Aaaah… I know I can’t explain that title in an intro sentence or even in a paragraph. In the end, though, I hope you have a sense of what I’m getting at…
Before getting into all that, have you every taken a browse through my VERY unique On-line Store? We’re not talking sticks and skates and pucks here, ya know. No, what you will find there are some training devices that you’ve probably never heard of before, or other things that are seemingly reserved for those in the know. In fact, you’ll find some gear there that I’ve used (behind the scenes) for years. So, take a look, huh?
It was kind of neat to see the youthful faces of my young Mite AAA players the other night (and the just as youthful faces of their moms and dads). For one thing, there’s the enthusiasm that comes with being as young as they, and there’s the naivety (meant in the nicest way) that comes with it, too.
What was new that night was my young team’s first experience with one of my off-ice strategies practices. Ya, if you can appreciate it, it takes time to reason certain tactical decisions with players. I mean to REALLY reason them out so that a given tactic makes sense, and so the players actually believe in doing things certain ways.
As an example, I asked the little group of 8-year olds if a “bad guy puckcarrier” would like us to come at him quickly or slowly. Oh, I couldn’t blame the little rascals for not getting the question (and then the answer) immediately. However, what we reasoned together was that an enemy puck-toter would rather that we approach him slowly, so that he can have all the time in the world to make a play.
Again, if you can picture what I mean by reasoning here, I didn’t give my kids the answer at all. Naw, I just nudged them along slowly, so that it ultimately struck them that an enemy player in possession of the puck would hate it if we were in his face in a hurry.
Oh, I should say that the main theme of that night’s practice was about the forecheck we’ll use this coming season. It begins with quick pressure on the puckcarrier, and it also requires our closest man on the puck to “steer” that guy in a specific direction that aids our formation and the next things we’ll try to do.
I ain’t telling you much more about those tactics, because some of our future opponents may be able to read. :)
What I do want to describe is the further reasoning that came into play… For example, I didn’t immediately give the kids an answer as to which way we should steer the rival puckcarrier. No, I described some of the conditions that would exist as we move into our formation, and I pretty much left it to them to decide which way would be best.
Anyway, can you just envision the difference in my little guys’ understanding of the game already? I mean, they’re going to ultimately do things in their games because they know them to be right, and they’re not going to do them because some grumpy old coach told them that’s the way he wants it.
I should also mention that I’ve now introduced our forecheck in three different ways…
First, I borrowed a video on the subject from CoachChic.com, and posted it on our team site. So, in essence, the kids were able to study that as often as they wished prior to our first tactical practice.
Secondly, I spread my big Model Rink on the ground (shown above being used with my junior high school team), and placed 5 little movable “men” on the surface. The kids huddled around closest to the rink, and I asked the parents to gather right behind them. (As I mentioned to the adults, I’d like them to also know what we’re trying to do.) I controlled the little men at first. Then, once the kids had a sense of how our team should form-up in reference to where the puck was, I asked each team member to take his turn in moving all those little men into their proper places. Oh, and by the way, for a very good reason, I asked each youngster to also explain to us WHY he was moving a given little man to a given location.
Next, we moved to a corner of the rink parking lot that formed a fairly decent offensive zone for us. And I asked two assistant coaches to position themselves deep in the zone, as if they were the “bad guy defensemen”. With that, my helpers took turns holding the puck as 5-man waves of my kids ran into the zone and assumed fairly good positions. We did this a kzillion times, with those little guys ultimately even getting the hang of rotating their formation as the puck moved from one corner to the other.
Okay, so is there a lesson to be learned here — beyond what I’ve already shared? Man, you betcha!
At the end of the night I asked our team parents if I was wise in doing all the talking and explaining (and reasoning) outdoors, as opposed to on ice that runs close to $300. And thankfully, I saw all their heads nodding to the affirmative. (Sadly, there ARE parents of young ones in the area right now who wouldn’t believe any of that.)
As an aside here… I doubt folks in the stands notice it of me. But, truth be known, I am a wreck when I’m in charge of ice-time, just because I know the rink clock is ticking away at something like $5 to $6 per minute. (You never looked at it that way, huh?) On the other hand, I am as relaxed as can be when I have the luxury of teaching the game away from the ice.
