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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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!
A couple of things went into my slightly changing the way we’re working on shooting drills at this part of our Team NEHI Junior High School season…
First and foremost, we (players, parents or coaches) shouldn’t ever stay at one progression level of a given skill if at all possible. (Actually, that’s an important principle of motor learning, and something I’ll have to go a little further into some day.)
Anyway, for an example, when it comes to shooting I still allow my kids to work on their technique while standing close to the boards. However, it isn’t often they’ll get to stand comfortably and take shots in their games, so we also practice plenty taking them while flying down the ice. Even that form of practice has outlived its usefulness, though.
Secondly, I’m noticing that my young guys are missing some shots because they’re being disrupted in one way or another by opponents. And, if you think about it, that’s really how the game is played — I mean, with our attackers trying to make plays as defenders practically maul them.
All that said, it was obviously time to move-on to a new and more difficult kind of shooting practice.
– Dennis Chighisola
Okay, so what I did was to have my players go through their normal shooting progressions at the start of last night’s skills session, and then I gathered them together to explain what we’d do next…
I tried to explain that each player had to do a favor for his partner, by attempting to make it difficult for him to pull-off a shot. At the same time, I also warned them that I didn’t want to see anyone get hurt. Actually, my kids are pretty good in understanding such directions. So again, I let them know that they were really helping their buddies get better if they made it hard for them to shoot, but that they should foul them within reason.
I wasn’t able to garner the best video in the world last night during the brief time I had my camera out. But, at least you can get a sense of our first attempts at this new drill by clicking on the photo below. (If you’ll notice, the trailing players still haven’t gotten the handle on their roles in this. That’s okay, though; that’s why we practice 3-times per week, and why I’ll stay at the following drill for a good long time.)
As I intimated above, I’m not stopping there by a long shot (pardon the pun). So, I promise to gather more video footage as soon as the kids get more into this form of drilling, and as I likely change some of the ways we’ll do other types of resisted shooting.
What do you think? You know I love to see your Comments.
The “look-away” play — be it a pass or a shot — seems to be a hot topic these past few days…
– Dennis Chighisola
First, Marco Sturm scored the over-time winner in hockey’s 2010 Winter Classic, when Patrice Bergeron “looked away” from his intended target — thusly drawing attention elsewhere, and then fed Sturm with a pass that was almost too easy for him to tap-in. (Click here to see the Sturm goal from Bergeron.)
Next, Greg K just pointed-out that John Carlson used a similar move to seal the World Junior Championship in OT for Team USA. The difference in this play was that Carson looked towards a teammate as if he was considering making a pass, this forcing the Team Canada netminder to split his attentions between several attackers. And, it seems, Carlson caught the Canadian goaler slightly off guard when he finally did pull the trigger.
And, once again thanks to the likes of YouTube, we’re treated to the following video (enjoy)…
Other members started things with their initial feedback on the Sturm goal. So, please keep the ball rolling with your further Comments here!
Well, my Mighty Mites suffered the first setback of their season yesterday (hmmm… actually, the first hockey setback of their young lives). And, while I always feel a little bit down after a loss (as any passionate coach probably should), there’s one trait that just as probably separates me from lots of others.
You see, I am forever an optimist. Better yet, I see every season as a marathon. Or, as a sport psychologist might suggest, “It’s not a good idea to get either too high with a win or too low after a defeat.” Naw, the best thing to do is to stick to a long-range plan that I/we know will ultimately work.
That said, a return to practice this morning (on the day after) saw me pick-up the training a notch. In other words, I stuck to “the plan”, and introduced or refined some skills that will benefit the kids hugely in the long-run. Below, I’ll explain the drill we refined quite a bit this week. (Within a few days, I’ll let you in on another drill I just added.)
– Dennis Chighisola
Mighty Mite Team Wide-dribbles
Now, at the very start of this season, I made a big deal out of our need to miss rival goalies with shots, and to instead look for all the open space around him or her. As the photo to the right shows, I used my SMG (or simulated goaler) to remove the luck factor. In other words, that SMG removes the chance for a great play by a live goalie, or a bit of luck on his or her part.
Almost all of my little guys have grasped this concept by now, and probably about half of the roster has scored goals in games by doing exactly as I just described.
Okay, so it’s time to add yet another skill to their individual attack capabilities. And, for this, I’ve started teaching the kids to fake towards one side of the goalie before bringing the puck across and tucking it in on the opposite side. The photo to the left shows one of my older players executing a maneuver that’s intended to tease or distract a rival defender in open-ice. The photo to the right shows one of my Mighty Mites using the same faking movement — the “wide-dribble” — to set-up the goalie (or SMG). If you can envision it, this youngster has first drawn the goalie’s attention to the right, and he is now in the act of shifting the puck across to deposit it on the left side and behind the netminder.
Of course, you’d like to see that play in action. So, just click on the photo below for a video showing several 4-, 5- and 6-year olds performing a wide-dribble move on the SMG. (They’re doing pretty nicely, if I do say so! )
Now, I think it’s important for members to know a few other things that are actually going on surrounding this particular move (on the goaltender).
First, most young kids don’t naturally handle the puck on both sides of their stick-blades. So, this particular skill is being taught or encouraged in several other drills (one of these to be posted shortly).
