Again, it was just one of a bunch of drills, and it probably only received about 4-minutes of attention each week.
As an aside… That particular drill happens to be in my regular collection for a lot of reasons beyond helping a player with the possibility that he or she might fall to the ice and need to keep puck possession. I mean, it’s one of those I group under “asymmetric drills”, in that it forces a player to deal with numerous physical challenges at once (a lot like our game demands). And I also use it to teach puckhandlers to keep adjusting their hands and arms so that their stick-blades stay flat on the ice no matter what posture they’re in.
What I’m really getting at by bringing-up this old story is that I had absolutely no clue if and when that young player would ever get to apply that stickhandling-on-the-knees skill in a game. And I mean that.
Next, I believe I wrote recently about my mom’s lifelong want to reduce her body weight. Ya, and knowing her oldest son kinda knows his stuff in that area, she was forever calling me for advice. However, the problem has always been that mom wanted the weight off NOW. So she’d starve herself for about 2-days, only to be disappointed when the bathroom scale told her she was the same as before, she’d gained a pound, whatever. By about her third call to me for help, I told her to hide the dawgoned scale, continue her exercise and diet, and only go by how she was feeling on a given day. I probably also told her about the building of Rome, or how “gains come when you least expect them”.
I had a similar (but less frustrating) exchange with a young hockey playing guy this spring, this having to do with his strength program. I sensed that he was as concerned about how he looked as how much strength he gained. However, when he asked whether just sticking with his program — and not worrying about day to day results — was the right approach, I answered, “Absolutely!” And I can tell you that I went overboard to promise him that, “Gains come when you least expect them.”
Going back to the kids in my skills courses, no matter the level, I can assure you that even I don’t know when the worked on skills will kick-in to their games. Nor do I know how long it will take for my High School Prep team’s powerplay or forecheck to gel. There just isn’t a scientific law for this kind of thing — like it takes 3 practices for high school guys to learn their defensive zone coverage, it takes 4 clinic sessions for my little guys to master their snowplow stops, or it takes 6 sessions at home for my young UK friend to suddenly toast an opponent with an “incredible stickhandling” move. (Actually, as a coach overseeing these players, I don’t have any expectations beyond the fact that those “gains WILL come when we least expect them”.)
Oh, another aside did just come to mind here… For, I do almost every year or so run across a player with unique capabilities. I mean, there are the rare athletes who can almost immediately incorporate a new skill into their game. (I once suggested to an 8-year old on a game bench that he might try practicing a new move when he returned home from our tournament. He was one of those rare ones, though, because seconds later he jumped over the boards, grabbed the puck, and executed that very move right their in the game action. Wow.)
As for the rest of us (mere mortals?), all that I can absolutely promise is that sticking with a given discipline is going to ultimately achieve the desired results. Again, there’s no time-frame; it’s just going to happen when the athlete’s mind and body decide so.
In fact, here’s a tip for my far away student… Actually it comes from my late-dad’s bag of coaching tricks (he was a very successful baseball coach). For, dad always said, “Work hard in practice, and then forget everything you learned when you enter the games.” Of course, baseball and hockey are very different sports. However, I can buy his idea of removing too much thinking during a game; it’s far better that a player practice and practice and practice, and then allow reactions — or spontaneity — to dictate once the puck is dropped for real.
I’d suggest that she work at home on those “Incredible Stickhandling” exercises, with little concern for when the different skills will creep into her game. And I’d further suggest that she go to her games to just have fun, to just play on her instincts, and allow nature to take its course. For, as I’ve explained to my mom (ugh), to my students and players, and to young athletes who want to get stronger (or better looking), “gains come when you least expect them.” (Keep plugging away, P.A. You’ll be glad you did — in no time.)
By the way, I’ll shortly explain further about the availability of certain videos for download. For now, however, here’s the promotional video that goes along with the “Incredible Stickhandling” one….Loading...
And here’s a link to where that and a growing list of videos can be purchased…
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help areas.
A short story from yours truly (Dennis Chighisola) before I get into this new drill…
Every so often I sense a local coach is grabbing a lot of my methods to bring home to his own team or his own kids. Of course I find that flattering, and I also welcome the chance to share my experiences with others.
At the same time, I wonder if the coach (or whomever) thinks that what he or she grabbed at that moment in time is all The Old Coach has in his bag of tricks. I mean, if he or she thought my drills from 2- or 3-years ago were “IT”, they’d be dead-wrong. Oh, a lot of my practices could LOOK alike — because I surely do keep the best drills for as long as they’re useful. At the same time, however, I can tell you that my stuff evolves almost every time I run a practice. (I must have invented about 5 new drills for my little guys’ and gals’ hockey school this summer.)
With that, let me show you what I’m getting at as I present what I believe is…
A Great New Headmanning Drill
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola — Whitman, MA USA
In my estimation, the character on my High School Prep team has changed from last season to the current one. Gone are some extra-strong puckhandlers, even though I have a ton of very talented young players back for this year.
Actually, because I’ve had a string of teams led by some highly skilled kids, we played a similar style for a number of consecutive seasons. However, I thought, this year’s squad needed a whole new approach.
Oh, I wanted to keep our emphasis on quick puck movement. However, this year I figured we could do that better by emphasizing two things:
- we would be in FAR better condition than any opponent, and
- we’d base our attack on really, REALLY quick advancement of the puck (by passing, I mean).
As an aside here, understand that I haven’t abandon any of the skills work I’ve always felt important to my kids as they readied for their their high school tryouts. If there’s been a change this off-season, it’s been that I’ve just changed the emphasis a bit.
Drill Category: Passing, receiving, headmanning the puck
Okay, I think everyone knows the fastest way to advance the puck is to pass it. In hockey jargon it’s called “head manning” or “headmanning” or passing the puck quickly ahead.
So my thinking on the current drill was to get my kids used to advancing the puck ahead without much fiddling. In other words, take a pass and quickly relay it to a teammate up-ice without doing much stickhandling in between. One guy gets the puck and bang! — he sends it ahead, the next guy gets the puck and likewise quickly sends it up-ice.
The first sketch shows my layout of players in the basic headmanning drill. I first introduced the drill during the mid-summer, so we were short some skaters with some families being on vacation, whatever. Actually, one night we were really shorthanded, and I used 3-players on one side of the ice with 4-skaters on the other. No matter; the drill still worked fine. And I know I can run the same drill with three or four lines of skaters when the need arises.
Now, before I show you a video of this drill, let me describe what you’re about to see… My guys will be breaking-out of the zone at the top of the screen, and the drill is started by player #1 positioned with a puck toward the lower blue line. #1 begins the drill by dumping the puck and retrieving it quickly, then relaying it to #4. All of the players start moving moving on the attack as #4 quickly passes to #3, #3 passes to #2 who is then in position to start the drill again with a new dump-in. I don’t show it in the video, but the same thing can be going on in the other line toward the right of the screen.
Okay, here’s the video…Loading...
Now, here’s where my mind starts to racing, and where a drill starts to evolve…
For, you see, it soon struck me that the kind of passes we were doing in the original drill were NOT ideal — I mean, I don’t like players trying to advance the puck to a guy who has his back turned to him.
(Can you smell something burning? )
Of course, the “high percentage” passes — or the ones that have the best chance at a completion — have a potential receiver slashes across, curling toward, or moving straight across in front of the puck. Oh, that basic drill was okay for the kids. Still, with an eye towards teaching better game playing principles, I soon changed things to have a guy from the opposite line slash on something like a 45-degree angle to the puckcarrier for the final pass.
And here’s a video of that drill option in action…Loading...
To be honest, I don’t think either of the above drills were any strokes of genius; hey, they just helped accomplished what we needed to get work on. That said, though, my mind has been absolutely racing the past few days as I see that basic drill format evolving into something really, really good. I’m not going to say anything further at this time. However, can you see the possibilities? I hope so, because having a little (or a lot of) imagination is a very good thing in coaching.
Please let me know what you think of this drill. And, by all means, please let me and other coaches know if you have any ideas in this area.
Every time I get to talking about puckhandling with someone, I almost always find the need to suggest that “it’s a mentality”. Said maybe another way — that’ll help you better understand, I should probably say that it’s a “mindset”.
And, while the majority of hockey people might feel the fancy dangler is just a natural — or that he or she was born with that ability, I’m here to tell you that I know I can teach it.
Okay, before offering much more, let’s have a look at one “sick” goal by Jarod Palmer. After that, I’ll catch you on the other side.
– Dennis Chighisola
Puckhandling Is A Mentality!
Jarod Palmer Sick Shootout Goal (July 18 2010)
Okay, I’m a little old to have the word “sick” in my vocabulary — at least in the above context. But if ever there was a play that deserved some wild adjective, that surely was IT!
About my title theme, though — that puckhandling is a mentality…
Well, as I watched that play a number of times, all I could think about was the creativity that went into arriving at such an idea. Just think about that yourself. And, think about the mentality that Palmer (and any other slick puckhandler) has to have in order to think-up at such an idea. Unbelievable.
By the way, I don’t know if you noticed how believable young Mr Palmer was as he took that fake shot. And, did you even hear the supposed shot? Actually, that might be one of the most remarkable things about that play. Then, although it was difficult to detect, even in slow-motion, I think Palmer also kicked the puck from behind with his left skate. And he did that without ever looking downward and giving the goaler a hint that he hadn’t really shot.
Of course, I’m all about teaching, as well as sharing with you all that I know about the teaching process. So, I’m going to suggest these two things for anyone who wants to become a dangler, or anyone who wants to encourage a player to become slick with the puck…
For sure, disciplined drills form the foundation for good puckhandling. So, a player should absolutely master all the basic moves.
