My Facebook friend, Joe C, came up with a good question this morning, that having to do with shooting, and shooting to score.
Whenever I attack such a question, I like to know what age and what caliber of player I’m problem solving for, because the difficulties an 8-year old Mite is having are probably worlds apart from those experienced by a Midget, a college player or a pro (and don’t think older guys’ skills are perfect).
Joe’s answer was, “Where do you start…..all levels, squirts, peewees, bantams, U14,U16…..?” With that, I guess I’m going to have to address shooting, in a very broad way.
– Dennis Chighisola
Troubleshooting Hockey Shooting Problems
I hope members will appreciate that I’ve addressed the skill of shooting in countless earlier posts. If those might be slightly different, they’re likely narrower focused, while this one I’ll make more general (to accommodate all ages and levels).
Actually, at some point soon, you might glimpse at my “Building Blocks Approach to Skills“, and then watch my short video on “Passing Basics in Hockey“. It should make sense that I’ll be talking about similar principles in all my work, and I also use similar methods when I attack a given skill technique.
Now, whenever I do get into troubleshooting any skill, I almost always know there are some background skill deficiencies playing on the troubles I’m noticing. Here’s where the above linked entries will be of great help, because within those you’ll discover that other skills — like skating balance, puckhandling and passing really — do influence something like the shooting motion.
And here’s a (perhaps oddball) method I like to use when studying a certain hockey skill…
I like to envision a couple of extremes as sort of a frame of reference. In this case, my method would include comparing a beginner skater with an older, fairly skilled one.
As an example, let’s envision putting a hockey stick in the hands of the worst skater we can find at a local public skating session. I think you know the type I’m talking about: he or she spreads the skates and keeps them both on the ice to gain as much stability as possible. Just holding the stick in two hands will be a challenge, because they’re needed for balance. Ask him or her to shoot a nearby puck and… Look out!
Shifting our thoughts to the very experienced skater, perhaps you can appreciate how he or she has the balance issue under control. In fact, the really good hockey player is not only comfortable moving around, but he or she doesn’t mind extending the stick, hands, or any other body part outside the center of gravity.
You and I both know that Joe isn’t asking about anyone like the real beginner I described above. On the other hand, I’ve drawn this picture of extremes because I’ve discovered that all players fall on a scale between beginner and elite, and everyone — even the best players — have small flaws in their game.
Maybe now you understand why I’ll suggest that some background skills are quite likely to be the cause of a shooting problem. For, I hope you’ll agree that ones comfort in skates — and his or her ability to reach outside the center of gravity — plays a big part in shooting.
I’m not done there, though, because I feel a player’s puckhandling ability plays just as big a role in his or her scoring chances.
I doubt you’ll disagree with an attacker’s need to “read” the opposing goaltender when he or she is presented a scoring opportunity. (Although I’ll sometime soon discuss a possible change in advanced level goalie positioning…) The prevailing thinking is that an attacker should a) shoot the puck at an open spot if the goaler is backed into his net, or b) make a deke and try to go around a netminder who comes out of the net to play the angles.
So, where do the puckhandling skills come in? For sure, you’re thinking about the need to deke at times. However, long before one gets that opportunity, he or she has to be able to dribble — with the eyes up — in order to assess the situation. And please, think about just how critical that eyes up ability is in negotiating to the net (and keeping the puck), to deking, and to picking a corner when an opening momentarily arises.
Going back to my Building Blocks Approach to Skills, let me just point out that young or inexperienced players benefit hugely by learning to properly pass the puck. We’re talking about having a certain feel for the puck on the stick-blade, and we’re also talking about gaining the ability to grip the puck in a certain way so that it might be sent accurately from the blade.
Okay, so let me try to give Joe and others some usable advice here…
No matter the age and skill level, a coach will always be helping his or her players’ higher level skills by spending appropriate time on the very basics.
Be creative, and use some skating drills that require players to lean and reach outside their centers of gravity.
Continuously reinforce the need for players to handle a puck with their eyes up.
Use plenty of puckhandling, passing and receiving drills that call for players to reach outside their centers of gravity. The trickiest puckhandling moves involve dangling the puck far out, and the best passes are sent with long (forehand or backhand), sweeping motions. Actually, receptions have to also be made by extending the stick out quite a ways to start the cushioning of the puck.
As for working on the shot, specifically…
Although my old Principles of Motor Learning professor would probably scold me on this one, I still have my players practice their shots quite a bit while in a stationary position, about 8′ off the side boards. I’m sure the prof would suggest that we move on to something else after that part of the skill is mastered, and he’d also point out that one hardly ever gets to stand prettily and shoot during real game action.
My prof’s feelings aside, I still see some value to my players working for a time as described above. That way of doing it also ensures tons of repetitions in only a few minutes. And the other part I like about this is that a player can “feel” each shot, gather a new puck quickly, and attempt to feel whether the next shot is done correctly.
Next, although I want my guys to practice their shooting on the go, I still have them working off the side boards to do this. What I’ll have them do is circle toward the middle of the ice and then turn to shoot on the boards while moving. Every shot can be practiced in this way — from wristers to backhanders to snapshots to slaps. And, while players can initially practice these slowly, it’s possible for more experienced skaters to go close to full speed in this simple form of drilling.
Let me now direct your attention to a very basic video called “Creating the Early Goal-scorer“. Honestly, as basic as it is, I believe we all need to be reminded of the information contained in that video. As importantly, you’ll discover how to make and use a great gadget I invented called the SMG (or the ScoreMoreGoalie). As you’ll see, it can be a better way for players to practice hitting corners (than going on live goalers or other devices).
To me, the best goal-scorers in the game can pull the trigger under all sorts of conditions. And, you’ll find within this site a ton of great ideas to help a player learn to do just that.
Winding down here, I hope Joe and others got more out of this than just a few drill ideas…
For sure, drills can help a player become better skilled. However, it’s the right drills that can have the greatest impact on positive change.
As is demonstrated above, it’s always a good idea to look for underlying skill deficiencies when a larger problem arises, and this would be true for individual skills as well as for a player’s difficulty in executing a given tactic. (As a popular baseball announcer is known to say, you’ve got to go “back… back… back…”)
Lastly, skill problems seldom arise overnight — naw, they generally come from a long time of neglect or improper training. That in mind, I suggest Joe and my other friends be patient when trying to enhance your players’ shooting capabilities.
I know some members might not totally believe their favorite old hockey coach has often been waaaay ahead of the proverbial curve. With that, though…
– Dennis Chighisola
New Workout Apps For Hockey
If you don’t know, I spent a number of (miserable) years working as a civil engineer. As I used to describe it, “There’s no ingenuity in engineering.” Ya, I guess I felt stifled in a field where most things were done using formulas, and where there was little opportunity to be creative.
Anyway, I ultimately was granted the chance to switch to coaching hockey full-time, and you’d better believe I jumped at it. In fact, I cashed in all my engineering school credits, started working on my Physical Education & Coaching Degree, and the rest is kinda history. Except…
Ya, except that even my time back in college had plenty of exciting moments. I had already been coaching hockey for better than a decade, I was already a high school head coach, and I was also already pretty well known as a hockey skills instructor. So don’t you know that I presented a challenge for some of my professors, our philosophical discussions (or arguments) were often spirited, and some of the projects I turned in shocked a number of them.
Such was the case when my Physiology of Exercise prof asked our class to design a new drill having to do with conditioning. Hmmmmmm… I’m sure the guy was interested in something more of the aerobic variety, but I was thinking hockey all the time, and I was heading towards something far more interesting. Mind you, this was in the early 1980′s…
I’d not long before that class bought a portable VHS video recorder that showed a stopwatch down in a lower corner of the screen. And I’d already begun using that feature to measure stride rate and stride length as my hockey school kids sprinted between a rink’s two blue lines. (If you didn’t know, those are the two components of speed, be it running or skating.)
Away from the ice — and in an era long before anyone was wearing fancy watches to help with this, I’d started thinking that athletes really didn’t know how fast they were training. Oh, they might think they were busting it on a given day, but were they really? After all, the results of their run (or whatever) wouldn’t be known until the finish line.
That in mind, I next turned to the idea that there had to be a way to dictate “pacing”. And the closest I could envision this was to have some sort of sound govern each step (as in running). In other words, the athlete’s stride rate could be controlled by his or her need to match some pre-recorded sounds.
So, that’s basically what I arrived at for my new drill idea… (Chuckling to myself as I think about the old, heavy Walkman type players of the 80′s…) What I proposed was that an athlete would wear a headset that played a cassette tape (LOL) containing pre-recored beats. We used a metronome to time various things in the Phys Ed lab back then, so I thought to use the recorded sounds from such a device to get the exact right beats — as in beats per minute.
I further envisioned that a coach would have to know a lot about an athlete’s capabilities as he or she built the audio programs. For, in my way of seeing things, a coach has to know where the athlete is as a program starts, as well as where the athlete is capable of being in x-amount of time.
Of course, the designer of such a program would also have to understand the pace required to achieve a certain high level, and that would require knowing how many of the athlete’s stride lengths would be needed to cover a certain distance. I mean, it should be possible to say that a given athlete who travels so far with each stride needs to move at a specific rate in order to cover a distance in a desired time.
My guess is that an athlete would have to be brought slowly through a program like that. In other words, he or she would likely need some time to get used to matching his or her strides with the audio beats. And, even back then, I was thinking in terms of periodization, or alternating different paces over the course of a week or month or whatever.
Fast forward to the late 1990′s and into the turn of the century, and I put that line of thinking to different use…
You may have guessed already that I absolutely hate boring or repetitive stuff. And that even goes for some of the great hockey drills that really need to be done, whether they excite me or not.
That was the case with an awesome warm-up routine that I’d designed to start all my High School Prep team’s off-ice training sessions. Again, it included great stuff for my guys — and it was developed from some of what I’d learned in my Soviet studies, as well as some of what I knew about sprint training. My frustration was that it was exactly the same for every off-ice session.
It was also a pain in the butt to administer. I mean, the exercises had to be changed frequently, which meant I had to constantly look down at notes.
My answer to that was to place a boombox off to the side of the gym, on which CDs containing instructions for our routine could be played. I rotated 3 different CDs, each with the same timed directions, but with different music playing in the background. Each CD would take care of the sequencing or pacing of drills, with my recorded voice calling out something like, “Duck walks!” at the exact right time.
The real beauty of this arrangement, at least for me, was that I could be free to move through the work area, and I could continuously provide feedback to my kids. I could clap my hands to the beat of the music — as the old USSR coaches would, and I could keep my attentions focused on the players, without the need to carry notes.
Okay, so about those cell phone apps (and other related things)…
During the years when I ran The Motion Lab adjacent to my downtown office, I’d often put my high school players through some pretty intense off-ice workouts. One great segment (described elsewhere on this site) was aimed at conditioning my guys by simulating the various intensities of a typical on-ice hockey shift.
What I did was to divide my players into three groups and — like in a game, have two groups resting as the other players worked their buns off. The work:rest ration had to be timed, too, maybe with each group working for 30-seconds and resting for a minute.
Perhaps you see it coming, in that paying attention to the large clock on the wall wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. As with my team’s off-ice warm-ups, I wanted to get involved — to actually push and prod and provide plenty of feedback.
No, I never did make a CD for that purpose, although I probably should have. However, that story does brings me to the real topic at hand, or those workout applications.
You see, I’ve been hearing a lot lately about a form of drilling that is all about intense work, adequate rest, and especialy timing. I’m really liking the concept, especially based on the research I’ve read so far. (I plan on testing this with some hockey applications sometime down the road, and I also hope to write a little more about that form of training here. In the meantime, here’s a great explanation: What is Tabata Training?
What I also found interesting — if not comical — is that others have come around to developing timers similar to those I’ve described above. One such timer is designed specifically for a Tabata routine, signaling when an athlete should begin working, shift to resting, and then begin working again.
The Internet being such a wonderful place, a quick Google search brought me to a site hosting a free timer. Here it is: a free on-line Tabata Timer. Just so you know (if you haven’t already scanned the above article), Tabata is based on a 4-minute program done 4-times per week, with each program divided into 20-second work segments and 10-seconds of rest in between.
As I was putting the final touches on this story, I was thinking that some readers might even create their own timers — such a device can be a huge help in the training process. I was also thinking that it might help for those who are engaging in Jeremy Weiss’ S-3 Formula.
PS: If you do an Internet search, you can find numerous timer tools for what is normally called interval work (or the alternating of work and rest).
Michael Mahony, featured in the following video, is a long time social media friend, and a CoachChic.com member. In fact, based on his experiences as a well known bodybuilder and personal trainer, Mike has already shared some advice here in the strength training area.
– Dennis Chighisola
In Hockey Training, (Nutrition) Timing Is Everything!
Now, that expression in the above title — suggesting that timing is everything — is surely a well worn one. Actually, we could say that about our game, in that timing is important in skill execution, in tactics, and in the application of strategies.
That’s not where Mike is going with this, however. No, he’s going to be talking about nutrition, and especially about the benefits our members can derive from eating at certain times, and from eating specific foods at certain times.Loading...
I’m glad the way Michael explained the breaking down of muscle cells during a workout, as well as what’s needed in order to build more efficient cells during the training process. In fact, that subject has been a frustration of mine for a number of years.
Truly, I can appreciate the hockey players who are eager to train often and intensely. What I fear some players miss are the other components necessary for growth. In other words, as Mike explained, it’s necessary to break down the muscle cells during a workout. Thereafter, that area of the body needs adequate rest in order to build the new cells, and it also needs the right nutrients.
Visit Michael Mahony’s website: Fitness Expose
Having been away from the rinks for a few weeks, a friend thought I needed to get the old creative juices going again by taking a little drive and catching a local hockey clinic. Man, was my friend right, in that those juices did start gushing as soon as I gazed at the ice down below.
– Dennis Chighisola
Some Hockey Clinic Observations
Let me start by saying that I get paranoid about making anyone else paranoid. In other words, I like to sometimes watch what others are doing, but my intent is to never make other coaches feel uncomfortable, or have them feel that I’m always there to critique things.
Ya, I guess I can’t help judging some; that’s at least a part of what I do. I never want to be cruel, though, unless I think a coach really deserves it.
Anyway, my friend and I eventually found a comfortable spot and a pretty good vantage point, high above the rink. And from there I could see that a program geared to Mites and Squirts was going to be run in a station format. Ugh… A station format…
It seems that’s the popular thing to do nowadays, to run everything in stations. Coaches hear something like that at a coaching clinic, and they go rushing home with the idea that such a format is the end all or be all. What they fail to realize is that there’s still no substitute for good teaching, and no format, in and of itself, is going to bring about great results. Naw, as I’ll reaffirm later, “Drills don’t teach, good coaches do.)
As I explained to my friend, I started using a form of stations in my hockey schools some 30 or more years ago. Those were totally different, though, and for totally different purposes.
The first time I used it was to accommodate more kids, to make the best use of an awesome teaching staff, and to accomplish repetition in an extremely creative way. So, 4 groups of students were separated by their age and skill level, and the groups rotated off and on the ice — to a classroom, to an off-ice skills area, to an in-line area, onto the ice, to a video replay of their on-ice skills training in another classroom, etc. The repetition came by doing many of the same skills, movements or tactics from station to station, the kids were greeted at each station by a coach who really knew his or her stuff, and every station was adjusted to suit the needs of the age group as it arrived.
A few years later, I decided to add another rather brief on-ice station that was aimed at fun and using an array of great training aids. This time, all the groups went on the ice together, but they traveled separately, to work with things like a radar gun, my Skater’s Rhythm-bar, various jump ropes, and a whole bunch of other gadgets I’ve forgotten at the moment.
Probably about 20-years ago, I devised something similar to USA Hockey’s ADM program, this acting as a way to transition kids from their Learn-to-play clinics to playing their first games. I built my own dividers long before commercial ones became available, so that our ice could be split into three stations. An instructional game took place in one area, kids worked on their basic skills in another, and the last station had my coaches teaching a third group how to line up on face-offs and to stay on-side. Part of the beauty of this format was that kids never sat on a bench, but instead kept playing or learning with each new buzzer. My professional staff also did all the teaching there.
Now, one of my problems with stations is that the best available coach can’t be at every location. I’ll give some credit to the guy I watched supervise things the other night, because he was doing as I’d always do, attempting to buzz from station to station, and seemingly jumping in when he noticed an adjustment had to be made. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be at six places at once.
As an aside here… I had numerous ways to ensure the right stuff was happening at each of the stations I described up above. As early as 1980, I was creating the daily age specific classroom videos each group would watch. Each staff member, despite being great coaches with plenty of experience, also received a coaching manual, a video on how things should run, and the list of drills we’d use, each with a clear explanation of what we were trying to achieve in each drill.
Back to that clinic… To me, one station was nearly a waste, because the kids stood for longer than they actually did anything. The idea behind the drill they were doing seemed worthwhile, but I’d have to think long and hard about how it should be restructured. I mean, in the alloted 15-minutes they were in their corner, the kids may have executed the drill 5-times. And that kind of repetition never gets the job done. (If you think about it, more repetitions allow a player to “feel” what he or she is doing, and to sense when he or she is getting the movement right. And, while it could take 15 or 20 reps before a player gets to that point, he needs quite a few more repetitions to begin committing that right movement to muscle memory.)
Another station involved a game I’ve actually shown members elsewhere within CoachChic.com. That game may have been a little advanced for the kids I was watching, but it still wasn’t too, too bad.
A pair of end stations involved attacking a live goaltender and a net. Again, the idea was okay, but there was something definitely wrong with the pace. I mean, it takes like a half hour for a little guy to carry a puck out of one corner, skate out to near the blue line, and then turn and go to the net. Zzzzzzzzzz… Oh, and where do you think the guys in charge of these two stations placed themselves? They both stood down at the start of the drill, instead of having someone in the middle where they could have been providing feedback. (As I’m sure you’ve heard me say before, “I can pay a chimp one banana to tell a kid when it’s his or her turn to go.”)
The two stations in neutral-ice were similar to each other, these having kids spread and working in pairs. If there was a problem, the coaches involved there either stayed too long with one student — like for nearly the whole 15-minutes, or they tied themselves to being a partner for one of the kids. The latter is all well and good if you believe drills improve a player. There’s something terribly wrong with that, however, if you know that drills only provide a format within which a coach gets to teach, correct, encourage, etc.
One last criticism… As my friend and I browsed the rink website, we’d noticed that a single age group attends on a given night, and each group only trains at a single hockey skill for that one night. Hmmmmmm…
First, the concept of repetition is out the window in this format. I mean — at least as it pertains to the youngest students, a 7-year old who can barely skate gets (fair to middling) instruction in one skill area, and then never gets that stuff again.
Secondly, this goes against the Theory of Mass versus Distributed training. For, that theory suggests that only older, advanced athletes can benefit from working on just one skill for an extended length of time, and it would recommend that the kids we were watching should work on a little bit of skating in one session, plus a little bit of puckhandling, a little bit of passing and receiving, a little bit of shooting, and so forth. The idea is to distribute attention to those skills over one practice session and over many sessions to follow.
My friend, who knows little more about hockey than cheering for a favorite team, asked at the end if I had more thoughts. With that, I did say that things could look a little more professional — maybe with all the staff dressed neatly and exactly the same, and with the kids all wearing “clinic shirts” (kids wearing such help things look good, they provide advertising for the program when they’re worn elsewhere, and the added cost would be negligible).
I did end by telling my friend that the clinic wasn’t all that bad. Hey, I’m super-critical about such stuff, as some of my old staff will tell you. I also had to be that way in order to let you in on some of the right things — to do as coaches, or to expect as parents.
The staff down below did accomplish a few important things… I’ll give the guy in charge credit for seemingly working his buns off, and I recognized a few helpers who would have met my expectations. (I didn’t learn all I know in my first year or so, so there’s the chance that the young head guy down there will be better than this old coach within a few short years.) As importantly, I noticed most of the kids smiling as the Zamboni came out at the end, and I also took the time to see that the parents were smiling, both during and after the clinic. For, as I noted to my friend, “Despite there being a few things wrong, causing the kids and parents to smile is still a biggie.”
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 hope two things become evident as you read this post: 1) that I’m always digging to find more information for my members, and 2) that I’m willing to travel outside the proverbial box in order to find anything that could possibly help you. If there’s a third thing I’m grateful for, it’s that I’ve been able to make a lot of great friends in social media, with many of them being among sports’ best and brightest.
Count my friend, Dr Andrew Kolbasovsky, in the latter group, and count us lucky that I recently discovered his Family Advantage Network and an ebook that’s as appropriate to our sport as it is to his. (At the end of this piece I’ll give you more info on Andrew, his book, and his website.)
– Dennis Chighisola
How to make a High School (Hockey) Team
Just so you know, Dr Kolbasovsky’s book is really entitled, “How to make a High School Basketball Team”. By now, though, members know me well enough to appreciate that I feel I can learn from anyone involved in sport, and I feel there’s much we can borrow when it comes to other sport how-to’s.
Kicking things off, Andrew suggests that junior high school aged kids should get out and observe high school teams. If there’s something that surprised me — and should surprise the hockey reader — it’s his idea of going to see the local school’s junior varsity or freshman team.
Sure, we’ve all gotten psyched to see our favorite varsity team play, and that’s likely proven a great incentive — that our kids might dream of the day they can play in that school’s fancy colors, before a packed house, and in front of cheerleaders. Dr K is talking more reality, however, in that an incoming freshman’s first challenge is to make the school’s lowest level team, be it either the JVs or the freshman squad.
JV and freshmen hockey teams don’t usually play during prime-time, so some effort might be needed to attend an early morning or late afternoon game. Still, Andrew is right when he suggests that such events are where an incoming player can gain a sense of whether he or she fits on that team or not. Much of what he’ll suggest over the rest of his book has to do with getting oneself ready for the tryouts, but that’s hardly possible without the player gaining a sense of where he or she is now, and how much ground has to be covered in order to fit on an entry level high school team.
While at the junior varsity or freshman game, Dr Kolbasovsky highly recommends meeting with the team’s coach. Wait until after the game, of course, and until a time when you sense the coach is free to chat. Introduce yourself, express an interest in someday playing for him or her and the school, perhaps ask for some advice, and leave an impression that might help him remember you a year later.
Having received some insight into the things a young player might do for the future tryout, Dr K poses this question to his readers: Do you have to be naturally gifted? In answer to that, he points to Malcom Gladwell’s bestselling book, Outliners. Within those pages, Gladwell cites numerous well known personalities whom the public believes were overnight successes. Come to find out, few, if any, have ever been such. In fact, it’s suggested that personalities like the Beatles paid their dues in relative obscurity until “suddenly discovered”. Moreover, Gladwell and many others now suggest that up to 10,000 hours of practice might be needed before one can be considered near the top in what he or she does.
Lest anyone question this, let me suggest that we will likely never know the greatest hockey player who ever lived. Oh, we know that Gretzky and Howe and Orr made it to the top of the hockey heap; yet, the player we don’t know is the one (or the thousands?) born with better genes but never worked at the game (the way an Orr, Howe or Gretzky did).
For yet another twist on this subject, I highly recommend that members later listen to a very brief audio recording I did called “A Lot of Things Change As a Player Gets Older“. It’s about a series of conversations I had with my grandson as he constantly asked me, “Gramps, do you think I have a chance to make it?”
Further, on whether one needs to be naturally gifted or not, Andrew says that scientists have studied the secrets of elite level performers of all different types, and that idea of thousands of hours of preparation or practice keeps entering the equation. Just think about some of the personalities you know in these professions: musicians, composers, inventors, business moguls, tennis players, chess masters, and even basketball players. Then think about whether it was possible for any of them to just roll out of bed one morning and become tops at what they do. Hardly, huh — even if they did possess all the right genes?
I know Dr Kolbasovsky and I agree on the fact that 10,000 hours of work is a lot to expect from a youngster. As he says, though, “… you don’t need to become the next Michael Jordan, but you should take advantage of what the science tells us.”
I have yet another way of looking at that… For, all an athlete really has to do is put in enough hours to pass by those he or she wants to beat-out at the next tryouts — in high school, maybe in college, and maybe beyond.
Dr K then echoes something I’ve always told you, in that playing and practicing with your team is good, but it only helps you keep up with others, and never helps you pull ahead. That in mind, he suggests, “Find a park in your neighborhood that you can walk or ride a bike to that has a hoop that is seldom used. Make this your home court and go there often to work on your game…”
Of course, hockey players have some advantages and disadvantages compared to the way a b-baller might find extra practice space. No, we can’t skate without ice, although we can do off-ice skating exercises and also in-line. To my way of thinking, however, most young hockey players — at least usually — have it relatively easy when it comes to finding somewhere to practice things like stickhandling and shooting.
Andrew also suggests kids play in pickup games at local parks. As he says, “Play in as many as you can.”
Hmmmmm… If I have a problem prescribing this, it’s that my CoachChic.com friends come from all over the hockey world, which means everyone has very different access to what I’ll refer to as “pond hockey”. Outdoor ice is obviously nonexistent in my new home state of Florida, it was iffy in my long time home state of Massachusetts — that’s probably also true in the UK, and I’d dare to say that it’s plentiful for most of my friends in more northerly US states, in most of Canada and in European nations like Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic.
Although Andrew doesn’t get a lot into the exact benefits of playing outside pickup games, let me make a few suggestions here… For one, a youngster is going to get better with every time he’s on his feet (which includes skating in hockey), and he or she is going to improve most other individual skills with every dribble, pass and shot.
Then, two things I want to add to this, at least from my perspective…
First, I’ll suggest that the relatively unstructured nature of pickup games lends itself to lots of freelancing and experimenting. I’ll bet that Andrew witnessed that a lot on the courts of New York City. Let’s face it, that new moves are more likely to be invented in those type circumstances than while a coach is watching over a group.
Secondly, instincts come about from repetition. So, it just makes sense that playing lots and lots helps a player recognize various situations. Yes, I like to recreate those situations in my team practices and clinics. However, not many players have access to the good kind of structure.
Andrew continues by suggesting that youngsters should play on as many teams as possible, which brings this old coach to another hmmmmmmm…
On the one hand, I think that most hockey players aren’t lacking for game-time. Of course, youth teams around the world are structured in all different ways, with some getting more than their fill, while others get very, very little training and just a game per week. On the other side of the ledger, I find that some kids are toooooo trapped to team activities and they’re not able to either take a break or get specialized training that might better suit their individual needs.
Let me expound on the latter, as well as add to something I mentioned a few moments ago… For, in many instances, I find that a hockey team’s structure slows the development of a lot of players, just by virtue of a coach usually having to pace things for the lower to middle part of the roster. Team structure, while good and necessary to the kids’ development, also tends to stifle the creativity some players long for.
I used to handle this in two different ways… When I’ve run my own developmental teams, I had at least one practice session per week that was geared almost totally to offensive skills, and these even had my goaltenders and defensemen working on every offensive skill normally thought to be part of the forwards’ play. (Over time, my goalies could roam and fire long passes to teammates up-ice, and my defensemen were as dangerous with the puck as any forward.) As for my own two guys — when they were young, I tried to arrange their weekly schedules so that they were free to attend my open skills clinics, this so they could develop beyond what their teammates were doing.
Okay, so now for my one and only possible argument with Dr Kolbasovsky… For, he says, “If possible try to play in games with older kids.”
Oh, I know exactly where he’s coming from here. His thinking is that the pressures of having to deal with older, bigger, and stronger guys or gals is going to somewhat raise the level of the younger player. Ya, I agree, somewhat.
I think the real common ground for us here, however, is that he’s suggesting doing this as an extra, and maybe as an off-season venture. I can see that, and I can especially see that if a youngster is also getting the chance to play elsewhere most of the time with kids of his or her own age and abilities.
What I don’t want members to forget is my fear of having kids skating “over their heads” for a primary wintertime team. All I’ve ever seen when kids have been over matched, is that they play in what I call “panic mode”, never being able to carry the puck or really daring to make plays.
The good doctor next offers something I love… For, he suggests finding a partner who likes the game as much as you do, so that you might develop a schedule together and then practice together as much as possible. He has plenty of ideas for his basketball playing disciples, and I have as many for young hockey players…
Immediately, I think about all sorts of passing feeds, including feeds for shooting off the pass. This site must have a good 40 to 50 ideas for stickhandling moves, with many of them best worked against a rather passive defender. And, with some protection against injuries, games of 1 on 1 would be both fun and beneficial.
Andrew also offers that, “Playing in games alone is not enough,” adding, “you also need to dedicate a lot of time to practicing by yourself to continuously improve your skills.”
He then goes on to describe his sport’s fundamentals… “Basketball involves the development of many different skills: shooting, passing, screening, shot blocking, defending, boxing out, etc. There are proper techniques for each of these skills.”
I hope that members can see the similarities between those skills and the ones used in our game, because I’ve designed drills for nearly all of those through the years. The only difference is that I’ve referred to them in hockey related terms.
Then, if we can recall one of his earliest suggestions — that a youngster should go watch his or her future JV or freshman team, consider that, “Part of the job of every high school coach is to teach these techniques to players. If you can demonstrate some of these fundamental techniques as you play during the tryouts the coach will take notice.”
Man, can I appreciate that one as a former high school and college head coach. I mean, I loved it when players arrived with the skills necessary to execute our playing system. And, the closer a player was to ready when he arrived, the better his chances of getting some decent playing time very early-on.
I like it that Andrew suggests to youngsters that they observe how things are done by certain college teams or certain pro players. And, not unlike yours truly, he suggests that kids go to YouTube.com should they ever want for more drills. Of course, CoachChic.com members also have hundreds of ideas within this website.
I also absolutely loved his suggestion that a youngster watch as many televised games as possible. In Dr S’s case, he took a liking to an NBA star who played the same position. He learned all he could about the star, he listened to game announcers as they described given plays, and he made note of the star’s favorite moves. (I’ll have to think more on this one as it pertains to hockey, but Andrew feels that college basketball commentators explain the basics even more than those who do pro games.)
Hinting that most households today have access to some sort of television recording technology, be it an old VCR or a DVR, he suggests that players record the advanced moves of their favorite players, replay them over and over, and then emulate them out on the practice court.
Dr Kolbasovsky spends quite a bit of time suggesting ways to get into great shape for tryouts. He even recommends one of our choice exercises, rope skipping.
Interestingly, this thing about conditioning arose in a recent conversation I had with the GM/coach of a Junior level team. It seems the guy is trying to place one of his favorite players with a pretty strong college hockey program, and he’s concerned that the player is only marginal when it comes to skating and a number of other basic skills. (Don’t get me wrong in that marginal assessment, since it’s only so as he compares to some of the best blue chip talents in the country.) On the plus side, the kid is an awesome student, he’s a working fool, and he’ll do absolutely anything a coach asks of him.
When it came to giving my opinion, I suggested that the boy report to school ready to skate everyone else into the ice. I mean, he has to be able to push himself, and then be able to keep going after everyone else drops by the wayside. Trust me, that this isn’t going to work for the kid who has neglected his skills for a lifetime. However, there’s the chance that a college coach is going to love this guy, and he’s liable to be kept around long enough to earn his way into the starting lineup.
Dr K goes so far as to suggest what to wear at tryouts. And, while b-ballers and hockey players don’t dress anywhere near alike, players in any sport should appreciate that, “First impressions are important…”
Between the lines, I think he’s suggesting a player needs to look like a player. And, while we’re in agreement about it being a good idea to wear a jersey from a league the player has played in, I’ll suggest that the sweater from a fairly prestigious team or league (he or she has played in) is an even better idea.
I’d also suggest wearing the same shirt every day of the tryouts. Trust me, that a coach can look forward to seeing “that new kid in the red jersey” — on the next day, the next day, and the next.
Lastly, I sense that most good hockey players already do a lot of the things suggested in Andrew’s book. In fact, I did most of them as a youngster, in several different sports. If this book has some value to the hockey family, it’s because Dr Kolbasovsky tells aspiring young players (and their parents) exactly how the very dedicated kids generally go about their business.
Then, a funny thing… As I wind down on this article, I’m thinking that it’s a Sunday night, I’m working, while most other coaches most likely aren’t. For sure, you could tease me about getting a life, but I’m actually content in thinking I’m constantly out-working my counterparts. I have my lifetime in sports to thank for such an attitude, and that’s yet another message woven within the pages of Andrew’s book.
“How to make a High School Basketball Team” ~ By Dr. Andrew Kolbasovsky of the Family Advantage Network
The above ebook and a number of other helpful resources can be found on the Family Advantage Network, including an article hockey folks should find pretty interesting, “The Chances of a College Athletic Scholarship: Drop the Ball and Pick Up the Wood?”
This entry is part of something akin to a trilogy, in that all three recent articles I’ve done deal with solving problems — and with us having more common sense — with the more background information we acquire. I’ll point you to the other articles a little later but, in the meantime, see if my premise isn’t right-on as we tackle the topic at hand.
– Dennis Chighisola
All You’ll Ever Need to Know About Hockey Skate Sharpening!
Before I get into this, let me caution new adult players and parents of young ones with this bit of advice… Some of what you’ll learn here might help a relatively new skater, but some of it might also hamper his or her efforts. Will it help for you to know all I’ll be sharing? Absolutely! However, if you’re at all in doubt about whether to apply any of this new knowledge, just ask me. That’s what I’m here for.
Okay, let’s back-up a bit, and envision your brand new skates still at the factory. Your new blades were “roughly” shaped, attached to their boots, and then your completely assembled skates were packed and shipped to where you’ll purchase them.
Notice that I said your skate blades had been roughly shaped. Shaped to accommodate hockey play, those blades have been cut from a section of steel that forms close to a 9′ radius arc. If there’s a problem, most advanced players discover that their blades don’t arrive as true to that radius as they’d like. So, re-shaping the blade might be the first thing on the new owner’s agenda.
Nor do new blades arrive sharpened. In fact, they’re often protected by a thin film of plastic that gets removed during the first sharpening.
Now, here’s where it’s helpful to know some related facts, this time when it comes to the shapes of blades used in the three popular on-ice sports…
It’s pretty easy to see that speed skating blades are longer than others, and that they’re close to flat. Both features are built into the blades to accommodate moving mostly on straight-aways and fairly wide turns.
In contrast, figure skates are curved quite a lot — in the shape of a 7′ radius arc, this to facilitate the many types of spins, turns and sharp cuts common to that sport.
I hope it then makes sense that the hockey skate blade is designed to incorporate some of the qualities necessary to the other two sports — being slightly flatter than figure skates to aid movements up and down the length of the ice, and quite a bit more curved than a speed skate so that the hockey player can turn, pivot, and cut with good speed. Hockey blades are also shorter than speed skate blades, this to help a player in our sport do quicker cross-overs, and to be far more agile on his or her feet.
Before going further, let’s make sure that our hockey blades are shaped properly, and by this I mean ensuring that the two blades are truly formed in a 9′ radius arc. As of this writing, I know of two methods for achieving a specific radius. One is accomplished on a machine built for that purpose called the Custom Radius; the other operation is usually performed by a prehavetty skilled technician who uses templates to trace a given desired radius.
As a brief aside here… If you’ve had your skates for a long time, and if they’ve had numerous “free hand” sharpenings, it’s quite possible that the blades have lost their true shape or radius. (The worst I’ve ever experienced was when the middle of my blade had been so worn that it was difficult for me to cut or pivot.) If you ever want to perform a naked eye test of your radius, just hold the blade upright on a smooth countertop, and notice how/if just the middle of the blade touches down.
Okay, to this point I’ve said that the correct radius for the hockey blade is in the shape of a 9′ radius arc. I’ll go further by suggesting that young, developing players should have their blades shaped in that way, with the balance point of each blade being set at “neutral” or “zero”, or so that the skater is balancing right over the midpoint of his or her blade.
With that, fairly advanced skaters can have their radius adapted to achieve various effects. I have prescribed skates to be shaped slightly flatter — in either a 10′ or 11′ arc, this to gain a little more speed in straight-aways. (Think about getting just slightly closer to the speed skater’s blade in this regard.) You should know that I never prescribe any such thing for a player who isn’t a really good skater. My feeling is that the player with good agility and cutting ability will only lose a hair in those departments, while gaining a little more speed moving straight ahead.
I almost always stick with the neutral (or zero) radius setting, while some advanced players and some old-time skate technicians like to move the balance point so that a skater is forced to lean slightly forward or slightly to the rear. Their rationale that a forward lean might benefit wingers who spend a great deal of time flying up and down their lanes, and that a backward lean helps a defenseman better move backwards. I honestly don’t buy either line of thinking.
With the hockey skate blades shaped properly, let’s now consider the actual sharpening process. For, this is where the dulled blade from the factory will take on the sharp edges that make it possible for us to actually skate…
Two things are critical to gaining a proper sharpening. First, the skate must be placed correctly in a holder, and then adjusted so that the blade hits squarely and at the proper level for when it meets the spinning sharpening stones. Secondly, the finish stone — or the one that actually gives the blade it’s final shape — should be “dressed” or re-shaped to ensure it cuts the steel blade properly (the blade is only going to take on the shape of the stone it passes by).
Let me suggest two things here… It’s a good idea to take your blades to someone you truly trust. The last thing you want is to have your tech talking to his girlfriend on the phone while mildlessly passing your blades by a stone. Some cost is associated with “dressing” the finish wheel, since an industrial diamond is used (and gradually used up) in this process, and it stands to reason that some technicians will do things right while some just won’t. Also, never stand in a long line waiting for your skates to be done, and especially never have them sharpened while recreational skaters are having theirs done. It should make sense that your skates just aren’t going to get the attention they deserve under such conditions.
The sharpening process usually begins with the tech passing a blade against a spinning rough or course stone, this acting as a way to remove old edges or to ready the blade to be shaped with new edges.
That accomplished, a blade is next passed by the finish wheel or stone to give it its new shape.
Near the end of the process, you’ll usually see the tech hold each skate up to a light while balancing a small coin across the blade. He’s checking to see if the two outside sharp edges are even. (It only takes one time to skate with an edge missing, or one edge lower than the other, because stepping on either feels like you’re falling into the Grand Canyon!)
You might hear the hockey skate sharpening process referred to as a “hollow ground”, because the blades are ground to create two sharp edges on each side with a hollow area in between.
Now, let’s go back to what we can learn from the other types of skates. For, it might help you to make a comparison between the way speed skates and figure skates are sharpened.
In the case of speed skates, a “jig” is used, this being a small contraption that holds a file, with the file being passed back and forth across the bottom of the blade. If you can picture it, this makes sort of a block shape, or the two edges are created — not so sharply, and minus the hollow described for the hockey skate blade. The idea of the not so pronounced edges is to lessen cutting into the ice and to lessen the amount of friction as a speed skater glides along the ice.
At the other extreme is the figure skate, which is sharpened at least close to the way hockey skates are done. Figure skaters, due to the nature of their sport, need the hollow grind and the sharp edges necessary to cutting, spinning, etc. And they’d likely wipe out easily if they tried any of their moves with a speed skater’s sharpening.
Okay, so what can we borrow from the way other’s sharpen their skates?
Again, only daring to work with hockey players who already have great cutting ability, I’ve tinkered with the relative hollow in their sharpenings to aid them in having less friction on the straight-aways. In most instances, some experimentation is needed to gain less friction while not losing too much edge control.