Secondly, a lot of members might be surprised at my spending so much time on the very end of a play — as in scoring goals. However, this is a technique I use often in the teaching process (and I especially employ this method when I’m teaching a skill like body-checking). What I’m trying to do is first establish the end result. Then, with that, I’ll start showing my students or players how to work their way towards that end. Still, for fear that I haven’t really explained myself well enough here, I promise to cover this approach in more detail within some future entries.
PS: The above video just might be useful to a young player for visualization purposes. In other words, have a youngster (or youngsters) watch it — over and over again — in hopes he or she (or they) might be able to memorize the moves (or internalize them). Seriously, give that a try; it really works!
By the way… While I’m teaching these things to kids as young as 4-years old — and they’re getting ‘em, I have to wonder how many 10- or 11-year olds haven’t yet mastered such moves. Okay, just wondering, but…
Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions about my approach here. You know I love to interact with you guys (and gals)!
This won’t likely be the last post on this subject… Naw, I have the feeling my search for “finishing skills” around the net will be a season-long thing for me (with both my Mighty Mites and my Jr High School Team).
Coach Kelly did kind of get the ball (errrrr… puck) rolling awhile back, however, with his own suggestions. As Greg offered, “How about pairing up the kids about 1-2 feet from the boards. One of the kids drops 3 pucks in front of the shooter. If they stay close to the boards the pucks won’t travel as far. Of course they can take turns shooting and dropping.
I know you’ve done a similar drill in Lakeville (at the off-ice facility) by lining up three pucks horizontally, equally spaced and close to the boards. But by dropping the pucks instead of having them in-place should make the kids react quickly to the pucks bouncing in all directions.”
I countered with the fact that that was a pretty good idea.
If I have a difficulty with some forms of drilling, it usually revolves around the administrative side of it. In other words, if it’s difficult to run a drill, not as much gets done in the allotted time, and I tend to cringe at using it very often.
I went on to tell Greg that — like his idea of dropping the pucks, “… we have to find a way to create urgency (like in a game).”
Anyway, I thought I’d show members what I’ve so far done with Greg’s idea. (FYI… And this is only a “so far” proposition. I guarantee the below drills will evolve, perhaps as early as in this week’s practices.)
– Dennis Chighisola
Coach Kelly’s Hockey Shooting Drill
Actually, I believe I’ve shown the drill in this first clip elsewhere, because it’s one I’ve used a lot through the years. Mainly, I give the kids a small handful of pucks (no more than about 5, so they don’t lose concentration), and then I ask them to move their hands as quickly as possible in flicking each puck towards an imaginary net.
Practicing out of the way, you’ll hear me in the next video ask the kids if they’re ready for a little competition. With this, they’ll compete against each other to see which one can shoot all of their pucks the quickest. So, if you’ll click on the next photo (below), you’ll see a pair racing to get rid of their pucks.
In this third adaptation of what is really the same kind of drilling, I ask a pair of players to ready an odd number of pucks for another competition. We need that odd puck, because the goal of this game is to see who can get rid of the most pucks, and that single, remaining puck is almost always sort of the tie-breaker. So again, click on the nearby photo to see how this competition goes. Oh, by the way… This pair wanted to arrange their pucks neatly, with the odd puck sitting in the middle of the others. However, I ultimately suggested that all the pairs of kids just toss their pucks out there in random fashion. Either way is okay, though.
Oh, and have you noticed that the kids really work when there are some bragging rights on the line? That’s my fascination with competitive drills like these; the players almost always work harder (or quicker) to beat their buddies.
Finally — as I mentioned earlier, we expect this form of drilling to evolve in some ways (although I might not yet know how). It seems to me that both of my current teams are missing-out on a lot of scores because they’re not quick enough around the goal mouth. So, I’ll suggest that getting more from our efforts is a very worthwhile endeavor.
Okay, by now you probably know I like to be descriptive — or maybe colorful — when it comes to hockey technique. That’s the teacher in me, really.
I’ve done that with the following skill because I want my players to picture a given kind of movement as they practice. But then, you’ll see…
– Dennis Chighisola
“Bunting” the Hockey Puck
From the first photo you can probably already guess that I’m talking about my players learning to tap the puck out of the air and into the goal. And, you might also guess that I use the “bunting” tag because I want the kids to think of the movement as a rather short rap at the puck, not a wild swing.
Also, you might notice from the way I set-up this drill (and numerous others) that I like to have control. In other words, players needn’t be moving all around or dealing with pucks that aren’t placed right in a good area to practice with. In fact, the way I arrange this and a lot of other drills ensures my kids get far more repetitions than do players I see in other practice formats.
The Basic Drill……….From the picture you should see how I like to organize this drilling… Pairs of players are very close to the boards, with one partner kneeling and holding about 3 or 4 pucks. That “feeder” must take care to lob the puck – between waist-high and chest-high, so that the “bunter” can practice tapping the puck towards an imaginary net.
Now, you can click on the photo to see a short video of that pair in action. These are actually two pretty good young players, yet the one doing the bunting is achieving so-so results. You might also notice that he needs reminding to shorten the stroke, and to be sure to keep his stick down.
