In a completely scientific and totally legitimate poll of over two dads at the North Shore Winter Club, results showed that common methods of motivating and training young hockey players “back in the day” was to take whatever they were already doing and do it better.
More betterer, in fact.
That was the way of the hockey world back before any kid with a laptop could search for Connor McDavid gifs for hours on their own time. Kids learn quickly these days because they want to try the same things as their heroes.
And most coaches wish them nothing but success in the attempt. After all, a skilled hockey player just makes the coach look better, right?
Right. Well, for most hockey dads, the more their kid can do on the ice, the happier they are up in the crowd, too.
… That’s a whole other can of worms, but let’s take the high road here. Does your child play centre or one of the wings? If they do, here are five things you can repeat to them over and over again this season.
I say this approximately ten times every day. Forwards who coast or glide rarely win races to pucks, and as a forward, the only way to do damage to the opponent is if you possess the puck. However, “keep your feet moving” can be difficult for young children to understand. “Keep skating” or “win your races” to the puck work as well.
The best players in professional hockey, the best players in university hockey, and the best players in minor hockey play the game with their eyes up while they’re stickhandling. It’s way easier to stickhandle while looking at the puck, but it’s a bad habit that’s restrictive as players get older, faster, and bigger. Note this is a different tip than “keep your head up”. I like using the word “eyes” because it reminds players of the second most important tool in their arsenal.
The most important asset a hockey player of any ages possesses: the mind. Offense in today’s game requires a lot more than a detailed forecheck or overwhelming powerplay. It requires creativity. Intelligence. Dedication. Courage. The more a young forward thinks about their game, the more they’re able to visualize specific situations and the better prepared they’ll be to act when the moment calls for it.
At the High Performance seminar I attended this summer, Don Hay, coach of the Kamloops Blazers, talked about the importance of overshooting and underpassing. In Coach Hay’s opinion, players these days are less inclined to shoot the puck. They want to make the perfect passing play to eliminate any chance the puck might not go in the net. Well, that’s what the defensive players want you to do - think twice.
How are goals scored in the National Hockey League? Deflections, tips, rebounds, second chances. Shoot the puck!It works at every level. Some guy who played for the greatest franchise in the history of sports used to say you miss %100 of the shots you don’t take.
Scoring goals in today’s game is a lot easier if you adopt a committee approach. I work on shooting with UBC’s defensemen every single day. Changing angles, shooting off both feet, getting pucks through layers of forwards. And guess what? It’s still the forwards depositing loose pucks into the yawning cage.
Forwards! They get all the glory.
And you know what? If they’re willing to pay the price to score, then they can have all the glory they want.