One last little tidbit… Lots of years ago I came across a science book that contained an explanation about why we can skate on smooth ice but not on glass. As it turns out, a skater’s bodyweight transfers down through a sharp blade edge, an immense amount of pressure through that edge creates heat that melts the ice right under, which in turn allows us to momentarily hydroplane on a thin film of water. As the blade passes, the water freezes right behind.
In closing, I like to prepare these kinds of entries so that members can do lots of troubleshooting on their own. I’ve mentioned some ways that I’ve achieved certain results by adapting things — like the shape of the blade or the length of the blade, as well as the relative shape of the hollow and edges. What I’ve also done, however, is to provide you all the different variables so that you may achieve quite different results.
Now, it’s my sincere hope that I also made my other point, in that we become better and better troubleshooters with the more we know about related topics.
Here’s the article that started it all — about “Knowing Lots of Hockey Facts“!
Then, when you get a chance, see how all my experiences from the past helped me form something that will likely transform the way a certain level does business (it’s about how I arrived at launching my new Junior Hockey Scouting Service).
You should know that this was a very difficult article to write, mainly because I feared forgetting something. So, I’m going to consider it a work in progress, and I’ll be prepared to alter it if need be. Of course, the only way I can do that is if you comment below or ask me questions.
This entry was sparked by an email I just received this morning in reference to my article on skate tying. But, is this conversation — or that email — really only about lacing the skates? I think not. No, there’s a greater underlying issue here, and one that I’d hate to miss the opportunity to share with my friends and loyal CoachChic.com members.
– Dennis Chighisola
Should You Copy Your Hockey Idols?
My friend started his email with a lie, stating that, “… I spent a whole dollar on your ‘How to Tie Hockey Skates’ article…” The truth is, that article, hosted on Amazon.com, is only 99-cents!
More seriously, my friend Ron continues, “I too heard a rumor that the old Soviet hockey teams would hit the ice in warm ups with no laces in their skates…the theory being it helps to strengthen the foot.”
Yes, I’d mentioned the old Soviets in my article, but it was to only suggest that they skated at times without tying their skates; I’m not sure anyone would dare try skating without any laces in their boots.
Ron then went on to add to what I’d previously written about pro players, “As for how NHL players lace their skates…I’m sure you know who Gordie Howe is…well he had two sons play in the NHL, Marty and Mark. A few years back they produced some instructional hockey videos and they talked about their personal preferences for lacing skates. I was amazed that Mark…a great skater and currently in the hall of fame…would put three of his fingers in between his laces and the boot…he did not need and did not prefer to have the skates laced tight. His skating was very fluid.”
Actually, my skates have always been tied much like Mark Howe’s, or as one might tie street shoes or sneakers, with only the top eyelets pulled snugly around the ankle.
Of course, Mr Hockey had another son, about whom Ron states, ” Then his (Mark’s) brother Marty talked about how he laced his skates…Marty only played a few seasons in the NHL…he said he laced his skates very tight and used ONE roll of tape to tape his ankles. He also said he was more prone to ankle sprains…I wonder why.”
To be honest, I doubt there’s any correlation between Marty’s ankle problems — or the amount of time he spent in the NHL — and the way he tied his skates. However, that’s touching upon an area I’ll want to cover pretty shortly.
Next, Ron mentions that, “I recently read Ray Scapinellos autobiography…he was a long time NHL linesman. He mentioned he barely laced his skates at all. He said the only reason he laced his skates was so the laces wouldnt flop everywhere. So heres a guy who spends an entire game on his skates and barely laces his skates at all.”
He then introduces another part of skate tying, and something my son — a stylish pro skater in his own right — always did. As Ron wrote, “When I watch an NHL game on television…if they zoom in on a player I’ll try to notice his skates. Look at ex NHL player Sergei Fedorov…a great skater. He left the tongue sticking out and did not lace the top eyelet…I believe Alexander Ovechkin does this as well. I’ll also give credit to ex NHL player Doug Brown as well…hes one of your Massachusetts boys…another great skater who barely laced his skates.”
Ron continues, “But every player has their personal preference and I’m sure theres some that get foot cramps from having theirs skates too tight. I heard that Paul Coffey would wear skates 1.5 sizes too small…ouch…his theory being he wanted his skate and foot to feel as if they’re one unit.”
I might just add here that the urge to make the skates feel like a part of the foot is a major reason why many players go without socks. (I’ve often suggested something partway between wearing thick sock and going sock-less, with many of my students over the years wearing “knee high” nylons.)
Finally, Ron concludes with, “… a few years back I started to only lace my skates only to the top eyelet…I no longer put the laces through the top eyelet and bend the tongue way down so it sticks out.”
Okay, I really enjoyed reading that email from Ron, as much as I have the ones he’s previously sent me. Still, while he included a few interesting stories and observations, those weren’t the real reason I asked his permission to reprint the email here. No, there’s something even more important lurking between the lines, and something I feel I really need to get across to my readers, or something I want my readers to convey to their hockey playing sons and daughters.
You should have noticed how differently all the above pro guys tied their skates. And along the way, I hope you started to sense that the way they tied them had little or nothing to do with their on-ice abilities. Yes, I would suggest that Marty Howe hampered himself by wrapping excess tape around his ankles, thereby almost eliminating that joint. At the same time, we should notice that Paul Coffey and Mark Howe both made it to hockey’s Hall of Fame by tying their skates in drastically different ways.
And that brings me to a story I may have told here before… You see, I had this former NHL player who occasionally worked in my summer hockey schools, and I’d cringe every time I saw the size of the knob he made for the top of his hockey stick. Ugh. The thing was half the size of a baseball. His answer, each time he’d see me wince? “Gordie Howe is my idol, and that’s the way he taped his stick!” And I’d shoot right back each time, something to the effect that, “Gordie Howe could have used a tree limb for a stick and still been better than us mere mortals!” And I’d usually go on to suggest that Howe was one of the all-time greats despite the way he taped his stick, not because of it!
Now, I’m guessing that anyone who reads this article recalls the way Wayne Gretzky used to tuck part of his hockey jersey into his pants. And if you were around youth arenas during The Great One’s reign, you would have noticed countless Mites, Squirts/Atoms and Pee Wees doing just the same. Personally, I thought it cute — that the kids wanted to copy that style. Still, I knew Gretzky’s sweater wasn’t what made him great, and I knew that no kid was going to become great because of the way he or she wore a jersey. Actually, if we pressed a kid at that time, we’d have likely gotten him or her to admit just that: that the way one wears a shirt has nothing to do with the way he or she plays.
With that, I need to warn hockey parents and coaches about the fact that some of their kids are doing other things to emulate their favorite players. I mean, whether they come out and tell you or not, they’re choosing their new helmet because it’s like their idol wears, and they’re also often selecting their sticks and their skates because of what they’ve noticed on TV or in some on-line or magazine ad.
Now, having already established that a jersey doesn’t make or break a player, I have suggested that the way one doctors a stick, and the way one ties the skates can influence his or her game playing abilities. Worse yet, some things can have a lasting impact on a player — sometimes for awhile, and sometimes forever.
As an aside here, some might read all this and presume that most of it is just common sense. I’d have to agree. Yet, there I was years ago — several summers in a row, arguing with a giant sized pro guy about the right and wrong way to tape a hockey stick. Ugh.
Consequently, I’m not suggesting anyone get paranoid here (although I kinda do when it comes to some of this stuff). What I am suggesting, however, is for adults to subtly monitor the kids in their charge — both at the local pro shop, and when it comes to the later use of various pieces of gear. Again, shirts and helmets aren’t likely to influence a player’s development, while certain articles of equipment surely will.
By now, many USA Hockey coaching members should have been made aware of the RAE, or the Relative Age Effect. My concern is that more USA Hockey members — and perhaps the most important members of all, the parents — just might not know about it. Moreover, I want my CoachChic.com members to be up on every study I can bring to their attention.
Trust me, folks, that the effect is real, and there’s not much one can do to refute the numerous test results that have brought this phenomenon to the fore. To be honest, I’m not even sure I wouldn’t use the gist of this to select higher level players. But, you can be the judge of that.
– Dennis Chighisola
The R.A.E. and Your Hockey Player
To begin, here’s how Wikipedia defines our current topic of discussion:
“The term ‘relative age effect’ (RAE) is used to describe a bias, evident in the upper echelons of youth sport and academia, where participation is higher amongst those born early in the relevant selection period (and correspondingly lower amongst those born late in the selection period) than would be expected from the normalised distribution of live births. The selection period is usually the calendar year, the academic year or the sporting season.
The term ‘month of birth bias’ is also used to describe the effect and ‘season of birth bias’ is used to describe similar effects driven by different hypothesised mechanisms.
The bias results from the common use of age related systems, for organizing youth sports competition and academic cohorts, based on specific cut-off dates to establish eligibility for inclusion. Typically a child born after the cut-off date is included in a cohort and a child born before the cut-off date is excluded from it.
The most commonly used cut-off date for youth international sporting competition is 1 January. The IOC and FIFA and the 6 international football confederations (AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC and UEFA) all use 1 January as their administrative cut-off date when determining an athlete’s eligibility to compete in youth competitions, children born before a specified cut-off date are excluded.
Cut-off dates for academic cohort structuring, including the setting of academic years, are usually determined by national education authorities and tend to be based on autumn start dates, so August or September cut-off dates are common in the Northern Hemisphere and February or March cut-off dates are common in the Southern Hemisphere. This tendency reflects the historical need for children to be involved in summer-time agricultural work with school starting after harvesting.”
A research paper from Loughborough University (in the UK) explains the RAE in this way:
“The relative age effect describes the observation that greater numbers of performers born early in a selection year are over-represented in junior and senior elite squads compared with what might be expected based on national birth rates. It would appear that the relative age effect, certainly in some sports, crucially influences the opportunities to achieve high-level sporting performance.”
Actually, while the above two entries focus on comparisons in both the classroom and sports in general, numerous studies have shown the same to hold true in ice hockey, in that players born in the first quarter of a given year seem to have a distinct advantage over those born later, and especially over those born very late in the same year.
Now, let me do my best to put all this into regular language, and also relate it to our hockey players…
As an example, the thinking is that a pair of 8-year olds with birth dates at opposite ends of their birth year are likely to fair quite differently at a youth hockey tryout. In other words, the boy that is closer to turning 9-years old is likely more physically developed and even more mentally developed than the youngster who just turned 8-years old. Oh, this isn’t going to be true in every single case, but it surely is going to be so on average.
Now, that’s not the whole problem. No, based on what we know from the above, it makes sense that the player with the earlier birth date is more likely to make a higher level team, while the drastically younger of the two quite probably will be assigned to a B or C or even house league team.
The main concern here is that the kids making higher level teams tend to get better coaching, and all the other benefits that can come from playing at AAA, AA or A levels. I’ve also always felt that teams with more talent get to practice at a higher level than those teams where many kids still need work on the very basics.
Now, I began my explanation with 8-year olds for a purpose. For, imagine what is likely to happen over ensuing years, or as those same kids become Squirts/Atoms, move on to Pee Wees and Bantams, and ultimately compete for Junior, college or professional slots. The earlier born 8-years — again on average — got the best of everything as Mites, and it’s more than likely they’ll have the inside track on a high quality Squirt or Atom team. And the same is likely to hold true as they move up in each age group.
In a way, some might call that a fact of life. Or, as a few of my friends might say, “It is what it is.” What concerns many of us — yes, including yours truly — is that the cut off date in youth sports, as well as in youth hockey, is purely arbitrary. In other words, the hockey powers that be currently use January 1 as the start of a new age level, for no other reason than it’s the start of the calendar year. (As I recall, in Little League Baseball, the cut off date is at the end of the summer, or near the end of baseball season.)
Here’s yet another concern, at least from my perspective…
Looking back on a couple of 8-year olds again, a half a year or more can represent a huge difference — in age, plus the corresponding differences in size and mental capabilities. And don’t forget that the relative age effects tend to keep getting the slightly older kids onto better teams, where they tend to get better coaching, probably more ice-time, etc.
If there’s a problem, things can start evening out as players move into their teens. In other words, it’s quite possible that a lot of the slightly younger kids will grow to be bigger than some of the older ones, and many of their other earlier differences just might change as well.
So, if you get my drift, it’s quite possible that all the extra benefits may have been provided to some of the wrong kids. Not a lot can be done to make up for the disparity in training or other benefits at that point, either. In a way, some of the kids with the best potential never got what they needed in the earlier years. Come to think of it, I wonder how many of those kids quit along the way, never seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Oh, and just in case anyone still isn’t quite believing the earlier studies, here’s one that might mean a whole lot more to my hockey audience:
“In a replication of studies by Barnsley et al. (1985), and Grondin et al. (1984) the authors gathered birthdates of players in the National Hockey League (NHL), Western Hockey League (WHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The players were categorized according to month of birth. Additionally, the players were categorized by country of birth, reflecting the changes in professional hockey over the period since the original studies. The results indicate that despite the globalization of hockey and changes in minor hockey, relative age effect, that is, a strong linear relationship between the month of birth (from January to December) and the proportion of players in the leagues studied, still exists.”
Okay, so as you’ve been reading this, have you been pondering ways the relative age effect might be overcome? I know that I wracked my brain for quite some time after I initially discovered it.
Only recently did I hear a change that would make at least some sense, without drastically altering the structure of minor hockey. What has been proposed is that the beginning of the calendar year be changed each season. I suppose it could be rotated from January 1 one season, to February 1 the next, and March 1 the next. However, I sense it would take too long for the effects of that system to even things out. Might it be better to flip-flop from January 1 to July 1 and then back to January 1 again? Hmmmmmmm… Think about that one, huh?
Then, in closing, two things…
Let me share what I did as a hockey parent to help both my son (DOB late-May) and then my grandson (DOB late-July) at least slightly overcome their birth dates. Appreciate that I knew nothing about the RAE in the 1970′s through 80′s, or later from the 1990′s and into the new Millennium. Instead, I only hoped to keep my own two guys developing so that they were close to the top in skills and game playing abilities when it came to their respective age groups. Of course, you might think that I have an advantage in all that, while I’ll suggest that anyone could do this if they have a mind to.
As I’ve suggested countless times within these pages, it’s not a good idea to trust all your youngster’s development to his or her youth organization, at least within the earliest years. So I’m a firm believer in supplemental training programs — like and extra weekly skills clinic, goalie clinic, etc. Only through those kinds of programs can a player inch his or her way beyond what teammates are getting.
Okay, I don’t think the above title is really a great description of the young lady I’m about to introduce. However, suggesting she has “head problems” probably got your attention, and it at least somewhat hints at some things that are troubling her.
Actually, as I was putting the final touches on this article, it struck me that the circumstances described below are probably more the norm in youth hockey rather than the extreme. However, I’ll let others be the judge that.
With that, let’s let Kendra H start things off.
– Dennis Chighisola
A Goalie With “Head Problems”
In her own words, Kendra says, “i am a goalie. It is my first year of playing on a midget team. I am 15 years old and have been a goalie for 4 years now.”
My guess is that Kendra is also playing on a team that includes mostly boys, since I believe the “midget” designation is seldom used on all-girls teams. I raise this point, because it can at least sometimes be harder on one or two girls who are mixed with a mostly male team. Can it be equally as hard for male coaches who are used to dealing primarily with boys to suddenly relate to young lady athletes? Hmmmmm…
Maybe confirming what I’m suggesting here, she continues, “This year i got some really mean coaches and they try to change how i play and they get mad if i don’t do anything that they don’t wanna do.”
A funny thing… I’ve been coaching for 40-years, I’ve sent countless former students or players on to the NHL, and I’ve head coached through the college level. Yet, I never tampered with a goalie, except for the way I wanted him to work within our team system. Could I help a Mite or Squirt/Atom goaltender? Ya, I know enough of the very basics to probably do that. However, would I tamper with a Bantam or older goaler? I very much doubt it.
And that’s what I’m wondering about here, as Kendra tells us about being at odds with her coaches. Do any of her coaches really have any goalkeeper knowledge — beyond the very, very basics?
Ultimately, Kendra gets into the part that REALLY bothers me. For, as she says, “… and they got in my head so now that’s all i am worried about when I play. I cant get my mind back in the game.”
Amazing, huh? Ironically, I just finished an article on “Designing A Pre-game Warm-up Routine“, and I mentioned in there how important it is for my skaters to help build their goalie’s confidence during that pre-game period. God, if nothing else, I and my guys want our netminders to enter a game feeling good about themselves, and like they can stop anything!
Understandably, Kendra states that, “I am really starting to not play good at all.” And, making me really feel for her, she adds, “… i don’t have anybody really on my team that helps me out.”
In the end, she pleads, “So my question is, is there any thing you would suggest i try to get my head back in the game?”
I’m going to say my piece here for Kendra’s sake, but I’m going to immediately after open this discussion to a bunch of friends I know in the goaltending area. I sense a number of them will come through for her by commenting down below.
As for my feelings… I’m going to get tough with the young lady for a moment, but only for her sake, or her wellbeing. And I’ll start by suggesting that Kendra had to know all along that netminding is a rather lonely position. As such, I think she has to take it upon herself to develop some habits that work for her. I think she has to know that she will frequently be surrounded by idiots, and almost always surrounded by coaches, teammates and fans who haven’t a clue what a goalie goes through — night to night, and even minute by minute.
What I’m getting at is for her to develop her own psyche, or inner toughness. Again, others probably aren’t going to understand, so there’s no sense in beating that dead horse. What’s more important is for her to understand it, let it go, and work from within.
I think mental preparation is even more important to goaltending than it is to all the other playing positions. And in this regard, I suggest that Kendra (or her parents) seek help from one or more of the many out there who deal in both sport psychology and goaler training. (Our own Shaun Goodsell of the Mental Edge; and my former high school goalie, John Haley, have some home study or visualization programs that can surely help her.)
As for dealing with her coaches, again ugh… I think that I can only help Kendra by suggesting she not go head to head with her coaches, but just roll with them. Oh, I’m not taking their side when I offer this approach, but it might just be better for all if she smiles, or grins and bears their negativity. Perhaps, she’ll even win them over at some point, and ultimately gain the more peaceful, positive interactions she obviously longs for (and deserves).
I might also advise Kendra’s parents to find her a local goalie coach. The immediate benefits should be obvious, but what I’m also thinking is that the outside counselor might prove helpful as an intermediary between Kendra and her team coaches. In other words, while those coaches might not be thrilled to hear the opinions of a 15-year old in their charge, they’d probably welcome some advice from an outside specialist. And, quite obviously, that outside goalie coach might just (nicely) suggest that the coaches stay off her back.
Summing up my thoughts, I’m just looking for a way to make a bad situation at least tolerable. And, since it’s unlikely anyone is going to immediately change the thinking of Kendra’s coaches, I believe she could make things easier for herself by slightly altering her own outlook and approach.
Good luck, Kendra!
Okay, so is there anyone out there who feels for this girl, and has some ideas to help? If so, please let your thoughts be known in the comments area below.
We have fellow CoachChic.com member, Jerry Z, to thank for pointing us towards the videos below… Thanks, Jerry!
– Dennis Chighisola
Studying The Most Skilled Hockey Players Of All-Time
My guess is that you or the young hockey players in your house have spent plenty of time on YouTube and other such sites, either searching for help, or just admiring the plays made by some of your favorite pros. That, I’ll suggest, is a good thing to do, especially when it comes to developing young players. Without a doubt, we can always learn by observing those guys; I know I surely do.
And that brings us to the two videos Jerry sent me. I’ve actually posted these for two reasons, but let’s take them one at a time…
1) Take a look — I think you or any hockey enthusiast in your house will enjoy them. If nothing else, you have some great players to study and to perhaps emulate.
Here’s Part 1
Part 2 is next…
2) Okay, so what did you learn from seeing ten of the best hockey players who ever lived? This isn’t a test — trust me. However, rather than my usual interpreting things for you, I’d really like to see these guys through your eyes, or maybe even through your youngster’s eyes.
So, let’s begin a dialog, by using the Comment boxes below. I’m really hoping that a bunch of us get involved, and do this thing together.
PS: I’m going to keep this among members-only.
I actually field this question a lot, probably because most folks know I studied in the old Soviet Union, and because I’ve been a Big Red Machine student for a good many years.
I think it’s also about time I explain better a statement I often refer to here, this by the late, great Anatoli Tarasov, about his not wanting to copy others for fear of being just second best.
With that, it’s always fun for me to talk about Russian hockey.
– Dennis Chighisola
Russian Hockey Skating Methods
I’m going to begin with that (as near as I can recall) quote by Tarasov, as in his suggestion that, “To copy someone else is to be second best.” And I’m going to suggest that, The Father of Russian Hockey would clarify that for us if he was alive today, just by adding a phrase, “beyond a point”. Ya, to copy someone else — beyond a point — would make one second best.
I’ve read a few times whereby certain NHL clubs have drafted a specific player in order to off-set a given divisional rival’s player who gave them fits. Maybe, for instance, a big and skilled centerman has been dominating them for a few seasons, so they go out and select their own big guy in hopes of turning the tables. Can you see the probability that the drafted player would be — at best, a shadow of the guy they’re trying to negate? I mean, what’s the likelihood that anyone close to the original player is out there and available at that point in history?
I’ve also often thought about how I’d try to offset a team that dominated in a certain way. In other words, I’m not sure I’d assemble my own team full of big guys to compete against a team that’s extremely physical, since there’s the likelihood of only being second best. I’d probably instead try to take advantage of their slowness (or some other shortcoming) and try to make them match my team’s speed (or whatever). I might do the same thing in reverse, as well, recruiting a physical squad to wear down a smaller, more skilled team.
Not that I’d actually do every one of those things; every situation is unique. Still, I would look at each problem I face, put it to Tarasov’s litmus test, making sure I’m not just creating a near carbon copy of someone else, and almost guaranteeing that I’d come out second best.
Which brings me back to that phrase, “beyond a point”… For, I know darn well that Tarasov came to North American and studied the Canadians. That’s documented, and he’s said so. How much he used from what he saw is something else.
I have to believe that he recorded every drill and every playing system he could. He and most other USSR coaches were that thorough. It’s just that Tarasov was adamant about one thing: Canadian boys and Soviet boys are not the same. They grow up differently– in vastly different societies, so not all North American training methods or playing tactics would work for his players.
In fact, Tarasov built a lot of his team’s initial playing style around soccer, a sport played as much by youngsters in the Soviet Union as baseball is played by kids in North America. If you’ve seen videos of his earliest teams, you had to spot the soccer influence — with their regrouping, or their extra-extra patience in taking shots.
There was yet something else those wearing the CCCP had going for them back then that was drastically different from most free hockey playing nations, and that was science. I mean, back in those times, every Soviet resource was available to their athletic programs, most likely because successful teams helped the government’s propaganda efforts.
Even though I know they weren’t showing us everything during my studies at the Moscow Institute for Sport and Physical Culture, I came home having discovered tons about plymetrics, building athleticism and enhancing sport specific strength. Actually, it would be a good 15-years before much of what I’d learned would be known to other North American coaches.
Adding to that, I discovered the concept of over-speed training purely by accident — or without anyone wanting me to (if you want to see something interesting, read about that and see my video on “Over-speed Training“).
Something else I found interesting… One day my interpreter brought me into the hockey office, and while we were shooting the bull, he asked if I’d like to see a printout of my biorhythms. Hmmmmmm… As I looked at the sheet, I smiled and said, “You guys use these to evaluate your players at given times, don’t you?” Oh, he swore up and down that wasn’t so (I’m actually chuckling to myself right now, just picturing his face). You can be the judge of his truthfulness. However, knowing those old Soviets didn’t leave any stone unturned, I have my own beliefs.
With that all as our background, let’s get to that skating — as well as a little about the other basic skills…
You can be absolutely sure Tarasov (as well as his army of coaches and scientists) initially employed many of the skating drills they saw in Canada, as well as at various World Cup and Olympic tournaments. And you can also be sure he acquired video footage of specific players. Where that not-wanting-to-be-second-best thing came in was when Tarasov and his people took their training a whole lot further.
When it came to skating, they’d developed ways to help their players go faster, harder and longer than anyone else. Ya, if there’s one thing all the Canadian coaches and players from the ’72 Showdown at the Summit series agreed upon, it’s that the Soviets were remarkable when it came to skating.
Of course, no one knew at the time that USSR scientists had developed a high level of off-ice training that could probably do more for their skaters than what others achieved on the ice. There was the over-speed work — again unknown to most others — when it came to skating. Also, at a time when few in North America believed in weight training for skilled athletes, the relatively small Soviet players were acquiring strength that would also amaze the ’72 Team Canada stars. Then, there was their research and work on conditioning, that made it possible for Soviet skaters to play at a frantic tempo from the opening face-off to the very last shift of a game.
Oh, and talk about those guys getting a lot of government help… I heard about (but never saw) a section of ice that was ramped so that the Soviet players were able to skate uphill. I haven’t a clue how they made that, or how they maintained it, since water flows downhill. For all I know, though, they could have had a hydraulic setup that allowed them to raise and lower the surface as needed.
As far as skating style goes, I can only give my relatively educated opinion… And, in my eyes, the Soviets weren’t pretty at all. What they were, however, was very, very efficient.
One thing I also noticed was that Soviet players seldom raised their skates up far from the ice. Of course we know now that that’s one of the key components to fast and efficient skating. (Actually, if you’ve never received my free video on “Skating Analysis“, you can watch it here, and also download a copy to keep — there’s a link at the top of the page for the download).
Then, just as a wrap-up, why not quickly get into the Soviets’ other basic skills…
I don’t think Tarasov was ever content with his players in the area of puckhandling, although you wouldn’t know it from the current crop of Russian stars gracing the NHL. From a personal perspective, I think the old Soviet coaches were doing the right things as far as skill development went, but it’s probably the one area where the players’ upbringing might have sabotaged a skill. I mean, the Communistic way of life discouraged individualism, and that may have prevented their taking on the “stickhandler’s mentality” I talk so much about within this site.
As for passing, now that was right up the Soviets’ alley… As I suggested earlier, soccer very much influenced the development of their hockey strategies, and that also held true in their emphasis on the passing game. Actually, they were dazzling at times, and as patient as could be at others.
When is came to shooting, it’s perhaps ironic that I just finished reading Harry Sinden’s rendition of that Showdown at the Summit. (For younger members, you might need to know that the former Boston Bruins’ coach and GM was in charge of the whole show for Team Canada, from picking the roster to coaching.) And, while Sinden wrote in his book that he was extremely impressed with the Russians’ skills, he said the exception was their shooting. If you want my opinion, though, Harry was talking into a recorder each night as the series was going along, so those were his immediate — 1972 — impressions. I suspect some of his opinions would change today, with a better understanding of what the Russians were really doing…
As far as the shooting goes, Sinden felt that they didn’t put the puck on net enough — of course, that’s the Canadian or North American mentality (“Shoot the dawgone puck!”). Little did he know at the time that the Soviets’ patience was by design. In fact, I’ve read that it often drove the Canadian players crazy that the Soviets wouldn’t shoot the puck, but instead waited for yet better scoring opportunities.
Sinden also said that the Russian pointmen didn’t shoot the puck well. Hmmmmmm… I’m sure that’s possible. Still, could it be that they knew then what we in North America know now — that million mile per hour shots are NOT the secret to point shooting after all? (For more on this topic, see my article on “Improving A Defensemen’s Point Shots“.)
Before finishing, I just wanted to add a few more things…
Although I’ve often mentioned the government resources afforded the Soviet sport teams, and especially ones that were as popular and successful as their hockey program, the country was very poor and lacking in so many things. The resources their hockey team was usually afforded were in the form of scientific help, while most of their equipment and facilities tended to be pretty old and worn. And they had fewer indoor ice facilities in the entire USSR than could be found within most regions of the United States or Canada (thus their need to create off-ice programs). My point, though, I guess, is that the best science in the world can beat you, while a new gym mat or a sparkling new barbell set generally won’t.
Lastly, if you came to this article looking for a magic bullet or a secret drill, I hope you’re not disappointed. I’m hoping that a better understanding of Tarasov’s thinking will help you more than anything. I do want to leave you with one good drill, though, and this one I created with the Soviet style of skating very much in mind…
Picture if you will a 5-man unit of my NEHI High School Prep guys heading out on to the ice for a 30-second mock shift. In other words, the five guys are heading over the boards and they’re going to move around the ice at a pretty good pace for about 30-seconds — no pucks or any other distractions, but just skating their typical game-line patterns.
Next, picture that I ask that group to skate the same patterns and at the same speed, but not pick up their skates. Oh, trust me: that it’s do-able, and that most players of the caliber I had could do it without a problem.
From a logistical standpoint, I arranged my guys in three 5-man units so that they could rotate through as normal lines would, so that they’d have plenty of open ice to use, and so that they’d get the proper work:rest ratio.
Now, if a coach is able to try this with his or her players, I think a couple of things become evident in short order… First, it’s actually do-able, as I said just above. Secondly, it doesn’t take long for most of the skaters to do just about every skating maneuver without lifting their skates very high — including cross-overs. Third, I think you’re going to recognize an economy of movements. Fourth, eventually let the players know that it’s permissible to pick their blades up just slightly when the need arises — the point, really, is for them to ultimately move and keep the skates low most of the time. Fifth, I think you will start to notice that a lot of players actually gain better lateral mobility as they perform this way, and they’ll tend to be better toward their weak side, probably because they’re working from a fairly stable stance; they’ll also be beaten a lot less as they approach an enemy puckcarrier, because they’re ready to react quicker in either direction.
As with my pretty famous “Toe-drags” Drill (explained and demonstrated in the Skating Analysis video), the idea isn’t to have the players keep their blades on the ice all the time during a game. No, what you’ll discover is that they’ll ultimately be able to perform nearly every skating maneuver while keeping the feet rather close to the ice.
If you oversee the development of a young defenseman, I suggest you pay close attention to this article. For, while I’m probably going to tell you some things you already know, I suspect I’m also going to surprise you some. In the end, however, I think it’ll all make sense to you. That’s my way, you know, explaining things in a common sense way.
Oh, and by the way… Although I can’t recall ever playing a shift on defense, my many years of coaching caused me to focus more in that area than any other, and I sense I’d be comfortable teaching that position to pros.
Moreover, many years ago, I found myself helping an NHL scout. And, in particular, we spent some time together studying video and analyzing the play of several free agent “D”. So, some of my impressions from that experience were lasting, and they very much influenced many of the things I’ll share below with you.
– Dennis Chighisola
What Makes a Good Hockey Defenseman?
I have a feeling that the habit of slotting the biggest and slowest youth hockey kids on defense has finally died — or at least I hope it has. Sure, size can be helpful to a D-man, but a good one definitely can’t be slow afoot or one of those can’t-get-out-of-his-own-way types. Naw, far from it.
That’s why skating is high on my list of needs when it comes to patrolling the blue line well. As a matter of fact, I think the modern day defenseman should be able to skate as well forward — or with the same mobility — as the once traditional centerman would. Of course, because we’re talking about defensemen here, you want to know about backward skating, right? Well…
Many years ago the Czechs did a study to determine how much time defensemen actually spend skating backwards. And, while I can’t recall the percentage of time they arrived at, it was for far less time than most casual hockey followers would believe.
Does that mean backwards skating isn’t important to a blueliner’s game? Not in a long shot. For, while it’s true the “D” don’t skate backwards as much as most folks think, anytime they are skating backwards means the bad guys are coming and the play is likely to be critical.
Then, while I’d like to see D-men have that forward skating mobility I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t mind if they lugged the puck on some attacks with good speed and even some reckless abandon. In a way, I see the modern game requiring all five skaters to be good on defense and good on the attack.
On the other hand, a backward skating defenseman has to be under control at all times. He should have quick feet — or be agile, and really good at lateral movements. All those movements need to be under control, though, because one false, out of control movement is all a smart attacker needs to leave him in the dust.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of backward skating, I’m going to suggest that backward speed isn’t as necessary as some might believe. Oh, a defenseman has to be quick off the line, or quick transitioning from forward to backward. However, I’ve yet to see a “D” need to have a footrace with an attacker while skating backward. Instead, it’s necessary for him to get off the mark, jump to the right positioning, and then hold the right positioning for the rest of the play.
And that last sentence also points to the need for a defenseman to be smart. All the skills in the world won’t help him if he can’t play under control and play situations — like 1 on 1′s and 2 on 1′s — rightly. Smart defensemen also gradually gather all sorts of little tricks they can use when dealing with attackers, including clever uses of their sticks.
Now, I wouldn’t want to encourage developmental aged blueliners to skip their skill work just to play with smarts. However, you’re probably aware of some aging pro athletes who were able to extend their playing careers due to smarter positioning. Middle infielders in baseball can sometimes play longer despite losing their lateral range, and so have a number of pro defensemen lengthened their playing days even though their feet may have slowed.
Then, while I said earlier that it helps if a blueliner has good size, I’m going to suggest that there have been plenty of effective players at that position who were average in size, at best. What I think a top defenseman needs is strength on his skates, or strength in dealing with opposing attackers. That can be true in open ice, along the boards, and certainly in the slot-area.
Okay, having pretty much covered skating and the defensive side of their game, I think another major surprise to some readers is that I place puckhandling as the Number Two skill when it comes to top notch D-men. (That’s also the case in my Building Blocks Approach to Skills.) Actually, I might place puckhandling and passing in a tie, but good passing isn’t ever going to happen unless good puckhandling is accomplished first.
Just as I mentioned earlier — about backward skating being super-critical to his play, so is the handling of a puck in the defensemen’s defensive end. In most instances, a “D” picks up a puck under heavy pressure from enemy forecheckers. And, while it’s important that he protects the puck in that area of the rink, he also has to handle it with his eyes up so as to be able to locate nearby friends and foe. Again, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this play (even though I suspect a great many youth parents and coaches give it little thought). (For some of the fundamental moves a “D” might have to make under such conditions, see my video about “Basic Breakouts“.)
Most readers have probably heard mention of the all important “first pass” in the defensive zone. Trust me, that I hammered away about that with my former high school and college players, and I guarantee you that every high level coach does the same. Let’s face it: a team is not going to be very successful unless the first pass regularly connects and starts a team moving out of its own zone and away from its own net.
It’s been my observation that a number of future Hall of Fame defensemen weren’t all that great at defending against rushes. I don’t mean they weren’t good at it, but that’s not what got them recognized. No, when they were on the ice the puck was almost always safe and usually headed towards the opponents’ end. I mean, any puck they got their stick on was gathered in quickly, and just as quickly relayed to a breaking teammate up-ice.
Of course, every young “D” wants to have a million mile an hour shot from the point. And, while a strong shot from out there can be helpful, I’m going to suggest it’s even more important for pointmen to have what I refer to as “sweet shots”.
In truth, any player shooting from above the tops of the face-off circles should not be attempting to score. If it happens, fine. However, that should not be the point shooter’s objective. No, shots from that far out should be placed into a screen, deflected, or bounced off the netminder for a rebound score.
And that’s kinda where my idea of the sweet shot comes into play. First, there’s not always a lot of time to handle the puck and then get a full windup into the shot. Secondly, a wilder swing too often results in a wilder shot and a missed net. So I (and most higher level coaches) would prefer to see shots that get to the net — aimed towards the net’s middle post, with decent velocity, and on or near the ice. Sweet, as I like to call it, and something that makes it easy for the forwards up front to do their thing.
Lastly, I could probably write a book on this subject — about what makes a good hockey defenseman. Still, if a defender comes even close to executing the things I’ve described here, I’m going to suggest that future coaches are going to love him. To be honest, I believe a 10-year old, a 12-year old or a 15-year old could be helped to possess many of the traits I’ve noted. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen plenty — as young as 8- or 9-years old — with most of these skills.
PS: Oh, and those involved with the more advanced levels of our game ought to check out the recent article, “Improving A Defenseman’s Point Shots“.
I needled some of my coaching counterparts over on Facebook earlier today, suggesting that too many coaches allow themselves to become trapped in the mundane activities of supervising their teams. Oh, I know there’s plenty to be done running high level programs, but my personal feeling is that space must also be made in each day to explore new ideas. Said yet another way, I think coaches are doing their players a disservice by remaining stuck on 20-year old drills or teaching methods.
Anyway, what got me going this morning was an Internet article entitled “Partnership puts Rox at forefront of training science“. As you’ll discover, it’s about MLB’s Colorado Rockies and a fairly new idea aimed at helping top flight athletes.
– Dennis Chighisola
More on the Science of Hockey
As the article begins…
“When the Rockies arrive in Scottsdale, Ariz., for Spring Training, they’ll see what look like several doormats in their spacious and modern exercise room.
Well, they’re much more. They’re state-of-the-art tools that the Rockies hope will help them rise from the floor of the National League West and into playoff contention in 2013.”
I urge you to take the above link and read that article. In a nutshell, however, what I’ve discovered — from that article and from further investigation — is that a lot can be gained by studying the forces generated into those mats by each individual player, and then comparing those readings to massive base data.
I was able to chase down the following video, which gives at least a little background information on the new technology…
Before going further, here’s yet another video, this a newscast explaining the sudden turnaround of young NBA star, Jeremy Lin…
Now, none of this is meant to suggest that I’m going to go out and buy that gadget or that service for my next Junior team, or that any of you will have access to it for your Mites or Atoms or Bantams. Still, I always find it beneficial to be aware of such stuff, and I also like to sorta read (or listen) between the lines. And, unlike those I teased over on Facebook — about not looking outside the proverbial box, I’d like you to get in the habit of reading between those lines, too.
One thing that jumped right out at me was that new program’s ability to foresee injuries. That is not only going to help advanced level teams with keeping their current rosters healthy, but it will also ultimately allow them to better study players in their minor league system, as well as evaluate potential draft picks.
Somewhere in all I read or learned from videos was the fact that past injury predictions were based on visual assessments, and this is so. Actually, many years ago I took a weekend long course with the Massachusetts Chiropractors Association, and much of their presentation involved just that. I mean, we watched countless athletes — garbed in only shorts and t-shirts — just walk a straight line, towards and away from a camera, and from both side views. And in nearly every case, we could see with the naked eye each athlete’s weaknesses.
My guess: most of you who work with older players could do much the same.
Of course, we all work with different levels, and within different circumstances. However, yet another thing that jumped out at me was the need to view each athlete as an individual. I know, I know… You just dismissed that — because it’s obvious, right? Well, if it’s so obvious, why is it that most of us conduct generic type workouts where every one of our players does the exact same exercises? Hmmmmmm…
I’m not (necessarily) suggesting that Mites and Squirts be given separate training routines. However, having spent the past few years either working with older players or with teams totally owned by me, I could take the time to study each player as an individual, and I could prescribe special exercises for each guy. In fact, if I was still running a Junior team, I’d be doing those kids a huge disservice by NOT designing separate, long term routines that would have them become more and more appealing to college recruiters or pro scouts.
Think about what I’m saying here… I have a guy for an entire season — like from mid-summer until the early-spring. And that’s plenty of time to bring about some major changes in him — from academics to hockey skills to physical qualities to hockey smarts. As most members know, I view things in that manner. However, just imagine the opportunities lost for players who aren’t guided in such a way.
