Archive for March 2011

Sooooooo Psyched!

March 30, 2011

I guess my cyber friends should first understand the way my life changes with the seasons.  Or, should I say, my life changes as hockey changes over the course of a year…

For example, I’m betting a lot of my social media friends sensed that I was stressing a bit over the past two weeks (I’d noted at one point that I was functioning on something close to zero sleep).  That craziness was attributed to my young team’s season-ending playoffs followed by a week devoted to the tryouts for my two next year’s teams.

Now, I’m sure that plenty of folks read that last paragraph and wondered how an hour or so at a rink each night could be such a big deal.  Ah, that might be so.  However, while players and parents might just go to the rink, do what they do and then go home, an hour of ice at a distant rink is more like 4-hours out of a coach’s day or night.  I mean, there’s usually a good hour of planning to do, I have to shave and shower and dress like anyone else going to work, and I’ve always been the first to the rink and the last to leave.  And, let me tell you…  It usually takes me a good couple of hours to wind down after.  Oh, I’m not saying every coach is like I’ve described it, but that’s the way I’m built.

Okay, so why am I so psyched?  Well, it isn’t because hockey is over for the time being.  Naw, I love every minute of what I described above; that’s kinda my calling.  That established, let me explain the many things I am grateful for right now…

My youngest team actually went through their very short season without a win.  (Not to worry ’bout that, folks.)  You see, those near-babies come from my Learn-to-play clinic, and they’re almost all first or second year skaters.  What has me so psyched about them is that they came so far over just a few months in league play.  What also had me so hepped-up is that few kids returned from last year’s team to help us a bit.  No, three kids off that team stepped in to play unbelievably for my Mite AAA’s this year, two boys are arguably the best players in their age division this year, and the rest from last season starred on teams in the local town program.  And, my little babies from this year — the ones who struggled on the scoreboard?  I am betting they are going to be the best in their respective levels come next winter.

My AAA Mites won their early-season 3-on-3 league, and finished third overall in the full-ice league.  They also ended the year with the fewest goals-allowed over the long season, which would suggest to most knowledgeable folks that they learned how to really play the game.  We lost in the league semi-finals by a goal, and the team that beat us won the whole thing by a goal.  So, we’re talking three teams being within a goal of each other, and I’m thinking anyone could have won all the marbles if the wind just blew a hair differently.

For sure, tryouts can be a gut-wrenching time for a coach…

Still, I was able to ultimately get a number of my previously noted “babies” onto my young Mite team for next year (phew), and I also got a couple of other nice little players.  Kids in those ages (like 6-years old) are really moldable, so I know I can raise the level of their game hugely in a short time.  The parents should also be a dream, since it usually takes them at least a couple of years to decide they know more than me.  😉

As for my older Bantam team, there was plenty of reason not to feel psyched in the start.  That group evidently experienced a pretty rough season this past winter, so I proceeded to pretty much gut the roster.  That’s never a fun thing to do — telling some kids they’re welcomed and others they’re not.  But, it did have to be done.  And, little by little, as we went through the week-long tryouts, I could see I had grabbed some of the right kids.  Actually, although we ended still needing a few good players, I knew that many pieces of the new puzzle had fallen into place.  And, just to further pick-up my spirits, it appears we have a good chance of now landing the remaining few pieces.

Of course, there’s more to this story.  For, in a way, it has been helpful that I’ve been able to put the skates away for a week…

Getting back to how time-consuming even an hour of ice-time can be for me, understand that I still always have the paperwork or administrative side of my New England Hockey Institute work to do.  Add to that my want to keep pouring articles and videos into the CoachChic.com site, my need to add new products to the Tips and Tricks Store, and also my obligation to keep on blogging right here.  So, just envision how it might be most days — as I try to get myself into an article, a video production, or some important paperwork, but I’m constantly having to keep one eye on a clock with the knowledge that I ultimately need to be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and at a rink pretty soon.  Again — except for the dawgoned administrative stuff, I’m doing everything I love to do.