Along with the discipline, however, there has to be some creative time. In other words, a player should just hot dog with the puck for awhile — just fiddling and diddling, and having some fun. In my clinics, I’ll usually encourage my students or players to just “Go nuts!” For, this is where the mentality or the mindset begins.
Again, although that goal by Jarod Palmer surely was sick (LOL), I’m even more fascinated by the creativity that young athlete surely had in devising such a move.
Todd Jacobson (our CoachChic.com goalie coach) just sent me a link to the following video. And, as I was watching and shaking my head, I was also telling myself that, “That is just another example of great puckhandling stemming from a special kind of mentality!” Here you go…
I have only one thing to mention as I introduce this article authored by the Mental Edge’s Brady Greco…
We are all sportsmen.
Yes, some of us are hockey people, some of us are into baseball. But, we should all first see ourselves as sportsmen. And, oh… If we could all be sportsmen in the mold of an Amando Galarraga.
– Dennis Chighisola
The Perfect Game
By Brady Greco
The Mental Edge
One of the finest displays of perspective in all sports was witnessed this past month by Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga. Galarraga had retired 26 of 26 opposing batters without allowing a hit, walk, or hit batsmen. All he needed was one more out to become only the 21st pitcher ever in Major League history to throw a “perfect game”. This feat is one of the toughest to accomplish by any athlete in any sport. It is what Little Leaguer’s stay up at night dreaming about in their beds.
As the 27th batter dug-in to face Galarraga, 30,000 screaming fans were waiting to witness history. What was to follow in the moments after will be forever remembered as one of sports most all time “botched” calls by an umpire, official, or referee. The batter hit into a routine grounder in which Galarraga had to cover first-base. The first baseman flipped Armando Galarraga the ball for the last out of the game, etching in history his “perfect game”. Unfortunately umpire Jim Joyce saw the play differently and called the batter safe at first, ultimately blowing Galarraga’s “perfect game”. After one look at the replay, it was evident the runner at first base was out and Joyce had made the wrong call on the field. Since baseball does not have the luxury of having instant replay, the call on the field stood.
In an instance like this, with so much emotion attached to the situation, anyone in their right mind would have RIPPED umpire Jim Joyce a “new one”! Nevertheless, Armando Galarraga composed himself and brushed the call off with a “you gotta be kidding me” smirk, and went back to the mound to complete the game. After the game, a petition was delivered to Bud Selig (commissioner of MLB) to over-rule Joyce’s ‘bogus’ call and to award Galarraga with a “perfect game”. However, Selig would stand by the call Joyce made on the field that night and did not acknowledge the “perfect game” thrown by Galarraga.
The following game, Galarraga (who was not pitching that day) made it a point to hand deliver the team’s line-up card to Jim Joyce who was umping behind the plate. Galarraga wanted to make sure that Joyce was okay and to let Joyce know he had no negative feelings towards him.
When Galarraga was questioned about the blown call Joyce made, he simply responded with, “I know myself that I threw a perfect game, and that’s all that matters.” This type of perspective is what athletes striving to make it to the next level must learn. Galarraga understands that baseball is bigger than he is. He understands that humans make mistakes. He understands that he is lucky and honored to be able to play the sport he loves on a daily basis. He knows that if he dwelled on the situation, he would end up mentally beating himself up. Above all else, Armando Galarraga realizes that life is full of wonderful things and baseball is just a fraction of what the entire world has to offer.
The character, integrity, and sportsmanship displayed by Armando Galarraga was much greater to witness than watching ANY other pitcher throw a “perfect game”.
Like this? When you’re ready to live life with this kind of perspective, simply email us to get started.
While I’m extremely pleased by all the hockey folks who have joined our mailing lists to this point, I know some are going to be disappointed shortly that they haven’t done so yet.
The reason for my latter statement? It’s because I’m also very excited to announce at this time that I am soon going to begin offering on-line webinars. And, for those who don’t totally understand what a webinar is, it’s basically an on-line classroom presentation. These are popular in the business community. However, they are also the future when it comes to education.
Of course, because I might be pioneering the use of webinars for the sharing of hockey information, I’ll likely veer considerably from what others (or business types) have done. Ya, I’m talking more like a hockey classroom, or an on-line coaching seminar. And, this means I’ll be combining video samples and chalktalk demonstrations in order to ensure my hockey friends totally understand the given topic.
Okay, so what’s the problem with your not being on one of my mailing lists?
1) As it appears right now that a given free version of each webinar will only be aired on a single date. So, if you don’t get the word, you’re apt to miss something that might have helped you — maybe even a lot.
2) In advance of a given broadcast, I am going to solicit questions. So, if you want ensure that I cover a given area, I’ll need to have your question in by a certain date. (Chasing down the appropriate video samples, for example, could take me a considerable length of time.)
3) The two points above suggest that the best way for me to get the word to you — about webinar dates and times, and about your question deadlines, is for me to email you. And (according to the new anti-spam laws), I can’t do that unless I have your permission!
***Join one of my email lists NOW (using one of the links below)!
All that said, I think you’re going to want to get on one of the following email lists pretty soon. (Again, many of you HAVE already joined a list, so you won’t need to join again. If you’re already receiving the “You Don’t Need Ice!” video series, you know you’re already enrolled.) Here’s my suggestion for joining the appropriate list:
- Those who live in the Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island areas should click the following and SIGN-UP HERE;
- Those who live OUSTSIDE the Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island areas should click the following and SIGN-UP HERE;
We’ve been very fortunate to have a number of great guest writers over the first year of CoachChic.com. Most of them have come from friendships I’ve developed over on my favorite social media site, and all of them have been from among the small group I refer to as “Twitter’s Best and Brightest”.
That said, let me introduce you to one of the very brightest in Twitterland, Dr Mollie Marti. And, proving she’s a woman who really knows how to take a bite out of life, let me share just some of her extensive experiences:
Mollie is a performance psychologist and founder of BestLifeDesign.com, a life design resource that provides tools, advice, and inspiration in all areas of life design, including health, fitness, relationships, finances, career, spirituality, and success. Mollie is a successful entrepreneur and coach with a prestigious list of clients, including Olympians and business superstars. She is widely published in academic journals, and also shares her work in numerous peak performance and success books. As a psychologist, lawyer and trained mediator, Dr. Mollie has years of experience in conflict resolution, negotiation, facilitation, group dynamics, team building and alignment, motivation, performance effectiveness, communication strategies, strategic planning and change management. With her unique ability to combine the science of success with the art of living well, Mollie is a popular trainer and speaker. She is a frequent resource for local and national media, including Self, Newsweek, Parents Magazine, and the Montel Williams show. She lives with her husband, 3 children, and large family of pets on an apple orchard in scenic northeast Iowa.
Now, besides getting to know her well over the past year or so, I subscribe to her newsletter and – whenever I need a lift or a bit of motivation, I’ll put on my headphones and listen to one of Mollie’s audio recordings.
Does an old hockey coach need that kind of help? How about a parent? An athlete? My answer to all of those is, “You bet!” As a matter of fact, Here’s an endorsement by another pretty high level coach:
“As a head coach, I am always trying to get the most out of myself, my staff and my team. Mollie has provided tremendous expertise and tools to help each member of our team improve. From goal setting to communication to decision making, she has made a great difference. She has helped our team truly understand that individual success and team success are one in the same. Mollie is our X Factor.”
– Lisa Bluder, Head Coach
University of Iowa Women’s Basketball
2010 Big 10 Coach of the Year
With all that, the following arrived in my inbox today, and I immediately knew I had to share it with my favorite hockey people. Again, I find Dr Marti’s writings helpful to me, and I suspect the following piece will be appreciated by other coaches, other business types and older players. Enjoy!
– Dennis Chighisola
Self-Discipline: Paying Yourself Forward!
by Dr. Mollie Marti
“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it.
Establish your priorities and go to work.”
– H. L. Hunt
For many, the word “discipline” sounds like punishment. Who would guess that such a word, when applied to one’s self, actually creates unlimited rewards and freedom?
Self-discipline is the regulation one’s Self. It is a way of investing in your future – and it is a key factor in helping you achieve all you want in life.
Once upon a time, Americans were all about self-discipline. George Washington made it a personal challenge to rise before the sun did. Benjamin Franklin said, “The person who has self-discipline is very powerful.” Countless colonists read and followed the precepts published in Poor Richard’s Almanac, which was loaded with advice related to the value of self-discipline and which Franklin published every year between 1732 and 1758 (now that’s self-discipline!). Immigrants who came to and strengthened the fabric of this great country were highly self-disciplined, persevering through immense trials and tribulations.
So what happened since? Maybe things got a little too easy for us and we settled into choosing comfort over discipline. The good news is that I am seeing resurgence in a desire to better oneself and positively impact our world. Now more than ever people want to serve others and leave a strong legacy, and they realize that they need self-discipline to do this.
Self-discipline is a habit anyone can acquire with a little practice. Go easy on yourself as you’re building this success skill.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Self discipline can be best summed up in a single word: UNTIL. You simply do whatever “it” is until it is done.
- You can BEHAVE your way to success. The key is to focus on one area of improvement at a time. Pick one target behavior, like getting up one-half hour earlier than you do now to go for a walk or write that book you say you’ll write “some day.” Then do it every day until it becomes second nature – a habit.
- If you happen to be human, you will mess up. Build this into your expectations. Don’t buy into all-or-nothing thinking, which leads to throwing in the towel. Forgive yourself and start over. Go back to item 1 and begin again.
- Break down your goals. If you set a single goal of completing a marathon and you only fit in one-half hour of walking each day, you will quickly get discouraged. If you set an initial goal of walking for one-half hour each day, mixed with running for one minute every 10 minutes, you can steadily work up to this level and quickly see results. Stop going for the home run and start working your way around the bases.