Lastly, all I really want my members to get from this entry is the understanding that science is continuously evolving. Your current coaching (or parenting) circumstances might not allow you to take advantage of every new idea you come across, but I firmly believe you ARE better off just knowing it exists. In fact, I think you jumped far ahead of others you’ll see at the rinks this weekend, solely because you are aware of what’s happening at elite levels.
My friend, Jason Price, a fellow Bridgewater State College Phys Ed alumn, just happened to publish this article for his Athletes Equation members, and I thought it contained some awesome information for our hockey members. True, Jason’s message is aimed more towards athletes in general, and even the general population. However, I can tell you right now, that a hockey player isn’t going to move quickly, strongly or efficiently without needing to deal with these “three movement constants”.
– Dennis Chighisola
Jason Price– MS, CSCS, ATC, LAT, CPT, USAW Club Coach
Three Movement Constants
Effective movement is based on the interaction between three movement constants. They are the ground, gravity and the body. Any movement we do except for swimming (just replace ground with water) is based on the interaction of these three things. But, these three things can also be what disrupts movement.
First lets look at the ground. Our body is designed to generate force by using our limbs as levers and to absorb the force of contacting the ground. Our body is designed to absorb the force of contact with the ground and then return that energy to us for power to create movement. I wish it was that easy. Ineffective movement patterns can create an environment where the ground wins. You see all too often with athletes, active people and non-active people, where the ground wins. How do you know the ground is winning? Stress fractures, overuse knee syndromes, foot dysfunction, non-contact knee and ankle ligament injuries, among other things. Being able to efficiently absorb force and generate force from the ground is fundamental to efficient movement.
The second way movement is disrupted is by Gravity. This may not make sense to you because gravity is always there. But, Gravity will win if we let it. Our body has what I like to call anti-gravity musculature. This group of muscles’ responsibility is to keep us erect and upright. They maintain our posture and help maintain our body as a functional powerful machine. Signs that gravity is winning are poor posture, stooping over when picking things up. Gravity will treat everything the same; no body gets special treatment. Those with good posture will move much better and with greater ease than those with poor posture. That is just a simple fact.
The final way movement is disrupted is by our own body. Ever see a new born calf try to walk? It can’t get out of its own way. But, unlike humans, cows are built with an instinct to walk on the day they are born. Their body adapts quickly to this instinct, and within hours the calf is walking like a champ. Well, humans are highly adaptable too. Most everyone who lives in New England knows the story of Tedy Brushci and his stroke. He went from visual and movement impairments to playing in the NFL in less than 8 months! Now that is adaptability. But, adaptability can be good and bad. We can adapt to poor movement just as easily as we can to good moment. I am willing to bet that most people who open this post will have some recognizable tightness or weakness in their body. Those are poor adaptations. The purpose of a good strength and fitness training program is to create positive adaptations.
Yours in Strength & Health,
Athletes Equation/Fitness Equation
Jason recommends a Function Moment Screen. As he suggests, being screened and having an individualized program created just for the individual to improve moment will help him or her become more effective, move with more ease, and waste less energy.
Those who live in Southeaster Massachusetts and Rhode Island should know that Athletes Equation/Fitness Equation will be hosting a Corrective Exercise workshop on December 23rd (2012) at 1pm. This workshop will provide participants with a functional movement screening and corrective exercise plan. Cost of this program is $49 with spots being limited.
To sign up CLICK HERE.
Although this post falls in the Goalies section, I’d like every parent (and coach) of a young player to drink in what I’m about to say.
The following came by way of our Ask The Coach link up above, it’s about an 8-year old netminder, and I think my answers might ultimately provide some good food for thought for folks involved with any hockey playing position.
– Dennis Chighisola
Help for an Overwhelmed Young Hockey Goalie
Let me begin with some of the highlights from Todd J’s email…
“My question is regarding my son… he is 8 years old and plays goalie on a Novice team (this is his second year as a novice goalie).
He has amazing reflexes, and from day one has re-directed pucks and made blocker and glove saves. He will take a puck in the mask, chest, legs, and not flinch a bit, but much to mine and his coaches dismay he will not ‘drop down’ or ‘butterfly’ to make saves, and rarely does so after he blocks a shot.
His team this year has several new to hockey players and it has been hard to watch him getting lit up. His last game was really tough, over 30 SOG, and the mercy rule kept the score board from showing the score, but after the first period it was 12-0. Bless his heart he stood in goal for the whole three periods and did make some great saves, but the fact he rarely drops to cover the puck = rebounds and the fact no one was there to clear the pucks allowed many 2nd, 3rd, and 4th shots, which of course usually means goals.
After the game, their coach kinda let into them a little, as they were standing around a lot and not moving. He told them they are better than what they played out there today. He also told my son he really has to do better and start covering the pucks. A point he makes clear… during the games! I am afraid my son has ‘shut down’ and is now going through the motions just because he has to. I told him after that last game I was really proud of him and it took a lot guts and heart to hang in there and not to quit. I told him I didn’t care, win or lose, as long as he tries and gives 100% that’s what’s important. I told him winning is awesome but we can learn more sometimes from losing, he seemed to take all this in stride, but after all he is only 8 years old!
In his defense, our association places much more emphasis on offense and scoring… Practices usually consist of 15-20 minuets of skating drills, followed by some sort of development drills, and usually the last 15 minuets or so of the hour long practice is spent scrimmaging. There is no designated goalie coach or anything like that. Sometimes the goalies will get some one on one with one of the coaches, but no real technique training or basic skills instruction. Often the goalies are just cannon fodder for drills and such. I don’t want to ‘coach from the stands’ as I don’t skate or play myself, but it is frustrating to see him becoming more and discouraged without being shown the basics that might help him succeed.
What can I do to help my son?”
Well, Todd, while our CoachChic.com goalie coach — our own Todd J — is off with his Junior team right now, I’m going to ask him if he might take a few secs to comment from his perspective (I already suspect he’s going to have a heart attack reading some of the above). In the meantime, I’ll be offering my own opinions as somewhat of a long time movement specialist and head hockey coach at numerous levels…
Before getting underway, I’ll say that it’s hard to totally criticize a young goaltender who spends a great deal of the time on his or her feet. My old friend, Joe Bertagna, a noted goalie expert, used to begin every seminar lecture on the position by suggesting that (I paraphrase), “The ideal netminder is the one seen on the table hockey game — you know, the one that is frozen in an upright position and just slides back and forth.” ;)
I will suggest that the game — and the position — has changed a lot in recent years, with top flight goalers using variations of the butterfly style, laying the stick down across the ice, and doing whatever else it takes to stop shots that are on or near the ice.
Personally, however, I’m thinking that there are points in a young goalie’s development whereby his or her body does or doesn’t cover a lot of space while down in a butterfly posture. In other words, I’m not sure a little one’s legs span very far across the crease, nor can the smaller youngster reach the net’s upper corners with the mitt or the blocker. Again, though, that is purely my thinking on the topic. Moreover, I’m not suggesting young goalies shouldn’t play the butterfly style; I’m only offering that it might be more effective when their bigger bodies help cover more net.
Looking at things initially with my movements hat on, Todd, something doesn’t quite make sense as I read the first few paragraphs of your email. I mean, it doesn’t quite fit — that your son has great reflexes, and that he often handles shot after shot, but then he doesn’t react downward to handle pucks that need to be covered. ???
In yet another aside, Todd Jacobson and I have had conversations over recent years concerning first shots and successive ones. And, not wanting to put words into Todd’s mouth, I say that the first shot is all about technique — like having the right posture, getting on the proper angle, and thus covering as much net as possible. With that, I’m thinking more and more that stops of a second and third and (God forbid) fourth shot become more and more about athleticism, reactions, and maybe even instincts. Can movements from one posture to the next and the next be practiced and perfected? Absolutely. However, I still say that those just noted three qualities play huge parts in a goaler making the follow up saves.
Now, being about 2000-miles away from you guys, Todd, I’m wondering three things, each of these at least possibly contributing to your son’s unwillingness (or even fear) of moving up and down:
1) What’s the chance that your son is still wearing “skater’s skates”? The rounded blades on those kinds of skates serve an important purpose to forwards and defensemen, but they can make it very difficult for a youngster to perform typical goaltending moves. I even think a few falls with the rockered blades could discourage a kid from wanting to move very much — be it sideways or up and down.
2) What’s the chance that your son is on the chunky or hefty side? For sure, I’ve seen a lot of relatively heavy young netminders really labor with getting up and down.
3) What’s the chance that your son’s skating isn’t really up to snuff? I know a lot of youngsters gravitate towards what they believe is the safety of the small crease area, only to — little by little, maybe — discover that their lack of skating mobility really limits the area they can cover.
Please don’t be offended by those questions, Todd. I always begin with the simplest and usually most obvious questions. So, while it’s possible I hit the nail on the head with one or even two of those, it could also be comforting to you in knowing that at least those three things are in your son’s favor. Furthermore, it may prove extremely helpful to other readers if they’re able to go through that short checklist.
Switching to my head coaching hat at this time… I think one of the things that Todd Jacobson will find frustrating is that your son’s team doesn’t have a volunteer goalie coach at every practice (as well as at the games). Just so you know, I have head coached at as many youth levels as I have where I could hire special assistants, and I don’t believe I’ve gone one season in over 40-years without having a goalie coach available for my kids. At the youth levels, I’d either find a dad who had played a little goal, or I’d find one who might be interested in just studying the position and helping my kids. At other times, I’ve found a local Midget or older goaltender who would be willing to come to our practices most every night. (A lot of guys that age just love returning to help younger players.) As Coach Jacobson would likely tell you, goaltending is a key to a team’s success, yet it’s ignored by far too many youth level teams.
By the way, Todd, I love your positive approach with your son, as well as your appreciation of his coach/es. That said, you might still have a talk with his head coach, let him know that you’re going to try to get your son some help, and that you’re hoping the coach will find a way to keep encouraging the boy until things have a chance to get better.
With that… If you could find it within your schedule and pocketbook, there is likely a good goalie coach for hire at your home rink or a neighboring one. A once per week clinic would be awesome for a young goaler, but even occasional private sessions should help.
Then, something I really want to share — with you, and with other dads who feel a little helpless (regardless of the position their son or daughter plays)… Depending on your learning preference, there are some great manuals and videos out there on teaching goalies (and other positions). For your sake, Todd, you might scout around to find something basic, or something geared to where your son is right now.
The fact that you don’t know much about the position — and the fact that you don’t skate — shouldn’t matter. I can tell by your email that you’re intelligent enough to stay ahead of an 8-year old when it comes to goaltending knowledge. And, that’s all you really have to do: read up on or study a video that gives you the info you need to help your son for where he is right now. If you think about it, that’s what any of us parents have had to do to help our kids with their schoolwork — just keeping ourselves one step ahead of the latest homework assignment. (If you’ll take a glimpse at the last photo above, it shows a high school aged goalie Todd Jacobson and I trained in our off-ice training center. Trust me, that tons of things could be done right at home with your son, especially having to do with his going down, recovering, etc. )
Although I probably don’t need to say this, a lot of coaches might joke that, “There’s nothing more dangerous than a hockey parent who knows just a little about the game.” So, those deciding now to study hockey ought to at least keep that in mind.
Lastly, I’m kinda hoping that you’ll let me know what you think on all this, Todd, and maybe even answer some of the questions I’ve posed. I’d love for members to jump in and help here, and it would also be helpful if anyone knows of a good goalie training manual or video Todd might find helpful for this stage in his son’s development. Then, as soon as I post this, I’m contacting Todd Jacobson to see if he’ll weigh in on what I believe is a very worthwhile topic.
PS: I hope those passing through don’t overlook the help provided in these 600-ish pages. Membership to CoachChic.com is about equal to the cost of one skate sharpening per month.
I just love that Cynthia introduces a new concept in this entry, this having to do with her recommending two different sized weights in the following exercise. I’m kinda hoping that skaters — and parents or coaches of skaters — will make note of this, and think about how such an idea can be incorporated in their various routines.
– Dennis Chighisola
Goalie Specific Off-ice Exercise 5
UNEVEN SINGLE LEG REVERSE FLIES
with Cynthia King
Center one foot on the flat side of a BOSU Ball. Hold 2 different weights, i.e 10 lbs in the left hand and 5 lbs in the right, and bend at the waist. Keeping the abdominals pulled in tight to protect the back and help with balance, raise the arms out to the sides in reverse fly form. Elbows will stay slightly bent.
Complete one set of 8-10 reps then switch weights to the other hand. Complete another set of 8-10 reps and then switch weights back. After this second set, switch LEGS and complete 8-10 reps, then switch hands and complete another 8-10 reps.
By using 2 different sized weights, you must use your stabilizing muscle groups to balance properly for the exercise. I suggest using this method periodically in any exercise where dumbbells are used. Always challenge your balance in some form during every workout.
I usually don’t include the following kind of conversation within the CoachChic. site, UNLESS there’s a lesson to be learned in the end. Given some time to think, however, I believe it may prove very useful to many members.
– Dennis Chighisola
Hockey — Then and Now
Ron A, a good on-line hockey friend, happened to email and ask me my impressions when it comes to comparing the professional game, from way back when to now. Actually, like a lot of folks younger than me, Dave viewed the days of Bobby Orr, Rick Middleton, Gil Perreault and Mike Bossy as the “old days” — . (Little do most folks know that my dad took me to games that featured the likes of Rocket Richard, Gordie Howie and Terry Sawchuck.)
Still, no matter when he wants to fix the time, I think Ron is right, in that there’s a huge difference between any then and now.
As an aside… I’m betting that old-timers felt that the game had changed quite a lot from Richard’s days to those of Orr, and they’d probably say that, “Guys are bigger, stronger, faster…” Bernie Geffrion had changed the game with his new-fangled slapshot back in the 50′s, yet guys like Stan Makita, Bobby Hull and Orr had brought that to a frightening science.
As yet another aside… I’d be willing to bet that the true stars of one era would most likely be stars at another point in time — given the chance to develop. And I only add that last part, because the chances to develop their unique skill sets — or to even get a look-see — would change from era to era.
One of the things that got Ron going was an article he’d read a few years back, the writer suggesting that, “…the problem with the nhl today isn’t that the talent pool is too shallow from expansion but all the players are so good and they’re skill level cancels out all the other players on the ice.” And Ron wrote that the author also added, “…that’s why there’s all the low scoring games in today’s game.”
Ron felt that the guy had a few good points, and I agree. However, do I totally agree? Hmmmmmmm…
To be honest, I sense that the differences from the 70′s to today are a lot more complicated.
I don’t watch NHL games like a fan much nowadays, although I surely do study them when I get the chance. And, going back just a few seasons, I was absolutely floored by the pace played during the Stanley Cup playoffs. I mean, watching the hometown Boston Bruins make their Cup run, I couldn’t believe the way players were coming over the boards, skating 100mph, leaving the ice after 30-ish seconds, and being replaced by another unit going just as fast and frantically. And it seemed to go on, shift after shift, from the opening face-off and into some over-times. Could guys from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s do that? I don’t think so, except if they were given certain advantages.
I mean, to my way of looking at things, players today have unbelievable advantages over guys who came before them. And that is at least partially because science has advanced so far…
For sure, higher level teams look for bigger bodies nowadays. However, teams at those levels also now have knowledgeable strength coaches on their staffs, and they know how to train players beyond those from past generations.
Higher level teams today also look for faster players. And those players can be helped to perform at even faster speeds, because of what’s known now in scientific circles.
As for that frantic pace I mentioned earlier, credit science again, to help develop players who can go like the Energizer bunny for the length of an entire game.
And don’t think that most of the above doesn’t contribute to harder hits, harder shots, quicker shots, and so many other skills being done harder or faster.
Players today have even greater advantages over guys who came before them, when it comes to technology…
In the earliest days, kids mostly learned by going to live pro games — think about that. There were sporadic games broadcast back in the 50′s and 60′s, and that picked up from the 70′s on. Going back to the early days, kids in certain pockets copied the star player on their local team, which fostered carbon copies within that area over the next generations. National broadcasts suddenly gave kids the chance to study stars from across the land. However, the arrival of cable television into most North American homes ultimately gave kids the chance to see more games — and more star players — than ever before.
Oh, and I can’t forget what home video units did for kids and coaches. I mean, kids for years have been able to play and replay fancy moves made by their favorite stars, and even youth coaches could run and rerun plays to study the X’s and O’s used by high level teams.
The Internet, of course, has been absolutely unbelievable for hockey development. Hey, consider the way you and I can communicate here on CoachChic.com. Picture also being able to plug in almost any hockey or other related term into your favorite search engine. And, my sense is that the education of hockey people is exponential here on-line, because coaches are able to broaden their understanding of the game, parents are becoming more knowledgeable, and the players quite obviously keep getting better and better.
Then, while YouTube.com is part of the Internet, I almost view that as something all unto itself. My grandson has been learning new moves for years by watching his favorite players, and I also think watching certain videos on there has helped him think the game better. My son, involved with Junior hockey, uses it as a recruiting tool at times, while I am often combing through that site for new ideas to share with you. (Just think, that some 8-year olds are able now perform some of the moves they see done by the world’s greatest players.)
Today, every pro team is connected to satellite broadcasts of all league action, which means that one team can in advance study their next opponent’s special teams, what they’re doing lately on offense, defensively, etc. I’m sure they also study rival goaltenders like Major League Baseball teams study opposition pitchers and hitters. Each NHL team has at least one assistant coach in charge of video, usually working with a specialist who deals with the very sophisticated equipment.
Now, let’s get back to the NHL and it’s talent pool…
First, players of today have to pass through all sorts of screenings — both physical and psychological. So, fewer weak sisters are wasting a team’s time, and more worthy players are climbing a team’s depth chart.
Secondly, while hockey’s highest rung might need more players because of expansion, I believe the feeder system has more than kept up. Canada continues to pump out strong players, while the US has grown from just a few hockey hotbeds to the game being played — very well — in numerous other areas. Then, of course, pro teams now have access to some very talented European players.
Lastly, let’s get back to those low scoring games…
I happen to believe that the size and wingspan of today’s players is just one thing that takes away the open space that once existed for star players. There aren’t any poor skaters in today’s game, and most players skate so fast that they close open spaces pretty quickly.
Today’s coaches are all strong tacticians, too, and I sense that they’re showing stifling defensive systems to players who can think and play their system. And, of course, I’ll point to all the areas of technology I mentioned earlier, as reasons why today’s coaches and players are able to approach the game on a totally new level.
In the end, Ron wondered if I’ve spent much time studying the pros, since I seem to concentrate mostly on coaching amateur players. True enough, Ron, that I know my calling, and I do focus most of my attention on helping younger players climb the hockey ladder. Still, I study the NHL-ers as much as I can, just so I know how to help those younger ones eventually get to the top.
Lastly, I hope my CoachChic.com member friends see a whole bunch of take-aways from the above. From my perspective, this entry is loaded with them, if member parents, coaches and players just read between the lines.
Unfortunately, the defenseman I was aiming to help with some great drills has moved on. Those things happen in Junior hockey. Nonetheless, I still want to share those with CoachChic.com members, just to keep you all ahead of the pack.
– Dennis Chighisola
Improving A Defenseman’s Point Shots
Now, just in case you think your pointmen don’t need help with their shots, think some more…
The guy I was planning on working with played Juniors for his country in the World Cup. He goes about 6′ 6″, he’s about 200-pounds, and he shoots absolute bullets. In fact, I’ve heard that he recently broke three panes of glass with that shot at the local rink.
So, how would you like that guy cranking shots for your team? Ya, I would, too, except… Maybe the fact that he broke so many sheets of glass is telling, because — for the type of cannon he has, not nearly enough of his shots get through to the net.
This aside… I recall many years ago my son coming home from a late night pickup hour, all excited that he’d finally broken a pane of glass with his shot. Yes, I say “finally”, because it ultimately came to me that every youngster longs for the day when he or she can do the things the older guys do. Both my son and my grandson went through periods when they beamed that the puck finally made a booming noise when they shot against the boards.
In an even funnier story, I remember the night my son came home just as excitedly, telling me he’d screeched a shot — evidently high and towards the glove-side — from just inside the blue line, and, “The goalie never even moved!” I tried to get more from him, but he was kinda wired. A few minutes later, though, I discovered my son didn’t even score on that shot. Still, he was repeating, time after time, “But he never even moved!”
What I’m saying is that I’m now seeing such things — like shooting for some sort of extra effect — as just a natural part of a young player’s development. Sure, we parents and coaches would like them to think about other things — maybe like placing their shots, but I’m thinking some things just need to be left alone for awhile. My guess: Those little milestones contribute greatly to a youngster’s enthusiasm, and they probably encourage the kids to practice all the more.
(If you get the sense that I’ve missed a lot of my son’s and grandson’s games over the years, it’s very sadly so. That’s one thing that really stinks about too often having coaching responsibilities elsewhere and conflicts galore.)
As for that defenseman in question, he should be beyond getting too psyched about the sound of his shots or the breaking of an occasional sheet of glass. By all rights, pro scouts should be swarming the rinks he’ll play in this winter, so it’s about time he starts showing them some results.
As far as results go, I’m talking about long shots getting through to the net. What’s the sense of having a 90-plus shot, IF it never gets there?
I am forever trying to convince attackers that the goaltender basically only needs two things: 1) sight of the puck, and 2) time to get in position. Give him those two things, and I don’t care how hard your shot is.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere within these pages about once dealing with a really head-strong blueliner. He had a good shot, but a wild one, and he was forever firing BBs up around our forwards’ ears as they attempted to screen and deflect for him. So, one day at practice, I gave him 10-pucks, I put a goalie in net, and I then asked that young guy to fire away. Ha! Zero goals! The goaler gloved a few, and he watched most of the rest sail high or way wide. I’m not sure it convinced that defenseman that he’d be better off putting shots low and into the screen, but it surely did all the other players who watched (and snickered). My point here: From anywhere outside the tops of the end face-off circles, it’s better if you’re NOT trying to score the goal yourself.
I’ll address that time and sight of the puck in another way, as well, asking my players to consider which NHL-ers accumulate the most points. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone who was invited to the hardest shot competition show in the NHL’s top ten. No, the guys near the top in scoring — while obviously having excellent shots — are usually the guys with moves, a quick trigger, and/or the ability to pounce and quickly put home rebounds.
I think I’ve also previously mentioned reading an article about the Montreal Canadiens from a decade or so ago, at a point where they were struggling with scoring production. Their coach arrived at a thought one day that his players bought into. He asked his D, just for one game, to not take any slapshots from the blue line. The result was something like 4-goals originating from shots taken from the point. We can only guess what happened… Few shots missed the net, and the ones that did make it were either screened or deflected, or jumped on as rebounds.
Okay, here’s another thing I was thinking about in reference to helping that big Junior defenseman…
In the various shooting clinics I’ve run, I’ve always noticed a bunch of less experienced kids flailing at the puck with all their might as they attempted slapshots. I’d usually stop things, and ask a decently skilled pro to demonstrate something for me. I’d ask him to just swing easily into the puck to see what happens. I’d also ask him to do something like a “sweet” motion into the puck, rather than trying to kill it. And, amazingly, the guy’s shot would still take off like a rocket. Ya, that’s because it’s the player’s coordination into the puck that gives it its force, and — as in golf, it’s more the “(stick) head speed” that causes the puck to really fly.
Lastly, I’ve found that it takes a lot of players too much time to set up to take their slapshot. The puck arrives at the point, and things begin to happen — as in a checker moving quickly to cover our guy, and the goaltender moving to get the two things he needs — sight of the puck and positioning. Fortunately, I long ago recognized that my players needed to get their shots off quicker, which caused me to create a whole bunch of drills to help them.
All that set as our backdrop, here’s what I’d have hoped to have done with that big guy…
- Before we’d even begin shooting, I wanted him to get really, really good at an agility oriented skating drill called the “2-step”. You can see an explanation and demonstration of that in my video on “29 Must-do Advanced Skating Drills“. That one is a must for advanced level players. Besides helping that D-man with his skating agility, I know it would have benefited him in his movements along the blue line. Ultimately, I’d have had him do that with a puck out and around his point position.
- I’d have reasoned something with him… “Supposing you shoot 95mph, but your location is hit-or-miss. How about shooting closer to 9omph, then, with every shot being pretty much on target?
To be honest, I don’t think a player will actually lose all that much off his shot by doing what I’m suggesting. Oh, maybe he would at the start, as I’m trying to get him into that mentality of taking “sweet shots”. But, most guys I’ve worked with get right back to their old selves after they’ve gotten the hang of shooting my way.
I’d start him almost like my beginners, using a dozen pucks, trying to take those “sweet shots” in stationary fashion against the side boards, and trying to put them all in the same low spot.
Ultimately I’d have him circle with a puck, head back towards the boards, and take that same sweet one while on the move.
- The drills I’ve designed to help quicken a player’s set up of the slapshot have them spreading 3 or 4 pucks in different patterns. (As players get fairly good at taking slapshots, it matters to them where the puck is in relationship to the skates or their body. And, frankly, it just takes some players far too long to situate themselves in a comfortable shooting position.) Here are just a few drills I would have used with that guy…
In one, I’d have had him place the pucks in a straight line coming away from the boards, with the pucks spread about 6′ apart. He’d start by firing the puck closest to the boards, and then he’d have to quickly move — backwards and with cross-over steps — to fire the next puck, the next and the next. Trust me, that in no time at all, a player gets pretty good and pretty quick at addressing the puck.
In another drill, we’d spread a batch of pucks randomly inside a blue line (there can be a goaler in the net, and this drill could include forwards in front of the net and working on their screens and deflections). On cue, my defenseman has to as quickly as possible fire three pucks spread a distance apart. In other words, go to one puck and fire, skate a bit to another and fire, and then find another in the opposite direction to fire. If the reader can visualize what’s happening, my guy has to — several times in succession, spring to a puck, get set up very quickly, and then get his shot on net.
In closing, I hope you’ll appreciate that there’s nothing all that scientific about what I’d attempt to do. For sure, I’m into the sciences, but most remedies — like these — have more to do with common sense. They’re about assessing a player’s needs and then systematically giving that player repetitive drills to cure the problems. Again, R-E-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N.
Practice designs are obviously different for every team, Mites to pros. So, while some teams might have the luxury of allowing individual players to work on their personal needs, I’ve usually found that more kids could benefit from what one kid obviously needs. So, all of my NEHI High School Prep skaters would have done the drills I’ve just described, and perhaps only the defensemen would practice some more than the forwards. My point being: The above line of thinking will work with most levels, and the drills I’ve described would benefit anyone playing in a league allowing slapshots. Given an off-ice shooting area at home, I’ll suggest that individual players could fairly quickly get pretty good at their point shots.
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.
I know I’ve dealt with this topic a number of times in the past — probably because the matter of young athletes overdoing it — with too many games or other activities — comes up too often.
Well, as many of you know, I’m into social media pretty deeply, and I also belong to a lot of LinkedIn groups that are related to my hockey coaching interests. One such group is a great place for me to discover what’s bugging youth sport parents, and it’s called the Sports Parents Network. There, parents and coaches from all sports compare notes and share pet peeves.
Ya, pet peeves…
– Dennis Chighisola
How Much Is Too Much?
Under that Sports Parents Network section lies a discussion group entitled The Benefits of Being a Multi-Sport Youth Athlete. And for my money, that’s a very worthy topic, with a very worthy premise.
Yes, as one member put it quite well, suggesting “… there is something to be said about the well rounded athlete.” Yup, there surely is, and I’ve been saying that for years. In fact, what I’ve done often is to repeat something I read awhile back, this coming from a group of experts, declaring something to the effect that, “The era of specialization was a failed experiment.”
Let me clarify that a bit… For sure, some good players came from that period of time when hockey players were sticking solely to hockey — mainly only playing that sport, and primarily only practicing that sport’s skills. But more of those players seemed robotic in their actions, and as many lacked the athleticism to maneuver their way out of trouble when trouble came.
I can only think back to my youth to recall some of the baseball stars who were often referred to as multi-tool athletes. I mean, the likes of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle could run like deer, they could make unbelievable defensive plays, they had strong throwing arms, they hit for high batting averages, and they could swing a bat with tremendous power. Of course, hockey has had it’s own mult-tool players, and I immediately think of Mario Lemeieux and Bobby Orr as two of my past favorites.
Nowadays, there are a lot of Europeans who demonstrate great athleticism on the ice, and I have a strong feeling why… Most of the European hockey playing nations — and especially the old Soviets and now the Russians — have systems in place that dictate a lot of what their developing players do and don’t do. No, the US and Canada don’t have nearly that much control or influence over their players. So, it’s up to individual households across North America to make the right choices.
Okay, now to insert what really got me going on all of this. For, when I read the following, submitted by group member, Nicholas Adams, I began to shake my head (for the umpteenth time this year)…
”I have found that parents simply sign up their kids for too many activities. I am currently coaching a High School team and just two weeks into the season we have lost players through muscle strains and back problems. The interesting pattern is that many of these players are participating in three maybe four sports throughout the year and each impacts on the other. And this is all classic over use leading to burn out.
I agree that at really young ages kids should be allowed to experiment but once they get to teens, and as a Club Soccer coach too, I would prefer that they pick their sport and stick to it. If you’re missing my practice because you have Lacrosse then my session, my team and the other players aren’t their priority, so stay away.
Suggesting that doing different sports will allow other muscles to rest seems ridiculous, kids need down time, rest is as important a part of preparation as working and by participating in so many sports at the youth age the damage is being done for later life.
The demand on kids to participate in sports is a little maniacal and often it’s down to the parents placing unrealistic demands on them. I agree that at the younger ages they should just play but by thirteen, fourteen you need to make a decision and make sure that the child is part of that decision.”
Phew! I’d say Nicholas nailed that one. Still, let me echo some of what he said, plus add a little bit.
First, it bothers me greatly when folks (in this case mostly hockey parents) hear a little bit of information and then become dangerous. Man, have I seen it — in the stands and on the fringes of a lockerroom before and after a games. One dad says to another, “I heard that if your kid does such-and-such…” And out of the corner of my eye I can see the other dad nodding enthusiastically.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrr… It doesn’t matter whether there’s any scientific validity to what was said, but we can be sure it’s going to get acted upon, and probably even shared with more hockey parents. And before you know it, there starts another one of those wives tales that guys like Nicholas and I will battle for years.
Okay, so what’s the real scoop?
Well, as was suggested early-on, it surely is beneficial for players — in all sports — to work on their overall athleticism. And, I (and all the scientists) will tell you that the earlier the better. As a matter of fact, I have a feeling some hockey parents are pretty shocked when they see my two-part video series on Critical Periods in Motor Learning. I mean, while I’m not sure there’s real proof yet that the learning of some skills begins in the womb, the scientists I quote in the first video suggest that the motor pathways between the brain and muscles must be developed very early if they’re ever going to develop at all. (Here in my country, USA Hockey has begun pushing for emphasis on skills for their member players’ earliest years.)
Research seems to point to the chance for humans to develop most basic athletic qualities between birth and about 6-yeas old. For sure, some other athletic qualities can continue to be enhanced for some years beyond. However, it seems that most scientists are in agreement that the die is basically cast by about puberty. In other words, the athlete is what he or she is by his or her early teens.
Just so you know, I don’t abandon helping my older hockey players or students when it comes to their individual skills. At the same time, I do spend more time helping them do what they do faster, harder and longer. Again, it’s unlikely I’m going to change a player’s skating style a lot, and I’m probably not going to suddenly turn a player with hands of stone into a stickhandling magician.
Then, this suspicion… I have encouraged young players to play several sports for more than just physical gains. For, it’s my feeling that the learning of the rules and stategies necessary to other sports makes them better thinkers or problem solvers — in hockey as well as in their other sports.
All that said, how about Nicholas’ plaint?
If parents (who really do make the decisions in each household) want their youngsters to be well rounded, the time to do that is prior to puberty. I’d even keep a youngster playing another sport or two through the years in junior high school, partly for the physical and mental benefits as described above, but also to act as mental breaks from their primary sport. (As I’m known to say often, I’d even tire of my favorite food — lobster, if I had it every day.)
Getting closer to Nicholas’ concerns, I would not complicate a young teen’s life by having him or her play two different sports in the same season. In fact, I think a lot of athletes have all they can do to keep one high school sport commitment.
Oh, boy… Nicholas really struck a chord with me when he mentioned the need for rest, because to see parents ignore that truly drives me crazy. Just from a physical standpoint, please consider this…
A given muscle basically needs three things to grow.
First, it must be taxed to the point where its cells are broken down. From there, the human body has a remarkable ability to understand the challenge that caused that to happen, and it goes about building new cells capable of matching the new demands. (The new cells will quite often be bigger and/or more energy efficient.)
I think most parents appreciate that proper nutrition — like the right foods and water — is required to feed the new cells as they attempt to grow.
The third part of this equation is the one that seems to give so many parents and some young athletes the most trouble. For, rest is absolutely necessary in order for those new cells to grow. Experienced weightlifters know this, so they usually give the recently over-taxed muscles anywhere from 48- to 72-hours to rest. (What some young athletes do wrongly is to break down their muscle cells, and then go right back to breaking them down again, hardly ever giving them a chance to grow anew.)
Then, while it would probably be hard to scientifically prove it, I’m with Nicholas when it comes to the possibility of injuries occurring when one plays more than a single sport in a season. I don’t know if the conflict in muscles used would cause that to happen, but I can almost guarantee that being over tired can.
Lastly, I’ll add something else I’ve observed after lots and lots of years with readying players for their high school hockey seasons… I’ve seen kids have great success in our sport by not playing a different fall sport, but playing a spring (and even summer) sport. In most instances, a short pre-season is all that’s needed to get a baseball player, lacrosse player or track athlete ready to compete. On the other hand, I’ve found hockey players having a difficult time trying to move from a fall sport without skating and handling a puck for several months. Those are just my own personal observations, though.
Then, let me add one final thought, and something else I’ve been saying for a good many years… For sure, youngsters need lots of work in order to become good — at anything. The problem I see in this is that there’s a very, very delicate balance required between getting enough work and getting too much. That’s one reason I advise parents to (quietly) monitor their own, constantly watching for tell-tale signs that the youngster might be tiring, either physically or mentally. And, even though I strongly believe in athletes working, I’ve learned to err on the side of caution. Actually, I’m also known to once in awhile say, “Heck, let’s go fishing!” I’ve seen the new-found enthusiasm from a short mental break having most athletes coming back like gangbusters.
As I began transitioning from my coaching duties up in Massachusetts to those involved with my new job down in Florida, I’d promised that not much would change in the advice I’d offer members. For sure, I’m working mostly with fairly high level guys now, as the GM and head coach of a Junior “A” team. Still, what I’ll often be sharing here should be helpful to players, parents and coaches involved in all stages of our game. See if you don’t agree when it comes to the following topic.
– Dennis Chighisola
Is Hockey A Simple Game?
As I thought about the current title, I couldn’t help but reflect back on a conversation of about 30-years ago. I’d just returned from my studies in the former Soviet Union, and a crusty old coach and hockey dad was seemingly needling me — or perhaps trying to make himself feel good by putting me down. I don’t think he’d ever opened a hockey textbook or studied anywhere, so it made sense that he’d say something to the effect that, “Hockey is a simple game, and some of you coaches just complicate it!” Hmmmmmm…
Of course, I usually enjoy a good philosophical discussion, and I’m never shy about defending my personal feelings on anything that matters to me. At the same time, I’ll often — as I did then — avoid arguing with a fool.
Had I not been dealing with someone of that ilk back then, I would have tried reasoning with him… For sure, the game’s objectives are easy enough, with a given hockey team attempting to score more goals than it allows. On the other hand, strategies and tactics have evolved to be pretty sophisticated, and so has the science of training. In fact, I’ve seen lots of players injured — or badly inhibited in their development — because certain scientific principles weren’t adhered to. And that kind of explains that guy’s stance, in that he wanted to just open and close a bench door, yell at his players about not scoring or giving up too many goals, without ever having to know how to truly help his kids.
That said, something far different caused me to revisit the question at hand… For, you see, today I spent some time at my new home rink here in Florida, working with a few local Bantams amid several members of our new Tropical Elite Hockey League. And it wasn’t too long into our on-ice session that I started thinking…
- I began with a little work on the players’ wrist shots, which only proved to me that those kids can’t shoot. (Don’t get me wrong, or think badly of that small group of kids. The fact is, they shoot as well — or as badly — as most other kids their ages.) The prescription seems simple enough, in that these kids just need to get a few thousand more shots under their belts.
- We spent the remainder of our time on-ice doing different variations of a passing drill that just further exposed a lot of deficiencies. Once again, the small group of kids I worked with were in the norm for their ages, meaning that they needed a ton of work on both their passing and their receiving skills. So does the cure for this one seem pretty simple, to include my Silent Passing drill and other ideas I’ve outlined in my video on “Passing Basics“.
Okay, so how about some information you can use?
- I frequently feel the need to shape a player’s (or players’) thinking when trying to start positive changes, and that’s exactly what I did when we got into the first shooting drills. I advised those young guys that goalers tend to look for a cue as they anticipate a shot, and that the best scorers put shots on-goal without any warning. With that, I had the kids practice shooting while balancing on one foot for a time, then shooting while balanced on the other. (The idea is to get them comfortable at ripping their shots from any posture.)
- The earliest shooting drills were done in place while firing against the boards. No real problems there. However, as soon as the guys started moving on a goaltender, I noticed them holding back or not really balancing on one skate at a time. I immediately halted the drill, and explained how the best players I’d ever worked with — and especially the ones who passed others and went on to the NHL and other pro levels — dared to try new things, and they even had the ability to laugh at themselves as they failed a few times. Oftentimes we have to convince kids that it’s not important to look good in practice, and that it’s actually okay to make lots of mistakes on their way to conquering a new skill. I also added, “Hey, you’re amongst friends here, so don’t be shy, and don’t be afraid to fail once in awhile.”
- When it came time to do our passing, all the basic problems jumped right out. However, I especially took the time to convince that group of guys about the benefits of making themselves easy targets for teammates to hit. I mean, moving through predictable routes while keeping a steady stick-target makes it super-easy for a teammate to feed you the puck.
- I also had to stress to those young guys the need to put a pass right where their teammate wants it. As a matter of fact, on one attack play, an open man went to the net with a steady target, stick cocked and ready to fire as soon as he received a pass. The problem: the guy with the puck passed it about 4′ off target, and any chance at a goal ended right there. Once again I stopped things, and explained that hitting or not hitting the target was most often the difference between scoring and not scoring.
Now, reflecting on today’s short session, I pretty much know that I’m going to begin with the absolute basics once my Junior “A” team gathers for it’s first workouts. I’m not leaving anything to chance, and I’m going to make sure I don’t skip a single step in any of the skill progressions. To be honest, I wouldn’t skip steps if I was greeting an NHL squad this coming fall, so I’m not going to do it with Junior players. In fact, I’ll suggest that no lower level youth hockey coach or parent move on to more advanced steps until they’re absolutely sure the basics have been mastered.
Then, just to make sure I’m answering the topic question… For sure, a know the sciences and I know some pretty advanced level X’s and O’s. At the same time — and as you may have noticed above, the answer to having a team (or individual) execute at a high level generally calls for some very simple remedies or explanations.
Goalie Specific Off-ice Exercise 4
BOSU BALL, STABILITY BALL PUSH UP WITH AB CURL
with Cynthia King
This exercise will definitely engage those core muscle groups! You will need a BOSU ball and a stability ball.