Okay, so — although you wouldn’t know it by the temperature outside right now (like 20-degrees), it is finally spring.  And with that comes a solid week off followed by a slightly eased outside workload.  And, I’ve already gotten more stuff done in the first two days of my break than I’ve managed in the last month.  I mean, I’ve gotten all of my paperwork up to snuff (finally), I’ve released a new coaching manual, I’ve finalized two new hockey training programs (a Hockey BootCamp for older kids and adults, plus my little ones’ Mite & Squirt Summer School), and I’ve undertaken some business marketing projects I’ve wanted to sink my teeth into for ages.

I think I’ve made it known that I study business and marketing — a lot.  Maybe “study” is the wrong choice of words, however.

I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters, all of them having to do with on-line marketing.  I also take advantage of all the free ebooks out there, videos on the subject, and podcasts (mp3 audio programs).  I’ll usually save all the ebooks in similar file folders, just so I can scan the ones I need when the time is right.  I ultimately sort through the videos to see which ones really need to be watched, and which ones can be listened to without the need for visuals.  Why do I do that?  Well, I want to save those I’ll want to re-watch in their appropriate folders, and I’ll capture the audio from the others — as mp3 files, and I’ll add those to my podcast collection.  Then, when I’ve gathered enough audio files, I’ll burn them to a CD for playing later in my car.

Now, the reason I questioned whether I really “study” or not is because I attempt to make learning pleasurable.  I mean, I’ll slap a CD in the car’s deck, and just listen to a lecture (or whatever) as I’m motoring to a rink.  I don’t mind that my mind wanders on occasion — that can be good.  I’ll even often take the time to visualize some of the drills I’m going use in awhile, or how I might transition from one drill to the next.  And, if a particular audio program doesn’t interest me at the time, I’ll fast-forward to something that does.  More often, actually, I’ll look for something appropriate to my latest business project.

To make my point further…  I once created a program called “A Total Mastery System”.  It was REALLY elaborate, offering help to other hockey coaches by way of an ebook, a drill database, and a long audio program centered around my philosophies in coaching.  And, within the latter program, I suggested to listeners that they would hear different things during subsequent replays.  I think some of this has to do with our focus at different times.  But, I think the following is more likely to be going on…

Among the hundreds of hockey lectures I have (on old cassette tapes), there’s one I’ve always pulled from the shelf as I readied to build a new team.  The interesting part is that I recorded that one when I was still a youth coach, I heard different things when I later listened as a high school coach, and the same thing happened the several times I played it as a college coach.  And, why would that be?  My pretty educated guess is that I always heard the exact same words,  but I was listening from a totally different experience level.  Said yet another way…  Years later as I prepped to coach in the pros, I was hearing things and visualizing my players’ movements as a guy who was far, far removed from youth hockey.

Okay, so here’s what I’m getting at…  Re-listening to a program I’d already heard weeks ago tends to spark new thoughts, or ones that hadn’t struck me before.  Ya, my focus is probably different each time I replay something, but so is my experience level.

The sum total of all that is the fact that I’ve come to really know my stuff about how the Internet can work.

Oh, boy…  I’ve written at various times that I’d gotten a rash of bull about “knowing a lot of facts”, this from someone I used to value for their opinions.  What (among other things) changed all that was my discovering the way a large collection of “facts” leads to common sense.  In other words, the more background knowledge we have, the better our decisions.

What I’m getting at is that my scanning of ebooks, watching webinars, and listening to audio programs has poured a ton into my brain.  In most instances, they add loads of slightly related — and even unrelated — “facts” to my knowledge base, and this has suddenly proven very, very helpful as I’ve gotten into some new projects…

Take, for example, the release of my new hockey coaching manual.