- Stay vigilant. When you find yourself beginning to succeed, you also may find yourself saying, “I wonder if I really need to…” If so, STOP. Recommit. Affirm your new habit with emotion. Say it aloud! “Exercising each day makes me feel great. Off I go!”
Most importantly, don’t quit. You and your dreams are worth fighting for. Keep going and you’ll quickly find that the temporary pain of self-discipline will be more than offset by the pride and pleasure of achieving your long-term goals!
Now, if that isn’t something every one of us can use. As a matter of fact, the timing of Dr Marti’s message couldn’t be better for us hockey types. I mean, I have been suggesting over recent weeks that our off-season is a time when we can catch or pass others. And Mollie makes two points that will truly help towards that end…
First, focus on a small part of your game and work to bring that to a high level.
Secondly, stick with it. As a matter of fact, I suggest that a player not even worry about results at first. Just keep plodding away — with discipline, and see what happens near summer’s end. I promise you’ll see results.
Finally, as soon as you get a chance, visit Dr Mollie Marti’s website at http://www.BestLifeDesign.com, and get on her newsletter list. Like me, you’ll be glad you did.
– Dennis Chighisola
As always, we REALLY enjoy your Comments!
Practice Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) like running, swimming or jumping. Also introduce the ABC’s of athleticism:
ABC’s – Agility, Balance & Coordination and Speed.
If you’ve seen my 6-part video series, “You Don’t Need Ice!“, you might find it interesting that I created that about 5- or 6-years ago (or long before the ADM program was conceived?). Actually, my hockey players have been doing things like rope skipping (even on the ice) since way back in the early 1980′s!
Focus on flexibility during this stage.
This is the first window for speed training with an emphasis on agility, quickness and change of direction. Less than 5 seconds in duration.
One of the first posts I did here at CoachChic.com (about a year ago) included the video on “windows of opportunity“, although I’d been speaking and writing that sort of advice well over a decade ago.
Once a week, prior to or after practice, spend 30 minutes off-ice working on the Fundamental Movement Skills and the ABC’s. This can be done through games and challenging activities. Keep it fun!
What comes to mind here is my frequent advice about playing games of tag — on- and off-ice (although I don’t just take that approach with very young players).
Play multiple sports or engage in activities like soccer, running, gymnastics, swimming, skiing or other activities 75% of the time and play hockey the other 25%.
Again, I have to reference that “You Don’t Need Ice!” series, where I not only recommend gaining athleticism and other positive physical and mental traits through other sports, but I also mention in there about the “era of specialization” (when players worked solely at hockey on a year-round basis) having been deemed a failed experiment.
I want to add something else here, in reference to that “75% of the time” thing, because I suspect that some parents and coaches might balk at this. However, don’t forget that we’re talking about very young people here, and especially ones who are in those critical stages of development (or passing through those “windows of opportunity”). Also, while I still recommend other sports for older players, the ratio of hockey to those other sports wouldn’t be quite the same (maybe in reverse?).
Group players into top 1/3, middle 1/3, beginner 1/3.
By the way… It should make sense that players of different abilities have different needs. In other words, while the lower third might need help on mastering something like the front stop, the upper third likely needs to move on to a greater challenge.
30 – 60 players each practice session
Believe it or not, this IS do-able (just find any video on this site where I’m teaching my Learn-to and Mighty Mite kids and you’ll surely see me dealing with at least 60-kids)!
2-3 ice touches per week
50 min ice sessions
An important principle of motor learning is that of “distributed training” versus “mass training”. In essence, it suggests that younger athletes gain more by engaging in short bouts of training distributed over many sessions. Mainly due to their increased attention span, older players might do okay engaging in a longer bout at one given skill or tactic. (On a personal basis, I still tend to take mostly a distributed training approach with my older kids — in other words, doing about 20-ish short drills in a session, and then repeating many of those over subsequent practices.)
5 month’s = 20 weeks per season maximum
50 to 60 ice touches per season
Min 16 half-ice games & 34 practices
Max 20 half-ice games & 40 practices
9 to 13 players/team; no fulltime goalies
I DO have to chuckle here, because I was running one-third ice games back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. And, because I think there’s quite a bit for parents and coaches to know (concerning the value of “small games” — or “cross-ice games”), I’m planning a video right now to post here sometime in early June.
Okay, if you noticed a little sarcasm within my notes, it’s a personal thing with me, and these at least hint at my frequent difficulties with USA Hockey. I could give you several examples of how North American hockey federations so often let down their members. But, this isn’t the place for my personal feelings or experiences with them. Naw, my blog — “Coach Chic’s Hockey Diary” is where I’m allowed to have THAT kind of fun. So, take a look over there if you’re so inclined.
We truly hope you’ll join us in this unique challenge. Live simply, live powerfully!
Shaun and Dawn
Mental Edge, 12922 196th Lane NW, Elk River, MN 55330, USA
Two of my all-time favorite Twitter friends are responsible for the following video.
First, Mike Mahony hosts an awesome site called The Muscle Building Fat Burning Video Blog, where he promises to help regular folks (like you and me) cut through all the information overload we might be getting from all the so-called fitness experts out there today.
Secondly, this post features the star of a previous CoachChic.com entry (“A Different Kind of Hockey Warm-ups“), Maryse Senecal.
Actually, the two, both Maryse and Mike, worked together to put this video together, and I’m extremely grateful that they’ve allowed me to show it to my CoachChic.com members.
– Dennis Chighisola
Guarding Against Obesity
Okay, while obesity might not be a problem for many hockey players, we all know that it surely is within the general population — in Maryse’s native Canada, and across the United States.
So, when I had a chance to see the following video over on Mike’s site, I thought it a good idea to share it with my friends here.
In particular, I really like Maryse’s common sense approach to things. But, you judge for yourself…
If you get the chance, visit Maryse Senecal‘s site over at Myo-Precision for tons more health tips!
And, get to know Michael Mahony on his site, Fitness Expose for lots more fitness tips.
Hey, do the old coach a favor, and cheer-on our two contributors, huh — especially Maryse, who still thinks she’s everything but awesome in front of a camera!
Just in time for the hockey off-season…
A FREE Video Series
“You Don’t Need Ice!”
As always, it’s about the SCIENCES and it’s about getting real RESULTS!
A series of 6 videos aimed at providing players, coaches and parents — from all levels — numerous (and even little known) ideas for jumping ahead of others during the spring and summer months.
This Note from Coach Chic:
I’m going to send you to a sign-up form where I’ll ask a few questions aimed at helping me to get to know you better (hoping you don’t mind).
Thereafter you’ll receive a number of emails — every few days, this so you have plenty of time to digest the videos and other advice.
Hoping you enjoy it,
Click the puck to sign-up for this awesome special gift!
Okay, this area of our site is meant to be fun. When I created it, I envisioned members sharing their “experiences” in the game. However, I never did picture an entry quite like the following.
– Dennis Chighisola
Jerry Z versus “The Brute”!
Now, most of you know Jerry as a hard working roller hockey player. However, when I first introduced him — back in July of 2009, I said, “I’ll tell you a lot more about Jerry Z as time goes along. As you’ll soon discover he’s a great personality, and you’re going to be pretty impressed with what he does for work.”
Well, all these months later, I’ll say that Jerry surely is an interesting guy.
He mainly works as a writer/composer for the video/movie industry. What you ought to really get a kick out of are a couple of Jerry’s sideline interests (beyond roller hockey).
Jerry and his brother Orrin, who’s an animator, host a site called “Its JerryTime!” from which the The Brute has been taken. It’s an absolute riot, as are all of his videos, which are about his life. (Actually, I had my own thoughts on how Jerry might deal with the so-called Brute, but…)
Oh, despite the fun he has in this and other videos, he’s no amateur when it comes to producing winners. In fact, once you’ve seen the movie (popcorn not included), you can check out the reviews and awards “Its JerryTime” has garnered, including an Emmy Award! Take a peek there, take a browse at Jerry’s site, and especially enjoy “The Brute!”
When you get into the first paragraph of the following article, you’re likely to wonder why I’ve chosen to post it at this time, rather than on New Year’s Day. Well, as you’re also likely to discover, Justin Johnson’s piece is timeless, in that his suggestions would serve us well at absolutely any time of the year.
That said, I think that NOW is a very critical time in a hockey player’s year. As many of us CoachChic.com writers suggested last spring, this is a time for reflection, or for taking an account of how we did this past season. And so is it a time to plan ahead — so that we might improve upon some of our shortcomings, and to build further upon our strengths.
– Dennis Chighisola
Justin Johnson, Performance Coach
Pulling Away From the Pack
As many athletes return to school from break and we stare down another year, I wanted to lay down a challenge to all and any youth athletes and non athletes reading this, especially, those contemplating New Year’s resolutions. Whatever your area of activity, be it in school, friends, family, church, or in athletics: Separate Yourself. Be special, dare to be different, lead the pack, go big or go home. However you would like to say it or phrase it, I ask you to be bold enough to do it.
Few athletes exemplified this mindset more than baseball’s Babe Ruth; he swung for the fences whether it was on the field, at the dinner table or in his life off the field. “I swing big, with everything I’ve got,” Ruth said. “I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” As a result, for many years Ruth held the record for most home runs and for most strikeouts. He saw strikeouts as part of the deal. He actually said, “Every strikeout brings me closer to my next home run.”
By this time you may be asking yourself how can I, little average old me, do such a thing? Here is how you get started. Find one activity you do regularly in your life. School, sports, church and friends are all good venues. Then give more effort, care, time and energy to that activity. Use your time in that activity to do it better and longer than others around you. The result, over time, is that you build a sense of pride and fulfillment within yourself. This feeling will only propel your drive to continue to separate yourself.