Grasp the sides of the BOSU ball — there is a bit of a handle on each side. Situate the stability ball under your shins. The closer the stability ball is to your knees, the easier. Make it more difficult by placing the ball back towards feet.
You should begin with your body elongated. Do a push up then pull in stability ball so that your knees are near your chest. Roll stability ball back to starting position and repeat push up. Continue your push ups and curls until failure.
It may take a few times to steady yourself, but keep at it. You will master the move in no time!
I received another great question via Facebook earlier today. And, since it seemed something worthy of sharing with other parents and coaches of very young kids, I asked my friend if he minded me sharing it with my faithful CoachChic.com members. (Of course he didn’t mind!)
Surprisingly, perhaps, you’re going to find me thinking out loud some here, as I also include a few pretty good suggestions for helping a little one with his or her hockey shot.
– Dennis Chighisola
Teaching the Beginner Hockey Player to Shoot
Let me begin by showing what I received from my friend, Joe P…
My oldest is 5.5yo, and transitioning from learn-to-skate to learn-to-play. He has the hockey bug something fierce! Anyways, he skated with the LTP kids the last few weeks of this past season and what I noticed was how good some of their shots were. Just curious if you have tips on teaching a young kid how to shoot. I have a shooting pad in the basement and he loves going down there with me, I just need help on how to teach him. I played for 20+ years but have never coached.
I’m going to begin by saying, “Been there, done that!” And, once I explain myself, you’re going to admit that you have, too!
What I’m getting at is that we’ve all looked at our youngster and wondered why some kids are able to do things our own can’t — personally, I’m thinking back to when my son was also maybe 4- or 5-years old. It’s just a natural thing (isn’t it?), and something I believe we all go through as hockey dads (or moms).
That said, I probably need to suggest that my friend Joe relax a little (if I was talking to a younger Coach Chic, I’d probably tell him to, “Take a dawgone pill!” ). The problem: our own youngster just doesn’t have the experience or the time on the ice that all of the more noticeable kids have had. That’s really it, plain and simple.
The second thing I’d do here is refer Joe and all others dealing with beginners to read Coach Chic’s Building Blocks Approach to Skills.
Just to give you a quick review of it, though, I suggest that the more advanced skills should be built upon the more basic ones. That in mind, I put Skating at the base of the skills pyramid, and then I suggest that Puckhandling comes next. Those two skills in place, a youngster can be both a better passer and pass receiver. Then, being able to skate, handle the puck well, and sweep pretty effective passes, it’s easier for a youngster to attack a goal with either a deke or a shot.
Now, I’m not saying that Joe’s little guy has to wait until he’s mastered all those steps before he’ll be able to shoot a puck. What I am saying, however, is that he’ll shoot better and better as he improves his stickhandling and passing skills. Make sense?
Consequently, I suggest that Joe have his son fiddle with a ball a lot, because that’s going to give the youngster a better “feel” for his stick-blade. And, a little diddling with a puck will give him better feel for that. What I’m especially getting at is a sense of sliding the ball or puck away, and then softly cradling it on each catch. For, that kinda “cupping” of the puck is the start of a good shooting motion.
I’d then approach the passing segment in two phases…
In one, dad and the little guy can just slide a ball or puck back and forth at a fairly close distance. Again, feel is important — and that’s going to be gained with every pass and catch. Learning to sweep instead of wildly whacking at the ball or puck is what I’d also like to see take place.
Then, let me explain the best of all my passing and shooting drills for young players… For a 5-year old, I’d grab a 2.5 pound metal weight from the local sportinggoods store (use a plastic weight on the ice). With that, Joe can show his boy how to sweep the weight down the driveway (or other paved area) for a pretty good distance. In other words, Joe’s son can do this on this own, sliding the weight as far as he can, and then walking down to its landing spot to just fire it back to the starting point. Over time, Joe can teach him how to cup the weight, and then roll it down the stick-blade from near the heel to it’s mid-point. That creates a visible spin of the weight (and later the puck), so that it remains flat as it travels.
Hoping my later suggestions help, I still feel the need to return to my earliest point, in that we’re all going to constantly see other kids doing things we wish our own could do. It’s all natural, really, for a hockey parent and a young player. All kinds of old adages apply here (“Rome wasn’t built in a day” comes to mind), but patience is what I’m really recommending. I’m actually kind of envying Joe here, and really missing the days when my own son — and later my grandson — needed that kind of help with their game. In other words, while it’s right to want to help our youngsters over given hurdles, don’t be wishing too hard that they get beyond the beginner stages. You’re going to someday miss those times, as I do now.
Long-time members know I see at least part of my job as keeping abreast of the very latest in scientific training techniques. Yes, things change rapidly when it comes to that area, and new ideas for things like strength, agility and speed training are always coming along.
With that, let’s take a look at the very latest when it comes to weightlifting technique.
– Dennis Chighisola
Should You Lift Weights Fast or Slow?
Younger members might find it amusing that this question arose often enough when I started lifting — back in the early 1960′s. And, I’ve seen the argument continue right up to the present.
If anything has changed in recent years, I think it’s that an athlete’s primary sport is taken into consideration — for a lot of things. For sure, some forms of training might be treated in a generic way — like one size fits all. More often, however, serious consideration is given to whether a given athlete needs to prep for an explosive sport, or one that requires explosive speed. (If you search back through this Strength Training for Ice Hockey Players section, you’ll see that Scott Umberger and I put you on the cutting edge when it comes to stretching for hockey, warning you to discontinue doing static stretches prior to practices and games, and to instead do a dynamic stretching routine.)
Okay, so I’m sure you’ll agree that our sport calls for explosive movements — or explosive speed. So, let’s have a look at a few excerpts I recently found in Status Fitness Magazine:
“As long as you are lifting weights that are heavy enough to make your muscles burn and tear, your muscle fibres will be broken down creating a soreness. When this occurs regardless whether you are lifting slowly or quickly, you are effectively training your muscles.
As Cynthia King’s third entry came in today, I’m awaiting word on getting back into a high level of hockey coaching. Not that every coaching assignment I’ve ever had hasn’t been important; it’s just that this one might return me to coaching some older, higher level players.
Anyway, while the kind of stuff Cynthia proposes is right for all ages, perhaps it’s even more appropriate for those goalies who are extra competitive, and motivated to play at higher levels.
With that, here’s yet another in her series of outstanding off-ice, off-season exercises for goaltenders.
– Dennis Chighisola
Goalie Specific Off-ice Exercise 3
BOSU BALL SINGLE LEG DEAD LIFTS
with Cynthia King
BOSU balls are perfect for balance and stability exercises. Although I use them for goalies, I suggest all players incorporate them into their workout for engaging the stabilizing muscles.
Stand on one foot in center of inverted BOSU (flat sided surface). Make sure foot is centered. Holding a medicine ball, bend at the waist and slowly lower ball along base leg to foot. Raise back leg as you lower medicine ball. Return to a standing position, only touching back toe to BOSUl. Incorporate the hamstring of base leg as you rise to starting position. For added stretching, wrap a resistance band around back foot and hold taunt the entire set. Make sure to breathe and hold in the abs. This will help with stability. Make movements slow and controlled.
Here’s yet another in Cynthia King’s awesome monthly series on off-season, off-ice training for goaltenders. Enjoy!
– Dennis Chighisola
Goalie Specific Off-ice Exercise 2
BOSU Balls for Goaltenders
With Cynthia King
I love BOSU balls. They really force you to use your stabilizers and core muscle groups. Balance will be greatly improved.
Place 2 BOSU balls, flat side down, next to each other. Stand in the center of each one. Hold one kettlebell (lighter weight than you would use if standing on ground) in both hands. Keeping your upper body upright, lower into the squat position.
The swing will start low, between the legs at the squat. As you rise to standing position, swing bell to shoulder height. Make sure to hold in abs. You will notice your inner thighs engaging as you hold BOSUs together.
If you do not have BOSUs or a kettlebell, hold a dumbbell and stand on your toes as you squat and swing. The idea is to use your stabilizers, core and inner thighs as you control your swing
It’s possible you’re heard or read about the recent studies — and concerns that — players born in the first few months of any given USA Hockey (and other federation) age groups have quite an advantage. If you haven’t, though, please have a listen to the second point of the three described in the following video. That done, I’ll share a few of my thoughts.
– Dennis Chighisola
Effects of Birth Dates on Hockey Success
If anyone is scratching their head about that one, let me say what that brilliant guy said, but in terms we grassroots hockey folks deal with every day…
Starting right from the earliest tryouts, coaches of the better teams in each organization obviously pick what they perceive as the most talented kids they can find. Malcolm Gladwell defines them as the biggest, but I’m going to suggest that they are also the most mentally mature of the group. In other words, it’s likely that the light comes on a little sooner for the slightly older kids, so they tend to grasp instruction and concepts better than their younger counterparts. If we’re talking about kids up through 7- or 8-years old, appreciate that a few months difference in age is really quite a lot.
Anyway, next picture that those slightly more advanced kids get placed on a better team, and they more often than not also reap the benefits of a better coach (I mean, usually A Team coaches are more experienced than those handed the reins of a C Team).
Over the course of one season can mean quite a difference in development. However, envision that the same thing tends to happen, season after season, with the only slightly older or slightly sharper kids getting the best of practices, games and so much more.
I have to chuckle a little, in that I arrived at the answer to the problem before Gladwell mentioned it… Yes, a wise hockey federation would create a two-tiered system within each age group, so that kids born in the second half of each year would have as good a chance at developing. For example…
Majors – those born between January and June
Minors – those born between July and December
What they’d call those different age groups could be different — it’s unimportant. But, a country might just reap all the more talented players by bringing them along through such a split.
As I was putting the final touches on this article, and readying to publish it, something struck me. I don’t think the above described two-tiered system would have to go all the way up through youth hockey. No, because I have a sense that most of the damage is done — and it could be undone — in the ages from Mites through about Pee Wees. So, that’s what I’d suggest: splitting the ages through the early years, and then going with traditional setups from Bantams on upward.
Of course, the big problem with huge organizations is that they are usually extremely slow afoot. In other words, I can’t picture federations the size of USA Hockey or Hockey Canada making such changes without a decade of discussions.
Maybe something like that would be better taken on by another (AAU?) or new organization? I mean, it seems to me that just changing their birth date requirements — to start each group with July 1 birth dates — might steal half the players from the established federation.
Okay, short of all that, what might you do as the parent of a youngster who was born in the second half of the year?
First, it’s probably helpful just to understand the circumstances described above.
Secondly — at least if you live in the US, where high school hockey is big…
My son was born in May, so he never had a problem in that regard.
My grandson, on the other hand, was born in late July. Actually, perhaps due to some good behind the scenes training, he always seemed to do very well within his hockey and baseball age groups. Where he struggled was in elementary school, mainly because he was always the youngest in his class. So, as he moved to middle school, we moved him to a Catholic school and also had him repeat the 5th grade. It took some time for him to make the transition from a public education to the private one, but from high school through college he has never failed to make the honor roll or dean’s list. As for sports, that was a huge bonus. Once he moved from the USA Hockey date-of-birth system to being one of the oldest in his school grade, he’s gained the benefits of being comparatively physically and mentally mature.
No matter, or whether you need to dwell very much on all the above… What I do like to do, is be sure my CoachChic.com members are at least aware of these kinds of things.
It was probably about 30 or more years ago when I was sitting in on a meeting with the higher-ups to the forerunner of Massachusetts Hockey. We were laying the groundwork for some state-wide coaching programs, as well as developing the script for a video to be made available to all area youth hockey coaches.
To be honest, I can’t recall what caused me to turn some heads with a long time observation, but I think it was in answer to, “Anything else we might include in the lesson plans?”
What caused others in our small group to snap around was my want to warn youth coaches that, “Most drills help one area while causing a problem in another.”
– Dennis Chighisola
Hockey Drills Bring Both Good and Bad
My decade or so in coaching caused me to know that to be true back then, and the many years ’til now just convince me all the more. Yes, it’s true, that almost every drill we ever use brings about some positive results, while also causing our players to practice something we’d prefer not to introduce.
Want a great example of what I’m talking about?
We all have our players do a ton of drills that call for them to attack a defender and/or attack the net (aren’t there a thousand or more of these kinds of drills out there?). The problem arises when the drill seemingly ends, with the attacker turning off towards a corner to return to his or her line. And, you know that turning away from the net is not exactly what you’d like him or her to do in a game.
Recognizing that many years ago, I created another step to such drills, by having an assistant coach immediately toss a loose puck in the crease, so that our attackers could get used to stopping and going for a rebound.
Still, the drill has to end at some point, which calls for the attacker to ultimately relax and return to line. Some “flow drills” have players attacking, quickly defending, doing something else, whatever. However, in the end, everyone does eventually turn from the play and return to line. :/
Now, the above might suggest that the good and bad influences of drills only occur when we’re doing things like match ups, or attacking and defending drills. Not so, though…
The same can be said about skills work, and especially about cross-training. In fact, if you ever take advantage of my free video series, “You Don’t Need Ice!”, I spend a little time explaining how I happen to deal with that. Actually, I speak there in reference to the Theory of the Transfer of Skills, which governs when slightly related exercises or skill drills transfer either positively or negatively to our main sport.
I do plan to comment more on the latter in a few secs. However, I’d like you to view the following video as kinda of a backdrop to my later comments. If you would, keep an eye on the little goaltender who is playing in a 3 on 3 small game…Loading...
Okay, what YOU probably saw was an undisciplined little netminder, roaming far from his crease, flopping and diving around, and sometimes seeming rather lazy when shots weren’t imminent. I took that video because that’s what all of us would see — from the exterior.
A year or so ago, I went back and forth with a CoachChic.com member about his little guy, also a young goalie who was at the time playing in a 3 on 3 league in the UK. The dad’s concern had to do with water breaks, because he found the pace of an almost non-stop small game pretty demanding for the one player on each team who doesn’t get to leave the ice. (We discussed attaching a waterbottle to the net for quick sips when the boy could grab them.)
My point here, however, is to let you know what a goaler goes through in such a game, and to suggest that the sometimes laziness we see in the video is totally understandable.
Getting back to the main premise — about what’s really happening in the video…
The reason I took those clips is because of what I was really seeing. I mean, I witnessed that little guy performing a lot of really athletic movements that he wouldn’t ordinarily try in a league game. And, just so you know, he was arguably the best goalie in our AA Mite league last season, and he’s more recently been promoted to the Elite team at the Mite level. So, he does play with decent discipline, while also daring to come out for loose pucks, and he’ll even dare to make passes up-ice to open teammates.
Where did all that daring come from? I’ll suggest that it stems from three things: 1) the boy participates as a skater in two weekly skills sessions, 2) he’s a smiling but daring personality who takes to physical challenges, and 3) he seems to practice his athleticism in those weekly 3 on 3 games.
Now, for my personal take on all the above, or the fact that drills tend to bring with them both good and not so good results…
In my estimation, it’s often worth it to allow some negative things to transfer into a youngster’s game, so long as there are more positives coming along with it. That’s how I felt about my little goalie, and it’s also how I feel about teach younger players to body-check and take slapshots — at the expense of occasionally taking a penalty or losing a goal. Personally, I care more about long term development than I do any one game right now.
And I think the same can be said about a given match up drill and some forms of cross-training. As that free video series points out, we should be able to live with a little negative influence, as long as there’s plenty of positives going on.
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
As promised in her introductory article in February, Cynthia King now kicks-off a once monthly entry of goalie specific off-ice exercises anyone should be able to do at home.
Actually, I’m thinking just how lucky we are right now, in that these exercises come just as most goaltenders are finishing their hockey seasons and looking for new ideas to ready them for next fall. For sure, these exercises are going to ultimately give goalers of all ages the basis for an awesome off-season routine, and I’ll further suggest that these exercises could be used right through next season and for many seasons to come.
Oh, and if you missed Cynthia’s opening article, I highly recommend you give it a read: “Goalie Off-ice Training (from an unlikely source)!“
– Dennis Chighisola
Goalie Specific Off-ice Exercise 1
By Cynthia King
One of my favorite goalie specific exercises is the Medicine Ball V’s. This will target the lower back, glutes, inner thighs, obliques, shoulders and stabilizing muscles. You will need a mat and a weighted medicine ball (although a dumbbell will also work).
Use the weight of your choice for the medicine ball, or no ball for beginners. Place the ball at the top of your mat. Position yourself about halfway down the mat with your knees the width of the mat. For the most benefit, lift your toes off the mat so that your stabilizing muscles really participate. For beginners, rest toes on the mat.
Bend over as low as you can and hold the ball in both hands, arms outstretched. Deeply bend to the left and tap the ball, rising only high enough to make the movement. Keep knees stable and hips squared and facing forward at all times. Move back to the center (at the top of the mat) and tap, then to the right and tap. Continue back to the center, left, center, right, center, etc. This forms the “V”.
Make sure that you hold in the abdominals at all times. This will help strengthen the core. It is very easy to protrude the abs. Remember that they are muscles and can be trained in a direction we do not want. Never relax them.
I created this exercise with the lower back in mind. However, I quickly found many muscles engaged. MOVEMENTS SHOULD BE CONTROLLED! FORM IS CRITICAL!
- CHALLENGE MOVE : Take knees out farther than width of mat
- CHALLENGE MOVE : After center tap, rise upright and back down, then continue V
Although I did develop this for goalies, I believe that skaters benefit as well. Lower back and core are important to everyone.
Wishing y’all a healthy, successful season!
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
In most instances, we use that expression — “out of the mouths of babes”– in reference to young kids saying the darnedest things. In this case, however, the enclosed video was sent me by an adult lady friend I’ve met through Facebook. Much like we’d envision young kids, however, my friend is purely a casual hockey fan, but, as you’ll discover, a pretty insightful one.
With that, she’s going to help me reinforce a couple of principles I’ve stated over and over again within these pages.
– Dennis Chighisola
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Our Facebook dialogue began with my friend asking me if I’d seen the penaltyshot goal scored by a member of her favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens. No, I hadn’t caught Lars Eller’s sensational move, but CoachChic.com members have to know that I’m always dying to see any kind of new and exciting offensive play.
Once you watch this video, we’re going to discuss it on two levels — one from a quick philosophical perspective, and the other from a fairly close look at what really went into Eller’s play working. (Oh, as my lady friend said, “Look at this shot… amazing !!!!”)
Okay, so here’s where that “out of the mouths of babes” thing comes into play. For, my friend followed the sending of that video with the observation that, “…that is exactly what the HABS need… there’s not enough of twist like that with the hockey stick.” Ya, her terminology isn’t quite the same as we’d use to describe the move — or the difference in Eller’s approach to many other players. But, at the same time, I think you’re sensing exactly what she was trying to say.
Actually, she attempted to explain herself a little better moments later, adding, “Meaning that players get lazy and don’t try new techniques.”
Okay, so Dennis is going to try to interpret his friend’s observations in his own way, but repeating something I’ve stated countless times within CoachChic.com, in that great offensive players seem to have a certain “mentality” that causes them to try numerous wild tricks in practice, and then dare to try those things in the heat of battle. So, while the young lady may have been wrong to call ordinary players lazy, she was right-on to suggest that they don’t seem to dare to try new techniques.
By the way… In the promotion of my “Incredible Stickhandling” video, I make the point that I truly believe a stickhandler’s mentality can be encouraged. And to my way of thinking, fast acting balls combined with some nifty moves can get those kinds of juices flowing.
Now, with that hopefully established, I’d like you to review that video another time or two. This time, though, look for something else I often talk about when it comes to finishing a great puckhandling move. For, I firmly believe that the final move — in this case, Eller’s spin and tuck of the puck into the net — wouldn’t have worked unless he caused the goaltender to move in a certain way. (Go ahead, watch the video again to see what I’m talking about.)
Having watched that a number of times myself, I’d have to say that Eller’s sweeping across the ice (from right to left) caused the goaltender to start moving with him. And Eller’s quick fake forehand shot just before spinning back also contributed to the goaler somewhat freezing.
Truthfully, I’m not in favor of players moving too much laterally on breakaways, shootouts or penaltyshots, because the best place for an attacker to be is the middle of the ice. Moreover, from that position, the attacker can move his hands (and the puck) faster and over a greater distance than moving his entire body.
Anyway, my real point here is that hardly any move is going to work without an outstanding set up or deke. Again, the attacker has to make a defender or goaltender do one thing — or truly believe his fake — in order for the next move to work.
This pretty good question arrived about a week ago. But, like a lot of other ones that require a great deal of thought, I’ve just sat and stared at it for days on end.
Truly, this topic might deserve a tome-sized answer some day down the road. For now, however, let me deal as best I can with a very insightful guy’s question in this relatively short post.
– Dennis Chighisola
Skating for Ice Hockey
Ron actually included a lot of questions within a larger one, so I think it best for me to at least try to answer each one at a time…
“I’m curious what your opinion is about all the hockey skating instruction on the market today. I’ve watched quite a few of the DVDs and videos on the market…including yours. You have a very simplified approach to hockey skating and as you said the rules of the game and the dimensions of the rink make hockey skating different from figure and speed skating. A lot of the other hockey skating instructors have different opinions on knee bend, arm swing, how to start, and so on.”
In all honesty, I don’t like bashing other skating instructors. At the same time, I can’t go without suggesting that most of those who run clinics or sell DVDs and videos have very little training in the sciences surrounding our game. In some instances, former figure skaters have done okay with a portion of what they teach, but they’re often missing the scientific background, and a knowledge of what I refer to as “the nature of our game” — or the challenges our players really face in the heat of battle. Of course, some have great marketing talents that get their opinions seen more than the PhDs who really know their stuff, with a lot of their methods getting so much exposure that they’re taken as gospel, whether there is any true basis to their claims or not. Then, for sure, there are those who climb down off telephone poles or slide out from automotive lube jobs to conduct so-called powerskating clinics at your local rink. Ugh. This doesn’t mean that a lot of guys and gals don’t do some good things; but it might mean that they can’t be taken too seriously when a debate arises involving skating mechanics, etc.
Al that said, one just can’t believe the naked eye — beyond a point. Instead, we have to trust what has been discovered in the lab by very qualified biomechanical (and other) specialists.
But does all this matter if you score tons of goals and win every race to the puck. I mean I watched this one russian’s hockey skating DVD and his theories on skating were much different then the other hockey skating instructors but man he was an awesome skater.
Oh, boy, does Ron have a good one there! Actually, I try to make it a very big point in my video about skating analysis, that a beautiful stride doesn’t mean a player can play the game.
If you can appreciate it, the nice stride is about having balance within the body, and thusly expending a lot less energy and covering quite a bit more ice than one who is rather out of sync. In contrast, an effective hockey player performs his or her duties in short, all-out bursts that are quite often out of balance. In other words, a player is quite often doing things like tussling along the boards with an opponent, dashing only a matter of a few steps for a loose puck, teetering off balanced and batting in a rebound.
As for that Russian skating instructor, I think I know the guy, and believe he and I have even spoken on hockey matters separate from skating technique. As Ron says, though, that guy surely can skate. Does that mean the guy can be a productive player? Absolutely not. Would his kind of skills help him be even better if he could play the game? Absolutely!
So again, skating skills — and especially proper skating mechanics — don’t necessarily mean someone can play the game.
Also, what do you think of the term “power skating” or should that term be phased out.
Once again, … My very first “clinic” was dubbed “powerskating”, only because several before me had used that term. We’re talking nearly 40-years ago, now. It wasn’t too much later, however, that I realized two things:
1) that wasn’t what I did at all — teach only skating, I mean. No, I mixed in almost an equal amount of puckhandling, and then I started to add the basics of passing, receiving and shooting. Then, even later, I incorporated a little bit of body-checking into the mix;
2) to use the word “power” in there is to suggest that that quality is more important than any others when it comes to effective hockey skating.
In summary, I believe there are a few things to consider when it comes to skating for hockey… First and foremost, we should rely on the many scientific studies that have been done on this movement (or trust me to do that for you). Next, consider how hockey skating differs from other sports, and what it’s really like for a player to deal with all the challenges within our game. Then, realize that — while skating is extremely important to hockey, it’s far from the only skill or quality that goes into the making of a solid hockey player. Lastly, while I may have expressed some negative feelings toward some so-called skating experts, I do believe that most of them do a great deal of good. Where they may overstep their bounds is in trusting too much their own observations over what’s known by true scientists.
I don’t know where or when it began, but quite a few years ago I started to realize that I can do a lot for bigger guys.
Among the players I believe I influenced quite bit were current and former hockey players, several who ultimately steered towards big-time college lacrosse, and even one humongous guy who got a shot as an NFL lineman. (Among the lacrosse players, a few of them or their dads actually told me that all the off-ice work I’d done with them was the difference in them making it.)
Little wonder I kinda smile when a parent brings a big, hulking kid to me for some quickening. And, little wonder I shook my head when Rik C recently wrote me for help with his pretty big son.
– Dennis Chighisola
Quickening A Big Hockey Player’s Feet
Let’s begin with some of Rik’s message to me, received through our Ask The Coach option up at the top of this page:
I’ve got an 18 year old that is 6’4 220. He is playing Tier 3 Jr.’s in the US. He has great hands is a 3/4 point per game player but the area of his game where he needs work is his skating…he is too upright and he doesn’t have explosive ability. Once he gets going he is fast and eats ice…as long as he keeps moving his feet. I’m hearing he should be on the Skate Speed ramp for 10 to 12 ups per session and on slide boards for about 5 reps to complete a session. My question is do you believe this will help? And how long does it take for muscle memory to take over?
Well, can my CoachChic.com friends appreciate why I shook my head and smiled as I scanned Rik’s question? Oh, I’d like it all the more if the family lived close to me, so I could make an in-person evaluation and even work with Rik’s son. However, he did an awesome job of describing the boy, and I can just see similarities in past students of mine as I read each part of that description.
With that, let me consider Rik’s real question — at the end…
I found it interesting that he described exact routines for a speed ramp device and for the use of a slideboard. The problem I see with each of those types of training, however, is that they both tend to help in an area that doesn’t seem to need all that much improvement. (After all, Rik does say that his son “… is fast and eats ice…” once he gets going.) Oh, I’m not saying that a player wouldn’t benefit from using either of those contraptions. Still, to do so right now seems to be wasting time that could be better spent doing some other things.
What I’m really hearing from Rik — and what I’ve discovered in dealing with numerous other big-bodied players — is a need to “get going” quicker.
Just as an aside here, I feel the need to introduce the distinction I make between being “fast” or “quick”… For, to me, speed — or being fast — is usually measured over a relatively long distance, perhaps like a race down the ice. On the other hand, I see quickness as being cat-like or agile, and being able to react in the blink of an eye within a few steps in either of four directions.
As yet another aside… I’ve found it interesting that over many years, most bigger or taller players do tend to skate rather upright. I haven’t a clue why this is. I will, though, try to make one suggestion below.
All that said, here’s what I would recommend for Rik’s son, as well as any other bigger players. Perhaps not so surprising, all of these recommendations are described in some detail within the CoachChic.com site…
1) Some sport psychologists have already agreed with my belief that there is a mental component to quickness. In other words, it helps greatly if an athlete first “thinks quickness”. With that, I like to have a player stand relaxed and with feet spread a bit, and then attempt to move the feet up and down as quickly as possible for about 8-seconds. The player should hardly bring the feet off the floor or ice. Sensing how that felt, I’ll ask him or her to see if he or she can do it again and feel the feet moving even faster. I’ll also often introduce the thought of running on a flaming hot surface (like a hot pavement), whereby it would hurt to leave the foot down very long. Said another way, I’d almost like to hear the feet tap lightly like a very fast drum roll.
2) Work on an agility ladder is exactly what this kind of player needs. Not only does it help enhance the above described quick feet, but it also helps quicken changes in direction (and quick take-offs).
3) Over time, rope skipping can be one of the best ways to improve footwork or foot quickness. (Just envision the way pro boxers ultimately move their feet while skipping.)
4) At 18-years old, Rik’s son should already be doing some plyometrics. The very idea of this form of training is to enhance explosiveness.
5) I usually resort to WallSits (sitting against a wall for about 20-seconds as if sitting in a chair), as well as some skating in an exaggerated sitting posture. A slideboard could also help here, if the player concentrates on that aspect of his or her posture.
As I’ve previously stated, there’s nothing wrong with the recommendations others may have made. If there’s a problem with those, the ramp device and slideboard would probably only help enhance areas Rik’s boy is already fairly good at. The ideas I’ve provided about should instead help with take-offs, and they should especially help his son to win many of the more consequential battles that take place in our game, these including quick, agile movements.
As for a timeline, I dare not guess. All I might suggest is that improvement is going to come from the above prescribed methods. And, I’ll offer, ’tis better later than never.
Hoping that helps, Rik, I also hope you’ll get back to me once you’ve had the chance to drink this all in.
PS: All the exercises I’ve described above are covered in much greater detail within this website.
I say it often enough, that I love my work in hockey, especially because of the great people it allows me to meet. Then, since the day I set foot (or fingers) onto Twitter, I’ve said pretty much the same thing: that I’ve met some remarkable people through social media.
Carole Lockwood Taylor, of Tyler, Texas, is such a find for me, a really nice lady I happened to meet through Facebook. More interesting, though, is the way Carole and I really got to know one another. More fascinating still, is her connection with our game, ice hockey.
– Dennis Chighisola
Transitioning from In-line Hockey to Ice Hockey
Over a week or so, I’d noticed that a lady named Carole had “Liked” my different Facebook posts, and she’d even made some brief comments on a few rather general observations or comments I’d made. What really got my attention, however, was the day she added her feelings on a video I’d posted, this highlighting my summertime Mite & Squirt (primarily off-ice) Hockey School. I mean, after evidently watching it, Carole said about my video message, “THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE !!!”
Huh? Why in the world would a young lady from Texas be telling me so absolutely that the principles I’d noted in the video — about how in-line skating can help hockey players — were true?
You have to know that I wrote right back to Carole and asked if she was involved in hockey, or if she was a hockey mom. And she quickly responded, “Being a former Inline Speed Skating Coach, I can tell you THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE !!!”
We went back and forth from there, and I at some point let her know that I kinda pioneered the use of in-lines for ice hockey players here in my home area, and that I’d seen the miracles those efforts had produced.
The real shocker came in a later message from Carole, however…
My son won many awards, even at Nationals, speed skating on inline skates… Then some coach called me and asked if Jeff could play on an inline hockey team… he could out skate anyone, keep his head up, and all he had to learn was the finesse of stick handling. WHICH HE DID. In the driveway, in the house, in the street… he slept with the stick and puck. He would play 4 age divisions at Inline Hockey tournaments… 12u,14u,16u,18u adult, when he was 12 years old. That continued until he was 18 and now coaches atoms, mites, bantams, and the Pro Inline team he is on. He tried out for and made an Elite AAA Ice Team from Houston when he was 13, having only been on the ice for the first time about 4 hours prior. I would drive him to practice in Houston from Tyler (4 hours one way)…
Carole went on to say that the extreme costs and some personal matters ultimately ended those long trips. However, she finished with an update on her son, Jeff, in that “… he lives in Houston doing what he loves!!!
Now, I know there’s a danger that some readers will scan that first paragraph and miss what truly took place. Oh, for sure, Carole’s son was obviously unique in his desires to do well in hockey, and he was also pretty lucky to have a mom like her. At the same time, the things he accomplished would seem pretty unrealistic to anyone who doesn’t believe that in-line training can — and surely does — transfer to the ice.
Then, while Carole ultimately thanked me… “for pioneering the way for inline skaters transitioning to ice,” I think my CoachChic.com friends might find it even more interesting how I actually lucked into the earliest stages of in-line training.
Actually, my son was given the first pair of in-line skates I’d ever seen — I think by a college coach or a local pro scout. They were an Erect-a-set (if that’s how it was spelled) kind of contraption, with an ugly frame, nuts, bolts and wheels that had to be riveted onto the bottom of hockey boots. Genius that I was(n’t), I never paid much attention to those skates, except to think that they might be useful for conditioning during the summer months.
Next, a young lady named Nancilee entered the picture… In fact, she’s become famous in many of my writings, mainly because she was the inspiration for my invention, the Skater’s Rhythm-bar.
Telling the short version of the story here, a 21-year old Nancilee called my office to see if I would give her private lessons and take her from an absolute beginner to making a local ladies’ hockey team a few months down the road. Hmmmmm…
Hardly looking forward to our first meeting, Nancilee in advance had told me that she’d never been on the ice before. (Ugh!) Yet, she left the doorway onto the ice that first day and promptly twirled a quick loop around the rink surface. Whaaaat? ???
Scratching my head, I called her in, and Nancilee almost ran over me. Explaining it all — including her ability to stride — as well as her inability to stop, she simply giggled, “I in-line a lot!”
Yup, that was my REAL indoctrination to in-line skating. And, man, did my mind race from that day forward… I mean, I’d seen for myself that someone could train exclusively off the ice and at least fairly well be able to skate on the ice. So, what if a combination of wheels and blades could be used to better train my hockey students? Hmmmmm…
By now, most long-time members know about my studies back in the old USSR. That’s where I learned about the true value of off-ice training. But that’s also where I discovered that the old Soviets HAD to train away from the ice because of their drastic shortage of indoor rinks. The more I thought about that, though, the more I realized that most North American amateurs have nearly the same problem. Ya, it’s hard to make headway as a youth player in our game if we’re not able to practice regularly. For sure, off-ice training — or dryland — can help immensely with that. But, then, how about being able to actually skate without the need for costly or hard-to-get ice-time?
Well, sadly, the so-called in-line craze ultimately subsided in many parts of North America. However, it’s my understanding that roller hockey is alive and well in many southern and western areas of the US. In fact, a number of recent NHL Draft choices over the past few years have grown-up in California, and they’re on record as having spent a great deal of time in their formative years on wheels.
So, I’m not saying that in-line training is dead, by any means. I know if I wanted to hold a roller practice with my ice hockey players this weekend, I could be pretty sure they all have a set of in-lines at home. And one of the reasons I hold that little guys and gals hockey school each summer is for all the reasons Carole and I have mentioned to this point. In the case of those little ones — and their young parents, however, I want to be sure I’m starting them off right, and making sure they appreciate the benefits of in-line training, and how much that actually does transfer to their on-ice game.
PS: Over the last 2-ish years, I’ve become similarly fascinated by another cross-over sport called floorball. No, that game doesn’t involve skating, so it’s not going to totally make slideboards, wheels and ice blades obsolete. However, floorball does promise to help develop a number of other important hockey qualities. So, who knows… Maybe I’ll someday soon pioneer yet another great way to train without the need for costly ice-time.
PPS: For those wondering about my occasional mention of the Skater’s Rhythm-bar, I’d like you to know that I’ve been working for months on how to get you all the information you’ll need to make your own. It’s not an easy process for me, so please be patient. “Like” this page if you want to be alerted when it’s ready: Perfecting the Forward Skating Stride
We can thank Natalie C for the following question, submitted via our Ask The Coach box up above.
And a good question it is, since it’s one that arises throughout the winter as I deal with my own Learn-to-skate/Learn-to-play clinics.
– Dennis Chighisola
Helping A New “Hockey” Mom
Just so you know, I placed the term Hockey in quotation marks because this is probably more about learning to skate — and a lot of other things — than about really playing the game. With that, let’s deal with Natalie’s question in small parts, with hers being indented as follows:
I need some advice about my 4 year old son. At 3 we started skating lessons for him. He really didn’t get much out of these, except learning how to get up from falling.
If there’s anything I can get bummed about, it’s that a mistake may be made before I can really do anything about it. And in this regard, I’d like everyone to know that the two levels of my program run back-to-back, and I control the movement of each student from level to level. It might surprise readers that I have only a few physical requirements when it comes to moving a youngster up to my Learn-to-play group. On the other hand, I make absolutely sure that a little one is mentally up to the new challenges before a promotion is in order. As a matter of fact, I may even let a borderline kid stay in the Learn-to-skate group for a few more weeks after I think he or she is ready to move, but let him or her stay for a few minutes into the next group as a way of testing things and letting him or her get their feet wet. Not so surprisingly, perhaps, I’ve had better luck with kids I’ve held back a few extra weeks than with those I’ve moved up too hastily.
He is 4 1/2 now and he started Ice Mites. Looking at all the kids he is probably below average. He doesn’t need a chair, but he barely moves! He just won’t even try! After 30min. of the lesson he moves his way to the door and wants to be done. He’s been told how to hold his stick many times but won’t hold it the right way for more than a couple seconds.
I think Natalie’s comments here pretty much support what I hinted at above. For sure, the little guy seems as though he could have used another season (or part-season) back in the basic skating clinic. She also brings into this discussion the age issue, which is something that really should be highlighted here. So, with that, I’m pasting in a piece from the FAQ section of my Learn-to website…
- About player ages… A lot of new parents wonder about the proper ages for these programs, to which Coach Chic usually responds, “There probably really aren’t any.” In most instances it has a lot more to do with a youngster’s personality. In other words, a daring 2 1/2-year old might do better than a 9-year old who won’t let go of the boards. So again, it usually has a lot more to do with whether a child will come out onto the ice — and just give things a try, versus there being a set age limit.
That piece was actually written for parents who were considering entering their very young one into the clinic. However, the concept — of focusing more on personality than age — is very appropriate to the discussion at hand. And this should at least help Natalie appreciate why a lot of 4-year olds in her son’s clinic approach the lessons very differently. It’s quite likely that Natalie’s little guy is less mature than some of the others in his hockey group, but I’m not saying that as a bad thing at all. (It’s conceivable that some of his more aggressive on-ice friends will have issues later in a classroom environment.)
When they bring the nets out he wants to be the goalie. I think it’s just a way for him to stand and not try. He says he likes it, but it sure doesn’t seem that way.
This could very well be a good thing. I mean, it seems like the tyke is “into it”, at least somewhat; it’s just that he’s a bit overwhelmed by the hockey group right now.
So, as a parent, how do I handle this?? I’ve been told he’s just too young, but there are plenty of 4 yr olds zipping around out there. Maybe he’s just not ready?
There’s not a lot more to be said in this area right now. However, I may have more positive suggestions to make in awhile.
Fine, but he should learn to honor a commitment. I am just getting way too stressed and frustrated about this. I know that’s not right.
Oh, I am not at all teasing about Natalie’s pain, or the fact that she’s getting stressed over all this. Actually, I was a 20-something and 30-something hockey parent a kzillion years ago, and I was a jerk.
I do think it nice that Natalie wants her son to ultimately learn to honor a commitment — emphasis on “ultimately”. At 4-years old, it’s not really his commitment yet. However, I will suggest that she keep that philosophy in mind for a few years down the road, and I’ll further suggest that coaches like me will love her and her son for that type of sentiment.
I feel like it will be more fun for him once he really starts to skate well, but that’s not going to happen if he doesn’t try.
Okay, now for some positive advice… That thing about Natalie’s son being too quickly rushed out of the skating clinic and into the hockey one is water over the dam. It’s done, we have to somewhat forget about it, but we sure do have to make some amends.