Thank God, but gone are the days when I had to deal with printing companies and the storing of hundreds of books, not to mention the taking of orders and the subsequent (snail) mailing that followed.  Nope!  Today it’s possible to automate every step of that process right over the Internet.  Where did that knowledge come from?  Well, I must admit that I’ve had a few friends who helped (big-time) along the way, mainly with the mechanical side of things.  However, I knew all the involved theories from the so-called studying I’d done.

Better yet, I’ve been extremely psyched about the way lots of “facts” have gone into getting the word out about that manual.  (Hey, as awesome as it is, my book won’t help a soul unless they first discover it exists!)  Having so many friends between Twitter and Facebook surely helped there.  As so did what I learned about newsletters, building backlinks, search engine friendliness, and so much more.

Then, the grand prize…  I’d heard or read somewhere along the line that it’s helpful to have a website to compliment a given product.  Hmmmmmm…  With that, it struck me:  that I should build a site where owners of my manual can congregate and discuss the various challenges involved in hockey coaching.  And I’ve even more recently billed my manual as the one that keeps on growing and growing.  After all, a coach can begin with what I give him or her, but the ideas should grow exponentially as he or she gets to interact with like minded people.

Finally, with all the talk to this point about my like for enewsletters, webinars and podcasts, I received a message this morning that kinda explains part of what I’ve experienced this week (with a little break from my rink assignments)…

Noah St. John is awesome in my book, mainly because he has a totally (and helpful to me) perspective on the old “positive self-talk” thing.  Ya, Noah is famous for suggesting we ask ourselves lots of “Why” questions, rather than trying to convince our minds of something we probably know isn’t so.

Anyway, in this morning’s ezine, Noah is espousing our need to install “Goal-free Zones”, or time periods where our minds can be cleared for free, creative thinking.  In a way, he suggests that we need times when we don’t intentionally think at all.  He offered countless ways, although I know my favorites are walking and sometimes driving.

He continues, by describing how he flew through writing his own book by alternating 90-minute sessions at the keyboard with some form of a Goal-free Zone.  And he says, “Sometimes, my break would include going out for a walk and enjoying the sunshine – and suddenly, an idea would pop into my head.”  (I’ve related it often to others, that most of my best ideas came from walking a beach, resting in a hot tub, or driving the mountains.)

Noah continues, “… it often took the active process of getting away from my writing to allow my creative intuition to kick in and let itself be heard.”

So again, I’m not really glad to put the skates away this week, but I am psyched at all the things I’ve accomplished.  I’ve loved not being rushed so much, or sometimes even having the time to create my own Goal-free Zones.  I’m kinda proud for the way things are working out for my new hockey coaching manual, and I’m awfully thankful for the numerous and varied ideas I’d collected that helped so much with that.

Finally, as I typed that last paragraph, I was reminded of something my dad would always say…

“If you want to get something done quickly, go slowly.”

And, quite honestly, that advice has never, ever failed me.

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The History to My “Hockey Store”

March 15, 2011

As you have probably come to expect, there surely IS a history to just about anything I’m involved in, including my having an on-line “hockey store”.  And, I have a feeling you’ll find this as interesting (and as crazy) as most of my other stories…

I’m guessing the concept of selling hockey related products began a good 30-ish years ago.  Back then a lot of locals were seeking my advice on hockey matters — from how to teach this to how to correct that.  So, I began writing in answer to those questions, beginning with a booklet I dubbed “Basic Hockey”.  In a way, it was a guide for parents of rather young kids who were just coming into the game.  And, as with so many other things I’ve written over the years (including a lot of what goes into my CoachChic.com website), it contained things I wish I’d have known as I first became a hockey dad.  (Make no mistake about it:  my having played the game didn’t necessarily prepare me for all the things I’d have to know later for my son’s sake.)