There is one other way you will know you have begun to separate yourself. Others will question you and urge you to stop! They may even make fun of you or criticize your increased efforts. This is exactly what you want! You see, there are far too many of us stuck in the center of it all. Risking little, gaining little, and losing little. Yet this is not the way we were meant to live. Others will feel threatened by your new found feeling of fulfillment and your new status separate from the center, and they will do what they can to urge you back to the pack. Don’t let them! Dare to be special, dare to be great and continue your efforts to do so regardless of what others say.
If you are looking to make some changes this new year, or even capitalize on some momentum built in ’09, then make sure you are willing to be special. Don’t be afraid to separate yourself to go after what you want. I assure you, you deserve it and you won’t regret it.
If you would like help in taking the first step, or when others begin to urge you back to the pack, please call us…we’d love to help you with your success 763-439-5246!
Members might find this interesting… I’ve written a hockey advice column for “Hockey/USA” magazine for close to 20-years. And, over that span, I’ve changed the focus of my articles about four or five times. However, for about a 5-years, the title of that column was “Dare To Be Different!” Ya, as Justin might say, I was suggesting to my readers that they should separate themselves from the rest of the pack!
I have no doubts that member hockey players and coaches know right now what is needed for them to jump far beyond all their competition next fall. Following Justin’s advice RIGHT NOW is one sure fire way to get what you want. There’s a long time between now and the start of next season, you know, and all those months offer you plenty of time to make huge changes in your game. In so doing, remember one of my favorite lines, in that, “By the inch it’s a synch!”
– Dennis Chighisola
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help at the bottom of the Free Drills page (all coaches would appreciate your contribution).
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola – Whitman, MA, USA
Drill Category: Skating, Passing, Pass Receiving, Attacking, Screening, Deflecting, Rebounding and Goaltending
Please first see the basic set-up of this drill as described under the free Drills section. For, from that basic format, some really awesome offensive and defensive variations have already been shown. (Click here for the basic drill, “Russian Circle Passing“.)
– Dennis Chighisola
Russian Circle Passing – Variations #6
Just about any of the previously shown setups can be used and then enhanced by just one little change.
What I am about to propose is that the last player to attack from a line can stop at the net and then prepare to screen and deflect (and pounce on a rebound) for the next attacker to come. That process continues, with an attacker shooting, and then going to the net to setup a screen.
PS: I do this often with many other shooting drills, merely having the shooter eventually going to the net.
Benefits: Obviously, players should become adept at all three skills – as in screening the goaltender, deflecting shots, and then reacting to possible rebounds. However, I think the addition of this component to any attacking/shooting drill also gets players in the habit of following-up their shots and going to the net.
Running the drill: Before this drill begins, I will usually place a screener/deflecter out in front of the net. Once the drill gets underway, the last shooter replaces the player at the net.
No video is available for this drill.
There are some things I’d like to share with you — maybe personal things or whatever might be going on in my day. Yet, those kinds of things might not really be appropriate for CoachChic.com. So, for now on I’ll be making occasional posts in the new blog that’s linked below…
Just Click HERE to go to
“Coach Chic’s Hockey Diary”!
Shaun Goodsell, MA
President and CEO of Mental Edge
imag·i·na·tion i-ˌma-jə-ˈnā-shən 1 : the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality 2 a : creative ability b : ability to confront and deal with a problem c : the thinking or active mind 3 : a creation of the mind
What has happened to the imagination of our youth athletes? Many hit a roadblock and it not only seems to stop them in their tracks…it appears to stifle and paralyze them for a long time.
Recently, I was talking with a young player that has been experiencing some personal challenges with his team. He is performing at a high level and enjoying some of his greatest success. When I asked him if he was having fun he replied, “Not really”. I immediately felt sad for this young person. I thought to myself, “What skill would help him overcome his lack of enjoyment and allow him to experience fulfillment and accomplishment for the all hard work he’s put into his sport?”
At this point it occurred to me that he would need to utilize his power of choice to craft and create new meanings from the events that were getting him down. He was stuck in his current negative and pessimistic meanings, which lead him to despair, to live in a constant state of disappointment and a lack of personal power. How does one do this?
This is done through imagination. Imagination is the ability to creatively bring into being something that has yet to be formed. Every change that one makes occurs because of the ability to gain a vision for a different reality. When we can imagine a different response and meaning to events that, in the past, have resulted in unempowered responses we reacquire control of the quality of our lives. The inability to be imaginative costs many their sense of well-being, quality relationships, improved performance, and most significantly a sense of personal power.
Becoming imaginative and creative grants us incredible power to shape and create the quality of life we want regardless of the events that might be taking place around us. In becoming imaginative we become people of possibility rather then pessimism. This is not to say there are not events that are difficult and realities that should not be dealt with. But many people underestimate the capacity they have to utilize their imagination to navigate and manage the journey of sport and life.
If you would like help sparking your imagination, give us a call today 763-439-5246!
Until next time, here’s to your possibilities!
This note from Coach Chic… Although Shaun and his staff do an unbelievable job of talking to our playing members, I’d like to suggest that coaches like me also need to heed their advice. Hey, with the long hours we put in, and with the challenges we so often face (alone?), we coaches surely do need the kind of positive advice offered above.
Then, since I am into such stuff, I’d like to paraphrase an appropriate saying (that I’ve heard attributed to a number of great thinkers), in that..
“No great idea ever materializes unless it is first conceived in the mind.”
Answering a comment from my new friend, Nicky R (that’s her avatar below), caused me to think about something…
Actually, what happened is that I finished replying to Nicky, and I next saw the heading for a recent post entitled Resisted Shooting. From there, I’ve mentioned before about how the fireworks go-off in my brain, with one thing making me think of something else. (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a good thing or not — !)
Well, what I got to thinking about was the fact that member goalers (and those who work with goalers) shouldn’t just stay within the Goalies section, or discount all the things available to them in all the other various categories.
Take, for example, that Resisted Shooting idea… Is it necessary for modern day goaltenders to handle the puck — and even shoot it up-ice? You bet! And, in their attempts to fire the puck up-ice, is it possible they’re going to at the same time be mauled by opposing players? You can bet on that one, too! So, a drill such as Restricted Shooting would be just as useful for netminders as it is for defensemen and forwards.
And, come to think of it, so would almost all the skills that are covered here help a goalie, so would the strength training ideas, and so would a good many of the tips offered under Thinking The Game!
So, what do you think? You know I love to see your Comments!
A note from Dennis Chighisola…
I’m asked to do a lot of these kinds of things. And, hey, they’re good for my business, and they often allow me to share some important ideas.
Anyway, I was just interviewed for the IslesNation Blog, and I truly believe there’s something to be learned from this, especially if one is serious about coaching. Just click the logo below to read that article…
As always, you KNOW I appreciate your Comments!
As always, I warn folks involved at our game’s higher levels not to take something like the following too lightly — I mean, just because my examples happen to involve some young players. As I’ll ultimately suggest, learning should never stop, no matter the age or experience level.
With that… I can’t believe I (at least in a way) missed jotting this note during yesterday’s Mighty Mite hockey game. It’s not like a big deal wasn’t made out of it. Thankfully, though, good friend Michael G reminded me in an email this morning. Yes, one of my little guys broke his stick in yesterday’s game, and I’m now going to explain to my friends here why I think it’s necessary for hockey coaches AND PARENTS to make note of such events.
– Dennis Chighisola
The Broken Hockey Stick (and More)
Now, I’ve mentioned elsewhere here about our need to spot so-called “teaching moments”. And, to me, such moments usually involve some important event that doesn’t happen often enough to get covered in practices. Let me give you an example, though…
When my buddy Anthony Chic was a Mite B, his team played in an exciting holiday tournament at a nearby rink. A critical point in one of the earliest tourney games was when one of Tony C’s teammates closed his hand on a puck in their crease, with this resulting in a penalty shot for the opponents. Okay, no big deal, right?**
Well, maybe you saw this coming, but… A few days later, in the game which was to decide the team’s chance to move-on in tournament play, the very same thing happened. I mean, a different defenseman on Anthony’s team once again smothered a puck in the crease, and the deciding goal was scored on the ensuing penalty shot. (Ugh!)**
Hmmmmmm… Now, one might think that all of the kids who witnessed the penalty days earlier would have remembered the consequences. Ya, one might think. But, the fact of the matter is, not all 6- and 7-year olds are noticing — or totally understanding — what’s going on at such a time.**
The rest of that “Hmmmmmm-thing” is that we now know our team’s coach did not use that earlier event as a wonderful teaching opportunity. (Worse yet, I have to wonder if he ever used the second occurrence to explain what happened to his kids. ???)
Okay, so yesterday we had that youngster break his stick during the game action. In a panic, he rushed to the bench, both portions of the stick still in hand. Since we’re allowed to be on the ice during these Instructional League games, an assistant coach and I both rushed to tell him, “Drop it! Drop it!”
With that, we might have been able to convey to a few kids the message about it (playing with a broken stick) being a penalty. But, how many kids really understood that in the craziness of the game? And, I’d be willing to bet that most of the kids who were involved in the action at that time didn’t even witness what took place.
So, here’s the big deal, as far as I’m concerned… There were 20-ish kids involved our game yesterday, and probably 30-something playing in those long ago tournament games. And, since two great teaching moments were missed for the sake of quite a few kids, I’m going to suggest that those kids are (or were) left in jeopardy of committing the same rule infractions sometime down the road, maybe even during a very critical game situation. And, is it going to make some young player feel pretty badly if he or she gets nailed for such a violation? I’m thinking that’s so.