Only Natalie would know whether withdrawing the boy from his current clinic would be right. I am thinking NOT. And that brings me to the suggestion to blend in some supplemental opportunities for the youngster to play catch-up. Here are a few things that come to mind:
1) Another go-round in a learn-to-skate clinic wouldn’t hurt. Actually, it’s possible — at a year older — the boy would do quite well with that kind of instruction, he’d probably blow through some of the progressions, and likely gain some needed confidence.
2) My own boy got to play some minor league pro hockey, and I think back to the things we did as a family that just may have helped him as much as all the formal instruction he received. In that regard, I’m talking about some time on nearby ponds, and the times we’d go as a family to a local rink for public skating sessions. In both instances, there was no pressure, and the chance to kinda free-wheel-it. Best of all were the public skating sessions when my son and some other 5- or 6-year old buddies would chase each other in and out of the crowd. If you folks get my drift here, I’m talking about fun, no pressures, and the chance to actually gain confidence.
3) Every week before my Learn-to-skate kids go onto the ice, we spend about 10-minutes in the lockerroom doing what I call SkateDrills. I’ve made a science out of that kind of training with my oldest students and players, but with the little ones this short session is a chance to rehearse some of the things we’ll later do on the ice. And, make no mistake about it: learning to get up and down, march, jog and jump with the skates on has absolutely nothing to do with ice. No, it’s about handling the body, and handling the body over a pair of thin stilts. That said, I’m suggesting that Natalie find a place at home where her son could wear his skates for something like 10-minutes per day, and perhaps she could allow him or encourage him to try some of the tricks I just mentioned.
Are there kids who acted this way when his age and turned out to be great hockey players? Please tell me what to do? I’m desperate for some advice on how to handle this.
Thanks Name Natalie C
A big right back at ya, Natalie, plus some good news… I make it a big deal over on my Learn-to website about the fact that my son’s son was a “snow eater” during his first winter in my program (at about 4-years old). Truthfully, I didn’t care if he became a hockey player, but I did want him to learn to skate, to swim, etc. Truth also be known, we had to sometimes bribe him with doughnuts to keep him on the ice. In a sec, I’m going to direct Natalie and others to see a clip of how well my grandson ultimately developed.
In the meantime, here’s one last, super-important point… Perhaps the one term I’ve used here more than any other is “confidence”. Honest to God, one can’t do anything well without it, and it’s my main underlying aim as I work with every one of my students or players — no matter their age. And I’m suggesting that Natalie do the very same for her little guy. In most instances, holding a youngster back until he’s mastered a given skill is the best way to instill confidence. For, with that, the youngster increasingly dares to take on new challenges.
Okay, thanks again for that awesome question, Natalie! Take heart; there’s plenty of hope for your son if you just go slowly with him for a time. Then, look for the first video on my Learn-to Home Page, to see a slightly older boy feeling pretty good about himself.
I’ve said it numerous times here before, in that I’m in no way a goaltending specialist. No, I have to leave that kind of stuff to guys like Todd Jacobson.
At the same time, I’m kind of a “movement specialist”, and I’ve also coached hockey teams for about 40-years.
So, it’s in the latter capacity that I feel the need to share the following.
– Dennis Chighisola
Goalers as Part of a Team System
In other words, all six players — from our goaltender to defensemen to forwards — have to be involved in moving the puck down-ice, and all six players have to band together to defend our goal.
In most instances, that expression is probably used to motivate skaters — for example, to let our forwards know how important they are to coming back and helping the D and their goalie in their own zone. At the same time, I don’t think it’s used often enough to remind our netminders of just how important they are in numerous aspects of their team’s playing system.
“Six on the attack!”
For sure, today’s game is FAR different from its earliest days when goalers stayed at home and mostly worried about minding their net. For a good decade or more, advanced netminders have roamed far from the safety of their crease to gather in loose pucks, and to even engage further in their team’s offense.
Really strong skating goalies can act almost like third defensemen on a penalty kill, and I’ve seen many a young youth hockey goalers become good enough with the puck to fire long, breakaway passes to teammates up-ice.
Even if a young goaltender isn’t confident enough to roam far or fire long passes, he or she should be adept at helping the team on breakouts. What I’m getting at here is that retreating defensemen have lots to worry about as they attempt to pick-up a dumped-in puck.
With enemy forecheckers fast coming, the D can be helped by the goaler communicating things like, “Plenty of time! Plenty of time!” or “On you! On you! On you!”
As importantly, a retreating defenseman can be helped immensely if he or she doesn’t have to dig the puck off the boards or net, or deal with accumulated snow. So, as shown in my video on “(Teaching and Troubleshooting) Basic Breakouts“, I ask my goalies to “tee-up” the puck about a stick’s length off a post and just a hair behind the goal line. This not only makes the puck easy for a D to grab, but it also allows him or her to take an exit route of choice. (Again, this is covered in greater depth in my video on breakouts.)
Then, before leaving this section, I’d like to suggest that there can be more ways a goaler can help his or her team, especially when it comes to communicating with nearby teammates.
“Six in defense of our net!”
It goes without saying, that a goaltender is hugely responsible for defending the net. What’s not often considered at the lower levels of our game is the goalie’s need to be incorporated into the numerous parts of a team’s defensive game.
Now, I don’t want to turn this particular entry into an X’s and O’s session. However, as an example, I work frequently on combining my goaltenders and defensemen in the defense of a 2 against 1 attack. My team’s aim, in the end, is to achieve two 1 on 1′s, with my netminder handling the shooter, and the D taking away the open man.
And there are, quite obviously, other areas of our defensive game where the coordination of goalers and skaters can help quite a lot, this probably depending on a given team’s age and experience level.
In closing, I feel the need to suggest that all the above really needs to become “a mentality” or “mindset” for a goaltender. In other words, he or she has to look beyond just his or her own netminding responsibilities, and see himself or herself as a part of the team — both offensively and defensively. And, I’ll further suggest that, the earlier this takes place, the better.
As happens often between my two teams, I found it easier to shoot the below video in one of my AA Mite practices. However, as I’ll explain later, the demonstrated drill can easily be adapted for my AAA Bantams and older players.
As for the drill, I tend to teach basics first, but then I look to make the next progressions of the same drill closer and closer to the real game action. In other words, I feel we coaches have to prepare our players well for the challenges they really face out there in the heat of battle.
With that, let’s use the following simple drill as an example.
– Dennis Chighisola
Adding Game-like Pressure to Hockey Drills
At one time or another, I think all of us coaches send our skaters on goal for mock breakaways, or we hold a shoot-out competition for fun at the end of a practice. That’s okay, I guess, considering that players need some time to practice their moves, while our goaltenders also need the chance to practice defending in those situations.
Is the typical breakaway drill like a real game, though? I tend to think not. The attackers usually take all sorts of liberties, they move to the net too slowly, and I could probably think of a handful of other things that are wrong with that kind of drilling. And, hey, it’s also rather unfair to our goalers if the skaters can get away with things they can’t do in a game.
In reality, attackers don’t have much time when it comes to working around the net. As I’ve said often within these pages, they don’t usually get the chance to stand prettily to make their play.
No, real game conditions force players to deal with all sorts of pressure when they have the puck. And, when it comes to breakaways, they’re likely worrying about defenders breathing down their necks, or even someone almost mauling them as they try to make a play on-goal.
With that, take a look at what my assistant coaches and I are doing with our AA Mite skaters during some recent practices (apologies for the few flickers in the video)…Loading...
Now, I’m thinking that this form of drilling is going to pay-off big time later in our season (and I think we coaches will be able to even increase the pressure as time goes along). This video was taken on only our second attempts at the drill, so my little guys haven’t totally solved the problems yet. They will, however, and that’s when they’re going to know how to go to the net with some toughness and some purpose. (To be honest, I can’t see our opponents progressing if they’re not practicing under similar conditions.)
Okay, I said at the start that this drill is good for just about all levels. Well, I’ve found it to be so, having used it previously with my high school teams and my college players. Here’s how things had to be adjusted, however…
In the above video, it’s obvious that we coaches can act as the chasers (and, ya, I take my turn in there, too). Just as obviously, though, there comes a time when the coaches can’t keep up with the attackers. No problem.
What I’ve done with my older guys is to have teammates act as chasers.
If there’s a problem with that, some ground rules have to be set, or a pretty good explanation has to precede the drilling. And in this regard, I’ll usually say something like, “Listen, you don’t want to hurt a teammate. At the same time, you want to help him get better. So, aggravate him as much as you can, but use your head.”
Lastly, let me emphasize something I mentioned earlier, in that some drills allow our players to cheat. And, it’s often our drill selection that causes players to be lazy or not really concentrate. That in mind, I’m only using the shown drill as an example of how a very basic drill can be made far more game related.
I’m sure CoachChic.com members now believe deeply in the benefits of off-ice training, as well as the great positive transfer of skills that can take place from dryland to the ice.
In preface to this entry, I’d like you to watch (or review) the video on Sprint Training for Hockey Skating Speed, because it provides some great background, and because there is an overlap in the drills I incorporate in both sprint training and agility ladder work.
With that, there isn’t much need for me to say more in type — the two videos that follow will explain everything.
– Dennis Chighisola
Using an Agility Ladder for Hockey Quickness
Video 1 — Introduction…Loading...
Video 2 — Ladder Training – Coach Chic StyleLoading...
From there, there’s nothing to it but to do it!
I’m creating this entry for a lot of reasons…
First, I didn’t find the following information; actually, a good friend who knows my unique interests sent me the initial link, which led me to many more interesting pages on this subject.
Secondly, the device demonstrated in this post — and the scientific thinking behind it — is pretty typical of the stuff I like to get into. Do I tend to run ahead of the curve? Ya, I think so.
Lastly, although I like to make sure all the basic hockey concepts are covered within these pages, I have an equal need to keep you on the cutting edge.
With that, get a load of the device and theory shown below.
– Dennis Chighisola
Vapor Strobe Training
Let’s begin with a video that ought to really get you thinking…Loading...
What do you think? Is Nike onto something here? You bet! Just common sense says it’ll work to enhance a number of athletic qualities — for goaltenders and for skaters.
If you’re interested in buying your own strobe glasses, they’re easy to locate through a Google search. I think the ones I found for sale were about $280. (For the time being — at that price, they’re on my wish list — LOL!)
Urging members to purchase these is not my point here, however. What I do want to do is expand your thinking, or open your mind to what’s out there.
I also want to suggest to you that the competition will soon be using these and other pretty sophisticated gear and training methods to jump ahead of you, your child or your team. That’s the way it’s best over recent years — everyone seeking just the slightest edge.
With that, I’ll leave you with a couple of videos I located over at YouTube.com, these showing the strobe glasses in use…
You may think I’ve said this too often, but I firmly believe that social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ have connected me with some of the best and brightest in the world. That’s where I discovered most of the special guest writers here within CoachChic.com, and Facebook is where Dom Browne and I recently met.
As you’ll soon discover, Dom is a very bright young guy, and I can’t thank him enough for agreeing to share his study on the benefits of jump rope workouts for “hockey” players.
Okay, why did I use those quotation marks up above? It’s because Dom’s study was done with and for in-line hockey players. However, if you trust this old coach, you’ll appreciate that most skating techniques are identical, be they on wheels or blades.
So, enjoy, CoachChic.com members, and let’s thank Dom once again for his really high level contribution.
– Dennis Chighisola
Jump Rope Training For Hockey
By Dom Browne
I often get asked by hockey players I coach the best way to improve their speed. When I ask them what exercises they do I get the same response; “squats, lunges and deadlifts”, all of which are very good exercises and are fundamental for building strength in the legs. However, when I suggest jump rope training, I get the same reply; “Skipping?” I will explain the reason for my answer, using the study carried out for my dissertation as reference.
There are several different facets involved in skating and many skills are needed for each different movement. The forward start, crossover start, forward skate, crossover, pivot, backward start, backward skate, backward crossover, two foot parallel stop, one foot stop, backward stop and t-stop are the main skills involved in skating during a inline hockey game. During a game, players incorporate each of these to move around the rink and to gain a positional advantage over an opponent. With all these different movements being demonstrated in a game, it is necessary for the players to be agile… the pace of the game is also relatively high compared with other team sports such as soccer, rugby and field hockey, so players need to be fast and have extremely good acceleration, especially at higher levels.
Speed, agility and power are important components of sport performance. Acceleration and speed could be considered the power components of skating, they are consistently predicted by off-ice power tests such as vertical jump and the 40 yard dash. Although jumping, running and skating are biomechanically different, it is the power component of each movement that is very similar. Power is the amount of work done in a given time, the players skate very fast for short periods of time, giving a high power output. Hockey also involves significant balance or stability challenges because of the small surface area in contact with a reasonably low friction surface. An individual may be capable of sprinting at 27 or more miles per hour, but lack the explosive power to accelerate rapidly or to change direction rapidly.
Research investigating the effects of plyometrics on speed in ice hockey players is somewhat limited. Rimmer and Sleivert (2000) conducted an eight-week study to determine the effects of a sprint-specific plyometrics program on sprint performance. Results showed that the plyometric group significantly reduced both their 10m and 40m sprint times. Polhemius and Osina (1980) investigated the effects of weighted plyometric exercises had on conventional sprint training practices in university level track athletes. Pre and post measures of 40 metre sprint times revealed that those who performed plyometric exercises, three times per week for six weeks in addition to their conventional training programs, decreased their 40m sprint times. In both studies, plyometric training was assumed to have resulted in an improved acceleration phase due to a specificity training response, where ground contact times decreased and force production rates increase. It is reasonable to suggest that as ground contact times and stride force production rates are also critical components in skating at top speed, plyometric training may provide similar benefits to skaters as for sprinters. If players are able to decrease contact time with the ice while improving stride force production, the result is likely to be increased skating speed and, therefore, improvement on overall performance.
Plyometrics is very similar to rope jump training in terms of the type of load imposed upon the body. The main objective of the jump rope exercises is to convert elastic energy generated by both the force of gravity and body mass during eccentric or lengthening muscle contraction into an opposite force during the concentric or shortening contraction. A lengthening or eccentric contraction followed by a concentric contraction utilizes the elastic energy stored in that muscle during the stretching phase. When released this elastic energy can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency of the muscle contraction resulting in greater power output (Koutedakis, 1989). Muscle spindles located within the muscles react to sudden stretch by sending signals to the spinal cord, resulting in muscular contraction to resist the sudden stretch.
Buddy Lee is the official jump rope conditioning consultant to 25 U.S. Olympic teams and has published books explaining and discussing the use of jump rope training in sports. The U.S. Figure skating association made Lee’s jump rope training their number one off-ice conditioning technique for all levels of skaters. Lee (2003) states that rope jumping can be used to increase the aerobic capacity of an athlete when used for 10 minutes or longer, but the greatest benefits of jump rope training can be achieved when used to enhance the anaerobic energy system. This is done by using the training in short explosive cycles of 30 seconds, improving speed, agility, quickness and explosiveness, all of which are important in sports that require explosiveness and quick acceleration.
In 2007 I carried out research into the affect of jump rope training on inline hockey players of varying ages. The four timed tests carried out were the same as those used by Bracko (2001); agility cornering S-turn, 6.10m acceleration, 47.85m speed and 15.20m full speed. The control group undertook a simple 6-week training programme involving simple weight lifting based exercises focusing on the major muscle groups used in skating (quadriceps, leg adductors, hamstrings and rectus abdominus) along with some other basic muscular strength exercises. The experimental group also carried out this weekly schedule, but also a 30-40 minute jump rope training programme was carried out four times per week.
Figure 1. Skating tests: (a) agility cornering S turn, (b) 6.10m acceleration,
(c) 47.85m speed, (d) 15.20m full speed. Adapted from Bracko (2001).
Jump rope training at it’s best
At the end of the 6-week training programme, the experimental group showed marked improvements in their times for all four tested variables. The jump rope training improved agility by 2.95%, acceleration by 13.23%, speed by 3.17% and full speed by 11.85%. All of the improvements were significant. This indicates that jump rope training has a positive effect on speed and agility in roller hockey players.
An example of the jump rope training plan that can be used in my study can be found at the bottom of this page: Jump Rope Training for Hockey
See other works by Dom Browne: YGH Clinics
I have been saving this video for the longest time.
In my estimation, it’s revolutionary.
With that, there really isn’t much for me to say in print form, because the history to this unique type of drilling is spelled out in the video — how I arrived at the idea, how Todd Jacobson finally took the proverbial bull by the horns, and so forth. There are even several versions of this goalie’s exercise routine included, as well as an in-line application.
– Dennis Chighisola
The Goaler’s DanceLoading...
As always, Todd and I really appreciate your questions and feedback!
My Twitter friend Joe C (who goes by @Emptynet62) sent me a link this morning to a video that highlights something we’ve all probably seen countless times.
I took the link Joe provided, sat back and watched, then found my mind racing with lots of random thoughts. Perhaps, though, you should watch the same video before I get into all that.
– Dennis Chighisola
Predicting Hockey Stardom
To begin, my feeling is that the cute little guy featured in that piece is awesome. And I mean that in many ways — from his poise on camera to the way he seemingly handles himself on the ice.
I also want to reaffirm something you should have caught me saying over and over within these pages, in that a certain “mentality” is required in order for a player to be a dangerous offensive threat. The move he made in that video more than hints at this little guy having that kind of mindset. But so are there a number of other cues I gathered from his brief interview.
The dad also hinted at this in his mention of a backyard rink. Ya, that’s the kind of atmosphere where creativity is fostered. You know what I mean — where a kid can just fiddle and fiddle and fiddle with a puck.
All those established, I now feel the need to switch about 180-degrees in order to deal with that “Predicting Hockey Stardom” issue. Ya, predicting…
Well, would you believe that NHL clubs aren’t thrilled with having to make decisions on teenage players? That only came about after Wayne Gretzky’s representatives began legal wranglings when he was a teen, these basically suggesting the NHL was depriving the soon to be Great One from making a living by not considering younger players than they had been drafting. My point: National Hockey League teams would much rather make their decisions based on far more data, and the amount of data increases greatly with each year they get to see and evaluate a player. Said yet another way, practically anyone could better judge a player’s pro readiness at age 20 or 21, rather than at 18-years of age.
I’ve mixed plenty with NHL scouts through the years. And, while most I’ve met have been pretty savvy guys, I know that they know their evaluations are not part of an exact science. Anything but, since there are as many player intangibles to be guessed at as there are seeming obvious physical qualities.
And that brings me back to 9-year old Oliver, who isn’t 21, 20, or even 18-years of age. Just how many things can change for that young man in the next 9-years or so? Ha, trying to list them here just might blow this site’s server.
Just on the physical side, injury or illness could shortcut his progression, and so could his fortunes change depending on whether he matures to be 5′ 3″ or 6′ 5″. So could the speed of his movements ultimately help or hamper the boy’s worthiness to play pro.
As for those so-called intangibles, let me at least mention a few… Probably Number One on that list would be Oliver’s eventual coachability. And I think a very close second will be his willingness to work (listen to my short audio, “A Lot Of Things Change As A Player Gets Older“, for more on this). And, slightly related to the previous point, I’ll suggest that kids often do change their priorities as they get older — think cars, girls, jobs.
A given class of future recruits changes from year to year also. In other words, while someone may have had young Oliver at the top of their list last year, a kid named Walter from Alaska might claim that spot now, and a young Russian boy named Igor could grab it the next.
Summing up this part — while that has to seem like a lot of negatives, I’ll suggest that that isn’t my intent. All I’ve attempted to do is be a little realistic. And I’m trying to just point out the near futility in trying to project talent too many years in advance.
That out of the way, though, let me suggest that Oliver has several things working in his favor.
As I mentioned earlier, he seems to have the right mentality. And this, in turn, tends to bring many successes, which should only encourage him to work all the more (in other words, it snowballs — from a want to work to successes to a want to work more, etc).
Oliver’s dad — if he’s not overbearing, also seems a huge asset. Of course, some might think his college playing experiences may help, while I’m not so sure about that. However, I suspect the dad’s development within the Swedish hockey system may help him be a little bit more creative in comparison to a lot of North American hockey dads.
Then, of course, there’s that backyard rink. Ya, I love that idea, and I count it as a biggie in Oliver’s favor.
This might be a topic I don’t need to address with most members. Still, I don’t like to ever leave any important point unsaid.
Make no mistake: rope skipping is beneficial to just about every athlete, and it can help a hockey player in a number of extra ways.
– Dennis Chighisola
Rope Skipping Benefits for Hockey Players
I think it best that I show you a very short video before we get into a discussion on the benefits of rope skipping, this to act as sort of a frame of reference…Loading...
You ought to know that my AAA Bantams arrived at that same rink parking lot right after my young Mites left. And, although I may have presented and run the drills just a tad differently, my older guys did the same rope skipping sequences.
So, basically, both groups began with their individual skipping in place, I had all the kids jog across the parking lot — forward and backwards — as they skipped, they next tried jumping a long rope swung by two teammates, and they ultimately even tried holding their sticks in a hockey posture as they jumped.
Okay, so about that video, and the benefits of rope skipping…
I hope you recognized that those little guys are still growing into their bodies, and they’re only gradually gaining real coordination. So, I’d like you to appreciate how much the simple act of rope skipping is forcing them to really handle their entire bodies. If we think about it, just twirling the individual rope calls into play an athlete’s fingers, hands, wrists and arms. And, once the rope gets moving, he or she has to coordinate the rest of the body with a jump.
One can’t jump at just any old time, so timing is an important part of this exercise. Actually, timing will be crucial in their game as my kids mature. If you can picture it, clumsier skaters tend to miss-time a lot of things, while the better skilled ones do almost everything at precisely the right moment.
Of course, there will ultimately be some other benefits to skipping rope, including a little bit of strength and a lot of endurance (the type of conditioning to be determined by the intensity and duration of each bout).
Now, I could have just as easily shown you some clips of my older guys skipping. However, I believe extremes make better examples. I mean, the above video shows a group of very young human beings as they struggle with a new physical problem. And watching them tends to exaggerate each of the challenges they face — as in coordination, timing, etc.
With that, I’d like you to appreciate that there is a learning curve to everything, including athleticism. So is there a learning curve to hockey specific skills — like skating, puckhandling, passing, receiving, shooting, and all the rest. And, make no mistake about it: the better athlete has the chance to be the better hockey player.
Man, I can’t emphasize that point enough. Much has been written within this website about the so-called “failed experiment”, whereby, during a period in North American hockey history, overall athleticism was neglected in favor of sport-specific training. That period produced less creative players, players who couldn’t handle their bodies well in 1 on 1 match-ups, and players who were more prone to injury. (My personal opinion is that that period also opened the door for far more athletic European players to make their marks in the game.)
Of course, I’m a hockey coach, and I’m not about to abandon hockey-specific training. It’s just that the ideal is to begin with an “athlete”, and then build from there.
Over the years, I’ve also found numerous ways to combine rope skipping with hockey training. Or, said another way, I like to keep building on my players’ basic rope skipping abilities with all the more difficult challenges.
The latter in mind, consider that we hockey types play on blades that are rounded on the bottom, and a great deal of our mobility on the ice is based on our ability to handle our body-weight over those rounded blades. Just jumping while in skates enhances our balance, while skipping rope calls into play all the previously described challenges and ultimate benefits. What also happens with the rope skipping version of jumping is that a player’s landings are almost all unpredictable. There’s a lot going on as the body twists and deals with the rope in mid-air, so that the landings can be on one foot or the other, or on absolutely every part of a skate’s blade. Or, as I can joke at time, “It’s a new thrill every time a player lands!”
There is also much said within this site about a hockey player needing to deal with lots of other problems as he or she handles the puck. And that’s why I ultimately took long rope jumping to a new level. I mean, as partners twirl the long rope, my more advanced players must dribble a ball (off-ice) or a puck (on-ice). Imagine the challenge: timing the jumps with the dribbles, keeping the stick from tangling in the rope, and then also dealing with all the odd ways one can land. Ya, I’d call that a challenge, and I’d also suggest it very nearly matches the kinds of challenges a player faces in real game action.
In closing, a few months ago, I gave members of both my teams homework assignments (with the parents of my younger kids asked to help their little ones). I wanted them to get a head start on skipping (among other things), just so we could have the feeling-out stage out of the way before we met as teams. Of course, human nature being what it is, some kids did, some didn’t, and it was obvious the other night. No matter, I think patience is one of THE most important virtues a coach can have. Anyway, the important thing is that my kids are on their way. Now all I want is for them to just keep growing — in overall athleticism, and then in hockey-specific skills.
As you may know, I resurrected my Skater’s Rhythm-bar after having kept it slightly hidden for a few years. (In other words, I’ve only been using it lately behind closed doors and with special students.)
Two things made me pull those R-bars out of mothballs, however:
1) a former student and long-time pro player reminded me recently just how awesome that device is;
2) I’d noticed that a lot of my youngest students — both in the ADM program and in my own Learn-to clinics — were really flailing their arms and legs, and getting almost nothing for their efforts.
Anyway, I finally advertised a short course which has run for the past 5-weeks. And I thought I’d show you a few things that are almost always evident whenever I get into the issue of balance in the forward stride.
– Dennis Chighisola
Balance in Hockey’s Forward Skating Stride
I shot the following video on the first night my students and I gathered. I wanted to expose all the worst things that can be observed at a time like this (and I’ll explain more in awhile what I mean by “a time like this”).
Among the things I hope you’ll spot…
The hockey stick is terribly inhibiting to any skater, and especially so to a relative beginner. So, see if you can spot instances where a youngster’s stick hand moves through a very short, abrupt pattern, while the free hand travels through a relatively full range of motion.
On occasion, you might notice a player pumping the stick hand forward-to-backward while the free hand moves side-to-side. (Talk about wrestling within oneself, and really expending a lot of energy to get almost nowhere!)
I hope you’ll also notice how a youngster will sometimes restrict his hand, arm and shoulder movements to only a slight side-to-side action. And, calling into play the law of equal and opposite reactions, it’s important for us to know that such upper boy movements translate to equally abrupt skate thrusts to each side.
As for that thing about “a time like this”, well… Any “Before” shot (in a “Before and After” sequence) has to include the worst possible conditions, just so we ultimately get to see the extremes. And, in this case, the kids haven’t worked with my Skater’s Rhythm-bar yet, and THEY ARE FORCED HERE TO SKATE WHILE CARRYING THEIR STICKS. Ya, the sticks do cause a problem, as you should see.
Okay, so let’s take a look…Loading...
Actually, there were a couple of decent arm pumps within that footage, but there were also a ton of other mechanical problems I’ll deal with at another time. Hopefully you have seen the things I mentioned above, though. And, while I might apply a lot of science to the actual analysis of a player’s skating motion, I’m sure you realize now how easily the naked eye (or a very simply shot video) can expose a lot.
Now, it’s been about a month since my kids have trained with the Skater’s Rhythm-bar, as well as spent plenty of time skating without a stick. So, take a look at how they’ve come along (I’ll add some further comments later)…
Man, I’m getting such a great feeling, just watching that footage… I’m sure you’ll admit that the kids look FAR better than in the first video-taping. They are traveling much better, they’re more at ease in their movements, their left and right hands (and arms and shoulders) are moving through similar patterns, and aaaaaaah…
Down the road, I think I’m going to release a program that tells coaches, parents and older players how to make and use their own Skater’s Rhythm-bar. (I used to sell the R-bar and an accompanying hard copy training manual, but I don’t think that’s really necessary in this day and age.)
Really, though, a lot can be accomplished towards the desired end without a Rhythm-bar. I mean, I have all of my players (goalies included) train for brief times by striding without a stick. And, while you might be thinking of beginners here, I am going to suggest that the most advanced players will benefit from this sort of training.
Okay, questions or Comments? Let’s get a conversation going!
Really, this entry was at least partly inspired by my previous post in this category — which included Dr Norris’ pretty intriguing comments on USA Hockey’s new ADM program.
At the same time, I’m hoping that by now my CoachChic.com friends have come to trust me as I search high and low for information that can put them far ahead of others.
So, with that, the following video should prove both entertaining and humorous. You might even see a little of yourself or a child as you watch and listen. Truly, though, Sir Ken Robinson’s line of thinking has much to do with the way I happen to view young, developing hockey players. I’ll save my own thoughts until after you’ve had a chance to see the video, however.
– Dennis Chighisola
Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Okay, I’m hoping by now you’ve gotten the sense that creativity can be stifled within our educational institutions. That established, however, I wonder if you’ve ever considered the possibility that a rather old sport — with so much tradition — can also squelch unique spirits and ingenuity. Huh?
Just think… If it wasn’t for the stubbornness of a Jacques Plante, goaltenders nowadays might still be facing ferocious shots without a mask. One has to wonder if Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion was at all deterred along the way as he experimented with his new offensive weapon, the slapshot. And, we have to really think about the chance that an overbearing hockey coach way back in their earliest years could have totally discouraged the creativity of a Gretzky, a Lemieux, or an Ovechkin.
As for me, I’ll share this brief story… A few years back, I tried a highly skilled little guy on the powerplay with some slightly older players. Right off, that little guy started freelancing with our plays, which just as immediately drew some concerns from one of my assistant coaches. I kinda chuckled at that, as I whispered to my assistant, “That’s what I’ve been looking for all along!” Our plays weren’t meant to be regimented; they were just ideas for what we could do in various circumstances.
Oh, you or I might not be coaching a future Great One. But, then, who knows.? The point I’m trying to really make here is that our sport needs creativity. So, we ought to think twice before making all of our youngest players conform to every old standard.
PS: Addressing this issue just now with a Facebook friend, I was reminded of something I’ve always felt… Ya know, when we have a roster full of good, hard working people, we always long for that one unique player who can seemingly pull rabbits out of a hat. (I think you know what I mean: a real magician when the chips are on the line.) The sad part comes when some coaches get that one special player, beat on him or her for being creative, and seemingly try to turn him or her into an ordinary one.
Oh, boy, I know I’ve caused you to think more than a little on this one.
So, would you mind offering those thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
We have CoachChic.com member, Tim Taylor, to thank for locating this VERY informative video.
Dr Norris isn’t introduced until about the 23-minute mark of the video, so you might want to fast-forward to that point. Also, the audio doesn’t improve until after awhile but, it does ultimately improve.
As for the information in this video, I think long-time members will discover that a lot of its content has been covered within this site. Norris’ version, however, is an even better, more condensed approach to a lot of what you’ll find under Highlight Reel Skills.
Anyway, find a time when you’re not distracted, turn-up your speakers (or headphones), and enjoy!
– Dennis Chighisola
Dr Steve Norris Speaks on the ADM Hockey Program
It’s interesting that my friend, Bruce Turpin, should publish on the following topic at this time. After all, it’s pretty much been my mantra here for several weeks.
Anyway, I don’t want to spoil things by getting into that now; Bruce will do the job even better than I.
Then, just so you know, Coach Turpin knows his stuff. He holds a Masters Degree in Physical Education, and he’s one of the best to ever work within my hockey school staff. So, enjoy, and especially learn from a very bright man.
– Dennis Chighisola
With summer right around the corner, are you being S.M.A.R.T. ?
Summer is quickly approaching! Do you have a plan? Do not miss out on a great opportunity to prepare yourself for next hockey season. You have 10-12 weeks from the end of the school year to the start of a new one, leaving plenty of time to work on developing your game (both physically and mentally). Will you use this time wisely? Do you know how to use this time wisely?
Can you tell me what are you doing today to become a better player (or a better person)?
The above is a pretty robust question if you don’t have an understanding of where you are and where you want to go (ie. what you want to accomplish). How will you know if you ever get there? How will you even know how to get there?
As your summer gets underway, what paths will you take? If you haven’t begun to do so, you need to start thinking about what you want to accomplish this summer and what you want to accomplish next season. Not only thinking about it, but writing it down in the form of clear, concise goals. These written goals will help guide you toward your destination and in times of difficulty can be used to re-focus your efforts and get you back on track.
Your goals should be straightforward and focus on what you want to happen. As you go about creating your goals, you should incorporate the SMART model for goal-setting.
S — Specific: think about what you want to accomplish, why you want to accomplish it, and how you are going to accomplish it
M — Measurable: you need to be able to gauge your progress
A — Attainable: you need to set goals that you can achieve, nothing to easy, nothing too hard, but they need to be outside your comfort zone
R — Realistic: can you realistically achieve this goal (within the availability of your resources, knowledge and time)
T — Timely: have you set a time frame and end point for this goal
Goal-setting can be a powerful tool if used appropriately and consistently. Every college coach I worked with last summer conveyed the importance of goal-setting within their own programs. They stressed the need to accomplish this, not only on a team basis, but on an individual-player basis as well. Some of the many benefits derived from the goal-setting process include providing you with something to strive for, motivating you to take action, creating benchmarks for success, and building up your self-esteem.
I encourage you to take time to think about what you want to accomplish this summer, why you want to accomplish it, and how you will go about accomplishing it. Remember to create clear and concise goals following the SMART protocol; create daily or weekly goals that can be used as stepping-stones along the pathway towards your overall (or long-term) goals; set goals that are attainable, but outside your comfort zone, as they will feel much more rewarding and satisfying when they are achieved.
Let me finish this post, by re-asking the following questions:
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TODAY TO BECOME A BETTER PLAYER
and ARE YOU BEING S.M.A.R.T. ABOUT IT?
Bruce Turpin just began a blog you might want to follow… Functional Training for Hockey
If you have questions or Comments — on this topic, or for Bruce, please leave them below.
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.
A lot of folks ask me if I believe I can spot a hockey player early-on who might ultimately make it to our game’s highest levels. I answer honestly, suggesting that no one can tell during a player’s first years — if he or she will still be in love with the game later, if he or she will have the right work ethic, or if injuries might ultimately get in his or her way. That established, however, I can tell you about one thing I’ve learned to recognize in even the youngest players…
– Dennis Chighisola
Spotting the Real Goal-scorer Early
Actually, I didn’t realize what I was seeing at first, as I observed my grandson playing and practicing at about 5-years old. At the time, I thought he was just a real pain in the butt.
Now, long-time CoachChic.com members have probably seen some highlight reel footage of my young buddy, Anthony Chighisola. If you haven’t, just let me say that he has probably led every team in scoring he’s played for — from Mites right through to his current college team. In fact, putting a puck in a net seems almost a compulsion with him. Ya, I said it’s almost a compulsion, which brings me back to that thing about seeming like a real pain in the butt…
You see, even going back to beginner clinics, I noticed that Anthony would never end an attacking drill until he’d put a puck in a net. And, I’m talking about him taking this to an extreme. All the other little 5-year old knobheads seemed to be doing the drills right — skating towards the net, making a move or taking a shot, and then going to a line right after. Not Tony C, however. I’ve already said it: that he wouldn’t go back to a line until he finished the drill by putting a puck in the net. Sometimes it wasn’t even the puck he’d carried towards the goal; naw, it didn’t matter which one he finished with, so long as he tucked something away.
Now, about 15-years later I’m coaching an 8-year old team and I’m noticing I have another pain in the butt on my hands. I mean, this youngster is just as compulsive about putting biscuits in the basket as Anthony ever way, almost to the point of driving me nuts in some drills. Hey, I’m trying to keep attack plays moving at a good pace, and that little guy is not getting out of the way until he’s put a puck in the net. (Grrrrrrrrrrr…)
Oh, but wait… After all these years, I’ve come to realize that THIS young forward — much like Tony Chic — is most likely going to be the best attacker on every team he’ll ever play for. Again, it’s a compulsion that he puts pucks in the backs of nets, and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about games or practices. In fact, I’m going to suggest that his scoring in the games is a direct result of his need to finish attack plays in our practices.
As an aside, I hope you can picture what I was seeing many years ago, with Anthony constantly going back to a net because his original attack didn’t result in a goal. And, what made me think he was such a pain in the butt is that sometimes his second and third and fourth and fifth swipes at a puck didn’t go in. So he’d stay right there, and continue whacking at a puck until he ultimately deposited it where he felt it belonged.
Same thing with my current budding sniper. I mean, neither will he leave the dawgoned goal-mouth until he’s completed his mission.
All that said, I guess we both know that those two aren’t really pains at all. In fact, even though they might foul-up the timing of some drills, they should be the models for all other young players.
Just wondering… Have you ever had (or observed) a player like I’ve just described? I’d love to hear more about him or her.
Talk about precious! Craig Shaw mentioned this video in a Comment below, and I just couldn’t resist showing it to everyone. Awesome (and an awesome penalty shot goal by young Sammy Shaw near the end)!
I have my grandson, Anthony Chic, to thank for pointing me towards the following video. And, as soon as I saw it I recognized a “teaching moment” I just had to share with you.
– Dennis Chighisola
Great Hockey Plays Come From Practice!
Before getting further into this topic, I’d like you to view the following video (it’s short and fun to watch)….
Ya, as my title suggests, that was no accident — that the highly skilled forward reacted so quickly and batted that puck towards the goal. As the color commentator said, it required “magnificent hand-eye coordination”.
Long ago I posted a drill that specifically enhances this skills (please see “Bunting the Hockey Puck“).
However, I’ll offer here that real stick and eye coordination comes from players sort of freelancing with a puck — or especially with a quick reacting ball.
If you can appreciate it, plays like that shown in the video can’t usually be planned. No, the situation just occurs — in an instant, and a player either reacts properly or doesn’t. And such (positive) reactions quickly revert back to hundreds if not thousands of times when a player dealt with pucks or balls in the air.
So, I’m talking about some of the tricks that have been posted within CoachChic.com — when it comes to floorball moves, my kids jumping a long rope while dribbling a ball or puck, and the many videos I’ve included that depict pro players performing some pretty nifty moves by keeping a puck or ball in the air with their sticks.
No, it’s no accident when a player reacts as shown in that video. I mean, all the hours a player spends just fiddling and being creative with a puck or ball surely will pay-off sometime down the road.
I’m kinda chuckling to myself about this title, and this topic. I mean, I’ve been coaching hockey for over 40-years, which ought to suggest that I’ve just about seen it all by now, and I’ve pretty firmly established all of our game’s playing principles. Ah, so one would think.
In reality, however, I never stop learning, and I never stop making adjustments to the way I teach or coach. And, with that, let me tell you about my latest revelation, this having to do with introducing young players to breakaway goal-scoring techniques.
– Dennis Chighisola
A Hockey Goal-scoring Revelation
To provide a little background to this story, members might read my entry and watch the video I provided in “Scoring on Breakaways or Shootouts“.
Then, because that particular post was part of a *Gift I was offering that month, I also shared a few additional tips beyond the main entry. And, among those tips was the suggestion that most advanced level attackers like to carry the puck off to the sides of their bodies — in a shooting posture — as they moved in on the goaltender. Ya, their thinking is that this somewhat freezes a goalie, while an attacker knows he can shift the puck at any instant to either shoot or deke (according to what the goaler shows).
I also have to draw the parent or coach of a young skater to yet another video that should provide even more background to what I’m about to propose, this being the one on “Creating the Early Goal-scorer“. For, within that post I hammered away at the idea of focusing all our attentions on whatever will help a young player be successful at his or her current level of play.