Batting the puck out of the air (or a regular basis and with some accuracy) really is a skill. And, as such, it should be practiced often. Also, I’ll suggest that all the tricks players do with a ball or puck — like keeping it balanced in the air for a good length of time — will also help with stick dexterity.
A More Game Related Drill……….The set-up in the next drill is exactly the same as the previous one. This time, however, I’m going to have the bunter jog in place as he attempts to bat pucks towards an imaginary goal. The purpose is to get my players moving and to cause their hands and eyes to bounce a little, thereby making the focus and contact with the puck a little more difficult. I say this form of drilling is more game related because — in a game — players only get a quick glimpse at the puck and only an instant to swipe at it, and they don’t get any time to really focus their eyes are pretty their posture.
That said, you can click on the second photo to see some players jogging in place and attempting to bat (or bunt) the puck out of the air. (By the way, we could create similar game-like conditions by having a player step back and forth over a low obstacle, or by having him or her spin a different way just prior to each toss.)
Now, having seen the two videos, I’ll bet you know how you’d have corrected the youngsters who appeared in them. I give them credit for just starting to learn that skill. However, I think we can see where they made some nice “bunts” or where they swung a little too wildly, and we can both likely recognize when they needed to carry their stick a little lower.
Finally, and as I suggested previously, this really is a skill. And, as such, it requires lots of practice.
I would love your Comments or thoughts!
By Dennis Chighisola
The last post in this section (“Quickening the Slapshot Setup“) showed my Team NEHI guys working on this drill while in an off-ice setting. And, since I said back then that the same exact drill could be used on the ice, I thought I’d gather some video footage of that just as soon as I could.
Actually, the kids I was able to capture on camera are all pretty skilled players, and they make awesome demonstrators. So, have a look (by clicking the photo below), and notice the footwork required to set-up quickly for a slapshot.
Having seen that (and hoping you’ve seen Part 1), do you have a sense of why that skill was better taught off-ice first? I do that as often as I can, taking time to demo and explain a new skill away from the ice, initially. I just find it a lot easier and quicker if my guys have gotten the feel for something new (and perhaps fairly challenging) before they take to the more costly ice-time.
Your Comments are truly welcomed here!
Please see Drill Submission Rules and Help below.
Contributor: Dennis Chighisola — Whitman, MA USA
Drill Category: Point shooting, decision-making, passing, reading and reacting, point coverage
Comments: This is one of my all-time favorite drills, and I sense that my players love it as well. Really, the video below probably shows it best. However, I’ll attempt to describe it here:
- Two Point Defensemen: Once a pass is made to them, the pair attempt to shuttle the puck back and forth for an open shot (versus a forward covering them).
- Defensive Forward/Point Cover: A forward from one corner goes and covers the two point men as soon as a pass is made out to them. This checker keeps working until a shot is made or until he or she prevents a shot.
- Offensive Forward: A forward from a corner passes to either point man, then breaks for the net to screen, deflect or rebound a shot from the point.
Objective of the Drill:
I find that defensemen very quickly learn to draw the checker, thusly getting their partner open for a clear shot. This drill also encourages quick handling of the puck — under real game-like pressure.
I’ve noticed that slightly experienced D also make good use of flip passes and dekes while challenged by this drill.
Running the drill:
The Offensive Forward in the corner basically runs the drill, starting it with a pass soon after the previous shot is taken. Forwards switch roles/corners after they work on one side.
An Extra Benefit: Over the past few seasons I’ve also employed three defensemen in this drill, this to simulate our Umbrella powerplay formation.
Click image below to see a short video.
Although I’ll show you some of my Team NEHI guys working at the drill I eventually created, the inspiration for that drill came from watching my babies (or my little Mighty Mite team).
Oh, you know how I am about taking notes — especially during games. Well, I’m doing the same at our weekly instructional league contests, and I’m going to gradually fill you in on the things I’ve observed there.
That said, here’s the first problem I noted…
– Dennis Chighisola
I Need to Quicken My Players’ Shots!
My little guys came-out smoking in our very first game, with plenty of action around the opponents’ net. If there was a problem, they didn’t score nearly enough goals for all the swipes they had at loose pucks.
I wrestled for quite awhile trying to solve that, and one version I arrived at will be shown in the accompanying video. What I’d like to do beforehand, though, is give you a little insight into what I was thinking…
I’m sure you’ll appreciate how chaotic it can be out in front of the net: Oops, there’s a puck; oops, then it’s gone! Ya, one second a player has the chance to bat the puck home, the next second that opportunity has vanished. And it’s recreating typical game situations (like that) that makes a drill worthwhile (or not). So, how could I make my players feel that kind of urgency?
Actually, I’m experimenting with a couple of variations right now, and I’ll soon let you know how I feel about each approach. For the time being, however, here’s what I’m experimenting with:
The drill shown in the accompanying video (click on the above photo to watch) has three players in a nearby line each tossing a puck softly to the slot. As you can see, the forward in front of the net attempts to pull the trigger — three times — as quickly as possible. If you’ll notice something wrong in this video, my hope was that the pucks would all arrive at close to the same time — to make the forward out front really scramble. Didn’t happen. (Honestly, I think I can do better than that drill.)