Now, at the higher levels I’m going to suggest that the consequences are all the greater. I’ve seen players benched by their high school or college coach for taking needless penalties. As a matter of fact, many higher level associations have officials visit member schools during the pre-season, just to talk to the players (and coaches) about recent rule changes. Ya, they think it’s that important.
Okay, so what should we parents and coaches do about all this?
For sure, I and my fellow coaches have to grab those teaching moments and make the most of them. A long winter schedule usually provides us a number of these, no matter our level of competition. In each instance, we want to pick a time or method when every single player can be in on the conversation (which means the team bench is hardly the place to handle these things). As for me, I think I’m going to compose an email that will direct my Mighty Mite parents to this article, and I’ll also put a link on our team website.
As an aside here… There will always be a difference in the ways we each communicate with our teams. When it comes to my two older groups (ages about 12- to 18-years), I can usually present the information directly to my players. However, if we’re talking about very young kids, it might not be a bad idea to share our advice with both the players and their parents.
Then, as for the beauty of Mike G’s email… He did something very much like I’ve always done for my son or grandson, in that he took advantage of that teaching moment as a parent. I was absolutely sure Anthony Chic wasn’t going to close his glove on a puck in the crease immediately after we saw it happen the first time. And Mike did the same for his little guy. As he explained it to me, he’d read some bedtime stories to his son last night. Then, as Mike wrote, “I started to talk briefly about the fun we had skating today…” Of course, the broken stick issue arose during their conversation, with his little 4-year old actually telling dad exactly what he should do if he breaks a stick.
This final aside has to do with my sneaking suspicions about why such a young player was/is so sharp… Oh, I’m sure it helps that Mike played a lot, and that he still plays. I’m guessing the little tyke has already seen his share of games — watching his dad, or those on TV (yes, a “hockey house” probably has games on the tube more than most others). Yet, I suspect that the most impactful thing is that they talked often about the game already. And this causes me to further surmise that numerous little bull sessions have encouraged him — even at 4-years old — to think the game. So, while Mike ended his email by saying his son “sometimes can surprise me…”, I’m going to suggest that perhaps his growing hockey smarts shouldn’t be so surprising at all!
Now, those parents who haven’t played much (or any) hockey can take heart in the fact that you can still help your very young one with his or her game. All you have to do, I’ll suggest, is to just stay a hair ahead of him or her in your hockey knowledge. There’s certainly plenty of information available at your local library and on the Internet. And, I happen to know that’s why a number of folks spend a lot of time here at CoachChic.com. And remember, you can always ask for my help whenever you need it.
You know how much I enjoy your feedback. So, please DO add a Comment below!
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help below.
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola — Whitman, Massachusetts, USA
Drill Category: Skating and Puckhandling
Comments: Every coach uses pylons (or other kinds of obstacles) from time to time. However, I wonder how many coaches have considered the following…
For sure, there are huge benefits to be gained by using pylons or other barriers in various patterns.
At the very youngest levels, an obstacle course forces players to weave as they might need to do in their games. As importantly, having to frequently turn left and right as they move through a course gives us a chance to teach them how to use both sides of their stick-blades.
I even find various courses beneficial for older players, but with some reservations…
When I use pylons (tires or my foam dots) with older players, I warn them that slow meandering through the course isn’t going to help them with their game; in fact, it might hurt them to practice in a way that isn’t related to the way they want to play.
I even take the time to compare the typical course to computer based games — you know, the kinds that can be approached at different levels or at different speeds. And I’ll go on to explain that a game is usually easy when the twists and turns come at you slowly, while the real challenge lies in having the winding road or obstacles really flying at you. That established, I constantly remind my guys that they have to supply the challenges. In other words, if they move at breakneck speed through the course, the obstacles come at them at a pace that will actually help them with their game.
Of course, there also comes a time — when kids get older — when the real-life pylons are trying to kill them (or at least put a pretty good hurt on them). And this is all the more reason for older players to approach any given course as quickly as they would rival checkers during a game.
If you click on the nearby photo you’ll see a video I previously posted in an entry about passing. Yes, part of the drill was aimed at helping my NEHI Jr HS kids connect on passes. But, I also incorporated a straight line of tires that had my young guys executing some pretty sharp cuts with a puck. So, have a look before going on.
Now, one last point before showing you a few of the course designs I’ve used over the years. You see, I think whatever kind of a course we use, it ought to fit a certain purpose, with our players understanding exactly what that purpose is.
For example, using a straight course for young players would be worthwhile for them if we first explained how the obstacles represent the “other team’s players” we want to go in and out of, and that it’s important that we use both sides of the stick to accomplish this. Later on we might want to have them start using cross-overs to move themselves from side to side.
At the other end of the spectrum might be the kids you just saw in the above video… Ya, most of those kids are attacking the tires as if they’re attempting to perform a highlight reel goal in an over-time game.
All that said, the following are some pylon course layouts I’ve used fairly regularly:
1) The most obvious and most used course consists of just a straight line of obstacles. Again, as noted above, that course is what you make of it.
2) Over recent years, this pattern has been one of my favorites. I talk in terms of speed and highlight reel moves as the kids ready for this course, and I really push and prod them to attack it as fast as they can possibly go.
3) With an even number of pylons, a coach can pull every other one out so that players have to zig-zag and cup the puck with each cut. Speed in this simple course can be adjusted according to the age and caliber of skater.
4) This can be a fairly advanced course, owning to the fact that players have to make very sharp cuts — with their skates and with a puck. And again, speed should be adjusted per the level of our players.
Finally, such courses really are what we make of them. And so do our players reap benefits according to the way they negotiate them.
Have questions or suggestions concerning this entry? Please leave a Comment below.
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help below.
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola — Whitman, Massachusetts, USA
Drill Category: Skating, Passing, Pass Receiving, Attacking and Defending
Comments: This is perhaps one of the most versatile drills I have ever used. In it’s basic form, Russian Circle Passing is a great up-tempo drill that includes fast skating, great puck movement, and any form of attack on net a coach chooses. Better yet, CoachChic.com members will be treated to numerous variations of this drill that include all sorts of offensive and defensive match-ups (please see the link to drill variations down below).
Again, this is a great up-tempo drill that incorporates fast skating, the need to provide good stick targets, and the need to connect on passes as receivers move through circular patterns.
Running the drill:
- In the basic set-up, skaters are lined-up along the boards and behind a blue line on both sides of the ice.
- The drill begins with one player skating (without a puck) around the center face-off circle and providing a good stick-target for the first player in the other line.
- The first player in the other line hits the circling player with a pass, and the pass receiver then continues on to attack the goal in any way the coach prescribes (either shooting or deking the goaltender).
- Upon making a pass, a player leaves his or her line to circle and receive a pass from the other line.
Obviously, this drill should be run so that the players circle to the left (as shown), and then to the right (by just moving the lines to the opposite side boards).
Click image below to see a short video on the basic drill. (CoachChic.com members may click on this link for numerous other Variations on Russian Circle Passing.)
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help below.
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola — Whitman, MA USA
Drill Category: Forward & Backward Skating, Passing and Receiving
Please see the Straight Line Cycling Drill for details on the initial set-up.
As for the variation…
- The drill runs exactly like the basic one, with this exception… The passer carries the puck to mid-ice, then begins skating backwards.
- About half the distance back to his starting place, that player initiates a pass cross-ice while still skating backwards.
Objective of the Drill:
Backward skating and puckhandling are involved in this variation.
Better yet, the most difficult pass to make in hockey is one done while moving backwards, so this drill forces players to work on that skill numerous times within just a few minutes. (A player doesn’t have the chance to use his or her full body to generate force in this kind of pass.)
Running the drill:
Please watch the video linked below to see the variation in progress.
Click image below to see a short video.
Have questions or suggestions concerning this drill? Please leave a Comment below.
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help below.
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola — Whitman, MA USA
Drill Category: Skating, Puckhandling, Passing and Receiving
Groups of threes perform this drills across the ice.
All players can (and should) participate in this kind of drilling, from forwards to defensemen to goaltenders.
- Two players assume start positions on one side of the ice, with one of these players having a puck
- A third player begins at the other side boards.
- The player with the puck carries it to mid-ice, and then fires a firm, flat pass onto the stick-target of the man on the other side of the ice.
- The passer follows his pass and takes the place of the pass receiver.
- The pass receiver now carries the puck to mid-ice and makes a good pass to the man on the other side boards.
(The sketches shows the layout of players, while the video below accomplishes more than I could do in words.)
Objective of the Drill:
It’s a sound practice for players to follow their passes.
So is it helpful for players to work on their passing skills while moving.
This drill makes it necessary for the passer to be extra accurate when sending the puck, since his or her target is in a stationary posture.
As an added benefit… I find that with the passer moving towards his or her target, a fairly firm pass requires the receiver to have really soft hands in executing the catch.
FYI… We do our weekly individual skills session on a mini-rink (shown in the video below), so the short distance across the ice dictates less skating and quicker passes than when we do the same drill later in the week on a regulation sized ice surface.
Running the drill:
Please see the video below to see how the drill looks in progress.
Click image below to see a short video.
Have questions or suggestions concerning this drill? Please leave a Comment below.
PS: Watch for a variation on this drill within a day or so.
Ya, that’s pretty much what the pitchman said on the radio this morning…
– Dennis Chighisola
On Sale: Hockey Skates & Sticks!
The reason I’ve decided to comment on this particular advertisement is because I immediately thought of our buddy, Jerry Z, as I heard it!
