Practice makes perfect, both for players as well as coaches. The more a coach focuses on practice and how important it is to the development of the team, the better a coach will get at delivering practices that accomplish a lot. You only get an hour or so to run a practice, so it’s crucial to get it right.
Here are four critical mandates hockey coaches should implement every single practice.
Why are you all there? And by ‘all’ I mean players, coaches and parents. To improve at hockey, right? That’s why parents dish out money for spring hockey teams or camps in the summer, to see a noticeable improvement in their children. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Indeed, injecting some life into your practice and having a good time will make improvement a whole lot easier, but the ultimate goal of every single practice should be some sort of improvement. Choose a skill or an element of the game you want to improve and hammer away on it until it’s better. Small, steady improvements every day, that’s the key.
Tip: mix in some small area games so players can demonstrate their skills to themselves.
My Dad is always telling me how crazy it is that the oil and gas industry wants everyone to go home safe these days. “You think I didn’t want to go home safe forty years ago?” My Dad is a funny guy, but the point works for hockey as well. Safety is important, and the environment in which you operate is the key to players practicing safely. That being said, players are always going to gather bumps and bruises along the way. After all, hockey is a group of young children skating in random directions with knives strapped to their feet wielding 4-foot metal clubs. That’s why they wear equipment. As a coach, as long as you keep the gates shut at all times and plan drills that don’t have kids skating into each other’s paths unbeknownst, then you’re doing your job.
Tip: do a solid warmup to avoid injury.
Getting ready for tryouts at the next level is a critical component of very offseason training program. This is the 'why' of bullet number one, making the kids better. Setting goals is a healthy way to motivate yourself. As a coach, you might have to literally ask your players what teams they want to make in the season to come. With this ambition on the top of their minds will help you keep the practice moving at a quick pace.
Tip: mention the level your players will be trying out for in all of your drill explanations. Ex. "In bantam hockey you’ll need to move the puck quick."
The more fun we have doing things in life the more likely we are to come back over and over again. We spend a lot of time and energy on hockey here in Western Canada because we love it, so it stands to reason that if a coach can stoke the fires of that passion, his or her players will require less down time, therefore enriching the experience of every practice. In other words, fun practices are more fun. Keep ‘em fun and the kids will enjoy coming and teaching them will be easier.
Tip: if you’re not having fun, the players aren’t having fun. Have fun, dude! No one likes a cranky coach.
Every practice, four goals: improvement, safety, preparation & fun. Sounds like a good plan to me!