Teaching the Beginner Hockey Player to Shoot
June 12, 2012 by Dennis Chighisola
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.