Actually, the sponsor was a well known hockey equipment super store, but the message wasn’t really for us serious hockey players, coaches or parents. Naw, what they were peddling was “pond hockey gear”! I mean that, and that’s exactly the expression the announcer used: “pond hockey”. And, as best I can recall, that equipment was/is selling for $40 to $60, or thereabouts.
Now, why did I choose to raise this issue here? It’s because Jerry owns two pairs of in-lines skates, with one pair being of pretty good quality and the other pair being rather questionable. (You can go back and see about our previous exchange on Jerry’s sticks and skates by clicking here.)
Okay, I know that sophisticated members usually know exactly what they want when they enter an equipment shop or store. But I can’t blame any new hockey player or parent from being confused when he or she sees the wide array of products carried by some merchants. (I suspect that’s what happened to Jerry his first time around. In fact, why would a new skater even realize that some of the stuff made by a reputable company could be junk?)
Anyway, that’s the point of this article, to help save anyone who might be fairly new to such things. And, if I had to advise new players or parents of new players, here are a couple of things that come to mind immediately…
1) Even though a company might be known for their high quality gear, there’s the likelihood that they also produce low quality equipment for recreational type players.
2) Most of the pro shops (or those located inside local rinks) primarily carry gear that is more suitable to competitive players. They may have some lower priced articles for real young players or adult rec skaters, but even that gear should meet player needs for a time.
3) It should make sense for a customer to ask plenty of questions wherever he or she does shop. Armed with the above information (and loads of other equipment advice distributed here at CoachChic.com), he or she ought to have a better sense of what’s needed before even arriving at the store.
4) All that said, I’m going to share one more thing I’ve noticed… A lot of the so-called super stores hire athletes to wait on their customers. That’s the good part. Perhaps the not-so-good part might be if a family is trying to get “expert hockey help” from a tennis player or swimmer. This again probably suggests going to a rink pro shop when you need advice. They’re almost always manned by current or former players, and usually by people who really like what they do.
Man, where has this article — or this line of thinking — been all my coaching life?
Now, I’m going to bite my tongue (for as long as I can stand it), and let you read this unbelievable piece by Mental Edge’s Shaun Goodsell. Thereafter, you know I’m going to have LOTS to say!
– Dennis Chighisola
Shaun Goodsell, MA
President and CEO of Mental Edge
Blinded by Winning
As the winter sports kick-off I am preparing for the many questions I will field as teams and individual athletes seek to chase their ideal success. Athletes, coaches and parents will invest enormous resources of time, energy and money to climb that ladder of whatever they are chasing that defines success. Some will determine success by wins and losses; others will use a post-season appearance or a championship and still others will dig deep to frame success in ways that cannot be defined in visible ways. However each team or individual defines success, there is no doubt there will be ups and downs along the way. The small successes and disappointments experienced on the journey are significant in dictating the overall success at the end of the season.
Recently, I have been looking for a mental paradigm that can help people look at their season in a way that helps to prepare them and their teams to play better at the end of the season than at the beginning. Here is the challenge as I see it:
For years I have been hearing that each time a team or player sets out to perform they should be their best. Coaches talk about bringing your best game day in and day out. Parents go watch in the hopes of seeing a quality performance and a win. There is no doubt that watching a winning performance is fun and exciting. However, winning can at times blind us to what makes us vulnerable as an athlete and as a team. It is as though chasing the Win becomes the goal instead of seeking to use the contest as a learning opportunity to reveal to us what requires work to make us most invincible at the end of the season. Wins, although important, often blind teams and individuals to vital points of development that if not fixed sabotage teams and individuals from the ultimate goal they may be chasing. What might be true is that a well timed loss or short term disappointment may be more critical leading to success of the team because of the focus it creates on what makes a individual and team vulnerable later on in the season.
We need to value the learning that can occur through points of defeat and disappointment. To do this requires us to lessen our focus on winning and increase our emphasis on learning. Every athlete and team should ask themselves after a win or loss, “What did we learn about ourselves and our team?” Subsequently, “What do we need to do in order to get better in that aspect of the game?” Becoming seduced by the short-term success of a win can alter our ability to learn crucial lessons about ourselves that can be bridges to long-term success. Every moment needs to be seen as part of a bigger picture. Doing this allows learning to be a viable goal each time we perform.
This season consider learning from disappointments and team losses and resolve to use them to improve yourself and your team. You will find that you will elevate your game with this mindset when in the past you had become frustrated and disappointed and missed those vital points of learning that kept you stuck.
At Mental Edge we desire to challenge people to experience breakthrough in their lives by establishing new thinking skills and thought patterns leading to a renewed energy for their lives and what is possible. If you are ready to make breakthrough changes in your life, please call Dawn to take the first step at 763.439.5246!
Until next time, here’s to your possibilities!
Okay, let me begin by saying that a “young Coach Chic” would have taken the “W” over anything else. Thank God I changed my ways by the time I started working with my second generation of players!
Now, let me tell you a few things that should help validate Shaun’s comparison of wins versus losses (or learning experiences:
I started using video-tape back in 1979. And, back in those days, I had a great dad who followed my high school hockey teams, and he was also really into video. So, we arranged that he’d tape all the games he could attend, while I spent countless hours studying those tapes. A funny thing happened very early-on, however. I discovered that games in which we won big were of almost no value to me. I mean, it seemed as if only tough opponents really exposed our weaknesses or showed me the things I had to do to help my kids back at practice.
By now, members know my penchant for note-taking. In fact, there’s an entire category here that allows me to share some of the things I record. Anyway, much like what I discovered from the study of videos, I’ve come to realize that my notepad is nearly blank after an easy win, and it is crammed full whenever we suffer a setback. Ya, again, it takes a stronger opponent to expose the things we really need to work on.
Next, I need to say that a combination of things have helped me become a better coach… Number One — and what I see as a main part of Shaun’s article — is that This Old Coach has had to be open to learning. Secondly, and as you should have gathered from the first two points, I’ve needed to face some tougher opponents each season in order to learn or to grow. (In actuality, I don’t think I’ve have ever arrived at some of my training inventions or training manuals unless I first found I was failing at something. Ya, think about that one, if you would.)
Lastly, I know my players are better today than they were on opening night, mainly because of the very “mindset” Shaun describes. Thankfully, I have managed to convince my players and (most of) their parents (as well as myself) that “Development comes first.” If you think about it, “winning at all costs” usually requires shortcuts, or shortchanging players. You know what I mean: a coach only skates certain kids in a tight game, he or she arranges lines or defense pairs solely for the sake of winning, or a coach pays more attention to the best players during the practices because they’re the ones who spell “W-I-N-S” for him or her. On the other hand, I can’t tell you what a relief it is to put development first… With that, I probably pay a hair more attention to the kids who need to catch-up with the rest of our roster; our practices are mainly dictated by what the kids need for the long-term; I spread my talent evenly over all the lines so that kids are learning from each other; and — until the last minute or so of a close game, I just keep rolling my lines with no regard for the “W”. (FYI… I do one thing each week that might seem like it’s for the sake of winning, in that we do have a set powerplay unit for each game. However, that’s actually used as a reward for practice attendance!)
As for my comment about “where has this article been all my life?” Well, I’ve lost a few hockey families through the years, mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t convince them that long-term gains were far more important than stats, championships or trophies. And, while I wish I had Shaun’s article to help sway them back then, I plan on using it to save some future folks in need.
Double-dare you to argue this one in our Comments area!
One of our outstanding strength coaches and good friend, Jason Price, wrote this piece for Athletes Equation, and it does have a slant towards strength training. However, I’d like players, parents and coaches to look at it more from a “player’s” perspective — in other words, as this same line of thinking might apply to correcting hockey skill-type errors. So, give it a try, huh? I think you’ll see what I mean…
– Dennis Chighisola
The Difference between Error Recognition & Awareness for Athletes & Coaches
Jason Price, MS, CSCS, ATC, CPT, USAW Club Coach
When coaching athletes in drills and lifts, one key point that I try to get the individual to understand is the difference between just recognizing their technical error and truly becoming aware of the error. In his book “The Inner Athlete” Dan Millman describes this difference very eloquently:
“There is a great difference between recognizing an error.. and accepting an error as an error — an acceptance that implies full responsibility for correcting that error. Full awareness implies willingness to change, and we may not be ready to do that.”
As a coach I can’t make an athlete correct an error. I can only direct them towards making the correction. It is easy for an athlete to say they understand or recognize an error taking place. But, it isn’t until they are fully aware of the error that they can correct it.
So, why is understanding this difference between recognizing errors and becoming aware of errors important for coaches and athletes? It is because ultimately it is up to the athlete to make the correction, not the coach. The coach can only teach proper technique or how to do a skill; they cannot “make” the athlete do it correctly. Making errors and mistakes is what athletes must do to learn, grow and improve. But the athlete must want to understand their body and what they are asking it to do.
An example of this is one of the simplest drills in the weight room. The Romanian Deadlift (or stiff legged deadlift) is a simple exercise which requires only movement at the hip while stabilizing the other joints involved. Seems simple, but wait, because it is actually one of the more difficult exercises to coach. Simply, it’s because many individuals are not aware of what their body is doing. They think they are doing one thing and then they do something completely different.
This is where understanding the difference between error recognition and awareness comes into play. Coaches mostly recognize errors and flaws in what is being asked of the individual. That is what we do. But, how many coaches try to teach awareness?
Now this may not be appropriate for all levels of coaching. For the personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist and some sport coaches this is exactly what is missing from their instruction on some drills. If an athlete just doesn’t seem to get it and you are hammering home the same points, change it up. Put it on their shoulders to truly become aware of what they are doing. If the athlete or individual doesn’t understand they are making an error, they can’t become aware. Again, using the Romanian Deadlift example, my goal as a coach is to try to make the person aware when they don’t move at the hip or don’t fully stabilize. I can tell them all I want what they did wrong. However, unless they are aware they won’t make the correction.