A few years later I attended a Canadian hockey coaching seminar in Windsor, Ontario, where I heard a guest lecturer several times say, “Coaches just love new drill ideas!”  Ya, he was right.  Frankly, I attended most seminars back in those days to pick-up more theory — on the X’s and O’s higher level coaches were using, on the conditioning they were doing, how they trained for speed, etc.  But, I did notice that most of the young coaches around me were more into the new drills they were discovering.  In fact, that was most often the topic of conversation during our breaks.  That in mind, I went back to by typewriter (long before I owned a personal computer) and hammered-out a manual entitled “500 Drills”.  Yup, I found that I’d already amassed that many in my collection — under subheadings on skating, puckhandling, passing, attacking and checking (defending).  That manual actually sold pretty well through The Hockey News, with even NHL and AHL teams buying it.  (I still have a copy of an NHL team’s check framed and mounted in my office.  Talk about boosting a young coach’s confidence.)

A few years later, the ideas behind my “MP Drill Format” were something of a rage at the NHL Coaching Symposium in Montreal (talk about a further boost to this then young coach’s self-esteem), so I ultimately put-out the directions in manual form for that.

Of course, I continued writing over ensuing years (including penning a guide for players who wanted to train off-ice and at home, and a soon to be re-released manual for teaching a basic playing system).  But a little gadget I created called the Skater’s Rhythm-bar drastically changed my product offerings.  I’ll tell more about that awesome invention sometime down the road.  In brief, though, troubleshooting an adult student’s skating woes led me to a new kind of study (I almost went blind re-running video of that young lady and numerous other students), and that resulted in something that has changed the strides of thousands of skaters ever since.

Actually, I’d mentioned the Rhythm-bar in my previous post, and how its release ultimately landed me a gig as a columnist for “Hockey/USA” magazine.  And that eventually initiated an expansion in product offerings.  I mean, the magazine brought me quite a bit of notoriety, and I found myself receiving all sorts of sample products from across North America.  In most instances, the notes contained with an invention read something like, “Hey, Coach, I love your column, and I thought you might be interested in seeing my idea for ______!”  These were usually from hockey dads or youth coaches who saw a training problem, they thought they had a solution, and they were looking for my feedback.  Admittedly, some were a little off the wall, but most were pretty clever.  Of course, my job — at least as I perceived it — was to measure their gadgets relative to what I knew about the science of training, as well as their practicality.  (In reference to the latter, some training devices can be good, but they’re either slightly dangerous, or they’re too difficult for the typical player or coach to employ.  In other words, even if a gadget seems worthwhile, there’s still the possibility it’ll just collect dust in the basement or garage.)

Anyway, I quite often had the urge to help fellow inventors — if they had a good product.  (Hey, I consider us soul mates!)  So I’d use the best ones in my hockey schools — to benefit my students and to give some exposure to the new training aids.  Still, I wasn’t yet truly selling other folks’ products.

I guess the turning point came as I began building lesson plans for a new “body-checking program”.  The aftereffects of USA Hockey‘s removal of body-checking (and the slapshot) from Mite and Squirt age groups were being felt throughout youth hockey, with older Pee Wees not having a clue as to how to use their bodies.  The poor kids had grown-up not being able to be physical, and then were suddenly thrown into the fire totally unprepared.  With that, I was advertising a program that would slowly bring new Pee Wees up to speed, and I needed something like football blocking dummies to help with that.  The equipment supplier I sought help from was better than I’d expected, and they ended-up selling me some pretty hard-to-find gear that I knew hockey folks would love.

Now, remember that my manuals were already selling — as were two VHS videos I’d produced, these being handled by my trusty office assistant, Diane.  However, the idea of her having to deal with now filling orders for weighted vests and some other hefty gadgets surely made her job more difficult.  Consequently I had to help with some of that work (which I didn’t like, ’cause it detracted from what I do best:   to create new training programs and to dawgone teach).

Of course, partway through our dabbling with handling other folks’ products, Diane and I discovered “drop shipping”.  Phew.  And, for those not aware of the term, what we’d do is make the sale, and then notify the manufacturers to ship their products — from their place — to the new purchaser.  Again, phew.  If there was a problem, though, it was that some of the companies — including our weighted vest supplier — would not drop ship.  Ugh.