Okay, so with those ideas as a backdrop, picture me standing on the ice a few weeks ago and watching little one after little one attack a beginner goalie… What I was seeing is that the rather new netminder basically stood in the middle of his crease and hardly did anything but put his stick in front of the puck. And, because most of my really new skaters haven’t yet mastered hitting open strings with lifted shots, nearly every one of them hit the goalie — right where he liked the shot — dead-center on his stick. Hmmmmmm…
By now, of course, you know that I’m an inquisitive type, and I like to really get at the root of what’s happening. And, what I saw was that 1) most of my young attackers were carrying the puck off to their sides in readiness to shoot, and 2) the goalie was basically just putting his stick in front of where the skater held the puck. So, one after another it was Splat! Splat! And Splat! In other words, my little guys were just hitting that goalie’s stick, time after time after time.
Enter that idea about helping a player be successful at his or her current level… Ya, the idea of their holding the puck off to their sides wasn’t working — at their level. No, instead this technique was playing right into the equally young goalie’s hands, mainly because he wasn’t old enough or experienced enough to take THAT kind of fake. (The reason that kind of posture works against older goaltenders is because they are experienced, and because they are doing their own thinking and reading of the play as an attacker approaches.)
Anyway, once all this stuff started to register with me, I called a halt to the drill, I left the goaler with his own coach, and I gathered all of my little attackers in another area of the ice. And, what I showed them was the idea of carrying the puck out-front and in the middle of their bodies. From there, I had them practice making side to side movements with the puck — ultimately making a rather large deke towards one side of the net, and then tucking the puck into the opposite side.
Once we went back to attacking a live goalie, the idea worked for those kids who got the hang of the new move (while the slightly younger and less experienced kids still tended to shoot into the goaler’s stick). More practice is what the kids now need, of course, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing lately — off the ice, on the ice, sometimes against my plastic simulated goalie, and sometimes against a live one.
My main point (or points) to all this, though, is that we really must study what’s happening with our players, and we have to find the best ways to help them be successful where they are at the moment.
Then, just in case you’re questioning my idea of initially teaching something wrongly, I’d like you to consider this… My belief is that a number of my little guys are going to soon catch fire with the new move, and they are going to start pouring pucks into rival nets. On the other hand, those kids who continue to attack in the big guys’ posture are likely to get stuff more often than not. I’ll further suggest that the ones who are filling nets pretty soon will gain a huge boost in confidence, and that it will be plenty easy to show them the other way of attacking when the time is right.
Okay, so here I go with what some might consider a controversial approach. So, want to argue, or at least share a different thought on this subject? You know I love it when members get involved!
Not too long ago, a faithful CoachChic.com member and I were having a conversation about his son’s seemingly running out of gas late in his hockey games. After awhile, I came to understand that his son is a young goaltender, and his games were being played in almost non-stop action (like lots of current day 3 on 3 or small games are).
Exploring further, I wondered if the youngster was getting enough fluids. I mean, my thinking was that the skaters would be able to replenish their fluids as they took frequent trips to the bench, but what about our friend’s goalie son?
As it turned out, not only did the youngster not have water nearby, but his dad wasn’t aware of the water bottle arrangements most older netminders usually use. Hmmmmm…
– Dennis Chighisola
A Goalie’s Water Bottle
Oh, one thing I failed to mention up above is that our CoachChic.com friend is from the United Kingdom. Not that it should necessarily make a difference here. However, I’m sure it’s possible that some trends take time to travel the globe. And, it was certainly possible that other goalers in that family’s home rink weren’t affixing bottles to their nets, or my friend maybe wasn’t noticing some of those who did.
Anyway, I’m not the type to let any details go unexplained, no matter how small. So, calling upon both YouTube.com and another great CoachChic.com friend, I share the following with all our goaltender members (and the team coaches who work with them).
Actually, while the TV cameras gave us a pretty good glimpse of that goaltender’s water bottle, it probably didn’t show the arrangement as it really should be. No, quite obviously the outer foam part is (rightly) affixed to the net, while the bottle itself should be stored inside that foam outer liner. My guess is that the goalie had left the bottle loose on top of the net.
Okay, and the following photos are courtesy of Mike Mahony (his son Matt is a topnotch teen goalie in California)…
To the left you see Matt’s water bottle as it sits alone, and to the right is shown the bottle affixed to the top of Matt’s net.
Then, as I talked to various older goaltenders and the parents of goaltenders, I came to understand that bottles are now made specifically for those unique positional players. I wasn’t able to find any on-line to show you, although I think the ones depicted in both the video and the photos provide a couple of good examples.
Finally, when goalies first started tying their bottles to nets, they’d wrap a skate lace around the bottle, secure that with several wraps of hockey tape, and then tie the lacing to the net’s webbing.
I’ve been doing a little research lately for a special program I’m reading to advertise. That kind of stuff often brings your favorite “Nutty Professor” to some areas other coaches just wouldn’t ever consider exploring.
Actually, I wasn’t looking for goaltending ideas as I surfed the Net today. However, when I ran across the following video, well…
— Dennis Chighisola
Let’s “Think” Goaltending!
Now, you ought to know that our resident goalie coach, Todd Jacobson, is off with his Notre Dame Academy ladies’ hockey team for a few months. So, while he’s away, I thought we might start a little interaction among members.
In other words, what I’d like us all to do (including myself) is to watch this video once or twice, and then see how we feel this kind of training might benefit a hockey goaltender. So, take a look, and I’ll comment more right after…
Now, if you felt that some of the shown training would be helpful, but some of it wouldn’t, I’d totally agree with you. (More on that later.) And, if you feel some of the above could be adapted to help quicken a goaler’s feet as well as his hands, I’d similarly agree.
Okay… All that said, how about if we use the Comments section to make any suggestions — in the ways we might be able to borrow from this form of training for a netminder’s sake.
Ready… Set… Let’s think (like a Nutty Professor)!
As a late note, I apologize for moving this collection of material from the “Free to Non-members” section to only make it available for my members. However, having just recently added some REALLY high level information (as Part 3), I thought that only fair. Sorry.
As I’m so often saying (or writing), our sport is filled with all sorts of terms that aren’t well explained. Plyometrics is probably one of those terms. (Actually, I saw samples of this form of exercise in the old Soviet Union long before most coaches in North America knew about it.)
Anyway, while I (and a good friend) will be showing you one great plyometric exercise, this post is really aimed at just explaining the meaning and benefits of this awesome form of training.
– Dennis Chighisola
Hockey and Plyometrics – Part 1
Special thanks to Maryse Senécal
from Myo-precision for her
awesome video and demonstration
of just one form of plyometrics training.
(Please see below for much more
about Maryse and Myo-precision.)
To get the ball rolling, I did a quick Google search for the term “plyometrics”, and here are two of the best (least confusing) ones I found:
Plyometrics is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system, generally for the purpose of improving performance in sports. …
Plyometric – refers to those activities that enable a muscle to reach maximal force in the shortest possible of time. A practical definition of plyometric exercise is a quick, powerful movement using a prestretch, or countermovement, that involves the stretch shortening cycle (SSC).
Hmmmmm… Did I say those were the least confusing I could find?
Okay, I always get a little nervous as I try to explain such things to average moms and dads, hockey coaches and older players, because I know at the same time there might be another Phys Ed type reading this, or even a doctor or two. So, in advance, I’m going to state that the following is my attempt at explaining plyometrics without too much Latin or anatomy class terminology included.
To make that point a little more, this very old story from my college days… Ya, I had just finished taking an anatomy quiz and I began joking with my professor, in that, “I’m going to have to forget all this stuff as soon as I get out of here!” He sorta squinted, not understanding my meaning, so I further explained that part about my working with regular folks, adding that, “I’m not about to snow my customers or try to impress them with all those fancy terms… My job is to help them.”
That said, here’s my VERY basic explanation and some ideas when it comes to plyometrics…
Some forms of this exercise are pretty stressful. And, while I’ll provide a few suggestions for parents and coaches of younger players later, I want to begin with the types of plyometrics that are most often used with more mature athletes.
Based on the exercise my good friend Maryse is going to eventually show you, let’s consider strengthening the chest muscles in a hockey player (as well as the other muscle groups that work the arms, shoulders and chest). Actually, a bench press is a great exercise for increasing strength in the chest area, and it’s the kind of exercise that can gradually be challenged with more and more resistance (or more weights) as the athlete gains strength.
Machines or free weights (like dumbbells or barbells) are most often used for bench presses, with increased muscle size, strength and stamina usually resulting. Ya, muscle size, strength and stamina…
Which leads me to the big “but” you’re likely expecting.
Well, a bench press might be almost like the way a hockey player uses his or her hands, arms and chest during a game — but, not exactly. Naw, the most common movement that comes to mind is when two players are about to collide, and one or both have to suddenly push-off against the other. It’s kind of an “explosive” movement, which is one term frequently associated with plyometrics, or (borrowing from both earlier definitions) it’s “a quick, powerful movement”. In effect, it’s a quicker recruitment of all those muscles we’ve previously developed in a somewhat slower form of exercise.
All that said, picture a typical bench press movement. Or, envision a push-up, which is similar to a bench press, just not loaded with extra weights. Then, take a look at a variation on those exercises as demonstrated by Maryse…
As you should have recognized, the plyo push-up is very similar to a bench press, except that it’s necessary for the athlete to recruit muscles faster — into an explosive movement — in order to blast-off into the air. Yup, much like a hockey player has to do in a game, huh?
Now, I mentioned earlier that I approach different age groups differently when it comes to plyometrics, and this is so. And, I believe most medical types would agree with the following…
Plyometrics for Older Players I save the really stressful types of plyos for players in their mid-teens and older. I’d like to know that their bodies are fairly well developed, and that they’ve had time to build the muscle mass that plyometrics are meant to call into play. Twice per week is the most I’ll have my older guys do such exercises, although it’s believed by some that even once per week might be enough. (If I’m going to have my players work-out more than once per week, the second session would not include very stressful exercises.)
Plyometrics for Younger Players Although some might frown upon younger kids doing so-called plyometrics, let me remind them that young people have forever skipped and hopped. And, skipping and hopping ARE milder forms of plyometrics. So, while I’d never let my younger kids do any of the stressful stuff, I encourage them to skip rope and otherwise bound around in schoolyard games type fashion. (I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it or not, but the most athletic youngsters always seem to be awesome at skipping and jumping.)
Okay, I wanted to end this entry with yet another fairly good description of plyos:
Plyometrics are drills or exercises aimed at linking sheer strength and scope of movement to produce an explosive reaction type movement
So, having set-out in the beginning to roughly explain the meaning and benefits of plyometrics, I’d say that either of those three definitions ought to give my CoachChic.com friends a fairly good understanding.
Finally, I can’t thank Maryse Senécal enough for helping us (you and me) with her expertise and that awesome sample video. Search Maryse’s name here on this site to find other great contributions she’s made for members. Then, if you’d like to see a little more of her work, she welcomes you to visit her site: Myo-precision
How lucky can a guy be? I mean, shortly after I published the above article and video, our friend Maryse offered to add a little of what she’s discovered when it comes to using plyometrics with different areas of the population.
So, with that, let’s turn-over Part 2 to Maryse!
– Dennis Chighisola
PS: Maryse apologizes often for the fact that French is her native language, and that (at least she thinks) she struggles sometimes with English. Ha, I should do so well.
Catch Maryse on Twitter ********** Catch Maryse on Facebook
Hockey and Plyometrics – Part 2
Dennis, you’ve done a great job describing plyometric training. In fact a simpler way of putting it for the layman is just a (jump) move with a specific goal.
The technique is used first and foremost to train in explosive power, which we know athletes use every moment of their game. Often, it’s what can make or break athletic performance.
I’d like to take this opportunity and expand on technique and tactics.
Children are plyo geniuses; they do it every day in play. If we took a moment and analyzed 5 year olds, we would see that they do this naturally, without thought, without training — just pure abandon of movement in velocity.
We naturally love these feelings. When shaping young players, as in children under the age of 12, plyometric training can be fun and easy to do. The tactic we must remember to use in this case is not one of power but of endurance. For example, I would never use a box jump at that age. Instead, I use fast foot hops, looking for absorption, accuracy and stability on the landing. Their joints and surrounding soft tissue are not yet steady enough to withstand high jumps in an endurance environment. The growth plates in the bones are not yet fused enough to withstand the load long term.
As we see them grow into adolescents, this is when we can start using plyos to teach them to recruit power in their sport. But again, we have to be careful of injury.
We must now address the issue of strength training. At that age, strength training can be as easy as using their own body weight if they are not yet ready for true strength training in the weight room. For example, if I wanted to introduce them to box jumps at that age, I would start by using squats — unweighted, as a stepping stone. Isometric holds (as in holding that squat position for 30-60 seconds), into 4 squats, into hold again, combining both moves to help build the leg, the hip, the hammies and the glutes. And yes, it’s a burn.
As we progress that load, I would start introducing the box. Teaching first and foremost the landing skills. And again, in this environment, I would increase the duration of the jump drill, and I would begin combining squats and jumps in a drill. Playing is fun, and kids even at adolescent age love to play.
Older adolescents start taking this all more seriously. This is an important part of athleticism. My guys train in the gym, they push weights and they feel powerful in that moment — until plyometric drills come into play. They are often discouraged by the lack of endurance. This is how I explain it to them:
1) to be able to sustain a plyo drill on the leg, we must be able to squat 1.6 times our body weight.
2) to be able to sustain a plyo drill on the upper body as the one that we demoed above, we must be able to press 1.2 times our body weight.
This is not an easy feat! In order to recruit pure power from the body, strength MUST be developed. These are my tactics:
Phase 1 – pure moves in strength (the usual stuff we see every day in the gym)
Phase 2 – strength in movement (combination strength moves, i.e. lunge and press)
Phase 3 – intro to plyo drills
Phase 4 – pure moves in strength, immediately followed by a plyo drill (weighted squat for 12 reps right into box jumps for 12 reps)
Phase 5 – increase plyo drill difficulty and duration
Phase 6 – weighted plyo drills
For my athletes, following this system has helped them stay on task as the progression is continuous and fun. I try to keep things light yet serious, and I try to keep things fresh by introducing new and exciting moves to try.
Muscle memory is at the very foundation of their training, yet it can become tedious and boring. I try to keep it all fresh by changing up the way in which they do the pure move, I try to put it in different environments in the gym. And, as for plyo drills, the crazier the better!
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on what I love to do!
Hockey and Plyometrics – Part 3
It just so happened that I was doing a little research today for a new program I’m about to announce (it’s my Hockey BootCamp), and I ran across the following video. In it, one of the US’s top authorities on this subject gives a description of plyometrics that might fill-in the gaps for many members. I hope you also enjoy the history of plyos as provided by Dr. Michael Yessis…
By the way… Although I wouldn’t visit the old Soviet Union until about 20-years after plyometrics were initiated, it would be about another 20-years after I returned home for that term to even be heard by the average coach or athlete.
Now, since we have here yet another enthusiastic guest instructor, I don’t think Maryse would mind a bit answering your questions, or trying to clarify a sometime confusing subject. So, why not take advantage of her generosity, and fire a few questions to her via the Comment box?
This post should have really been titled “The Chicken or Egg Question”. That said, you’ll have to read further to find out why. Along the way, you ought to get a kick out of the great Ovechkin’s shooting accuracy.
– Dennis Chighisola
A Pro Hockey Player’s Shooting Accuracy
I think it best that you first be entertained by this ESPN video featuring the guy I call “The Great 8″. On the other side I’ll have a question for you, then what I believe is the answer…
Okay, about that chicken versus the egg suggestion…
I mean, which do you think comes first — that a guy achieves pro status because he can shoot pinpoint lasers, or does a pro have more free time than us amateurs and thusly gets to practice more than the rest of us?
Well, my guess is that a lot of folks were thinking the latter as they were watching that exhibition, figuring Ovechkin has had plenty of time to practice during a his so many years in elite level hockey. And, I’d tend to agree — to a point.
Really, I believe great players practiced and practiced their basic skills countless times on their way up the hockey ladder. So, I’d be willing to bet that OV could shoot better than most mortals long before he arrived on the international scene. Thereafter, my guess is that he’s kept at it, firing thousands more pucks in order to keep himself near the top of the hockey heap.
Okay, so why did I even bring-up this subject? It’s because I’d truly like to see young players practice this kind of skill as often as they can. There’s nothing wrong (and everything right) about a 7- or 8-year old attempting to hit targets in the basement or driveway, and it’s surely a great idea that Squirts/Atoms, Pee Wees and Bantams keep getting better and better. Then, who knows… Maybe someone reading this entry will make the big-time, and from then on have plenty of time to improve all the more.
(Oh, by the way… I’d like everyone — and especially young players — to notice where Ovechkin looks as he shoots. Ya, he may look down to grab a puck, but his eyes are up and on his target every single time he pulls the trigger. I raise this point because a lot of young players — and even older ones — think they’re looking up as they shoot. But, when I’m watching, I catch far too many of ‘em looking downward.)
Then, just so the other half of my friends don’t get upset — … Here’s a great video featuring Sid The Kid more than matching Ovechkin’s shooting demonstration…
Ha… Over my 40-years in our game, I’ve gotten used to people calling me a little sick. Or, when they want to put it a little nicer, they dub this old coach “The Nutty Professor”.
If anything, though, I take those as compliments. Actually, I don’t think you’d appreciate either me or CoachChic.com if you didn’t know I was frequently thinking outside the proverbial box — for myself, and for you. In fact, that outside-the-box kind of attitude is one reason this site’s content will always be different than any other.
Oh, and there surely IS something odd about my eyesight. I mean, the weirdest things catch my attention, whether it’s browsing on-line or walking through the local Home Depot. I can even spot an object in a pile of junk and say to myself, “Wow, I could make an awesome ______ out of that!”
Okay, having established that I’m a little “different”, and that the oddest things give me ideas for new ways to train (or kill) hockey players, I want you to get a load of my latest off-ice training idea.
– Dennis Chighisola
Land Paddling for Hockey Core Strength?
Spending some time on Facebook recently, I caught a smaller version of that picture (to the left) out of the corner of my eye. Hey, an active guy in pretty good shape will get my attention, especially if he has some sort of different looking training device in his hands! Hmmmmm… A “Big Stick”?
Take a look at that thing, and it should be easy enough to figure what’s going on. The guy in the pic is paddling, and it also appears as if he’s REALLY taxing his midsection.
I salted that idea away for awhile, thinking it would be easiest to use such a device during the summer months here in New England. And I also thought that I’d be more apt to use it with older guys — like my high school and college hockey students.
Okay, that ad caught my eye again tonight over on Facebook, so I thought I’d share my thinking on the Big Stick with you.
I figured finding a video showing that device in action might help as a start. If there was a tricky thing to that, it was the fact that most Big Stick videos have evidently been produced for the surfing crowd, and heavily flavored by that sort of music and lingo.) Interestingly, I noticed that there were a few folks from other, non-surfing or non-skating sports using the Big Stick as a means of cross-training. Still — and again, pardon the surfing flavor, I think the following will give you a good fairly sense of how this device is used…
Now, right up front, I want you to know that most of the moves depicted in that video aren’t included in the ones I’ve been pondering. No, the folks featured in that video are obvious surfers, and it seems to me that their primary concern is balancing on their boards, and they’re just using their Big Sticks to keep themselves going. Or, I might suggest that they’re working on their surfing techniques while also getting a little torso and upper body work in.
Of course, it’s a long time until summer hits around these parts, so I still have plenty of time to think further on this new idea. However, here are a couple of my immediate impressions:
- I just might use a slightly more stable “board” for my guys to travel upon. I have 5 or 6 such devices in The MOTION Lab right now — they’re square, have four caster-like wheels under the corners, and they’re built fairly low to the ground. And if those don’t work, I just might make my own — again, with the aim of having these be a little more stable, and not quite so much like surfing. (Not that typical surfing movements would be bad for hockey players; it’s just that those kinds of movements wouldn’t be my main aim in using something like the Big Stick.)
- Ya, “something like the Big Stick”… In other words, right now I can’t see that very long pole being what I’d want to use to cross-train a hockey player. Nope. What I’m envisioning right now is making something that’s a lot closer to a kayak paddle…
Of course, I’d have to arrive at the proper length to accommodate a player being able to paddle to both sides, I’d have to work on making a decent grip-area in the middle, and I’d also have to construct the ends in a way that would provide grip against a pavement (or whatever) and wear fairly well.
- Then, if I did use the above kayak paddle kind of design, I might have my players occasionally work from a squat (or something fairly close to that).
- Come to think of it, the midsection muscles might be taxed all the more if a player sat or knelt at times.
Can you envision a hockey player working at intervals similar to a typical shift — wrenching away, twisting and turning that midsection, and making those arms and shoulders bulge? (Come to think of it, a guy’s hockey shot should be enhanced from those resisted twisting movements as well!)
Finally, while I know I’ve joked a little in the early going, I’m pretty serious about you and me looking at all sorts of gear options when we want some new cross-training effects. And, like the Big Stick, a given device might be close to what we want, but not exactly. If there’s any concern at all (other than safety), it’s that we should study the real challenges hockey players face, and then come as close as possible to matching the exercises to those hockey-specific movements.
PLEASE be sure to leave a Comment. I love interacting with you guys (and gals)!
Aaaaah, I love it when folks toss their hockey problems my way (even if I’m not sure I can answer them)!
Okay, so I just received the following question (which might just be a huge challenge for me). Please take a read…
– Dennis Chighisola
A Great Hockey Skater Is Suddenly Falling(?)
This actually came by way of a Comment, but I thought it worthy enough to address in its own post. Here’s the question verbatim:
“my son plays in a novice select team is 8yrs old…a great skater..but is falling alot of late…..Why ??“
Hmmmmmm… Why, indeed.
Quite obviously this is a difficult one to answer without being able to see the boy. (I surely wouldn’t mind receiving a short video clip of the youngster, just so I might do a lot better than I’m going to right now.)
That said, the best I have to go on are the following assumptions:
1) dad says he’s a pretty good skater;
2) it sounds like the level the boy is playing is pretty decent;
3) it also sounds as if the youngster’s frequent falling is something that’s just started happening very recently.
The reason I wanted to state all that is because it probably at least makes it possible for us to discount the kid being an awful skater who ought to fall plenty anyway.
That established (I hope), my educated guess is that we have to look in two separate areas for an answer…
1) Equipment-wise, I’d look at the skates. Has there been a change in these important pieces of gear — either in a switch to new or different blades, or is there something wrong with a recent skate sharpening? (To be honest, I don’t think new boots would make a player fall, but something being drastically different about the blades or sharpening surely could.) And, of course, it would be nice if it was that easy to resolve the boy’s problems — by just fixing a piece of gear, I mean.
2) After that, we obviously have to consider a physical problem of some sort, and this I’ll question on several fronts:
- if recent skating problems happened about the same time the boy joined the current (select?) team, it could be that many pretty talented opponents are causing him to have difficulties keeping-up (having to change directions quickly, etc);
- I don’t usually associate growth spurts with kids far younger than puberty, but a sudden change in one’s body can surely bring about some difficulties with fine motor skills;
- God forbid, but I very long ago had a really talented student of mine start having some similar problems, and this was later diagnosed as a very serious health issue.
Okay, that’s where I am right now — suggesting that the dad work his way through that short checklist, first starting with the possibility that the whole thing has to do with an equipment (or mainly a skate) issue.
I’d also invite him to work with me on this, so that we could go back and forth to troubleshoot things. So, if you would, dad, let me know what you discover from going through that list, and even send me a short video clip if you can (I’ll provide advice if you don’t know how to do it).
Finally, I’m sure the dad won’t mind that I open this discussion to others. Ya, I think it would be helpful if anyone else has an idea they think ought to be included in the checklist I’ve plotted so far.
Oh, did I say I love questions? You know I do! And, I also love feedback or Comments from members, so please join-in!
As you’ll soon see, there’s a good reason why I’m holding the following from public view. Ya, this is definitely for members only!
You see, this post is a result of the Comments that came-in after I posted “Hockey Stick Measurement Help” (go see that if you haven’t already).
Yes, two awesome members — Craig and Jon — jumped into the fray with slightly contrasting views on what this old coach had to say. So, as I replied to Jon, he’s now “… forcing me to share something I cringe to mention in front of young or developing players!”
– Dennis Chighisola
“Borrowing” from Our Hockey Strengths
Okay, I (and any other conscientious hockey advisers) have to answer questions — at least initially — with the broadest audience in mind. So, in my case, I’ll most often provide a pretty good “rule of thumb” when I answer your questions. Said yet another way, the answer I’ll usually provide will help almost anyone in our game.
That would especially be the case when it comes to equipment — either in the various choices we might need to make, or how we might measure or doctor our gear.
Still, there IS the chance for a player to gain in an area of weakness, IF he or she has a certain strength that can be traded in exchange.
Here’s a short story that might best describe what I’m getting at here…
More than a generation ago, my son and future Olympic speed skating medalist Eric Flaim were best friends, and they attended my clinics together, went to my hockey schools for a lot of summers, and even played on my NEHI team together. Actually, Eric eventually strayed from hockey to the other sport because I added a speed skating instructor to my camp staff who immediately saw some great innate qualities in that boy.
Anyway, that speed skating instructor — Steve — had some pretty good knowledge that could help my players (and I don’t doubt that he learned as much from interacting with us hockey guys).
Actually, at one point, Steve tried to work his magic with my son, owing to the fact that my guy possessed just about every desirable hockey quality EXCEPT FOR STRAIGHT-AHEAD SPEED. What Steve suggested was that Mike try a different sort of skate sharpening, or a slight variation on the type speed skaters use.
As you ought to know, the hockey skate is ground to make a “hollow” down the length of a blade, which creates an extremely sharp edge on each side of the blade. And, those sharp edges provide the hockey player his or her ability to make quick cuts or turns on the ice.
Steve and I had to put our heads together on this one, however, because his suggestion might have been considered a little drastic. I mean, he was recommending that we reduce the edges on Mike’s skates, which would in turn produce less drag or friction as the skates glided on the ice. (In other words, the blades would be sharpened flatter, or with less hollow.) Hmmmmmmm…
Okay, so here’s the reasoning that went into all this — or the reason I suspected Steve’s idea would work… Use see, Mike had unbelievable edge control and cutting ability. So, we figured that — while he’d lose just a hair in that department, there was the likelihood that he’d gain quite a lot in his forward speed. And, the overall combination — of slightly less cutting ability but more straight-ahead speed — would actually equal a plus in Mike’s game.
Mission accomplished! As we’d surmised, Mike’s maneuverability hardly changed, while he gained considerable speed on the straight-aways, again owing to the decreased friction between his skates and the ice.
Now, before everyone reading this runs out and changes their skate sharpening methods, let me say again: that Mike went into that affair with something to trade-off, or to “borrow” from. He had elite-type edge control before the new sharpening, and the later adjustment didn’t even put him back in the pack as far as cutting abilities went.
Saying all that again, in a different way: a player MUST have a strength from which to borrow, if he or she is going to make adjustments that aid in other areas.
All that said, let me now copy and paste something from Jon’s Comment:
“But what I REALLY wanted to mention was the Norwegian Hobbit Wizard that plays for Rangers, Mats Zuccarello. Youtube him. In his debut game for the Rangers on the 23rd he made Tortorella laugh out loud in amazement when he scored on a shoot out goal. He is what you would call a stick handler.
He is 5ft 7 but his playing style warrants a really long stick. His forte is the corners and he can dangle and bedazzle anyone in there and make some inspired passes. With a really long stick. But he actually had to cut off 2 inches off the stick when he came from the European rinks to the North American rinks. I would assume that to mean that playing style matters when they are playing at that level. At my level I think it matters more that I learn to skate!
* After the fact, Jon was kind enough to email me a link to the Zuccarello shootout goal, so please see that below.
Now, without me really knowing this “Norwegian Hobbit Wizard”, let’s just go a little on what Jon has said… Does it sound like this guy has a strength he might borrow from? I’m guessing it’s so, since Jon describes him as “what you would call a stick handler.” In other words, Zuccarello evidently handles the puck far better than most, and he might just be able to trade-off a hair on that skill for a little of something else.
Hmmmmm, that something else… Right-off, I can tell you that a longer stick-shaft will give a player more force in his or her shot (yup, the longer lever arm does that). And, in the case of Zuccarello — because he IS such a great puckhandler, I doubt he’s going to lose much of that skill as he goes to a longer stick.
Once again, however, I fear someone using the latter knowledge without thinking long and hard. So, beware…
In my estimation, puckcontrol comes before shooting. And, man, can I give you some examples of that!
Over the years, I’ve had quite a few big, strong high school and college guys who looked like they could be an asset on my powerplay point. I mean, during tryouts or in practice, they would shoot absolute lasers from the point positions. If there was a problem, it came in the games, when they could hardly ever get-off a shot.
Why so? Well, you’ll have to trust me on this one, I guess, but my feeling was that they were awful puckhandlers, and that they could hardly ever deal with the puck and get themselves set to rip a shot. Just the slight slowness they demonstrated with handling the puck gave opponents the chances to get right in their face.
I got these guys late, of course, and it was a little late for me to change their sticks and teach them to stickhandle the way it would be required to play the way I’d have liked for our powerplay.
As I hope you can see, I fear anyone putting the cart before the horse when it comes to the trade-offs I’ve mentioned above. In fact, that last example might give you an indication of what might happen to a player if he or she goes with a long stick early-on, and never masters the art of puckhandling.
Then, I want to return to Jon’s mention about Zuccarello being good in the corners, etc… I’m not sure there’s a connection between that guy’s stick length and his extra abilities in the corners, and I would even think there isn’t (unless I hear it right from the horse’s mouth). That said, I will leave you with a slightly connected story…
Lots of years ago, I had a certain guest instructor in my hockey school. He was a member of the most famous line on the “Big Bad Bruins” of the ’70s, and a household name among most hockey fans. If I had to add one more thing to that, I’d probably be safe in saying that he wasn’t the big scorer on that line.
Anyway, in a classroom session one day at camp, our guest spent quite a bit of time talking about equipment, how the Bruins’ trainers doctored it at times for the players, and so forth.
When the subject of his skates arose, I mentioned that I wasn’t crazy about his plastic molded ones, having analyzed different skaters wearing them.
Surprisingly, he agreed with me, and he went on to explain how his job wasn’t to be stylish (like his two mates). No, his job included more corner work and controlling the puck with his feet. So the extra thick plastic boots tended to protect him and to make that part of his job a little easier.
Okay, so why did I mention that story? It’s because we fans watch the games from long distance, and we really haven’t a clue why some of our heroes do the things they do. Some of those guys have really good reasons — and they might be right; there are yet others who think they’re gaining from doing something odd with their gear, and they are terribly (and scientifically) wrong. So again, beware of copying your favorite players. Many of them are actually stars despite the odd things they do!
Here’s that Zuccarello shootout goal (enjoy)…
Oh, boy, I can just imagine the Comments coming in on this one
(although you know I’ll love ‘em)!
I got psyched when I saw a replay of Eric Fehr’s second goal in the 2011 Winter Classic. I mean, I immediately thought to myself, I just have to show my CoachChic.com friends that one!
– Dennis Chighisola
The Flex of a Hockey Stick
Actually, not much can be seen in the first few views of that goal. However, the very last part of the following video — or the very last slow-motion replay — shows exactly what I’d like you to see.
From the side view, we can see Fehr’s stick bending — like big-time. But, please take a look for yourself before I get further into this subject…
Now, let me tell you the significance of the flex in a player’s hockey stick…
In so doing, I’d like you to first consider holding a 2″ x 4″ board, and then use it to propel a hockey puck with lots of force. Not possible you say?
Well, part of the problem might be that the board would be kinda heavy, and it would be pretty difficult to wrist it through a really quick sweeping motion. (And, that in itself should suggest the need for lightness when we select a hockey stick.)
Yet another problem we’d encounter with the board is that it has no flex. Ah, yes, the flex…
If you can envision Fehr’s shot again, recall the way he leaned on his stick, causing it to bend considerably. In a way, he’s “loading” the stick, and he’s going to ultimately gain almost a slingshot effect as the stick uncoils and sends the puck towards its target. And, it’s that uncoiling of a stick that really gives a shot its force. (Fehr’s shot in the video is a wrister, or sweepshot. However, the flexing of the shaft and its later uncoiling is what really helps make a slapshot so forceful.)
As it so happened, I was watching the Winter Classic on my computer last night, just so I could get some other PC work done at the same time. I was also going back and forth with a few hockey friends on Twitter and Facebook, discussing the aforementioned stick flex.
One good friend asked me for stick selection advice as it would pertain to his 7-year old daughter. So, confined to just 140 characters at a time (as is necessary on Twitter), I tried to tell him to have his little girl test a bunch of sticks in the local pro shop. I also mentioned that a lot of kids pick sticks based solely on how they look. So, my friend would have to be smarter than that, urging his daughter to find a stick that is small enough for her little hands, and whippy enough for her to flex as she shoots. Then, I reminded him of one more important consideration, in that a stick loses its flexibility as it is shortened. In other words, take this into account if you find a good stick but you know it’s going to have to be cut after the purchase.
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!!
I’m always saying that part of my job is to do the research for CoachChic.com members (and I also like to do it selfishly, for myself — ).
Anyway, I subscribe to a number of strength training magazines and newsletters, just so I can keep-up with the very latest in training methods.
So, along comes my latest ezine featuring an article on “suspension training”. Hmmmmmm… I kinda knew what the title meant, but I ultimately got into that article, and eventually decided to share the concept with you.
– Dennis Chighisola
Suspension Training for Hockey Players
Basically, suspension training involves hanging an athlete from a harness, this so that a certain body part (or parts) can be truly isolated in a given movement.
Ugh… I know I’m not going to do this subject justice — in words, so let’s take a look at a short video depicting some interesting suspension exercises…
Man, my mind was racing as I watched that. Why? It’s because I’m trying to figure how I can rig one of those things in The MOTION Lab. (Oh, boy, are some of my older students going to be in for a treat!)
Appreciate that I have lots of great drills for core muscle training, and I’m pretty resourceful when it comes to isolating different muscles or muscle groups. However, I like variety in my players’ training, for two very important reasons:
1) as soon as boredom starts trickling in, an exercise loses its effectiveness;
2) any given exercise tends to tax a muscle (or muscle group) in one way, while a slightly similar exercise tends to call more muscles into play, or it tends to tax a muscle in a slightly different way or at a slightly different angle.
I also feel the need to point-out that our game calls for frequently wrestling against resistance — as in tussling with opponents under all sorts of conditions. So, I like strength building exercises that call for a player to deal with resistance while having to move his or her body through all sorts of (contorted?) positions.
For the above reason (and as show in the adjacent photo), you’ll see me constantly adding a stability ball, an under-foot air cushion, a teeter-totter or some other like aid to an exercise. Ya, we have to help our players learn to deal with wrestling against resistance, because our sport calls for movements far removed from the typical machine-type exercise.
Then, one final note, just in case you’re considering getting a devise like the one featured in the above video… The TRX system is just one of many now out on the market. So, while my understanding is that it’s a really one, I’m also guessing there are others that will meet anyone’s needs (and pocketbook). And, if you should find a device you like, or if you know more about this subject than I, other members and I would surely like to hear from you.
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.
Okay, so you figure this topic isn’t quite up to the kind of stuff we normally deal with here at CoachChic.com? Well, I’m personally an inquisitive rascal, and I want to know absolutely everything about my sport — from how things are made to how they’re best maintained. Only then can I make “educated” decisions when it comes to the seemingly more important stuff.
Of course, you can explore the Internet on your own to find information like the following. At the same time, you should know that I’m always looking for you, and attempting to locate information I feel you’d gain from.
That said, although I’ve watched countless new ice surfaces being put down, I actually learned a couple of interesting things about ice making from the following video. So, thanks to YouTube.com and the Discovery / Science Channel, I hope you enjoy…
– Dennis Chighisola
How Indoor Rink Ice Is Made
This just happens to be another of those frequently asked questions — about when or IF a player should hold his or her hockey stick in one or two hands. So, always aiming to please, here’s my recommendation…
– Dennis Chighisola
Two Hands or One on the Hockey Stick
The short answer to part of that question is that, a player absolutely has to control his or her stick in two hands at certain times, and then in one hand at certain other times!
Given that, I always separate the rest of this question into two parts — as in when a player is on offense, and when he or she is on defense.
Stick Grips While On Defense
When our opponents control the puck and we’re away from the opposition puckhandler, there are generally two things we can do…
In one instance we may be matched with an open opponent, which calls for us to control his or her body and stick to prevent a pass from connecting.
At yet other times we may be positioned to intercept a pass between the opposition puckhandler and his or her open teammate.
In both instances, it’s obviously necessary for the defender to have both hands on the hockey stick.
When our opponents control the puck and we’re responsible for dealing with the puckcarrier, I feel it can be hugely beneficial to use one hand on the stick for a period of time…
Whether we’re in a body-checking or non-checking game, it’s necessary for a defensive player to veer the puckcarrier in a given direction (usually towards the outside, towards the boards, or generally towards an area where he or she is easier to trap). This steering is best down while approaching from an angle and also holding the stick in one hand — using it sort of like a steering tool. Nowadays, however, with the new checking rules, I recommend that the defender switch to two hands as he or she closes-in on the puckcarrier.
By the way… The use of one hand on the stick is also necessary as a backward skating defenseman plays an attacker in a 1 on 1 situation.
Stick Grips While On Offense
Any time an offensive player wants to be available for a pass, it’s obviously important for him or her to give a stick-target and to ultimately try to receive a pass while holding the stick in two hands.
That said, the rules change drastically for a puckhandler as he or she tries to deke an enemy defender. Oh, for sure, an attacker can make some decent fakes with the stick held in two hands. However, his or her reach — or the extent of his or her deke — is extremely limited with this sort of stick grip. For that reason, you’ll see our game’s most dangerous attackers “dangle” the puck far outward with the stick held only in the top hand. Then — if the defender takes the bait, the puck can be quickly pulled back a pretty long distance in the opposite direction.
In yet another 1 against 1 situation, it is often easier for a player to protect the puck by holding it far out and away from a nearby defender (as in the above photo).
So, as I hope you’ll appreciate, there are different times during the game action when it’s advantageous for a hockey player to hold his or her stick in either one hand or two.
Thanks to YouTube and a Facebook friend, the following video shows a great example of attacking one of the defender’s open triangles.
Especially helpful in this video is the fact that so many views are provided, as well as some nice slow-motion replay. In other words, it gives us the chance to really study the way Lemieux beat the backward skating defenseman.
– Dennis Chighisola
Mario Lemieux Attacks the Open Triangle
Given the chance to watch that a number of times, I noticed that Lemieux does something we ought to study again…
I mean, I am forever suggesting that the set-up of a move is as important as the move itself.
In this case, notice the huge fake Lemieux makes towards his left, dangling the puck far out that way, and making the defender believe he really is heading to the left.
Yes, only with that exaggerated deke is a slip of the puck through the defenseman’s legs going to work.
Also, if young players are watching this, I’d to point-out that Lemieux makes a beautiful pass to himself, angling the puck so that it arrives just where he needs to pick it up a split-second later.
Aaaah, man, I love the opportunities we have today to study and study some of hockey’s all-time greats.
Hey, despite there already being thousands of great tidbits of hockey advice here, I’m not opposed to going outside CoachChic.com when it comes to finding help for you. In other words, I hope to save you tons of time by doing the research for you.