Yet another thing I shared with the parents is the way we humans need to experience new information through as many senses as possible. And that’s what has been going on these past few days, as my kids watched and listened to the video, watched and then used my Model Rink and men, got involved with discussions and helped reason some decisions, and then finally got to apply what they’d learned out on the pavement. (Trust me, in that taking this to the final progression — out on the ice — is going to be all the easier for all of us because of all that lead-up work we’ll have done.)
I even pointed out to the parents that each of us has a learning preference. And, the way I tend to rotate different teaching methods makes it more likely that every team member will eventually “get it”.
The latter point kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it? I mean there are coaches who exclusively use a greaseboard to teach. And, of course, there are those who believe ice-time is the only way a kid can grow. But, if you know that all players have different learning needs, you also know that a lot of kids get at least somewhat left out in the cold when only one or two presentation methods are used.
Darn, but I forgot to tell my parents one more thing Wednesday night… Studies have proven that humans retain information longer and better when they get to experiences it through numerous senses.
Now, let’s fast-forward to my diary entries for the next night, Thursdays… For, I’ll begin the early evening working with a group of Mite and Squirt kids in a combination off-ice and on-ice hockey school. As I’ve described in a few earlier posts, we’re now in the off-ice phase where the kids are making HUGE gains in their skating, puckhandling, passing and shooting. All the stuff we’re doing IS age-specific, though. And it’s aimed at helping them over small humps and (subtly) paving the way for them to do some extremely advanced skills down the road.
I can’t emphasize those last two points enough. I mean, a lot of parents are hoping their 6-year olds can do things like 15-year olds, and that could be a HUGE mistake. In fact, I make a big deal out of that over on CoachChic.com, urging those in charge of the developmental levels to NEVER SKIP A SINGLE STEP. (Man, just one skipped step can cost a kid down the road. Just take it from an old coach who has worked with top high school, college and pro players.)
With that, I wished I could have seen the faces of my young students and their parents as they were exiting the hockey school and noticing my High School Prep guys doing their sprint and agility training out on the lawn in front of the rink.
Talk about two different worlds. Oh, both groups are doing age-specific stuff, but that’s exactly what makes those workouts so different.
My older guys will begin their workout with some dynamic stretching, they’ll get into footwork exercises on an agility ladder, they’ll do a number of rather stressful jumping and sprinting drills, and then they’ll go into their cooldowns.
The key word in all the above is “stressful”. Ya, as in far too stressful for a young body to endure, but necessary for an older player who really wants a chance at the higher level game.
Okay, so what’s this thing about “the maturing of a hockey parent? Hmmmm…
I guess the best way to explain it is to suggest that about a quarter to a third of my current group of young hockey parents will ultimately go awry. (Listen, they all seem awesome right now, but I’m going on my observations over about 40-years in coaching, or my experiences working with about three different generations.)
I might also suggest that some of them will only go a little astray, while some will go off the deep end. Some will do it sooner, while some will do it a little later. You can write this down, though: About a quarter to a third of them will ultimately lose their marbles.
In my case, it won’t matter that I’ve shown them a kzillion things they didn’t know; within a few years a percentage will still surpass me in hockey knowledge. And, while I’ve had to tell the above from my own personal perspective, I can assure you that a third to a fourth of all parents will ultimately know more than any local coach, or even the likes of Toe Blake, Herb Brooks and Fred Shero. Ya, it’s going to happen; you can trust me on that one.
In closing, my (educated?) guess is that most readers will see some humor in the above, while some others will at least take it with a grain of salt. If you took offense to any of that, I think you’re going to need to see my next installment, this to include some funny (and sad) examples of what I’m getting at.
If you’re starving for hockey talk during the current off-season, I highly recommend the hockey blogs listed over to the right on this site. They’re all hand picked by yours truly, mainly because they feature some extremely dedicated writers.
Tops on the list is the All Habs hockey blog. Aaaaaah… As a kid, growing-up with the Original Six team league, I fell in love with a couple of the uniforms — especially those worn by Detroit and Montreal. (There was always something exciting about those colorful sweaters, unlike the less so jerseys worn by my hometown idols, the Bruins.)
When it came to tradition, you couldn’t beat the Habs. Would you believe I saw The Rocket play? And I also saw other stars of the 50’s and 6o’s — like “Boom Boom” Geffrion and Jacques Plante.
And if you take a browse through the All Habs blog, I think you’ll agree that it captures that tradition perfectly. Oh, it’s not about the old days, but the feeling is still there (at least for me). Actually, I could get lost in that site, and I’ll suggest that you will too.
Don’t forget that this awesome deal ends within hours…