Unfortunately, Diane ultimately decided to retire.  (I already said, “Ugh!” huh?)  And with that ended my shipping physical products out of the office — at least for awhile.  Again, my main work has always been in creating new training programs, and then going out and teaching those.  I also had a few teams to coach.

I guess a few years passed, but the new product ideas never stopped arriving.

Oh, and going back a few years, the guy who dragged me onto the Internet (screaming and crying — 🙂 ) was also posting some of my instructional hockey videos for sale on-line.  Ya, that was a huge turning point for me, having him arrange an automated system.  Or, as Roland Lacey described it:  folks could purchase my video and download it without either of us having to be involved in the actual process.  Wow!  (Oh, you may be quite familiar with that kind of thing today, but when Rolly created that system it was cutting edge!)

And, the combination of those two things — the constant influx of new product ideas, along with an ability to sell those (plus my own creations) on-line — is what really brought me to the idea of having a store.  I could also gain the best of both worlds by not having to actually physically handle any products.  No, my own videos, audio programs and hockey training manuals can be downloaded, while the outside companies I’d work with would drop ship for me.  Phew (or even Yippie)!

As an aside…  I’m always saying how awesome it is to have great friends.  And, besides my buddy Rolly dragging me into the wonderful world of Internet marketing, I have my friend Mike Malony (he’s @MikeMahony over on Twitter) to thank for helping me build the present day on-line store.  (So, thanks to both Rolly and Mike for helping change my life, and helping make it so much easier!)

Then, one other thing you ought to know…

I have plenty of good friends who sell skates and sticks, or all the traditional hockey equipment.  They do an excellent job, plus that area of our game doesn’t really excite me.   Oh, I know my stuff when it comes to fitting or adapting every piece of hockey gear, but I am definitely NOT into the idea of selling it.

No, what I really like to make available to my faithful following is hockey related equipment or programs that I consider “hard-to-find”.

On that last point…  I can’t tell you how many times a hockey parent has come to me after a training session and said, “Wow, where did you ever get THAT?”  For sure, they’re referring to a gadget they’d never dreamed existed.  My short answer has always been, “Well, people are always sending me stuff to try.”  Of course, you know the longer answer — in that my old magazine column (and now my pretty prominent Internet presence) has inventors sending me stuff from all over the hockey world.  And, if I believe their idea fits with the sciences and is going to get used, I’m sure to add it to my Tips and Tricks store!

Ending as I began, I didn’t want to make this a promo for me new store, but more about the saga that brought it about.  Still, for those who want to give the store a browse, I’ve initially had to deal with another slight challenge…  What I decided to do is to separate it into two distinct areas — one for things that are immediately downloadable, and the other for those hard-to-find gadgets or programs that involve drop shipping by their supplier.  I don’t know if that’s the right way to do it, in all honesty (maybe someone with more expertise than I could suggest a better one).  But, if you’ve gotten the drift of how things tend to go with me, even something like my on-line store will keep evolving (or, much like me, it’s a work in progress)!

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Getting My Hockey Writing Fix

March 10, 2011

This late breaking news

As you know, I’m always on the look out for good hockey information, and I recently came across a free, 3-part mini-series on off-ice training for hockey being offered by my good friend, Jeremy Weiss.  Since most of us are beginning to make our off-season plans right now, the release of this mini-series is very timely, and I thought you might like to take a look!

Free Video Series

The first video is being released at about 3am (EDST) on 3/14/11, and it deals with a strength-training concept called periodization.  (Periodization is a really effective way to keep consistent strength gains and to avoid plateaus.)  The second and third videos will discuss cardio training for hockey, and nutrition for hockey, which are two topics that are often overlooked in our sport…  I think you’ll enjoy the free videos, and the series!