I tried something differently with my little Mighty Mites, this time having a coach drop three pucks from his hand and into the crease area. This is a little harder to administer, but I think it comes a lot closer to the problem I was seeing in our games.
I tried yet another version of that second drill, this time have two offensive players battle to see which could score the most goals from the number dumped into the crease area. Again, trying to keep a supply of pucks on hand to keep the drill going was a pain. But, I think this drill comes a lot closer to recreating the urgency of a game.
Now, while I always enjoy your Comments to a post, this time I’m hoping some members might even have a better idea than mine! (Ya, help!!!)
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, practicing the slapshot in a stationary pose is okay. In fact, I think it’s necessary to do this as one attempts to polish his or her technique. Of course, the other side of the argument is that one hardly gets to stand still for very long during serious game action. And, the higher the level of play, the less time a player has to get-off a shot.
All that in mind, I noticed a few years ago that a number of my younger players were being smothered by defenders as they raised their sticks to shoot. With that, I decided to create a few drills that would help lessen the amount of time my kids needed to set-up for their slapshots.
– Dennis Chighisola
Quickening the Slapshot Setup
You should know that all my big ideas don’t necessarily end-up working so well.
Actually, the first drill I created to solve the above noted problem calls for spreading 30 or so pucks high in an end zone, and then having two players at a time race to get three quick shots on goal. That drill is okay, and I still do use it once in awhile, 1) because my players seem to like the competition, and 2) because it just seems to be a decent change of pace from all the other shooting drills we use more often. Really, though, administration of the drill is a pain, and it also bothers me that too many players are left standing around while only a pair of players are active.
So, I ultimately arrived at a drill that’s far more efficient, and one that seems to far better meet my players’ needs (to set-up quicker).
As the accompanying photo shows, a player has spaced three pucks in a straight line leading away from the target shooting area. (Know that all of my other players also have three pucks, and they’ve staked claim to their own shooting area, which means that all of my guys should be improving at the same time.)
Now, the main idea of this drill is for a player to work on his footwork and body positioning prior to each shot. In a way, it’s a lot like a golfer “addressing” his ball in anticipation of a shot (with the obvious difference being the very short amount of time a hockey player has).
As a side note… Most drills have to include a time of concentration or effort and then a time for resting (both the mind and the body). And, make no mistake about it, in that it’s as important for a player to rest briefly if we want him or her to apply all of his or her intensity or focus for a given period of time. If you think about, a player who shoots more than a few quick shots is going to start losing focus (or tire), and that’s when poor technique starts to creep-in. So…
I have my guys start slowly on this drill, at least until they’ve gotten the feel for a good set-up. Over time, however, I want them to speed things to something closer to a game-like pace. I do NOT want my guys to hurry the actual shot; what I do want quickened is the time it takes to move and set-up between shots. Then (as suggested in the above note), my guys use the time it takes to put the pucks back in place to rest and gather their thoughts for another go-round.
Now, click-on one of the thumbnails below to see a video of guys working at this drill.
Then, if you click-on the next thumbnail that video shows a closer look at my guy’s footwork between shots.
Two final points…
Make not mistake about it: This drill is all about the kind of footwork you see in the above videos. Most of my guys can shoot the puck pretty well. It’s the set-up that now needs to be perfected, and that set-up mostly involves footwork.
Don’t be thrown-off by the fact that these clips were taken at a recent off-ice practice; we do the same exact drill on the ice at least once more per week. And, I assure you the footwork you’ve seen here is exactly the same in the on-ice application. Yes, this form of practice easily transfers to quickening on-ice slapshot set-ups.
Did you know your Comments really help me? Just use the box below to offer your thoughts, questions or suggestions. (And thanks — a bunch!)
For those who may have just joined (or just happened by this entry), I strongly urge you to view the YouTube video I dubbed “Studying Alexander Ovechkin“. I’ve asked members to run (and re-run) goals #4 and #2 there, just to get a sense of how the The Great OV oftentimes balances on one skate as he readies to unleash a shot.
Oh, and as an FYI… I doubt Ovechkin is the only player to demonstrate the following skills. I just happened to use him as an example because I tend to spend so much time studying his moves.
– Dennis Chighisola
1) The Skate Wiggle
As I hinted at in my previous notes, I long ago noticed Ovechkin wiggling his left skate as he readied to shoot from the right side of his body. And as I also noted, I think this can be a huge distraction to a goaltender.
Just think about it: The goaler attempts to focus on the puck, but there is this extra movement going on (in the corner of his eye) that must be awfully hard to ignore. How distracting is it? I’m not sure (and I’d love for some experienced goalie-types to weigh-in on this). However, aren’t we all looking for an edge — no matter how slight?
Now, I actually had more than one motive when I decided to have my team players learn this. For, as I’ve noted in numerous other entries when I’ve talked about shooting, it’s a good idea for players to learn how to pull the trigger in all sorts of off balance postures. So, while the drills I’m going to show in the following videos will likely help some of my better players add something new to their bag of puckhandling and shooting tricks, I’m going to suggest that every one of my kids has enhanced his skills just from practicing so often on one skate. (I’ll have a little more to say on this topic a little later.)