So next time you are coaching a drill or exercise, instead of focusing on telling individuals what they are doing wrong and how to correct it, ask them what they are aware of, or that they are doing. Ask them how it feels for them try to make the correction without you having to tell them or position them over and over. Yes, this may take a little longer at first, but it will save you time in the long run. For, as the trainee or athlete learns this skill, they will be ready to be aware of what they are doing as they are learning any new skill.
Be a friend: EVERY worthwhile Comment really helps Coach Chic!
Talk about getting goose bumps… That’s exactly what I told my young friend, John Galluzzo, when I read the following article. Never mind that his brief recap of the Miracle at Placid really touched me, but I know (or knew) many of the characters John mentions here. Actually, the author’s late dad worked with me as an assistant high school hockey coach eons ago, and a young John skated in a few of my clinics way back when. Then, I worked with Bobby Sheehan, Ed Taylor and Peter Breen, and I even had the chance to watch a young teen named David Silk in his youth hockey days at the old Cohasset Winter Gardens and Pilgrim Arena (where my NEHI Teams still practice).
No matter how you connect with the following, however, I doubt anyone forgets where he or she was the day Al Michaels spouted those magic words (through a snowy, pre-cable broadcast?).
Many thanks to John for sharing this…
– Dennis Chighisola
As originally published in South Shore Living
By John Galluzzo email@example.com
Broadcaster Al Michaels’ final call of the astonishingly unexpected wrestling of the Olympic Gold Medal for hockey away from the juggernaut Soviet Union team by the United States in Lake Placid, New York, in February 1980 still echoes in the minds of hockey fans across the country. “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
While the victory itself was one for the United States as a whole, and one which had obvious political overtones during the strenuous days of the Cold War, the story of the accomplishment ultimately grew from early morning skating drills and hockey practices in only four states: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and right here in Massachusetts.
We may never fully understand the effect that Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr had on the development of that 1980 team. Much like the Tiger Woods craze of the late 1990s is responsible for the overabundance of golf courses today in the U.S., the urge to be like Bobby drove kids in the Boston area to beg their parents for skates, pucks and sticks in the early 1970s. Their wishes spurred the construction of ice rinks all over the region which were soon filled to their rafters with town teams of “mites, squirts, peewees and bantams,” sometimes two and three levels deep, organized into leagues that kept the lights burning from pre-dawn until post sunset.
The South Shore already had a love of the game, played until the mid-sixties outdoors on frozen ponds, and more formally in places like the Hingham Skating Club, where a small wooden hut with a wood-burning stove gave players a place to lace up before hitting the pond. “There has always been a strong hockey tradition down here,” said Richard Johnson, curator of the Sports Museum at the TD Garden. “In the late 60′s and early 70′s no less a team than the Montreal Canadiens signed both Larry Pleau [of Lynn] and Bobby Sheehan of Weymouth at a time when you could count the number of Americans in the NHL on the fingers of one hand.” In Pembroke, Hingham, Rockland, Cohasset and elsewhere, indoor rinks became the schooling grounds for the boys whom Johnson calls “the sons of Bobby Orr.”
“Dave Silk started skating at the Winter Gardens at a very young age, 7 or 8 years old,” said Peter Breen, former owner of the Cohasset Winter Gardens, which sat on what is now the site of the Cohasset commuter rail stop on Route 3A. “He skated a lot with Ed Taylor, in his hours,” he remembered. Taylor, a champion of South Shore youth hockey, founded the Scituate Braves program in 1968, coaching, managing and even driving his team from home to the rinks and back. Young Silk, who had just lost his father, found “a surrogate father” in Taylor, he told the Boston Globe years later. And so the road to the Olympics began for the Scituate youngster.
Thayer Academy called first, and Silk answered with an astounding 85 points (goals plus assists) in his freshman year. Boston University’s attention was gained. In his first year there, 1976-77, Silk broke freshman records for goals, assists and points, earning New England rookie of the year honors. In 1978, he and his teammates earned a national collegiate championship, and the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers could wait no longer. They drafted him that year.
But Silk had one final item on his hockey agenda before giving up his amateur status, which, in 1980, was still required to participate in Olympic sports. He skated for the national hockey program through 1979 and into 1980, alongside a final squad composed of twelve Minnesotans, two skaters from Wisconsin, one from Michigan, and three of his Boston University teammates: Mike Eruzione of Winthrop, Jack O’Callahan of Charlestown and goalie Jim Craig of North Easton.
Their story has been told repeatedly through nearly thirty years, most recently notably through the Disney movie Miracle. Silk netted 48 points in international competition, climaxing with two assists in the 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union on February 22, 1980, the penultimate game on the road to gold medal, but, to all true fans of the sport, the gold medal game (the United States beat the Fins two days later 4-2 to officially claim the medal).
As the final seconds ticked off, Al Michaels began his call, giving Scituate and the rest of the South Shore youth hockey community – the coaches, the rink owners, the teammates, the Zamboni drivers, the fans, the pro shop skate sharpeners, the moms and dads who sacrificed early morning sleep to help their kids follow their dreams – a moment they would never forget: “Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?”
What is Consistency?
By Brady Greco, Performance Coach — The Mental Edge
A common performance concept that is rarely taught but always referred to by coaches is playing a more consistent game. You hear coaches all the time say, “play with more consistency day in and day out.” There is no problem if a coach makes this statement and communicates to the team about what needs to take place in order to become more consistent. However, the majority of coaches fail to explain in detail what consistency even entails, making it impossible for a player to understand how to become more consistent in their play.
Consistency can be described in the sport’s world as a level of quality play over an extended period of time. Every competitive athlete has experienced a game where they performed very well. In turn, every athlete has encountered what it feels like to perform poorly, making the concept of consistency very tricky. Here is a checklist of five keys to focus on as an athlete that will help maintain consistency throughout your personal journey as an athlete:
- Awareness: Reflect on your performance and determine what areas you did well in and what areas you need to improve upon.
- Good Habits: Practice good habits throughout the athletic season. This means staying disciplined and remembering to do the ‘little’ things both on and off the athletic field or arena.
- Pre-game Routine: For an athlete to become mentally prepared for a game/practice, they must take the proper procedures. This means an athlete must find a comfortable and effective personal routine they go through on days of games/practice. Establishing a good pre-game routine will enable an athlete to be prepared mentally which will create a better chance of optimal performance. Don’t be afraid to ‘mess around’ with your routine if you feel something is not working.
- Imagery: Imagine yourself accomplishing the task at hand. Picture yourself already playing the game and making the right plays in every situation.
- Positive Self-Talk: Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. Tell yourself ‘I am the best, I am the best’. This will create encouraging thoughts to flow through your mind to remain positive.
At the Mental Edge, we can teach you mental toughness skills like these to empower you on your journey as an athlete. Simply call Dawn to start at 763-439-5246.
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help below.
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola — Whitman, MA USA
Drill Category: Team Defense, Backchecking
Comments: I’ve only used 3 pairs of players per drill because it’s easier to keep an eye on and inspect the efforts of a few at a time. Also, all positional players — both forwards and defensemen — take part in both offensive and defensive roles.
- Backcheckers: Lie facing away from attackers so that no plans can be made ahead of time on which defender will cover which attacker.
- Attackers: Begin the drill by lying face down; on command, circle the back obstacle in order to make it more difficult for the backcheckers to sort whom they’ll cover. (With younger players, or to initially teach the drill concepts, I might not have the attackers circle an obstacle, but instead have them go on the attack on the command.)
- Coach: Holds a puck at side boards and ultimately (maybe after about 3- to 5-seconds) feeds to an open attacker.
Objective of the Drill:
The attackers attempt to get open for passes (from the coach and then from open teammates) to attack the net, while all defenders attempt to cover their men so tightly that passes can’t be made to them.
As an extra benefit, the attackers tend to work extra hard to get themselves open for passes or scoring opportunities.
Running the drill:
Usually the drill lasts about 10-seconds, or until the coach is satisfied that the backcheckers completed their tasks (or didn’t).
Click image below to see a short video.
Over the coming months (and seasons) I’m hoping to share with members what I’m doing in my various Team NEHI programs. And a lot of the time I’ll also want to let you in on my thinking as I prepare for each of those. Let’s face it, you’re not going to get a real handle on things if I just tell you, “Do this!” Naw, I think I’d serve you best by letting you know the whys and the wherefores of a given practice.
As an aside here, I’m chuckling to myself as I think about my latest undertaking. I mean, I had a number of minor league pro coaching and GM interviews, I head coached in high school and college, and for about the past decade I’ve run teams for junior and senior high school players. But, don’t you know, I just couldn’t resist an invitation to coach a team of beginners from my Learn-to-skate/Learn-to-play clinics. Ya, “Mighty Mites” we’ve dubbed them, ranging in ages from 4- to 8-years old. And, don’t you know, I’m already loving it!
Anyway, I wrote earlier about our first get-together (Teaching the Beginner Hockey Player), or our so-called tryout. But the following will describe our first real practice, as well as my thinking behind each drill. (Oh, and click on the thumbnail photos below for a brief video showing a given drill in progress.)
– Dennis Chighisola
Our First “Mighty Mite” Hockey Practice
As I’ve said countless times within these pages, “It’s important to know where one is!” And by that I mean that we coaches — AND PARENTS — have to adjust everything we do according to the ages and experience levels of our players. In my case, for example, the game changes drastically from my college-playing grandson to my high school guys to my junior high kids and now to my “babies”. And so do the challenges they each face.
