Mites & Squirts Can Change Real Fast!

Yes, as the title suggests, “mite and squirt hockey players sure can change pretty quickly”.  Or, as I like to say, “Their young minds and bodies are just so malleable.”

Okay, right now I’m thinking about the young ones who reported to my first-time Mite & Squirt Summer Hockey School.  And, despite the way I opened this essay, I’m wondering why I was so pleasingly surprised at the progress my students made, even by the end of the very first day?  ???  I truly mean that; I was almost shocked.

Well, as a tip for other coaches and parents who like to help their youngsters, I think the following explains a little about why those little tykes progressed so fast:

  1. I might be old(ish), but I am definitely not stuck in the dark ages.  Naw, I analyze the game through my own pretty experienced eyes, and I incorporate what I discover along with what I know about motor learning and other sciences.
  2. Connected to the above point, I like to do MEANINGFUL drills, and I stay clear of the “vanilla types” that tend to look good but have almost no value.  (Youth practices — and even many so-called “powerskating courses” — are loaded with these.)
  3. Expounding more on those two points, I’ve always had a knack for recognizing an important skill, and then developing a series of easily do-able steps (or progressions) to get a player from where he or she is to where they need to be.

Okay, enough blabbering (although I did want to share with other coaches and hockey parents the things that go into developing MEANINGFUL lesson plans).

With that, I thought I’d give my faithful readers a little glimpse of at least some of what took place last week…

As I so often do, I began each session with shooting.  Kids today just don’t shoot enough, and most of them are far behind the generations I’ve previously worked with.  So, we just shoot and shoot and shoot.  (Oh, in the adjacent photo one of my young students is shooting a weighted puck.  And, due to that resistance, notice how he’s working to get his strength into the shot.  Yes!)

In another segment, we’re working on a number of puckhandling moves.  In this case, my student is executing a “wide dribble”, something that is really handy to pull on a defender or a goaltender.  (Yes, later in the session we practiced making that move against my SMG, or simulated goaler.)

Part of my surprise at the kids’ progress was how well they actually took to my Skater’s Rhythm-bar, an invention of mine that smooths the skating motion and also adds power.  It usually takes awhile for young ones to grasp the concepts of the R-bar.  However, notice these demonstrators looking pretty dawgoned good for about 8-years old!

I invented a group of stickhandling and athletic-type exercises built around using a batch of short sections of wood, and I ultimately dubbed that routine “Chop Stix”.  Here, one of my students is doing a nice job of handling the golf ball while also dealing with his balance on those stix.  Notice that his posture is much like what he’ll have to deal with in our crazy game.

Continuing with the puckhandling (a biggie with me), each of my kids spent time attempting to dribble 2 golf balls at a time around the floor.  This is a REALLY tricky skill, because those balls scatter fairly erratically.  Still, within a week or so, I sense they’ll all be able to handle 3-balls!

Here I’ve asked the kids to play a little game by paddling 2 or 3 tennis balls off the side boards.  (This youngster has progressed to where I’ve allowed him to try 3-balls!)  As I joked to one dad near rink-side, “It’s no accident when a player quickly reacts and bangs home a rebound!”  Yes, it can be practiced, and that’s what we’re doing here.

We practiced with the R-bars in numerous ways during the segment when we didn’t wear in-lines.  However, with plenty of repetitions under their belt, the entire class looked pretty good in their striding once they put their skates on.  :)

Well, that’s it for a peek inside my Mite & Squirt School.  I’ll try to add more photos and write-ups as we go along.  And, I’ll also show and tell about when we eventually make the transition from the Lakeville, MA off-ice facility to the ice in Bridgewater, MA.

Oh, this PS: I’m going to expound some on the above over at the CoachChic.com site.  There, I have the capabilities of adding videos to my articles.  So, come on over if you’re a member.

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