Okay, I’ve provided the sketch to the lower right just so you might see the basic posture… The idea is for the shooter to balance on one skate while slightly wiggling the other.
As an aside here… Last season, when I first introduced this skill, I had my players wiggle the skate opposite their stick (just as I’d seen Ovechkin do). As I noted above, I felt this was going to cause the most distraction for the goaltender. However, because I was adding another skill this season, I had my guys try that wiggle with the skate closest to their stick. You’ll see why in awhile, though.
I’d like to share a few more tips here, beyond the actual shooting tricks… For example, I find certain settings better for my Jr HS and HS Prep players to try new skills. So, as you’ll notice in the videos linked to many of the following photos, we work off-ice a lot (even in The MOTION Lab), and the players also work on their own firing at the side boards (my guys probably get 20-shots to every one they’d have had if they were standing in long lines). Neither do I allow them to initially shoot on a goaltender when I really want them concentrating on a given skill technique. (Just click on a photo to see the video.)
2) The Kick
In the previous post I promised to show you something even more challenging for the goaltender. So, here goes…
The accompany sketch shows a player’s stick going forward as the leg opposite his stick moves backward.
Now, think “equal and opposite reactions” here — as when a sprinter’s arms pump forward and backward to aid his leg actions, or when a skater moves the hands, arms and shoulders side to side to help the outward thrust of each skate.
In other words, as the shooter pushes his stick forward, he has to simultaneously kick rearward in order to add some extra umph to that forward stick action. (Click on the photos below to see some of my guys executing what I’ve come to call “The Ovechkin Kick”.)
By the way… I noticed in putting together the second video that the young lefty shooter is slightly off in timing his kick with his shot. Can you see it? The kick appears to be a little too early to really help his shot. Knowing the player, though, he will get it with a little more work.
Does the direction of that backward kick matter? You bet! As a matter of fact, that’s probably been the most difficult thing to convey to my kids. That kick has to be as close to 180-degrees to the direction of the shot as possible; otherwise a great deal of the force will be lost.
Actually, I’ve started talking to my guys in terms of feeling the extra power, and I’m often heard to ask them, “Can you feel it?” as I move up and down the line of shooters.
3) Combining the Movements
I initially introduced the above two skills separately, and I had players practice them separately. Ultimately, though — after probably a good month or more of separate drilling, I had the guys combine the moves.
The videos below show my players putting the two tricks together.
By the way… You’ll notice that the kids are usually doing a wiggle first, switching skates and then performing their kicks with the other skate. That kind of order is just for practice purposes, however. In reality, I’ll want them to do whatever comes naturally once they’re in a game. I also know how an athlete’s mind works, and I can assure you that each player will grasp for whatever does come naturally in the heat of battle. Some will actually dare to string the two moves together, some will want to get the shot-off quicker by going to just the kick, some will wiggle a skate and fire, while some won’t dare do anything other than just pull the trigger as fast as they can. But, for more on this topic, please consider my closing remarks…
In summary, I want to re-affirm something I just hinted at, in that individuals will tend to get differing results from an unusual type of skills training.
Over 40-years of working with thousands of athletes, I can tell you that a few special ones will put that new skill into their game almost immediately. It’s just the nature of those very unique beasts. At the other end of the spectrum, there will always be a few players who will never dare to do anything new in a game setting.
All that said, I’m going to suggest that just working at new skills — like those described above — is going to affect some positive change in every single player. So, even though those in the lower half of a roster might not dare to purposely pull-off moves like I’ve just showed, they are going to frequently find themselves balanced on one skate or the other in a game, and they’re going be confident about handling the puck or even letting it fly from that posture.
– Dennis Chighisola
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Jerry Z — yes, THAT Jerry Z of CoachChic.com in-line fame — submitted a VERY good question the other day. As a matter of fact, it might be one of the best ones I’ve fielded to date. You see, I quite often raise the points noted below as I talk to my Team NEHI hockey players. And I especially get into this stuff when their offensive efforts are failing. So, here’s what Jerry asked…
– Dennis Chighisola
Q: What do you consider the most important factor is in shooting? Whether it’s to be accurate? Hard? Quick? (I assume each shooter is different, but how would you prioritize practicing?)
A: Really, I have a very short answer for Jerry. Before I get to that, however, I’d like to share some information that should help players of all levels, including elite guys and gals.
First, although every player IS different, I probably wouldn’t change the basic advice I’ll be sharing here. Oh, I do talk to forwards and point-shooters a little differently (which is a topic for another time). But, no matter what position a player plays, he or she really should be aware of the following…
Now, to really make my point with (head strong?) young players, I’ll use a couple of very familiar subjects — namely, the NHL’s top scorers’ list, and a popular segment of the NHL’s skills competition.
Most often I’ll begin this kind of discussion by asking my guys if they recall who the top scorers are in the NHL. Once things have settled down, and once they’ve tossed more than enough names my way, I’ll move-on to ask them which guys had the hardest shots in the most recent NHL slapshot competition. Once again, kids will usually get a little rowdy and argue amongst themselves (I like when they get into it like that), but we ultimately do boil the list down to a couple of really strong shooters.
In a way, my players have played into my hands here. I mean, I believe they can envision at this point the top scorers and the hardest shooters. And they’re usually ripe by this time to answer a few of my planned questions.