1- I did a little brainstorming based on that thinking, and my wife actually helped me arrive at the first drill (as well as some others)… She’s raised two players to pretty high levels, so she knew what she was talking about when she discovered I was headed to an instructional level practice. “Oh, that’s the funnest age!” she beamed, adding that, “I love it when they all fall down!” (Grrrrrrrr… Not my little Weebles! As a matter of fact, take a look at the video below — just click on the photo — to see that my kids actually learned to stop in our clinic, and I can call them together without anyone getting hurt!) Of course, she was still right — on both counts. So I decided to start things with a basic body-checking drill that had the kids bumping the boards with their shoulders, and a little later bumping a partner’s shoulder. The idea is for the kids to gain a sense of what it takes to be stable, and what it takes to resist the occasional bump during game action. And, make no mistake about it: although body-checking isn’t allowed in instructional hockey, collisions take place in absolutely every level of hockey.
2- Hockey skating, in general, is a lot like playing one against one tag. So we did that in pairs, sending several sets of twos at a time into an end zone. We limited their time on these to about 8- or 10-seconds. (Sorry, no video of this drill.)
3- Next, I dumped a bag full of weighted pucks for the kids to experiment with. First, I had pairs passing those heavy things as far as they could, and I also suggested they try spinning the pucks so they’d stay flat on rough ice. The concept is explained more in Passing Basics in Hockey, but what I was trying to do is give my kids a sense of what it took to get a firm grip on the puck and to generate decent power through their sticks. (Really, the idea is much like the boards bumping drill, in that I wanted my kids to search for their strength.)
4- I then had my youngsters try to fire those weighted pucks off the side boards. Standing only about 6′ off, I asked if they could make the loud booming noise demonstrated by a few of us coaches.
5- From there we switched to the blue, lightweight pucks used by all younger USA Hockey teams. Now, to me puckhandling is about experimentation. So I gave the kids a brief demonstration of side-to-side dribbling and then sent them on their way around our half of the rink.
6- Having already said that skating in the little guys’ and gals’ game is a lot like playing tag, I next went to games of pairs keepaway. Yes, that’s basically what the puckhandling game will be like for them — trying to keep that biscuit away from their opponents. So we sent the kids into a zone again in twos, this time having each player attempt to keep the puck away from his partner for as long as possible. (Click on the thumbnail to see a brief video.)
As an aside… When I ultimately intend to put together a number of skill drills, I begin by teaching each segment separately (usually starting with the end skill, then working backwards). I did that in the following series of drills that begin with us beating a defender of some sort and end with us attacking the goal. But, let me explain that further…
7- The end result of many later attack drills was going to be for our kids to shoot on a simulated goalie. In this case, I borrowed a mini-net from the rink to place (backwards) inside the larger net (see the photo to the right). We gathered around the goal for a time, as I explained the difference between hitting the goaler — and making him look good, or hitting an opening to get the goal (see Creating the Early Goal-scorer for great help in this area). And, as you can hear (by clicking on the following thumbnail), I’d asked the coaches to make a REALLY big deal out of whether a kid scored or not. After all, that’s what it will be like in a game. S0, why not make things exciting right here in the practices?
8- We then took the puckhandling to a typical pylon course, except that I used large foam dots to represent what my kids hear me refer to as “the bad guys” (LOL). If you might notice (click on the thumbnail to see a brief video), and thanks to our weekly Learn-to clinic, my little ones are starting to get the hang of using both sides of their sticks as they do this one.
9- Now, I had in mind using some different training devices in place of rival defenders. But I had to first show the kids what those devices represented. So (as shown in the thumbnail and the next video) a coach stood stationary to act as an “open triangle” the kids could attack. This is a typical Mite level play, as the attacker tosses the puck through the defender’s legs and then retrieves it on the other side. You might also hear us coaches correcting the kids on the forcefulness of their passes, since this play calls for just a soft tap ahead so the puck ends-up sitting right where the attacker needs it to be.
10- I eventually brought a metal device out (see the thumbnail below) and placed it in front of a coach, this so the kids could appreciate that the device’s legs would now simulate those of the coach. In this way, the coaches were freed to do what they do best: coach.
As another aside… At one point I teased a very experienced helper about (not) stationing himself at the front of a line. My point in that brief exchange was that he was far more valuable getting out and among the players. And, while I had only a little luck with teaching these really young ones my way of dealing with lines, I suggested to each that, “A coach won’t tell you when to go for now on. Instead, take your turn when the player in front of you gets to such-and-such an area.” Oh, they’ll get this over time. And when they do, our practices will run all the better.
11- Ultimately we put things together, having the kids beat a given obstacle, then move-on to score against the simulated goaltender (click on the photo to see a video).
12- The practice ended with pairs of players racing for a loose puck, with the winner scurrying to the net for a shot on-goal. This also simulates what happens in the little one’s game, in that races to loose pucks determine a lot, as does scoring under at least a little pressure. (Click on the photo to see a brief video.)
Now, I’m betting a lot of readers are going to be a little surprised at how many drills I fit-in during an hour of ice-time, or how much we got accomplished with those little rascals. That’s my (our) job, though, to get as much accomplished as possible on a kzillion dollars worth of ice-time!
Oh, and you might also be surprised to see (or hear) how animated I am with the kids. Well, that too I think is super important to my work.
– Dennis Chighisola
Special thanks to Andy L. for taking the videos!
Did you know your Comments really help me? So, please get involved. Just use the box below to offer your thoughts, questions or suggestions. (And thanks — a bunch!)
Carol, a new Twitter friend and a Manager for her youth program’s Atom Division, posed a REALLY tough question for this old coach.
As she put it, “What are the three top principles an Atom minor hockey coach should follow?”
Of course, it would have been easier to troubleshoot a hockey skill problem, or to suggest a solution for some area of team play. Offering what I might consider to be top principles is yet another challenge. Not only that but, my guess is that Carol would likely get lots of very different suggestions had she polled other experienced coaches.
That said, I took the better part of today — thinking long and hard — to arrive at what is to follow.
(Oh, by the way, for those who aren’t familiar with the Canadian age level known as “Atom”, it’s basically the same as the “Squirt” designation used in USA Hockey.)
– Dennis Chighisola
3 Principles Atom Minor Hockey Coaches Should Follow
1) Give every player a reason to look forward to the team’s next get-together
I’m not so naive as to think there aren’t a lot of things that go wrong in a typical hockey practice or game. In fact, I can’t blame coaches of losing teams for feeling plenty of frustration, and I can also appreciate how difficult it can be to stay positive under such circumstances.
Still, there is a time for everything.
For sure, players need to be pushed and prodded. And when it comes to younger players, I’ve even pretended to be mad at the lot of them.
That out of the way, I choose my parting words VERY wisely. I mean, I actually delay entering my team’s post-game or post-practice lockerroom for about 5-minutes. During that time my kids get to partially undress and I get to gather my thoughts. Oh, there might be nights when I’d like to blast them, and there are surely a lot of nights when I’d like to go into a 20-minute talk — on why we should have done this and how we could have done that. In reality, though, what’s done is done, and the only thing that’s important at this point is our next game or our next practice. So, it seems the most productive thing I can do as I send the kids on their way is to give every player a reason to look forward to our next get-together.
2) Continually look for “teaching moments”
Over 40-years of coaching, I have a pretty good outline — or checklist — for readying a team. My season’s plan is pretty detailed, and my practices are planned to the minute.
Yet, unusual things happen all the time — during practices, and especially during games. Sometimes it’s a rare circumstance that crops-up during a game, sometimes it comes from a great question posed by a player, sometimes it comes about because of a difficulty experienced by a player, and sometimes it stems from an outstanding play.
No matter, I call these “teaching moments”, and I think they’re worthy of holding a good old fashion bull session. Actually, I sense that my players (young or old) have enjoyed these. Better yet, I sense these kinds of discussions stick with a player for many, many years.
3) Think long-term
No doubt we’d all gain a great deal of satisfaction from seeing some of our players go on to do well at the game’s higher levels. That said, coaches dealing with the youngest players have to realize just how significant their contribution really is to that cause.
On the negative side of things, my work as a skills analyst has me spotting numerous older guys who struggle just because they weren’t helped when they were young. Not knowing their history, it’s often hard to know exactly what went wrong. But my educated guess is that some of their earlier coaches either skipped steps in certain teaching progressions, or they didn’t establish in their players a certain kind of discipline or mentality when it came to skill work.
This brief aside… A lot of years ago I attended a coaching symposium that included a roundtable discussion on skill development. (If it wasn’t so sad it would have been laughable. But…) An NHL executive started by pointing to the other members, suggesting that they had to get the skill development accomplished because his guys couldn’t practice often enough, what with all their games and heavy travel schedule. The Major Junior coach obviously took exception to that, complaining that he had to concern himself with winning games or he’d lose his job. And so the buck-passing went, all the way down the line, with each level offering its own excuse and asking the same basic question as the others: Why don’t you guys down below send me skilled players?
I tell that story because I too often hear coaches at the youngest levels make their own excuses — as in, “Oh, my players will get that when they move-up to the next level.” Not so, of course, at least from what those guys at the roundtable had to say.
To my way of thinking, the seeds for great skills and playing smarts should be planted early. And so should the lead-up skills be taught so that players can later skate like the wind, handle a puck wildly, thread perfect passes and fire absolute bullets. Having your players eagerly looking forward to their next team event will help towards that end. Finding plenty of “teaching moments” is going to help young players think the game better. And, thinking long-term tends to help us coaches resolve that age-old win-at-all-costs versus development-first issue.
Did you know your Comments really help me? So, please get involved. Just use the box below to offer your thoughts, questions or suggestions. And thanks — a bunch!