Why do young hockey players play spring hockey?
No, I didn’t ask why parents’ put their kids in spring hockey - I asked why, if you were to approach the player him or herself, and question them about their motives - what would they say?
Hopefully it’s one of those three things, and hopefully you’ve asked the question.
The good news is that as a coach, you can have a direct impact on those three questions with what you do in practice. If you’re not coaching and you’re watching practice, then here are a few things to watch for.
Ice is priced at a premium in spring hockey. It’s actually starting to rival the costs of winter hockey (lower your eyebrows), so it’s important that you use the ice to your advantage. Get as many kids moving at the same time as possible. If the kids start taking a knee on their own in the lineups, that’s a clear sign the practice is having an effect.
If the kids are taking a knee because they’re exhausted after doing something they enjoy? Even better! When coaches teach skills and activities that engage the body as well as the mind, that’s when maximum development occurs. Make the hour a rich one with quick-paced, physically challenging drills that they enjoy.
“Don’t be afraid to get my kid going! You can yell at him if you want to!” Thanks, but rare are the times when a coach needs to yell in a player’s face. Sure, it happens, hockey is a passionate game. I’ve found, however, that combining the above two rules while keeping a practice light with the odd lame joke goes a long way toward not only injecting energy, but toward keeping the player coming back for more next time. Hockey is a marathon, not a sprint. Getting them to laugh is much more powerful than getting them to cower.
There’s so much to cover in spring hockey it boggles the mind. Spring hockey teams are all about skill development, so which skills should you be working on?
Well, there’s positions to consider. What are the goalies doing while you’re working on skating or stickhandling? Strengths, weaknesses - all these elements can be tough to tackle if you’re not organized.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, but stay true to bullet #1 above by separating players into stations or specific skill groups.
Map out the ice to maximize engagement and your players will get plenty of enrichment from the practice.
Plenty of coaches run into the mistake of reacting to a recent loss at practice and ignoring their original mission. Sure, there’s rom for tweaking things based on the weaknesses of a group, but you’ll never get far ahead enough to react effectively every day. Plan for the future by understanding your group and where they’re at in their development.
These are all questions to ask before the spring season starts. You can change your answer and change your path as you go, but you created your goals for a reason, so stick to ‘em.