The first thing I’ll put to them is whether any of the NHL’s extra hard shooters are near the top of the league in scoring. I’m usually looking at a bunch of open mouths by now, and a whole bunch of players who really want to know what’s coming next.
What’s next? It’s that most of the guys found near the top in scoring — probably in any league — are those who have moves and put their shots on-goal quickly.
Now, before someone offers the fact that there have been many great shooters at or near the top in NHL scoring, I’m going to say that is absolutely the case. In fact, all of the guys who tally a lot of points can fire the puck. But, that’s not my point.
My point IS that top scorers shoot quickly. Seldom are they one dimensional (with just a big shot). Again, they have moves — or dekes, and they can usually launch the puck with lightening speed from any spot or any posture.
Before going further let me share some of the keys from another brief conversation I often have with my students and players, this having to do with a match-up between an attacker and the goaltender…
- Please consider that the goaler probably desires two things in such a confrontation.
- He’d like to be able to see the puck (which suggests that screens must prove very frustrating to him).
- A goalie needs time. I mean, most goaltenders own the best equipment their money can buy, and they spend a lot of their practice time learning how to place that expensive gear in the right place relative to the puck’s location. And, given enough time to put that gear in the right spot, I’m betting that the hardest shot in the world isn’t going to find its way to the back of the net.
And that, my friends, is the basis upon which I answer most questions having to do with shooting.
That shooting quickness and shooting power belong at opposite extremes should be easy for me to now argue. Accuracy, on the other hand, will take a little more explaining.
From what I’ve said about the goaler’s needs, you should understand why I see a quick trigger as the most important shooting trait. It should make sense that the ultra-quick shot has the best chance of catching the netminder out of position.
Now, don’t get me wrong on this next one, because I believe it’s awesome to have a powerful shot, and I work with my guys plenty to develop their hand, forearm, shoulder and core strength. At the same time, the most powerful shots usually take time to uncork, and that’s often exactly what a goaltender needs to get himself or herself in the right position. And that’s why power takes a backseat to shooting quickness in my book.
Shooting accuracy is a tricky one… Frankly, every shot should be on-goal. (What is it I’ve heard some coaches say? “You can’t score on 100% of the shots that miss the net!”?)
This short story… A lot of years ago I read an article about a pro team that had just played our local NHL entry. The visitors had beaten our guys, and their coach in a post-game interview gave a lot of credit to his point-shooters. As he described the situation, his team hadn’t been generating much offense from the blue line, so they decided to make a one-game pact. All the defensemen agreed to not take any slapshots, but to instead just throw pucks on net as quickly as they could. The result? Three goals originated from the point. My assessment? Those kinds of shots got on-goal fast, there was a better chance they’d be accurate, and the combination of quickness and the screens that took place in front of the locals’ net took-away the two things the home team goaler wanted — as in sight of the puck and time to get in position.
Still, for all I’ve said to this point, Jerry is really asking about how much time HE should devote to each of those shooting skills. So, my honest answer to that one? I think he — and all players — should work on all three areas. As a relative beginner, however, I might suggest that Jerry give his shooting strength a slight priority at first. Once he’s able to rip some pucks (or balls) fairly well, shooting quickness would come next. All along, though, he should try to practice hitting spots, and he should always try to put his shots on-goal.
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Early next month I want to share something pretty interesting with you. I’m going to give all my friends a little homework first, however.
Of course, any study of the great Ovechkin has to be worthwhile. And I’ll suggest that there’s something to be learned from watching every single goal the great OV has ever scored.
Now, if you watch all of the goals shown in the following video you’ll notice that Ovechkin shoots off a different foot nearly every time. I mean, he’ll have his weight on the left foot while firing one time, and the next time he’s likely to be balanced on the right. That’s the mark of a great goal-scorer, you know. Goaltenders can’t get comfortable — or really set — with OV owning the puck, because he can shoot at any time, not just while in a traditionally comfortable posture
Once you’ve had some fun, though, here’s your homework: I’d like you to study goals #4 and #2 as much as possible. In both instances the right-shooting Ovechkin is balanced on his right skate and doing something a little different with the left foot or left leg. Then, after you’ve had a chance to do that for awhile, I’ve added a few more comments below…
As an aside here… The above video obviously comes by way of the NHL and YouTube.com. And I can’t stress enough the benefits of using such great resources. The human mind learns a great deal from observing others. So, what better way for a player, parent or coach to improve than to study the world’s absolute bests!
What Ovechkin is doing in those selected clips is not as pronounced as I’ve seen at other times. Still, there’s a hint of what I’m going to be getting at later.
Actually, the first times I saw him shoot in this manner, I felt the slight wiggle of the foot opposite his stick-blade had to be an awful distraction for a goaler. Still, it wasn’t until a long time later that I discovered The Great Eight had something else — even more challenging — in mind for the goaltender.
So, stay tuned…
For an awful lot of years, I’ve felt that a puck and opponents can distract from a player’s concentration as he or she is drilling. (Wait until you see the positional drill I invented years ago!)
This segment, however, is all about a player’s wrist (or sweep) shot mechanics, and it gives me the chance to show you how removing a puck from a drill helps my players focus purely on a movement.