As for this post, Jukka Ropponen is a noted Finnish goalie coach with plenty of great ideas when it comes to goaltender training. And, a popular drill used by Ropponen to help a netminder move across his or her crease — or to recover from one side to the other — is the following…
– Dennis Chighisola
Ropponen (Goalie) Recovery Drill
Just click on the YouTube.com logo to see more drills by Ropponen.
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
Most long-time members should know my strong belief in “visualization” or “mental imagery”. In fact, while most hockey folks put the majority of their eggs into their on-ice skills basket, Shaun Goodsell and I are forever urging our CoachChic.com friends to pay just as much attention to enhancing their mental skills.
I think long-time members will also recall my love for several social media sites. Yes, Twitter and Facebook are where I’ve met some of the best and brightest advisers one could ever find, and those sites are where a lot of my current day friends reside.
Such is the case with a new on-line friend, Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter. She’s a Sports Psychology Expert, and I’ll tell you a little more about her once you’ve had the chance to see her special video.
– Dennis Chighisola
Visualization-Performance Coaching Tips for Sports
Okay, after many years of espousing the virtues of mental imagery, I finally came across someone who explains pretty well the techniques we might use when planning our own visualization sessions. So, have a look and listen to what Dr JoAnn has to offer…
Now, since I’m guessing mostly adults will watch that video, I’m wondering if any of you got the feeling those methods would work in areas beyond sport, or beyond hockey. I mean, how about in our work? Actually, how about in our personal lifestyles?
Yup, that’s powerful stuff, and I’ll suggest it will work anywhere IF we follow The Good Doctor’s advice!
Okay, Dr JoAnn can be found all around the Internet. However, besides looking into some of her other YouTube videos, here are some other ways you might follow her awesome advice…
Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter
Sports Psychology Expert
Our good friend Ravi made an unbelievable contribution in a Comment (below), providing us all a link to a video showing Mike Cammalleri using visualization in his own way. That video was so good (as was the narration by Don Cherry) that I thought I’d embed it right here within this post just to make it easier for members to see. Thanks again, Ravi!
– Dennis Chighisola
By the way, folks… The “Bobby” Don Cherry is talking about in that video is none other than the great Bobby Orr. So, Cherry is saying that Orr used similar visualization methods, but he’d practice his in the lockerroom long before games. Wow!
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.
At the end of the last post in this section — in Part 4, I mentioned that I was thinking about giving my guys a little break from a routine that they’ve been doing for quite awhile. Oh, I’ve made plenty of subtle changes as we’ve gone along, just to help avoid boredom, and to cover all the bases when it comes to hockey conditioning. However, what I really planned to do very soon was something kind of off the wall, or something that represented a MAJOR difference in what we’d been doing.
I also said previously that I’d likely pull something out of my hat when it was needed, this a reference to how I can get pretty creative when I need to.
Well, I decided to make those changes sooner than later, and last night ended-up being the night!
– Dennis Chighisola
Great Hockey Conditioning Ideas – Part 5
Now, what I’d really like my hockey friends to know is that I had two major aims as I headed into last night’s training session in The MOTION Lab…
First, there was that mental break I intimated above. I mean, it was time that my guys came to the Lab to do something totally different, or something a lot different from what they expected.
Secondly, I wanted to shock my players’ systems more than a little. You see, one’s body tends to get used to a certain kind of training over time. And, while that’s good — as in the body adapting to get stronger, more efficient, whatever, the body also adapts such that the same-old, same-old kind of training has less and less effect. So again, my second aim was to give my guys the kind of physical workout that was really a lot different than they’d been doing for quite some time.
A major difference in last night’s (off the wall?) training was going to be the pace. In other words, rather than doing very intense “simulated shift training” — for 20- or 30- or 60-seconds, I thought I’d have my players go at a rather moderate pace for a very long stretch — as in about 40-minutes.
If there was any consistency to what we’d do, it would be to keep focusing on the legs and core muscles.
So, with all that said, take a look at some video I shot last night, and then I’ll mention a few more things right after…Loading...
Well, what do you think? Is that routine quite different from the ones I’ve been showing you for the past few months? And, do you think — going nearly non-stop for 40-ish minutes — really DID tax the guys’ legs and midsection? Ha!
A funny thing, though… One of the dads who watched a session last night commented that, “You’re going kind of easy on them, aren’t you?” Oh, man, I’m guessing those kids were pretty sore puppies this morning as they attempted to climb out of bed!
Just as a recap…
The first drill you saw showed the guys skipping with a fairly heavy weighted jump rope. That was near the end of our warm-ups, which included skipping a light rope, and doing some exercises that simulated the skating movement.
Next, you saw them doing a REALLY tough core exercise I call “Stepping Stones”, whereby each player balances on two objects (bricks in this case), and they move forward by balancing on one “stone” while bending and placing the other one slightly ahead. The boys did this exercise for about 20-minutes straight (think about that). However, I kept variety in there — and added some new challenges — by having them carry a stick or a weight, and sometimes exchange the variously sized weights as they moved. And, as I always do when the kids question my next directive, I just advised them to, “Deal with it!” Ya, a lot of what my kids do involves solving problems.
More balance and midsection work was the aim of that stickhandling drill atop the two crossed sticks (or described in another video as part of my “Chopped Stix“).
The remainder of our Lab time had the players rotating through stations that included those (for a lack of better name) “air pillows” and the mini-trampoline. Here, too, the challenge was changed from time to time — over 15-minutes time, with several variations shown in the video.
Then, of course, we did a little cooldown followed by some static stretching.
Again, if you take another look at that video, you’ll see the kids’ legs and torso really being worked. At the same time, I didn’t allow an exceptional amount of stress. In other words, I didn’t have them jumping and pounding (except on the very forgiving mini-tramp), but instead I had them do tons of balancing — and really wrestling — over one leg at a time.
You should know that I constantly looked for ways to break the monotony of a given drill. For example, while I knew we would be going for a very long time on those Stepping Stones, I kept distracting the guys by adding some weird new challenge. And, while the focus of the last few drills was to have my players balance on the air pillows and hop on the mini-tramp, I kept their mind partly off the pain they must have been feeling at the time by having them dribble a ball.
Now, as for the future… Two nights after the above described workout, we will go to our usual Thursday night in-line training session. As you saw in a previous video, we’ve usually done some sprint and agility work there, plus a shorter but usually more intense version of what we did in The MOTION Lab. However, I can tell you right now that I’m going to change things quite a bit for tomorrow night. Oh, I’m not sure what we’ll do just yet, but something off the wall is sure to come to me…
I know I’ve mentioned (and shown) these two exercises long ago. However, I wanted to address them in a slightly different context, this time as part of a hockey player’s core strength development.
– Dennis Chighisola
Hockey Specific Core Strength
As a preface to the following video, I’d like to explain a little bit about my aims in the two upcoming drills…
First, a player seldom gets the chance to stand prettily to take a shot in a game. No, more often he or she has to pull the trigger in some sort of off-balance posture or while being mauled by a rival player. So, any time I can, I take away some sort of advantage as I have my kids practice their shooting. For example, I might make them shoot while balanced on only one leg, while seated, or while down on one or both knees.
Secondly, I also find that a lot of defensemen send rather weak or slow passes up-ice, especially when they’re in an unbalanced position or when they’re moving backwards. (Trying to pass the puck while skating backwards IS rather difficult, or it’s rather difficult to get good force behind the puck.) So, like the example for gaining shooting strength, I have my “D” frequently make hard passes from unusual postures.
Now, before going more into this, I’d like you to see two short video clips…Loading...
I guess we could call those movements “drills”. Still, I happen to be looking at these as “exercises”, not unlike an athlete moving a bar loaded with plates.
I mean, did you hear me prodding my guys to really sling the puck or the tire with as much force as possible? Just picture either movement, if you will, or how it feels to really fire the puck or the tire. For, if you do, I think you’ll appreciate just how much each action wrenches the player’s midsection or core area.
As promised, I’m going to show you more in this area of off-ice conditioning. And I especially want to show how so many of the earliest exercises can be adapted to suit numerous and varied situations. So, here goes…
– Dennis Chighisola
Great Hockey Conditioning Ideas – Part 4
If I haven’t mentioned this previously, my High School Prep guys are now doing off-ice conditioning twice per week — or ever since we switched from our summer schedule to our fall one (right after the American Labor Day). In my mind the spring and summer is about slowly improving skills and slowly rounding into shape, while the fall is a time for really gearing-up.
For sure, I’ve wanted to keep some consistency from session to session. At the same time, boredom is always a huge danger if we keep doing the same-old, same-old stuff.
You’ve previously seen a video (“A Great Hockey Conditioning Routine“) showing a basic idea of how we undertake shift simulations in The MOTION Lab. Oh, I change that routine a little every week or so — rotating different exercises in and out, as well as altering the length of time my guys do each one. Still, there is some consistency there.
With that, I arranged our weekly schedule so that my players had a night off before I brought them to our local roller hockey rink. (In effect, they had close to 48-hours of rest time before having to go hard again.)
Now, as I said above, there had to be some consistency from one off-ice training session to the other. So, I’ve constantly used a handful of the same Lab exercises — or a slight variation — 2-nights later at the roller rink. Still, I also said I wanted to avoid boredom, and this prompted me to add new wrinkles to the in-line floor routine.
More recently, what I’ve done is have the players go for a longer time and through a string of exercises — one right after the other, to come even closer to the challenges of a typical on-ice shift. Like in The MOTION Lab, we’ve gone for 20- or 30-seconds most nights. However, more recently I’ve extended that time to a number of 1-minute simulated shifts.
The following video shows a group of 4-players rotating through four different stations. So, what you’ll see is a player repeatedly tumbling so many times, another doing straddle hops up onto a low bench, another doing a variation of Turkish up-downs, and another player hopping laterally over a high bench. And as you’ll see, the guys rotate to the next station after completing the prescribed reps at one. I’ve then added more stress to this circuit, telling my guys that they have to sprint to the rink’s near blue line when they’ve completed all four stations. In other words, the winner was the one who crossed that line first.
Okay, I’d like you to see that video so that I might add some other comments right after…Loading...
First, I think you have to love those players for the way they’re pushing themselves. I mean that; they are really pushing themselves, and I’ve had to say little to motivate them.
As always, I wanted to stay with the one:two work:rest ratio. So, I had an assistant coach (shown in the video as a red blur by the net) timing the each simulated shift. And, once he knew how long the kids had worked, he gave them twice that time to rest.
You ought to know that I was guessing a bit when I set the number of repetitions per exercise, hoping that the completion of all four stations — plus the sprint for the blue line — would come fairly close to 1-minute. And, as luck would have it, we were right around that each time the kids performed their routine.
In fact, while each shift fluctuated within a few seconds of a minute, my players actually cut their time by a little on the very last shift. And that is telling me that they are rounding into unbelievable shape.
As sort of a PS here… I am thinking that my guys are about ready for a little break in all this, just to further short-circuit any chances of boredom. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll pull out of my hat yet. But, I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as I arrive at something.
– Dennis Chighisola
Over coming weeks and months, I sense we’re going to hear a lot of stories about how new North America-based floorball clubs are being formed. That ought to be a really good thing, because I also sense that a lot of us readers (me included) are going to want some ideas, some advice, and some inspiration.
Thankfully, Craig Shaw has been a very active member here at CoachChic.com, adding numerous great Comments and even authoring a previous article for us.
With that, I knew that Craig was experimenting with the idea of getting a floorball program going in his area, so I asked him if he might let us know how things have gone so far.
– Dennis Chighisola
THE VICTORIA MUSSELS FLOORBALL CLUB IS LAUNCHED
By Craig Shaw
During the past year, the idea of floorball has been gradually making its way into my consciousness.
As hockey-mad young boys growing up on the balmy west coast of Canada, playing ice hockey outside was usually not an option for my friends and me. Our parents thought that we were crazy, but we yearned for the cold, dry winters found in places like Saskatchewan. Indoor ice was in short supply. As necessity is the mother of invention, we found other ways to play hockey any way we could: street hockey, field hockey, floor hockey, ball hockey (orange ball in a rink without the ice), basement hockey, attic mini-hockey, table hockey, kitchen hockey and roller hockey (back in 1979, there were four of us who skated for hours on our rollerblades … ordered them from a Hockey News ad … people had never seen such things)! Some of my fondest memories of hockey are not ice hockey, but the wide-open, fast-paced games that we played that had their roots in ice hockey. If we had floorball, I’m sure it would have been our favourite variation of our national winter game.
Flash forward thirty years: my five-year-old son is not only hockey-mad, but he is sports-mad. During the past year, I have coached him in ice hockey, t-ball, field hockey, lacrosse and soccer. As you can imagine, I talk to a lot of parents. Many of these parents are hesitant to enroll their children in hockey for the usual reasons: cost, early mornings, crazy parents and injuries. But their children adore hockey and hockey is a big part of Canadian culture…. Enter floorball.
While surfing the net looking for field hockey drills, I happened across floorball. A local sports store owner mentioned it to me several months earlier, but I did not think much of it. After researching floorball on Wikipedia and watching videos on the net, I became a bit of a convert without ever actually holding a floorball stick!
I decided to invite similarly sports-mad five and six-year-olds to a local gym once a week for 20 weeks to play floorball. I had no trouble finding interested families. Of the eleven players, six have played organized ice hockey and the others have played organized sport of one type or another. We booked the gym, ordered the sticks and balls and named the team “The Victoria Mussels.” Being a fan of Long Term Athlete Development, I modeled the practice sessions very similarly to the American Development Model (www.admkids.com). There would be no goalies as the players would shoot on mini-nets. There would be no formal games, but plenty of informal three-on-three competitions without keeping score. These 10-15 minute games would be inserted in between 10-15 minute skill sessions. There are no uniforms, but I did invest in some pinnies. The players were all asked to wear the protective glasses worn by squash players.
We have had four sessions now and the kids and parents love it! It is fun, safe and accessible. Even the less-athletic players love it. The word is spreading and other players are asking to join.
I believe that the light weight of the stick and ball promotes fine motor control and ‘softer hands’ for ice hockey. I have been playing a lot of floorball in our kitchen with our son and feel that my ice hockey puckhandling has never been better. I played one afternoon with some university players, a few being experienced floorball players from Europe. Not only was it a great workout and a lot of fun, but the speed at which the ball travelled from stick to stick promoted very quick decision-making and hand-eye coordination.
As someone who has been obsessed with ice hockey for three decades, I didn’t expect to find a new, arguably better, version of the game I love. I suspect there will be many hot, sweaty nights running around after a little white high-end wiffle ball in the future!
By the way… If you noticed Craig using a few scientific terms, it’s because his background is in the sciences — ya, he REALLY knows his stuff when it comes to motor learning and such. It should also be helpful for you to know that he played ice hockey to a fairly high level, so it’s likely he knows which athletic traits best transfer from floorball to ice hockey.
Do you have a story about how floorball is being organized in your area? I know we’d all love to hear it.
A lot of local customers through the years have dubbed me “The Nutty Professor”. Hey, I can buy that, and I take it as a compliment, knowing full well that their intent is to suggest that I dare to think outside the proverbial box.
To be perfectly honest with you, I am forever looking for an edge for the players in my charge, be it a big or small one. So, I quite often see things others don’t.
– Dennis Chighisola
A VERY Different Approach to Hockey Goaltending
Now, a recent theme here the past few days has been the fastest growing sport in the world, floorball. And, while much has already been said about the benefits that sport’s skills bring to ice hockey for skaters, no one has yet to suggest that floorball practice and playing might also greatly enhance an ice hockey goalie’s game.
So, I’d like you to take a look at the following video and let me know what you think. Keep an open mind, if you will, much like The Nutty Professor might. And then let me know what you think in a Comment — either with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Again, though, keep that open mind…
Having seen that, might you envision how a goalie’s hands would be quickened, how his or her angles would be reinforced, how the leg movements would be sped-up, and even how much gut wrenching there would be (for enhanced core strength)?
Oh, I am not saying that a goaler should abandon on-ice work; what I am suggesting is that the combination of both kinds of practices could make a netminder really, really awesome!
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…
Great Hockey Conditioning Ideas – Part 3
By Dennis Chighisola
This is really just going to be a short post for a couple of reasons.
First, I’ve already shown you the basic exercises we’re using to get my high school guys ready for their coming team tryouts.
Secondly, I’ve also shown you how it all works — like stringing the exercises together and pacing them to simulate on-ice shifts.
That said, I highly recommend you quickly review the short video I prepared for Great Hockey Conditioning Ideas – Part 2, just so we’ll be on the same page as I introduce a couple of upgrades or recent adjustments I’ve made to that routine.
1) One thing you ought to know is that it’s important to spread certain kinds of training over the course of a week. For example, I help these high schoolers with their skills and situational stuff on Monday nights — and I go easily on conditioning, just because I know my boys are going to get a real whipping the next night. Then, after that Tuesday night whipping in The Motion Lab, they get a night off to rest before we go fairly hard on the roller floor in Lakeville, MA. (That session at the roller rink actually includes some sprint training and part of the conditioning routine we do in the Lab, these done before we put on the in-lines.) We’ve had some weekend ice over the early fall, which has allowed us to do things similarly to Monday nights. However, during some future weeks — when we won’t skate on either Saturday or Sunday, I’ll make some adjustments to what we do on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
2) By the way… Some consistency is good, while change is also good. What I’m getting at is that one’s body starts to adapt to a certain training routine, and actually gets accustomed to it. (That’s the idea of working hard and forcing the body to adapt to the new challenges.) The problem arises when getting used to an exercise makes that exercise easy to perform. So, an occasional change in the way practices are spread over time and paced can provide a new and even greater challenge. Remember: the main thing is to force the body to constantly adapt and grow — in skills, speed, strength, conditioning, and more…
3) Building on what we’ve been doing all along, I substituted sandbags last night (in place of their hockey sticks) as my guys did the various kinds of jumps (shown in the video) — onto and over a lower box than we’d previously used with a lighter load. Both the change in load and the change in height will provide my guys new challenges.
4) I’ve recently adapted a kettlebell type of exercise and placed it near the end of the guys’ Lab routine. And, I can tell that this is a real killer for them, especially in their legs. I tend to call this kind of exercise a “finisher”. In other words, once they’ve done that, there isn’t much more they can give.
5) Last night, for the first time this training season, we went to 20-second shifts. (Most previous routines had the kids working for 10- or 15-seconds, with twice as long to rest.) And, despite the fact that my players were definitely cooked by the end of about 40-minutes, I can tell they are in unbelievable shape. In fact, I complimented each group last night, suggesting that they’d probably just worked the equivalent of two periods at a pace that is far beyond what most guys would actually skate in a game.
6) I’d like to insert a belief that I’ve shared in numerous other ways here, including in my “Food for Hockey Thought” video, suggesting that quite often we can do a better job training off the ice than we can on it. For example… On-ice sprints get pretty old with players, and there’s ultimately the chance that they’ll start to cut corners in their on-ice efforts. On the other hand, I tend not to see as much coasting when we’re doing a routine similar to the one I’m now discussing.
7) Okay, those who came to this post via the Goalies link have to be wondering at this point when I’m ever going to get to them. Sooooo…
Well, over the spring and summer months, Todd Jacobson has always handled our goalers — on the ice, at the in-line facility, and up in The Motion Lab. And his work with them during those times was almost always position-specific. However, this year I’ve had our high school netminder join a regular (typically for skaters) training group FOR VERY GOOD REASON. So, if you can envision some of the drills you saw my skaters doing in that video, imagine how helpful they can be for a goaltender. Yes, our guy is in unbelievable shape, and I think we can owe it all to this kind of training.
Then, last night, as a group was doing their jumps up onto a box while holding a sandbag in their arms, I decided to have our goalie do a different exercise for his third and final set… What I had him do was quick ups and downs from his butterfly stance with a sandbag clutched to his chest. Man, I know it was a killer for him, but he did it awesomely, and in great spirit. Thereafter, because we do four different types of exercises using a box, he went off to the side and did his special exercise for each third set.
Finally, I’m kinda bummed that I didn’t shoot any video last night — especially showing that goaler exercise and the one that’s kinda like a kettlebell movement. However, I will try to get some for you next week.
As always, your Comments mean a lot to me and to other members.
I had to miss a recent High School Prep on-ice hockey practice, so I setup my assistant coaches to run something close to a 3 on 3 one-zone game. I had two reasons for doing this:
First, at this time of year high players have all sorts of problems when it comes to practice attendance — from the latest flu bug to school functions to church commitments. So, I figured that working low numbers of players at a time would make things easier to administer if we happened to have guys missing from that specific practice.
Secondly — and the real reason I wanted to do this, “small game” contests tend to really push the players. I mean, they don’t like to be beaten, so they really do push themselves.
Anyway, the word back from my top assistant was that the guys didn’t even seem to be tired at the end of the hour+ skate. I have to love that. And, with still two full months to go before my kids go off to their high school hockey tryouts, I just know they’re going to be lean and mean when they do leave.
This is just a short post, but I took a little video during my high school team’s recent practice, and I thought I’d not only show you a specific drill, but I also wanted to tell you about my reason’s for doing it.
– Dennis Chighisola
Hockey’s High Flip Passes
Just so you know, most of the drills I use with my players — from the very beginners through to my oldest guys — are ones that I’ve deemed necessary to their development. In other words, I may have noticed a flaw in their game, and I’ll come-up with something that should help. (Sometimes it’s just the needs of a single player that cause me to do this, but even catering to the needs of one kid will usually end-up helping quite a few others.)
Yet at other times, there are little extra skills I want to get into my players’ games. Often they’re things that most other coaches don’t even think about. But, as I told a few of my guys the other night (while doing a different drill), ‘This just broadens your effectiveness.” In other words, the new trick or skill might not necessarily be all that noticeable in a game — to the fans. But a coach is very likely to appreciate one of my guys because he has a knack for doing the “little things” that help win games.
Okay, so what did I have my guys trying the other day? It was the high flip pass that can be used to sail a puck up and over some oncoming opponents.
As you’ll see in the following video, I sorta just gave my high school players some rough guidelines, and then I allowed them to experiment. In this case, we were at our roller rink facility which has a high wall along one side. And, conveniently painted on that wall is a long red line that’s probably about 6- or 7-feet above the floor, and it acted as a spot for my guys to aim. So again, I told my kids to take their time and get a feel for the movement. That’s all I can expect in their first go at it…Loading...
You may have noticed that the young fellow featured at the beginning and end of that clip has fairly soft hands. Not that the other guys don’t, but it’s pretty pronounced in that one boy.
And that brings me to another point, in that a lot of the drills we do with one purpose in mind also aid the development of another skill (or several others).
More than anything, though, I want to emphasize three other points…
First, if you hadn’t already, you now realize that a skill like this one is pretty handy. Oh, as I suggested before, it’s not a necessity, by any means. But it sure is good to have within your bag of tricks.
Secondly, I hope you noticed one of our goaltenders working on the very same skill. I know lots of other coaches would exclude him or her from this kind of stuff, but not me. I want my netminders to (within reason) have the same skating, puckhandling, passing and shooting capabilities as my skaters.
Third — and really most importantly, I’m using this post to lobby for a little built-in practice time where your skaters can just relax and experiment with a given skill. Oh, I’m as driven as any coach to run fast-paced practices, and to do lots of stuff with discipline. However, today’s kids — at least from my point of view — lack the chance to freelance and experiment like a lot of earlier generations did on local ponds and rivers.
Lastly, while our off-ice facility is a great place for the guys’ first tries at a new skill, you can be sure we’ll take this drill to the ice shortly, and probably at some point even have the players try to execute the skill under some game like pressure.
As always, I love (and greatly appreciate) your Comments. Just use the box below.
As I do sort of a sequel to an earlier post (“Solving Hockey Training Problems”), I’m almost thinking that a kzillion other articles and videos could have been titled almost the same. After all, what I’ve done for years is to mainly troubleshoot — for the sake of my players, my students, their parents and a lot of other coaches. And, chances are good that you also have to do tons of problem solving if you’re a hockey player, parent or coach.
That said, let me share what got me going on my current rant…
– Dennis Chighisola
More on Solving Hockey Problems
Last week I corresponded with a member who was having some ankle and hip problems. I made sure I told that young lady player that I’m not a doctor, and that my ideas and experiences should not replace her seeking professional medical advice.
That out of the way, I did share with her my thoughts based on about 40-years of experience in such matters.
My first question — again based on experience — was to see if she’d made any recent changes — especially when it came to her skates or any other gear she wears on the lower extremities. Her first answer was, “No.” However, given a brief time, she did say that her latest skate sharpening was not to her liking, and that it made her feel uncomfortable on the ice. Hmmmmmm…
Now again, I am not a doctor. However, think this through with me…
If a piece of gear feels the least bit uncomfortable, a hockey player is very likely to compensate in some way. In this member’s case, I suspect she may have started skating just a tad differently, which might have caused some soreness somewhere. Yes, somewhere, because I’ve seen a change in posture suddenly cause awful back problems, and pain in several other places. So, what’s the chance her way of compensating had her over-stressing her feet and ankles? Could be, huh?
With that, I might further guess that her sore ankles caused her to skate even more differently, with that resulting in some pain in her hips.
Now, this stuff is still all a guess; it’s just that it’s a fairly educated one. (I don’t know if you’ve read through the years how some Major League Baseball pitchers have had their careers ended because a foot or leg injury caused them to throw differently and to ultimately over-stress their pitching arms. But, it is so.)
All this said, today’s post IS NOT really about our young friend’s aches and pains. What it IS about is our need to gather as many experiences and bits of knowledge as possible, in order to be able to troubleshoot any difficulty that might come along.
I used to get teased by a friend who liked to say that I “know too many facts”. That discussion ended, however, when I ran across an article whereby it was stated that (and I paraphrase), “Common sense stems from being able to piece together numerous random facts.”
That in mind, you can imagine how helpful it can be for anyone in hockey to know not only the sciences, skills, tactics and strategies, but also the way equipment should be measured, how skates and sticks should be adapted to the individual, and so much more.
Actually, I learned how to sharpen skates in my earliest years in the game, and I studied all I could about the characteristics of a skate radius. I picked the brains of my friends in the local pro shops, and I’ve even asked a lot of questions of the Zamboni operators. Beyond my Physical Education Degree studies, I even took extra sports medicine courses outside of my formal education. And I’ve forgotten where else I’ve stuck my nose in, just trying to gain more and more “random facts”.
Okay, so the reason I’m saying all this… First, I’m hoping that a lot of the “little things” you need to know are already somewhere within the near 400 posts contained here. I’m also suggesting each member nose around as I have, asking questions wherever and whenever there’s a chance to gather a deeper understanding of our game and a player’s needs. Then, of course, I truly want you to put me to the test, and to ask me absolutely anything you’d like. Hey, I said I truly want you to.
Great Hockey Conditioning Ideas – Part 2
By Dennis Chighisola
I think it’s important to mention a few things before actually showing you what we’ve been up to.
- In order for this program to help my players, each exercise and its method of execution is going to have to be as close to their on-ice needs as possible.
- My kids struggled a number of times when they were working at something that required fine motor skills — like the rope skipping. So I advised them not to get frustrated… I told them that their fine motor skills are the first to abandon them as they tire, and that they’ll be less and less affected by that as their conditioning improves. (By the way, the fine motor skills involved in their game play would include eyesight, stickhandling, and their passing and shooting accuracy. Ya, maybe a goaltender wouldn’t focus on a speeding puck as well as he’d like, and perhaps a skater might flub the puck or miss on a shot he’d otherwise nail.)
- At one point during the upcoming video, you’ll hear me tell a player to “Keep going!” Yes, I explain to my guys that they are forming habits of all kinds during their practices — even up in The MOTION Lab, so I advise them to keep teaching themselves to not stop and sulk for even an instant whenever they experience a problem — in a game or in a practice.
Okay, so what I’ve done is to design almost a simulated game for my high school guys. Oh, they’re not going to be playing, but they are going to condition themselves in game-like fashion.
During our first week of doing this sort of thing, I told my guys to go fairly easy with the exercises. “Hey,” I promised them, “by Thanksgiving you’ll be able to skate rings around everyone else!”
Following some exercises that doubled as warm-ups, they enhanced their footwork or puckhandling with some of the drills seen in the video, “A Sneak Peek at My HS Prep Hockey Team’s Training“).
Warm-up accomplished, I started my guys with 7 exercises that were really going to tax them.
Rope Skip with Lateral hops – A player skips the rope at a good pace while also hopping from side to side.
Front Jumps to Box - Keeping their sticks low (when they have them) and holding a decent posture, each player jumps forward and up onto the box, back down, and so forth.
Lateral Jumps to Box – Like above, a player hops up onto the box, but from side to side (which simulates the push-off during skating).
Straddle Hops to Box – Again, a player hops up onto the box, but while performing straddle hops (which also includes some later pushing).
Continuous Rolls – This one is a real killer, as a player executes roll after forward roll. Players usually become a little dizzy at the end of their turn (to which I’ll often say, “Good, now the game will be easy for you!”)
Coach Chic’s Up/Downs – Similar to the popular exercise known as Turkish Up/Downs, my version has a player holding a weight (and sometimes two weights or a sandbag) in both hands. In this way I get what I want, which is for the player to get up and go down without the use of his hands.
Sit-ups & Dribble — I wanted my guys to do some sit-ups during this routine, but I thought I’d also get their minds off the core work while also improving their puckhandling. So, as you’ll see in the video, my guy is dribbling a ball as he does quick sit-ups.
Following that pretty tough workout, the guys cool and do static stretching in hopes they’ll bounce-back quickly.
Okay, here are some video clips of that training I’ve strung together. I’ll have some further comments to add at the end, as well as an even better description of how I run things…Loading...
(I hate to say it but, it’s pretty noticeable who is and who isn’t in shape at the start, just by observing the pace they work at. Still, we do have several months to bring everyone along.)
Now, how did I arrive at those particular drills? Really, what I was looking for were exercises that challenged the whole body. So, while a number of them are hockey specific, I’m sure my members could come-up with a number of other really challenging movements that involve a player’s total body.
Then, as far as operation goes…
- My kids report to The MOTION Lab in small groups. No matter, everything is based on us having three playing units in a game. So, we simulate that same work:rest ratio — or, X-seconds work followed by 2X-seconds rest. (On a night when we had only two players, we’d just pretend a third guy was there so we could keep the same 1:2 work:rest ratio.)
- I usually had a team dad watching the clock and calling out for the kids to “Change!” (so I could keep focused on the work area). The players knew they had to make changes quickly — on-the-fly, and you can hear me in the video at least once pushing a youngster to hurry on the twitch.
- I think we may have begun with 10-second shifts during the first weeks. However, I’ve gradually increased the work times to 15-seconds and then 20-seconds. The most we’ll probably ever do these drills will be 30-seconds, although I’m not sure that’s necessary.
- To get a decent workout, we usually did two sets of each exercise (but that could be increased if we wanted come even closer to real game length).
- Most of the above drills could be made even more taxing by adding weights or increasing the existing weight. So, we could actually adjust both the time and resistance for a given movement and get a totally different training effect. (I likely would lessen the length of a drill if I was going to add more weight.)
- We only do the Lab workouts once per week…
- Of course, this stuff has to blend with our other training sessions — at our other off-ice facility and during our on-ice practices. So, the accompanying photo shows how a full team can be spread in an open area to do similar drills timed in similar fashion.
- As you may have gathered from some of my other writings, I’m not really a big fan of traditional type aerobic workouts. What I do try to get is an aerobic training effect in all my practices — off-ice or on-ice. For example the routine you just watched — although mainly focusing on anaerobic shift work — actually has a cumulative effect. In other words, the players in that video are aiding their aerobic capacity (and more hockey related) because they stay going for nearly 45-minutes per session. And I look to do the same on the ice, pushing my players at a fairly rapid pace, from drill to drill to drill, with all that work adding-up over nearly an hour.
Finally, when I mentioned “youngster” up there somewhere, it reminded me to caution you about subjecting a young body (and even a youngster’s psyche) to a routine like this.
Hey, you know I love your Comments, observations and questions. Just use the box down below to join me and other in a great hockey conversation!
Members can expect that I’ll slowly but surely explain each of the different drills you’ll see highlighted in this hockey video. As I like to do, I’ll let you know WHY I’m having my kids do a given drill (or form of drilling), and I’ll usually also let you know the important teaching points that go along with each drill. For the time being though, let me just entertain you a bit with a sneak peek at what we’ve been doing so far…
– Dennis Chighisola
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…
At the end of every week, our friend, Jerry Z, usually sends me an email update on his roller hockey goings on. And, this week was no exception.
What I especially like about these is that Jerry’s reports very frequently point to a few things that are fairly prevalent in my line of work:
1) that I’m obviously dealing with an intelligent guy;
2) that he often shows me some remarkable insight; and,
3) that he is quite often wrong.
Actually, that last one wasn’t really a swipe at Jerry at all. More often the incorrect stuff he relays to me comes from various guys Jerry skates with. Wives’ tales I’m talking about here, or the kind of advice we could all do without.
Anyway, before I get too carried away, I think I’d better get into the topic at hand…
– Dennis Chighisola
Troubles with Hockey Passing & Receiving
To begin, here’s a quick piece from Jerry Z’s latest email, these few sentences taken from an account of his second of two games this past week…
“…on Saturday, I was working with another guy before the game to help corral passes with the puck. It’s getting better, I’m starting to understand the muscle memory it takes to cradle the puck as it comes to you.”
Now, this isn’t one of those wives’ tales at all. In fact, Jerry is pretty much right — in that most sports movements involve muscle memory (of either the good or the bad variety), and that a player has to use soft hands in gathering-in a firm pass.
As a quick aside, I need to share with members the fact that there have been some changes in Jerry’s activities of late. What I’m getting at is that he played on a rather small roller hockey court when I first started working with him, while he’s more recently started playing on a surface that is pretty close to the size of an ice hockey rink.
Of course, skating is going to become a far greater factor on the larger floor than it was in the little bandbox. However, Jerry is also discovering that there is also a huge difference in his moving from playing with a ball to playing with a puck.
And it’s the latter part — about the difference between playing with a ball or a puck — that I want to make clear from the start…
You see, almost no strength or leverage is needed to either catch or propel a very light ball. Let me say that again: one could stand in the worst possible posture and still stop or fire a lightweight ball. However, it takes a bit more strength and more stability to handle a slightly heavier puck.
That said, if you think I want to talk about skating tonight, you’re correct. For, in almost every instance, the inexperienced skater tends to stand upright. And, while he or she might get away with handling a ball from that posture, they’re going to have some difficulty once a heavier puck is introduced. (Oh, Jerry has come quite a ways in the time we’ve worked together. However, he still does skate fairly upright.)
At this point, I know that someone out there is going to be scratching his or her head, thinking that there isn’t that much difference in weight between a ball and a puck. And, although that might be so, I guess what I’m really getting at is the combination of weight and the force at which a given object travels that really spells the difference. In other words, either passed or shot pucks have to be sent with a considerable amount of force to be effective. And, on the receiving end, a player has to deal with the heavier puck arriving pretty forcefully.
Okay, Jerry mentioned the need to catch the puck with soft hands as it arrives. Still, despite the fact that I spend lots of time drilling my players on such passing and receiving technique, I’m going to suggest right now that there’s something else that’s causing Jerry’s passing and receiving woes.
Pardon this brag for a moment, folks, but I’m about to explain a trait that tends to separate me from a lot of other skills coaches…
You see, I accept the textbook stuff and the long established understandings of our game, at least for the most part. However, I hardly ever stop there. Naw, I’m forever looking for underlying causes of problems, and I quite often find them (far from where others would even think to look). That describes a lot of what you’ll find here within the hundreds of pages in CoachChic.com (or, at least I hope so).
And that little sidebar brings me to something I discovered at one of my summer hockey schools probably 20-plus years ago…
I happened to notice that even some of my older players were struggling with their passing and receiving, and even in some very simple drills. So, I pulled out my camcorder that day, and I taped numerous pairs of players moving down the ice and executing passes that were only about 5′ or 6′ long.
Later that night, I studied and studied those pairs, and I especially ran and re-ran the segments where a pass was flubbed, it missed its mark, and for whatever reason the puck began flipping and rolling.
In every single case where those things occurred, I finally found a common condition. And, while you won’t believe me — until I explain it, the poor passes or catches almost always stemmed from a single skating problem.
As a preface to what I want to really tell you, let me first explain that a player’s “give” with the stick — or his cushioning of the incoming puck — calls for a considerable reach with the stick-blade at the start. In other words, he or she has to reach a ways outward towards the puck at first, “give” with the pass next, and then continue that “give” beyond the midpoint of his or her body. (Can you picture this?)
And the same thing goes for a decent pass, in that the player has to pull the puck off towards one side before he or she begins a long sweeping motion that also extends beyond the middle of his or her body. In fact, just as in shooting, the longer the follow-through, the better ones accuracy.
Now, do you see where I’m going with this? For, what countless hockey school video clips showed me was that the poorer passers and receivers weren’t able to reach very far outside their centers of gravity (or they at least weren’t very comfortable in doing so).
By the way… Some of the kids I’d video-taped were pretty decent teenage players. Yet, they still seemed uncomfortable as I’ve just described. And the point I want to make here is that all things are relative. I mean, Jerry can be having his passing and receiving problems as a fairly inexperienced player, but so can far more experienced guys who might not have had the right kind of training. Sure, the latter guys can likely motor around the rink. But, extending their hands and arms outside the center of gravity is quite another matter. (Maybe you can appreciate now why I spend so much time developing athleticism in my players.)
Oh, yes, one other thing when it comes to not daring to reach far outward… What I discovered within that video footage was that all the bouncing and rolling pucks resulted from the same problem, whether it was in the act of making or trying to catch a pass.
For, what happened is that a passer who didn’t dare to reach very far would chop at the puck with a very short motion. And, when it came to catching a pass, that kind of player would brace himself with the stick held stiffly at mid-body.
In both instances — from either the stiff catch or the chopping send-off, the puck would bounce, wobble or roll immediately after contact.
And this all brings me back to my buddy, Jerry Z. Oh, for sure he should continue working on “cradling” his catches. However, I’m hoping this piece will give him further insight into the REAL problem. Yup, improved skating is going to help his game in numerous ways, including his passing and receiving.
PS: I recently suggested that Jerry spend more time working on his puckhandling. Why — when his skating needs work, as does his passing game, his shooting, his defending, etc? Well, my feeling is that extra puck work will actually get him chasing the puck or ball, and thusly get him moving more on this skates. Then, from my Building Blocks view of our game’s skills, you might recall that I see puckhandling as a prerequisite to better passing, receiving and shooting.
(Part 2 of this special subject was added on August 28, 2010. However, more on this will be explained at the end of this article.)
Yes, I’m an old(er) coach. Still, I’ve hardly ever been stuck in the dark ages. In fact, while I never want to abandon any training ideas that are working well, you can almost be sure that I’ll make some changes to my teaching approach, even if they are only subtle (or hardly noticeable).
Such is the case as I ready my High School Prep guys for their coming season. For, although conditioning has always been a priority when working with them — so they can enter their tryouts skating rings around everyone else, I’ve decided to pick it up a notch (or two or three) as we approach this coming season.
– Dennis Chighisola
Great Hockey Conditioning Ideas - Part 1
Before getting into this subject too deeply, I want to suggest that there are almost always some other lessons to be shared within a given area of training, without these having to necessarily be connected to that training.