As a brief aside here, I’ve mentioned elsewhere about how I frequently invent new drills. The following is a great example, but it actually stems from a way I found to improve a player’s slap shot mechanics. That method of training is going to be the subject of my August ’09 free downloadable gift — a video which allows a player to watch some great slow-motion examples of the slap shot, visualize the movement, and even follow along with some really good shooters. So don’t miss that freebie; almost any level player should find it extremely helpful.
Now, please click on this Wrist Shot Mechanics link and follow along with me…
What my players are doing is alternating 10 sweeps at an imaginary puck with 10 actual wrist shots. (The reason you hear pucks hitting the boards throughout the video is because my kids are all working at their own pace, with some shooting and some preparing to do so.)
During the practice phase — done without a puck — I ask each player to concentrate on proper mechanics. So hopefully a player is rocking back to grab the imaginary puck, then shifting his weight — backward to forward — as he pulls through hard and finishes with a point of his stick-blade towards his target.
Hopefully too, a player comes close to applying those same mechanics as he next uses a puck.
As you might notice, my kids are at various stages of development in this area. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” Nor is a perfect wrist shot. So, it’s the constant going back and forth — from the practice phase to the real shooting phase — that will ultimately result in a pretty good shot.
By the way… After this segment of practice, my guys shifted around and began doing just the same to improve their backhand shots. The mechanics are just about the same, and we practice these in the same sequence — with 10 simulations to 10 actual shots — for about 4 or 5 times through.
A number of great videos are included below…
I think it’s a good idea for a hockey player to practice his or her shots in a stationary position. My players do it often, mainly to work on their mechanics. At the same time, we all know that’s not exactly what conditions are like for them during the game action.
No, there’s little time to prettily prepare to shoot; actually there’s little time to do much of anything except to rip-it when the opportunity arises.
Complicating matters all the more for a wannabe shooter is the fact that he or she seldom gets to pull the trigger in a balanced position. And, a lot of players even find themselves with a defender or two draped all over them.
So, with those extreme challenges in mind, I’ve created a number of ways to help my guys be able to fire a hard shot under almost any conditions. In fact, a number of my more experienced players have scored goals from their knees, from their fannies, or with only their right or left hand gripping the stick. (My very best long-time players can rip a puck with either hand.)
So, here are some clips of just a few drills I have my guys do in prepping to shoot under any sort of circumstances. If you can appreciate it, I’m trying to build the players’ hand and forearm strength so that they can rocket a shot without having to be anchored or need much leverage…
- Although my StickWag is guaranteed to put umph into anyone’s shot, I more recently came-up with a variation that REALLY burns the forearms and also gets the core muscles. So, click the following link and take a look at how Up/Down StickWags work.
- Long-time members know I like to gain variety in my players’ training by borrowing from other sports. And that was the case with this real hand and forearm burner I’ll dub the Baseball Bar Wrestle. As you’ll see in the video, the aim is to tip the heavy bar downward, then resist that downward movement in order to bring the tip back upward. Again, the idea is to fight — or wrestle — the bar.
- Talk about a great idea striking at an odd time… I was moving some gear in The MOTION Lab a few weeks ago, and I happened to grab a pair of dumbells by their fattest parts. Just this required more than a little grip strength. From there I thought, “How about holding the weights in that manner, then wagging them up and down and around, much like we do with the StickWag?” Ouch! Take a look at these Dumbell Wags! (FYI… After trying it a few times in the manner shown, I now have my players alternate holding their fingers turned upward and downward.)
- The last shot strengthening exercise (for now) is sort of a plyometrics one. Shown below is a photo of a Team NEHI player heaving a tire as far as he can. In order to get some distance, a player will usually draw it far back first, then come around quickly to really fling it. And you can imagine the effort that’s required of the core muscles, and those involved in initiating a strong wrist shot. By the way, the Tire Throw would also benefits baseball hitters and throwers, as well as those in other hitting and throwing sports. (As much as any other exercise shown in these pages, all safety precautions must be taken.)
Would you believe… Right as I was publishing this page, an unbelievable idea came to me for making #2 (the Baseball Bar Wrestle) even more challenging, and a lot more appropriate to what the drill is meant to do. So, look forward to me making that new piece of gear, taking a few video clips, and showing it to you soon!
Here’s a great primer on hockey’s basic shots — the wrist (or sweep) shot, and the backhander. In this video, I share the key points most coaches cover, and then I let you in on some of the points I think matter even more. (Oh, and by the way… Down the road, I am going to show you some shooting drills that’ll help anyone develop a super “quick trigger”!) Enjoy…Loading...
Ooooops, sorry… The “ATC Store” noted at the end doesn’t exist anymore. Again, sorry.
Early this past season I noticed a lot of my new players didn’t have a clue about screening and deflecting out in front of the goal. I couldn’t blame them, I guess, in that not a lot of attention is usually paid to this skill where they came from.
One of my pet peeves is to see a youngster stand off to the side of the goal with his stick-blade held out in front of the rival goaltender. I mean, think along with me here… The goaler obviously has clear view of a distant shot if our forward is camped-out off to the side of the net. And, at levels beyond about Mites or Atoms, the goalie dares enough to come-out towards the shot to smother anything that’s deflected off a stick as I’ve just described.