Three great “teaching moments”, as I like to call them, arose during the taping of the following video, two of them coincidentally happening when a player faltered with his jump rope. But, let me explain…
- At one point, I sensed that a kid was getting kind of frustrated as he got tangled in his rope. So, wanting to encourage him, I stopped things and took the time to comfort him and the other kids with, “It’s not your fault.” And I went on to explain that, “Your fine motor skills will be the first to abandon you as you tire — things like your eyesight, your stickhandling, your shooting and passing accuracy… And, yes, even your ability to deal with that rope.” Of course, I also encouraged him and the others with the thought that everything will be easier as our training takes hold.
- At yet another time, a different young guy tripped on his rope and paused for awhile. Hmmmmmm… So, what better time to address that issue? I mean, habits are being formed every second of our training, and it was important to convey that to my players. And, that goes for the way they respond to adversity. So, I suggested that they wouldn’t want to teach themselves to stop and sulk — even for an instant — should they have a difficulty in their games. No, we’re talking critical mini-seconds here, as in a player recovering quickly enough to help his (or her) team on the attack or on defense.
- Then, yet another slight problem arose on a very different drill (I’ll explain in a few days), this providing us another great teaching moment… You see, my kids were executing repetitive forward rolls, and by the end of each string of tumbles, the player was staggering pretty good (not unlike being spun around numerous times). Actually, having asked one kid if he felt dizzy, my reply to his nod was, “Good!” Of course, I explained to him and the group that they actually experience similar conditions in a game. Oh, maybe not quite so severely, but they do get tangled or spun or tripped-up or stung during their games, and my feeling is that they’ll recover quicker if they can endure even tougher challenges in our practices.
Now, I want this particular topic to be at least a two-parter. So, I’m going to begin things by telling you only a little about it, I’m going to point you towards that video, and then I’m going to toss a little quiz your way. (We did this with an earlier post of mine, and it worked well by getting numerous members involved.) A few days from now, I’ll answer questions, address your Comments or opinions, and I’ll also explain the entire concept of this routine.
Now, the following video shows a couple of my high school kids skipping rope. A little differently from normal, I’ve asked them to do these things:
- only go for 15-seconds (at which time another player will jump-in for his 15-seconds of work, and so on);
- jump laterally, rather than the customary rope skipping in-place way;
- during your 15-seconds, alternate the intensity, from a slow pace to a really frantic one.
Okay, so take a look at the video, and I’ll then toss a few questions your way…Loading...
Not bad, huh? And, as you might guess, it’s a heck of a workout.
Oh, if you can take a look at that footage again, you might notice that each boy — maybe one more than the other — is having difficulty changing his pace — I mean, from slow to helter-skelter. And you might want to know that I find too many players having the same difficulty when they’re on the attack and trying to disrupt a defender’s timing of the rush.
Anyway, with that, let me pose a few questions that I hope will prove a good lead-in to the second part of this discussion. Mainly…
- Why do you think I’ve asked my kids to rotate (actually, they will be rotating in threes)?
- Why the specific 15-second timing of this work?
- Why have I asked the kids to jump laterally?
- Why have I asked the guys to alternate their pace?
Okay, the ball (errrrrrr… the puck) is in your court. So, let’s have as many as possible jump-in, and let’s get talking about hockey-specific conditioning!
I can’t thank my CoachChic.com friends enough for contributing their ideas and Comments on this topic. I know I didn’t give you a lot of information to work with, and I may have even tricked you a bit. However, I hope I also spurred your interest.
That said, Great Hockey Conditioning Ideas – Part 2 is now posted (as of 8/28/10). Here’s a link: A Great Hockey Conditioning Routine
One of the most exciting parts of my job is the chance I get to meet so many great hockey people — from the parents of my little Learn-to-skate kids to my fellow CoachChic.com members to some awesome professionals (many of whom have contributed to these pages).
Consequently, I’m as excited to have Greg Beaudin share with us some very interesting information on a recent hot topic here, floorball.
As you’ll discover, Greg knows his stuff. So, here he is, answering a question many of you may have asked of late (but not necessarily in such a colorful way).
– Dennis Chighisola
WHAT THE BLEEP IS FLOORBALL?
By Greg Beaudin
Innebandy(Swedish), SaliBandy(Finnish), Unihockey(Swiss/German) and Floorball are all the same sport, just different names to reflect regionality. The International Sport Governing Body is known as the International Floorball Federation and the IOC recognizes “FLOORBALL” as the parent term to describe the sport. The Canadian Federation is simply known as “Floorball Canada” (FC) and in the US, they are known as the US Floorball Association(USFbA)
Floorball is a sport for Everyone. It has a MASSIVE opportunity to be a leading team sport option at the recreational level through schools, youth groups, community centers, adult sport and social clubs, hockey associations, seniors activity groups, disabled sports communities and just about any group in Canada that is trying to be active in sports.
As a Hockey Player, Instructor, Coach, Parent and owner/operator of Modern Hockey I have a pretty solid understanding of all varieties and brands of “Hockey”. As I began to learn about Floorball, I started to embrace it for the following characteristics.
To see High Quality Floorball Videos from Europe, click here.
To learn more about Floorball, globally, click here
With that, here’s …
– Dennis Chighisola
More on Floorball & Hockey
As every long-time member knows, I’m always looking for ways to help my players. However, there’s more to that short statement than one might believe.
For sure, I’m always looking for ways to help my players take their games to new levels. (Of course, that was a given.)
At the same time, I’m forever searching for ways to help my players become truly unique. And, that one just might need a bit more explaining…
What I’m getting at is that I’d like my guys to ultimately be able to do things that no one else can do. Hey, I’m guessing Bobby Orr developed a lot of his never-before-seen moves out on the river in Parry Sound, Ontario. I sure would like to know when the likes of a Boom Boom Geffrion got the idea to blast the first known slapshots. And, I’d love to know who the player was — or what the circumstances were — that initiated things like the stickhandling move called the toe-over pull.
Ya, my hope is that by virtue of my players training differently — or doing some things that are quite beyond what others might do, they could just bring to the game an equivalent of the toe-pull, spinarama, or slapshot.
Oh, I’m not aiming to create the next Orr or Geffrion. But, I think it is possible to encourage players to be unique in some ways.
Anyway, those who venture to my blog, Coach Chic’s Hockey Diary, might know that I’m really into a couple of social media sites, Twitter and Facebook. Well, don’t you know that I was wondering around Facebook earlier today and laughed out loud when I came across a group devoted solely to Floorball (<= check it out)!
I doubt the owners of that page would mind if I copied and pasted some of the introduction from there. So, here goes…
Floorball, a type of floor hockey, is an indoor team sport which was developed in the 1970s. It is a fast paced sport, with limited physical contact allowed. Floorball is most popular in areas where the sport has developed the longest, such as the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. The game is played indoors on a gym floor, making it a year-round sport at the amateur and professional levels. There are professional leagues, such as Finland‘s Salibandyliiga and Sweden‘s Svenska Superligan.
While there are 49 members of the International Floorball Federation (IFF), the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland have finished in most of the coveted 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at the Floorball World Championships.
Yes, evidently, that sport is gaining popularity in Craig’s country (Canada) and mine (the United States). A quick search on Google showed the following US based programs…
- Austin Floorball Club – Austin, Texas.
- Caltech Floorball Club – Located in California.
- EBC Floor Hockey – Located in Michigan.
- Innebandy Chicago – Floorball league located in Illinois.
- MIT Floorball Club – in Massachusetts.
- NYC Floorball – New York City.
- Triangle Floorball Club – Raleigh, North Carolina.
- The Valhalla Warriors – In Mountain View, California.
I find it interesting that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is only about 30-miles away from me, in Boston, MA. (Ironically, I used to provide hockey skill instructions to the MIT Women’s Hockey Team.)
Okay, so you want to know about my fascination with that sport (and Craig’s)? Just have a look at another stick-skills demonstration borrowed from YouTube.com…
Now, having seen that (and the video I showed you in the previous post), does it remind you of the college goal that had the hockey world abuzz several years ago — I mean the one where the player held the puck on his blade just before slinging it over the unsuspecting goaltender’s shoulder? And, that’s what I was getting at up above, when I said I’d like my players to be creative like that, and possibly even come-up with a new and surprising move like that one.
Finally (if there ever can be a finally on this type of topic), I’m going to suggest a few things — to Craig and all my other CoachChic.com friends…
- If I had a very young player at home, I might be inclined to seek a league for him or her, or maybe even start one.
- If you have an older youth player (or if you’re an adult player), I’d probably gather a number of those videos available over on YouTube.com, and see if the creative juices start flowing from watching those.
- If you work with a number of different age groups, as I do, I’d probably suggest the second approach. Ya, that’s what I think I’m going to do — I’ll collect a few of those stickhandling videos and post them to each team’s site, and then prod my players to copy some of those moves.
PS: As an afterthought, I just did a quick Internet search for “floorball equipment”, and I grabbed the first site with a recognizable name. (Actually, Craig, I noticed a site located out your way, in British Columbia.) And, I was surprised that the gear seems easily available and rather inexpensive… Floorball Equipment That’s just a sample site, though, and I’ll bet you can get even better buys with a little more searching.
Let me begin by thanking a really active member of CoachChic.com, Craig Shaw, for reminding me about this truly fascinating sport. And, yes — to two things:
1) I’ve actually known about this game for a number of years;
2) “floorball” truly is a “sport” (as you’re about to see)!
Exploring the Benefits of Floorball
To be honest, the term “floorball” didn’t really strike a chord with me — until I looked it up. (Actually, I think most of the print and narration was in every language BUT English when I long ago ran across that game.)
Of course, I’m sure Craig would believe anything about this old coach by now — like, the further something is from tradition, the more likely I’ve explored it.
That said, you just have to take a look at the following video to realize that floorball is NOT your typical street hockey game played in a gym. As a matter of fact, the following is from the World Floorball Championships (yes, “WORLD Championships”). But, take a look before I go on further…
Aha, I hope you found that game as interesting as I did when I first stumbled upon it (probably 6- or 7-years ago).
By the way… It appears to me that floorball playing nations are as passionate (or maybe as nuts) about their sport as many soccer-serious countries are about their game. And, if you don’t believe me, I think you’ll get a kick out of all the trash talking going on in the Comments area for that video over at YouTube.com.
Back to my initially discovering the game, though… You should know that it wasn’t the sport itself that caught my fancy… Naw, the skills exhibited by some of the floorball players was what really got me thinking. So, take a look at just one example of what I mean…
Now, most long-time friends know that my grandson, Anthony Chic, is somewhat the magician with a puck (or ball). But, the day I discovered a batch of videos like the above one, I asked him if he could do those tricks. “No way! That’s impossible!” was his reply.
Really, I was only teasing Tony C. From what I can gather, the floorball stick is lighter than our ice hockey sticks, it’s obviously shorter, I know that the blade has holes in it — probably to allow air to flow through, and I sense that the ball is considerably lighter than what a North American kid would typically fiddle with.
Finally, Craig asked if I thought floorball skills would help an ice hockey player. Ha! I would say, “Absolutely!” (Hey, Craig, why do you think I long ago burned a whole bunch of videos like those above to CD, and added them to my New England Hockey Institute library?)
Well, what do you think, folks? Please leave a Comment below and let me know!
The following was initiated by a conversation I had with one of my long-time advanced students. That’s as much as I really want to say about him, because to go more into it would likely embarrass many of his teammates. Of course, that’s not my aim here at CoachChic.com; what my aim IS, though, is to share certain things with my hockey friends that can change their game — A LOT.
– Dennis Chighisola
Underlying Problems in Hockey Passing
Now, I want to re-establish the fact that the above conversation centered around older guys who play an advanced game, or even what most folks would consider an elite level. <= THAT, I’ll suggest, is going to be an important point for all members to consider as I move along here.
What arose in our brief talk was the fact that a lot of concessions evidently had to be made for my young friend’s numerous teammates who could not catch passes. Ya, you read that correctly; most of them can’t easily handle a pass so they can quickly get-on to the next thing they have to do (like shoot or whatever).
As an aside, our conversation also included a little about passing — as in most of those guys not being able to thread a firm, flat pass right onto a teammate’s stick-blade.
That said, I eventually had to add my own two cents worth… What I need to share — with anyone who will listen — is that there are always underlying reasons for the problems older players experience.
As yet another aside, let me point-out that NHL players have their own skill deficiencies. That’s why there’s a difference between any pro roster’s top player and the guy or two who is just hanging-on.
In just about every case, the shortcomings of older players have to do with how they were raised in the game. And that’s what I told my young friend… In his case, I said that his teammates as far back as in Mites, Squirts and Pee Wees were instructed on the tactical aspects of passing — like, “Don’t hog the puck!” or, “Head-man it as quickly as you can!”
Very seldom do I see youth coaches actually take the time to instruct their players on the “skills of passing and receiving”. (Actually, the young player I was talking with had to think a bit about that one, because he was fortunate enough to be under my tutelage during those critical skill building years.)
Like so many other individual skills, proper passing and receiving techniques have to be second-nature, or instinctive. And that means learning them as early as possible, mastering them, and then constantly refreshing them. (Okay, it might not be as easy as that when it comes to the passing game, because a properly instructed player would best be raised in accordance with the conditions I describe in my Building Blocks Approach to Skills.)
If there’s one huge mistake I see made at our game’s developmental levels, it’s the notion — among parents and coaches, that, “A kid will get it sooner or later.” And, I’m here (as your trusted adviser?) to tell you it ain’t going to happen. What will happen is that a player who has had certain skills glossed-over will ultimately learn how to hide those shortcomings. Oh, sometimes they get him or her cut from a team at some point; sometimes the player just keeps surviving — even at the NHL level. But, make no mistake about it: that kind of player IS going to suffer, and he or she is going to spend plenty of frustrating nights out on the ice. (Come to think of it, so are a lot of teammates going to be frustrated at that player’s lack of skill.)
Okay, so what to do about all this…
- I think we really do need a change in attitude among lower level youth coaches and parents. Please — from this point forward, know that the little things do matter, and please don’t fall back on that old “A kid will get it sooner or later.” The chances for that aren’t very good.
- I had thought to make a new video for you on this subject, but I quickly realized I’d already covered most of what needs to be known when it comes to passing and receiving. So, as soon as you get the chance, I’ll suggest you go here: Passing & Receiving. Scroll down to the bottom of that page and work your way upward. Again, you’ll find a ton of information there — for the player, coach and parent. And, who knows? You just might take care of the underlying problems in your youngsters’ passing game before it’s too late.
As always, I love (and rely upon) your Comments!
Most of you know about the 6-part video series that’s – at least for now — available here through CoachChic.com. If you don’t, it’s free to members and non-members alike, and the series (“You Don’t Need Ice!”) is mainly about the things a hockey player, coach or parent might do to make better use of the spring and summer off-season months.
Anyway, I’ve asked for those viewing the series to fire questions my way should they have them. (Hey, that’s part of my job here – to clarify things, huh?)
With that, the first question to arrive is a really great one, compliments of our friend and roller hockey player, Jerry Z!
– Dennis Chighisola
“Specialize” Hockey Training
Now, here’s that question from Jerry:
“In one of your first episodes of the You Don’t Need Ice series, you said specialization has brought about a generation of pretty good robots. I’m wondering if you can expand on that. When did the generation start. Why and how did it start? Do you see hope for the future on seeing more complete athletes? Or do you feel that the current generation of robots will raise more robots and it’s an irreversible pattern?”
Did I say that was a great question (or questions)?
To begin, I’m going to suggest that “specialization” is a personal thing. In other words, I think the choice of participating solely in our sport (to exclude all others) wasn’t some planned plot by the hockey powers that be. Naw, instead I think individual players (or parents of players) ultimately felt that hockey was their best sport, and they decided at some point to just concentrate on that.
I’ll also suggest that the onset of specialization is regionally based, or that it has been influenced by the hockey climate in a give area. For example, during the time of my youth, my dad and I probably couldn’t have chosen to only focus on hockey, primarily because there weren’t enough year-round opportunities to play and practice. (Come to think of it, before the coming of sports domes and the like, there probably wasn’t a prayer of working at soccer or baseball or a number of other sports over an extended period.) Here in New England, the chance to specialize in ice hockey probably began with the so-called “Bobby Orr Era”, during a time when numerous rinks sprouted-up. And, with those new rinks came the need for rink owners/managers to fill their facilities with year-round playing and training programs. Suddenly, kids and parents at least had the option to devote a great deal more time to hockey. And, a lot of them began doing just that.
Again, I’m suggesting that the decisions were personal. BUT, players have also been encouraged – and sometimes pushed – to specialize (by well meaning coaches, recruiters, and countless others). You might imagine the pressures that exist within a hockey hotbed, especially if a young player wants to crack a desirable lineup. At the same time, a player (or parent) might ultimately believe that he (and today, she) has the best chance of “making it” in hockey, and thusly drops-out of other sports.
Now, before going more into this topic, let me share with you the fact that there is at least some benefit to getting plenty of hockey practice. Envision, for example, the differences between a very inexperienced player and a very experienced one. Not to mention all the other skills, I’m sure you can picture how the skating motion is not very comfortable for a beginner, while the long-time skater can usually move around in effortless fashion. And other parts of the game become instinctive to the accomplished player, as well.
That said, perhaps I should now explain what I mean by the “robot-like player”… In a way, I guess I’m describing one who can execute all the typical hockey movements – and perhaps fairly well, while at the same time not being able to handle his or her body in a really athletic way. (That last one IS rather hard to define in print. But, maybe you can envision a truly acrobatic player twisting his or her body while in full-stride in order to avoid a body-check, or his or her skipping and jumping through and over a maze of bodies and sticks while controlling a puck.) In a way, I think the reason it’s hard to define the non-robot-like player is because he or she IS non-definable. I mean, he or she can just do things with his or her body that we can’t predict until there is a need to do something wild or imaginable.
At this point, let me combine the two previous paragraph topics – as in the need for some specializing, and what I (and many others) believe is the danger in specialization.
As an example, many old Eastern Block nations do ultimately offer specialized training to their players. The difference is that they also include gymnastics work and so many other training areas that help encourage great athleticism. (As a matter of fact, so do my local players gain the benefit of specialized hockey training mixed with lots of outside-the-box athletic work.)
Here in North American, however, most youth organizations mostly train on the ice (as in specializing). And, if they do engage in off-ice training, it’s very likely for strength development or dryland exercises of a traditional nature (which pretty much entails more specialization).
Now, one other usual drawback to specialization in North American fashion is the dependency on more games for more ice-time. I could go on about the fallacy of this but, to mention just a few problems: players generally sit for two-thirds of their game-time, only the best players usually get to handle the puck and act creatively, and – most importantly — there is absolutely no chance for the repetitive practice of necessary skills. In fact, I’ll suggest that players only do in games what they feel most comfortable doing, which means they haven’t likely expanded their abilities one iota by game’s end.
European hockey organizations, on the other hand, know the value of a high practice-to-game ratio, and they’re known to stick to something akin to a 3:1 or 4:1 scheme. They also break a year down into four very distinct types of training, taking special care to do certain things for the weeks right after a season ends, and to do other things during the summer months. And, although it’s a bit more complicated than this, I can tell you that their players engage in soccer, basketball or other sports during that span, and they also dedicate a large block of time to gymnastics and other means of developing athleticism.
Okay, so what’s a North American kid, parent or coach to do – especially since the typical youth organization doesn’t offer what I’ve just described above? It’s all mainly explained in my “You Don’t Need Ice!” series – to include some involvement with other sports, plus some experimentation with rope skipping, tumbling and other whole body challenges. Perhaps best of all, almost everything I suggest in that series can be done for little or no cost.
Finally, I like that Jerry asks about the future – and whether I see hope or not. Yes, I do see hope, although it’ll always be a battle, maybe even a never ending one. I sense that going with the youth hockey flow – or giving-in to coach or organizational pressures – is an easy way out, and it’s far too often taken for that very reason. The well meaning guy sitting next to you in the bleachers can also contribute to this, what with his always saying, “Oh, you just have to bring your kid to such-and-such if you want him (or her) to get better!” (Maybe that’s good advice, and maybe it isn’t. But, my advice is to ultimately think for yourself.) Education – or spreading the word – seems the only way to at least gradually overcome such temptations (and that’s part of the reason I hope to always be here for you).
Phew! (Jerry sure did make me work hard on this one. But, you know I’m loving it!)
PS: For his efforts, Jerry is going to receive a gift I’ve almost completed (“__ Things You Can Do to Improve Your Game”). And I’ll soon be announcing to everyone how that free gift can be attained.
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.
Aaaaah, finally I found a sample of a quality I’ve long felt is the mark of a great goal-scorer. I’m talking about patience — or coolness — with the puck, and it’s something demonstrated by every outstanding playmaker and finisher.
But, let’s take a look at this Stanley Cup goal by David Krejci before going on…
Now, I’m kinda bummed that this video didn’t run a little longer for you, because as I watched the live broadcast yesterday, I believe the color commentator stayed on the topic of patience for a little while longer.
Of course, some of you might be wanting to ask me how a player can develop that kind of coolness with the puck.
Well, I’m going to suggest that this trait mainly stems from plenty of work with a puck (or ball) — as in puckhandling, puckhandling, puckhandling, until a player can handle that biscuit in his or her sleep.
I might also recommend that players practice plenty of “asymmetric puckhandling”. In other words, because there’s an awful lot of craziness going on around a puckhandler, he or she should prepare for that in advance by dribbling and dealing with some other physical challenge at the same time.
Going back to the Incredible Stickhandling series of videos would be a great start. And, since this IS the off-season, I’d suggest staying away from the ice for awhile, instead trying all those tricks off the ice with a stick and lively ball.
Then, in order to get the asymmetric part in there, a player could mix his or her puck tricks with some hopping (on one or both feet), and rising up and down to and from the knees. Really, though, there’s no prescribed second challenge, as far as I’m concerned. In other words, a player (parent or coach) should just use his or her imagination. Remember: getting better is all in the doing!
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!
In the record books, Kris Letang is going to get credit for a huge game-winning goal. (I mean, eons from now, it’ll just be an entry in the game’s stats: Pittsburgh goal – K Letang, Assist – S Crosby.) And, I must admit that Letang’s really quick snapshot was a beauty. At the same time, I think everyone watching that game would likely credit Sidney Crosby for making that goal possible.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from Crosby’s moves. But, let’s take a look at the play, compliments of YouTube.com and the NHL…
Now, first I’d like to address the physical side of this play. For, there’s little doubt that unbelievable skating and puckhandling skills went into Crosby’s ultimately getting a teammate open for the shot…
Long time members might recognize the skating skills demonstrated by Crosby as being very much like those that can be developed in my various “Must-do Skating Drills“, and especially in the games of tags I’m always recommending.
And, the general puckhandling skills are just like those I like to see enhanced through my “Incredible Stickhandling” course, and in games of 1 against 1 keepaway.
Then, I’d like you to do me a favor and watch that video one more time. This time, however, make note of how many times Crosby extends his reach — so as to really protect the puck — with just one hand on the stick. No way his man can reach in and get to the puck when he’s doing that.
Upon returning, I hope you’ve noticed the way an advanced puckhandler needs to handle the puck with one hand. (You might later take a browse through another of my posts, this entitled “Troubleshooting the Tight Turn“, to get a lot more insight into this and other related skills.)
If any of my long time students (or Team NEHI players) have watched Crosby’s play, they’re probably chuckling to themselves, saying, “Hey, I can do all that stuff!” Ya, my guys practice all of those skills — from the games of tag, to the games of keepaway, to learning to protect the puck, and even dribbling around on one knee, two knees, or on their bellies and butts.
And, the above comment — about my kids feeling they can do all those things — brings me to another part of this play that most coaches and parents will surely overlook…
You know, I always had a suspicion that someone like Wayne Gretzky was lucky to emerge from youth hockey to become the player he ultimately was. (Did I get your attention with that one?). My reason for saying that is because an awful lot of kids with superior talents get beaten down at the younger levels — they’re called “puck hogs” or whatever, and they’re subjected to all sorts of jealous attacks (mostly from parents of kids with about half the talent). The fact is (at least to me), those highly skilled players are the models for which all the others should try to emulate.
Youth coaches also usually want every kid to unload the puck when THEY believe the time is right time. The ironic thing is that Crosby (like lots of other highly skilled players) most likely had it in his mind all the while that he was going to set-up a teammate — in the end, and when the time was really right. And, to that, I’ll add that we coaches (and the fans in the stands) have to be a little more trusting with the Crosby types (as the Pens’ coach obviously is).
Now, a 2-years ago, I had a very experienced assistant coach whisper to me his concerns that a certain forward on our junior high school team was creating his own plays during powerplay practice. My reply, “Listen, we have structure in our powerplay for the sake of teaching, and for the sake of our average players. And we give them plays just so they have a sense of some possibilities.” I went on to explain that most teams die for a little guy like we were watching. That youngster’s mind saw the game in a totally different way than most of his teammates, and he saw things that mere mortals never would. So, I wasn’t about to squash that kind of creativity. Oh, I’d still help the kid with his decision making, and encourage him to still be a good team player. But, I wasn’t doing any of that to the point of turning him into a robot.
As a matter of fact, I’ve written elsewhere here that most teams (or at least most coaches) die to have a game-breaker floating around the ice when the chips are really on the line. And, that’s what a guy like Crosby represents. He can — and did — fabricate a scoring opportunity when there probably wasn’t otherwise going to be one.
If you sense what I’ve been REALLY getting at, though, it’s that all things are relative at the given levels of hockey, and that those game breaking kinds of players exist in our midst, from Mites to Midgets. For sure, we have to help them learn to think the game rightly, and we want them to be good team players. However, I’ll also suggest that we be careful about tampering with whatever it is that makes them different than most of our other players. After all, robots and mere mortals are easy to come by; game breakers are quite another thing.
Women’s Hockey and That Next Step
By Todd Jacobson
I’ve been coaching women’s high school varsity hockey now for seven seasons, and in those seven seasons I’ve seen a game grow by leaps and bounds.
The first season I coached a team I spent a lot of time going out and watching the “good” teams of that time. I noticed almost the same thing with all the top level teams, and I came to one conclusion: one goal scorer, one decent defenseman and an above average goalie gave you a shot at winning a state championship.
Now, seven years later, what I notice is that you need depth at every position. You need a goal scorer on your top two lines, you need good puck handling playmakers on those lines, as well as what I call a “pest”. (A “pest” is a player who just loves to skate hard and cause havoc on the forecheck, that allowing the other players to put the puck in the net.) You need a third line of kids who will work hard defensively every time they hit the ice. Anything they get offensively is a positive, but mainly their job is to keep the opponents off the board and giving the top lines the chance to rest. On defense you need solid defensive defensemen, you need playmaking or rushing defensemen as well (and having 5 of them would be nice). A solid goaltender is what every team in the state tournament has. A decent backup is good to have as well. When a team has this type depth and skill at each position they can be considered a contender.
What am I getting at with all the info provided in the previous paragraph? Depth is happening on every team. Actually, even the weaker teams have depth. The talent pool for women’s hockey is getting deeper, which means more competition for spots on a roster. Players who would have been varsity second liners seven years ago are now honing their trade on the JV rosters across the state.
I can say that women’s high school hockey is where the boys’ sport was 30 years ago, in the sense that the player pool is getting deeper and the players are more skilled. Every player is now looking for an edge on the competition. And the one thing that sticks out for me, when watching the teams around the state, is STRENGTH! The best players I see, year in and year out, are all strong on their feet, strong while controlling the puck, strong while digging-in in front of the net, and strong while moving players in front of the goal.
Thirty years ago the men were starting to lift weights and hit the gyms at their schools. Strength became more evident in the best players, and more evident when separating players in a tryout. So, I find some truth in the statement, “Only the strong survive.” In fact, the farther you go up the playing ladder, the stronger the players are.
If you watched any of the recent Olympic women’s hockey, every player was strong, every player could shoot. I must have seen three or four segments of USA women’s Olympic coach Mark Johnson’s off ice and weight room regiment. These women trained more and trained harder in the gym than they did on the ice.
Watching the women’s Division I college championship this past weekend, you could see the same thing, strength.
So, if you want to play at that next level, or you want to be a player who sticks out at the high school level, the gym and the weight room might be your best friend. I think that the weight room can make a good player better. It just takes a little time, and the will power to stick with it. With that, the results will definitely be evident. Remember, the playing pool is getting deeper, which means that a little extra edge might make the difference in where you find yourself on next year’s depth chart.
I promised last week that I’d provide a follow-up to the “Beginner Boards Bumps“, as soon as I could gather some video footage. So, here goes…
– Dennis Chighisola
Beginner Knee Touches
Now, I’d like to share with you something I’ve noticed over a lot of years, in that some players topple over easily in games, while others seem to find a way to right themselves and continue moving onward.
I know, you’re not thinking that’s anything real earth-shaking. However, let me explain that in another way…
I think a lot of kids just don’t know how to pull themselves back on-balance. So, once they’re put just a little off-balance, they give-up. And, that’s the learning experience I try to give my players — youngest to oldest — with a drill I call “Knee Touches”.
The photo to the right shows my beginner — Learn-to-skate — group performing that drill. As with lots of other such drills, we practiced this for many weeks in a brief off-ice session just before we took to the ice. (We practice lots of other introductory-type drills in that off-ice “SkateDrill” format, because the rubber flooring provides a slightly more stable surface for them to initially experiment upon.) Before you click on the photo to see my little ones in action, understand that I’ve asked them to slowly touch alternate knees to the ice WITHOUT USING THEIR HANDS. Of course, as you’ll see, the kids have varying success with that part of the drill.
The next photo once again shows those Knee Touches, this time with my slightly more advanced group — the Learn-to-play kids, performing them. Clicking on the thumbnail will show my little guys and gals in action. As you watch, try to envision a youngster being put slightly off-balance during game action. Like doing the drill, a player in a game really does have the choice between lazily falling or tightening his or her core muscles and rising back to action. So, watch for that if you will, before going on.
Now, you may have sensed that this was coming, in that I am going to suggest that there is very often a mental component as a player wobbles. In other words, while there is surely a lot of physical wrestling going on as a player teeters, I’m here to say that there are also some subconscious forces at play.
Please think about what I’m saying… The little guy in the above photo may have been tripped-up or knocked off-balance in the game action. As this happens, he surely will try to get back up. However, besides the physical, there’s something going on inside him that involves a quick thought process. Okay, click on the above photo to see the Knee Touch drill in slow-motion.
Finally, as you’ll recall, this brief series came about as I tried to troubleshoot a problem with my young Mighty Mites. Ya, they’re only little guys, and they’re not all that experienced. So, I figured I could give my kids a huge advantage if they could stay on their feet more often than their opponents. Repetitive bumps again the boards gave them tons of experience in dealing with collisions, but I think that drill is more physical than anything else. From there, having the kids constantly rise and lower themselves — and giving them the choice between falling or righting themselves — gets a little more into the mental side of this problem. In a way, I think my kids get mentally tougher with this drill, or maybe they gain a sense that they actually do have a choice oftentimes between falling or getting quickly back into the action.
PS: If our Learn-to-play and Mighty Mite seasons went much longer, I’d bring the older group to the next progression of this drill, which has the kids skating down one stretch of the rink and doing those Knee Touches while they’re moving. Far down the road, this drill is combined with puckhandling.
It’s quite possible you want to question me on this entry, particularly when it comes to my making such a big deal of out what I see as a mental component to falling or not. That’s okay, though… And I’d love to discuss that right here with you.
By Dennis Chighisola
A lot of this piece is really about troubleshooting, because it’s such a huge part of what we coaches and parents have to do for the sake of our young players.
Actually, I’m constantly on the lookout for problems in my kids’ games (no matter their age). And, I’ve mentioned often to you how I’d make either mental notes (or more often, written ones) as I observed my young Mighty Mites at play.
Anyway, over one short stretch early in our season I noticed that those little guys needed more help with their stability. Oh, they are only 4- to 7-years old, and they are just beginners, so they’re expected to take their spills (even if someone opens a door to allow a gust of wind to knock them down – ).
Still, there are cures for such things. And, while I was able to fall back on a couple of my old standbys for this problem, I’d have invented something if it had to come to that.
Now, I’m going to save the other drill until I can get some footage to show you. In the meantime, let me show you an introductory body-checking drill I call Boards Bumps.
To the right you can see my little guys moving very close to the boards. They are actually coasting along and periodically bumping against the boards. The idea is to allow them to gain the feel of bumping – or being bumped. They’ll usually wobble a little with each bump, and they’ll sometimes even fall. But again, the idea is to give them repetitive opportunities to “feel” the bumps, and to learn how to adjust to each.
A little at a time, they’ll learn to spread their skates slightly (for a wider base), and to sit a little lower (for a lower center of gravity). We coaches will constantly remind them to do those things as they pass by, and we’ll also constantly remind them to keep two hands on their sticks with their sticks down on the ice.
You should know that there is/was a lead-up drill to the one you’re going to see here. In that one, each player stood next to the boards, assumed a good strength posture, and then bumped the boards 5-times. After resting for a few seconds, each player would then turn and bump the boards with his or her other shoulder. And, on their own, the kids would continue to do that as we coaches moved among them to provide feedback.
As an FYI… The above drill can be done off-ice and at home, in the event a parent wants to help his or her child behind the scenes. There’s nothing better than to have your own young one (or older one) being the only player standing after an on-ice collision.
Okay, now that you have the gist of it, the next photo is linked to a video that will open in a new window. Notice that the kids are just getting the hang of this – actually, all of them are at different levels right now, mainly because they vary so much in age.
Finally, I’d like to remind you again about our need to constantly troubleshoot the problems our kids are having. And, if ever you have any difficulties solving a problem, well… That’s why you have me here.
Please DO add your Comments or questions below!
Well, I find it pretty interesting how the Olympic Games spur extra interest in the various winter sports. For sure, I’ll bet the excitement surrounding the ice hockey tournament has attracted a lot of viewers who probably don’t normally watch NHL games (live or on TV), and it will also likely bring a lot of young parents to all of a sudden look into skating or hockey lessons for their kids.
Hockey isn’t alone in benefiting from increased exposure, of course, and I’m sure sports like skiing, snowboarding, curling, figure skating and speed skating will also see a rise in new fans and new participants.
Oh, yes, speed skating… I’ve noticed quite a boost in searches for information about that sport, and I’ve also noticed some of those searches link both speed skating and hockey skating. As a matter of fact, here are a few questions I’ve seen in recent days:
- Why don’t speed skaters use their arms?
- Why do speed skaters pump with one arm?
- Are speed skaters faster than hockey players?
- Could speed skating training help a hockey player?
Of course, I’m not supposed to be an expert on speed skating. However, I used to employ a speed skating coach to work in my summer hockey schools, and we spent quite a bit of time exchanging teaching and training ideas. Oh, and our common student, Eric Flaim, ultimately made a name for himself in the long-blade sport, winning a Silver Medal in the ‘88 Olympics held in Calgary. So, I will at least take a stab at those speed skating related questions.
– Dennis Chighisola
Speed Skating Versus Hockey Skating
Let me start by trying to get those first few questions out of the way…
1) I don’t know what games a questioner was watching if he or she thought figure skaters DON’T use their arms. They surely do, but let me handle the rest of that in the next section.
2) Those who posed forms of the second question got it pretty much rightly, in that we’ll most often see speed skaters pumping just one arm (I’ll deal with no pumping a little later).
Now, I’ll have to ask my CoachChic.com friends if they’ve ever noticed that speed skaters pump a specific arm, not just any one. I mean, they don’t pump the left arm because they’re left handed, whatever. No, they mostly pump the outside arm – which is always the right one, this to aid in their mostly counterclockwise skating pattern.
I said “mostly” – in reference to the arm pumps, because there are times when they use both arms, and there are times when they don’t pump either. And, I said they “mostly” skate counterclockwise because only the outdoor version of the sport has fairly long straight-aways, while the so-called short track event includes almost all turns to the skater’s left. (In other words, the track is so short, that there are hardly any straight-aways.)
As an aside here, know that I really don’t get a chance to watch a lot of the various events. However, there seem to be some huge (but perhaps not obvious) differences between the outdoor and indoor versions of this sport.
In a way, I see the outdoor event on the huge track as an all-out sprint against the clock. Skaters are staggered for most of the race and separated in their own lanes, so the only thing that makes sense to me is for a contestant to race at 100% against that clock.
In contrast, it appears to me that an awful lot of strategy goes into the short track event. I mean, skaters aren’t confined to lanes, and they consequently don’t always skate all-out as they attempt to outwit and out-maneuver their opponents. My guess is that the lack of arm pumping – after the take-off – is due to the short-tracker’s need for more control and even greater streamlining than is required in the long track events.
Then, one more thing about the use of a skater’s arms (actually, those who study the biomechanics of skating would say that skaters use their shoulders in that motion)… If you get the chance, please review the video I made for you about “Analyzing the Forward Stride”; there’s quite a bit explained there about arm (or shoulder) actions, as well as about the body’s need to stay in balance for the sake of energy efficiency and momentum.
When it comes to the take-off, I’ve said that there is hardly a difference when running or skating – with a brisk forward and backward pumping of the arms aiding greatly in getting either a hockey player or speed skater (or sprinter) quickly off the mark. Once under way, however – or once we get beyond the take-off (within just a few steps), we shift to a “skating mode”, in which the skates push outward and the arms need to travel through a side-to-side motion to balance everything.
4) Okay, now for another question, as in, Will speed skating training help a hockey player? Well, before tackling that, let’s take a look at an awesome YouTube.com video featuring TIME’s Sean Gregory as he learns how Apolo Ohno prepared for Vancouver (by the way, something like the “turnbuckle” or belt arrangement shown in the start of the video has been a staple in The MOTION Lab for a good 6- or 7-years, and I’m soon going to make these fairly inexpensive contraptions available to you in the CoachChic.com Hockey Store)…
So, do you want my honest opinion when it comes to the training shown in that video (of course, minus the specific short track on-ice stuff)?
I’d say that everything – from the belt training to the stairs workouts — would be awesome for a hockey player. Actually, we use almost all of those methods with our hockey players in The MOTION Lab.
That said, I do need to add one caveat… Don’t ever forget that our sport is not based solely upon a pretty, powerful stride. No, hockey players need to shift gears, react in all directions, and oftentimes handle a puck as they’re moving. Come to think of it, they also have to skate for their lives with opponents oftentimes trying to run over them!
3) Which brings me to the question I obviously avoided early-on. For, I would be willing to bet on a speed skater if he or she was matched against a hockey player in a straight-ahead race, or a sprint in one direction around the rink. Drop a puck, however, and all bets are off. Ya, everything a speed skater does — from training to dressing — has to do with those two kinds of races. As soon as lateral movements and stops, starts or cuts are required, my money is on the hockey player.
But again, much shown in that video would be good for an ice hockey player.
Finally, remember that I don’t see myself as an expert on speed skating. So, I surely would appreciate hearing from those who might know a lot more about both versions of that sport.
PS: TIME’s Sean Gregory actually has a series of videos available over on YouTube, and I’d highly recommend you view them. And, if he has a great collection of those up-close studies for sale, I’d love to own them.
Please give me your feedback on this one, huh? And I’d like to hear from both hockey and speed skating folks!