That said, here are a couple of important keys to more effectively screening the opposing goaltender, and possibly deflecting the puck past him or her…
- A forward should position with his/her butt towards the rival goaler. Stationed at mid-net and in front of the goalie, our forward has a chance to reach any shot that isn’t too far beyond either net-post.
- The forward should then point all three blades — both skates and the stick-blade — directly at the location of the puck. (Hey, we’ll take a goal if it nicks either of those three blades!) The forward often has to re-position (for example, as the puck is passed from one point to the other, again always pointing the three blades towards wherever the puck might be).
- With the stick-blade pointed directly in-line with the incoming shot, the forward only wants to nick the puck slightly with a side of the stick, thusly only redirecting its course very slightly. (A lot of young players will allow the puck to hit flat on their blade, which usually kills the force of the puck and prevents it from continuing towards the goal.)
Now, after you see this brief video of some NEHI junior high school kids working at these skills, I’ll have a few more comments…Loading...
You may have noticed that there were a few sample drills where we had only one forward working out in front of the net. That’s the way I initially designed the drill. However, what I discovered was that during such a set-up our goaltenders were coming far out and smothering the deflections.
In a way, I think that’s a slightly unrealistic move for a goalie during real game action (there are usually other things going on that prevent him from coming out THAT far). At the same time, I didn’t want to just order my goaltenders to remain back in the net. So, what I ultimately did was to have the player who just completed the screen & deflect to go to a backdoor position, thereby at least keeping our goalies a little more honest.
By the way… It think scoring goals on screens and deflections is matter of both skill and luck. At the same time, I believe the more a player practices and fine tunes these skills, the luckier he or she gets.
Starting back a few weeks ago, I noticed my team missing out on a number of close range scoring opportunities. A number of times, my guys actually got stripped of the puck as they were readying to shoot. Not that this doesn’t happen occasionally to every player. But, from my point of view, this inability to get their shots off quicker happened fairly often with my kids.
So, I created a number of very different kinds of drills to speed my players’ reactions (besides the few I’ll show you now). But I’ll suggest that no single one is any more effective than another. No matter which I use, though, the main idea is to recreate the urgency typical to normal game conditions.
That urgency is something I often talk to my kids about. For example, in the first drill you’ll see here, I’m asking them to envision a rebound suddenly plopping out in front of them. There’s no time to waste in a situation like that, because ever split-second they delay is time the opposition goaltender will use to re-position.
Then, before we get to that video, I’d like to share a few slightly related ideas:
- I’d like you to notice that I often have my players spread along the boards and working on their own. In this way, they’re going to get far more shots than if they had to wait in a line. (We also regularly practice our slapshots this way.)
- If you see a ton of pucks or balls spread around a given practice area, it’s because I carry at least 2 or 3 for every player. (I carry about 80 pucks to every practice.) Looking to get as much accomplished as possible within a given time frame, I don’t want anyone losing valuable time waiting for or searching for a puck or ball.
- I earlier hinted at the fact that there’s a mental component in speed or quickness training, when I described what I tell my kids prior to the upcoming shooting drill. As a matter of fact, I recall an elite level coach once mentioning at a seminar that, “In order to BE fast, a player has to first WANT to be fast!” (Yes, speed and quickness training do require the right kind of thinking.)
- Then, because part of this discussion stems from my good friend Ravi’s comment — about weighted pucks and such, let me note that adding resistance to a movement can enhance strength, while lighter-than-normal gear makes it possible for a player to practice quicker than normal. That said, I will quite often use lightweight (blue) pucks and even foam ones when working on shooting quickness.
- One final point Ravi’s comment reminded me to share with you… I think a player has to consider the “big picture” when choosing training aids or nontraditional training methods. For example, I wouldn’t worry about any slight negative effects (like a loss in shooting accuracy) during the off-season, or if I was working with a rather young player. In other words, I see the long-term gains in those situations far out-weighing any negatives. However, if we’re talking about a serious high school, junior, college or pro player, I’d wait for the off-season for that kind of training, and not risk losing shooting accuracy or a feel for the puck.
Now, in the first off-ice segment you’ll see, my young players have 3 pucks each (they’ll rest briefly and arrange those pucks between sets), and they’ll move their hands as fast as possible to put them home. Also notice I have the kids stationed fairly close to the boards, this so they don’t worry about power. (Of course, as shown next, the same form of drilling can be taken to the ice.)
If you enjoy this video, you’re going to love the next ones…Loading...
Building on something I strongly suggested last month — about helping a player to be a success at his or her own level, I’m going to share a video I produced a few years ago, this aimed at “Creating the Early Goal-scorer.” For, if you want to give a youngster confidence, and help him or her gain a real love for the game, there’s no surer way than to help him or her put the puck in the net on a regular basis.
This video also introduces the concept of giving young players just a few, DO-ABLE challenges at a time.
Finally, I placed this topic in the Intermediate category for good reason. By all means, a player is going to need a number of basic skills in place in order to execute the moves I’m going to show. So, I’ll suggest that a player should fall somewhere between the fairly skilled 8-year olds and young teens seen in the following video.Loading...