Free Video Series

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Just as an FYI…  I’m putting that blog post about “hockey moms” on hold — again.  As with most everything else I do surrounding the game, I have some pretty good reasons.  (Maybe it’s because I expect more good fodder for that piece by the end of the current season.)

With that, let me tell you a little about…

Getting My Hockey Writing Fix 😉

More than a quarter century ago I ran across an awesome hockey publication named Hockey/USA.  The newspaper style magazine was locally published, but it contained lots of interesting hockey how-to articles that were just what a young coach like me needed at that time.  (Although local, the 20,000 or so readers spanned at least the US and Canada.)  Actually, I clipped most of those articles and saved them — from skills training to X’s and O’s to new drill ideas.

Anyway, there came a time when I wanted to tell the hockey world about a new invention I’d just created.  And, after calling Hockey/USA‘s publisher about running an ad, we ultimately agreed to meet and discuss things over lunch.

Running a nice advertisement to include a photo of my new Skater’s Rhythm-bar was easy enough, but the publisher thought an article might do that gadget even more justice.  In other words, I could tell the long story of how it came about, and all the benefits I’d discovered from its use.  Hmmmmm…

Once I submitted the article and ad, I began to think a little bit (which you probably know can be dangerous)…   An awful lot had changed since the days when I’d first started reading that mag.  Ya, I’d actually become a fairly well known authority on hockey development by then, and I’d lectured at numerous coaching clinics around the northeast.  So, I tossed to Hockey/USA‘s publisher the idea of having my own column.

Now, I suspect my new friend had some reservations in the start (’cause he said we could at least give it a try).  The rest is history, however, and I never missed a deadline over about the next 20-ish years.  In fact, there was a point during that stretch when I was writing for three magazines, each of these having a different look and a different theme.

I mainly answered hockey questions in the other two publications, which — at least to me — was a lot easier than what I did for Hockey/USA.  For, you see, mine was an advice column in the latter magazine, and it had to fill a whole lot more space than the others.

In the earliest years, my column was titled “The Nature of Our Game”, which gave me plenty of latitude.  I mean, it allowed me to talk about equipment, skills, positional play, strategies, tactics and all sorts of physical traits.

Now, you folks are bound to get a kick out this…  For, when I first starting writing for Hockey/USA, I was banging on an old electric typewriter.  (My son used to complain that the thing beeped constantly because I was misspelling words — that’s what those machines would do to signal an error.  My excuse was that few hockey-specific terms were stored in its database.)  Once done, I’d have to mail those earliest columns so that they could be typeset (or whatever).

A few years into that gig I got my first PC, but the muddy printouts coming from its accompanying inkjet weren’t any better than the ones from my old typewriter.

Oooooooh, but did my publisher love it when I bought my first laser printer.  We’re talking camera-ready here, which cut down on his work big-time.

Still, there’s something else you might not realize about those times — in that each of my columns had to be snail mailed.  Yup, which meant that my deadline was way earlier than the real one, since it usually took about 3-days for the column to travel from Whitman, MA to Canton, MA.

Of course, email ultimately made things super-easy…  I could finish a column in the office or at home, and just whisk that baby off into cyberspace!

Anyway, despite all the topics at my disposal, can you imagine what it was like for me to come up with a relatively decent discussion for something like 20-years straight — and with a new column due just about every other week during that stretch?  Man, I can tell you that I could be found hammering at my keyboard on some nights way into the morning hours, solely ’cause an idea hadn’t hit me until the very last minute.

Okay, so how did I really do it?  Aaaaaah…  Inevitably, something would really tick me off.  🙂

Honest to God.  I could go for days without an idea, and then some dad at a local rink would tell me a story that really set me on fire.  Yet at other times a daffy hockey mom would do or say something stupid, I might see a kid struggling with his or her game for no good reason, I’d see or hear about some coaching blunder, or I’d get stuck dealing with the latest hockey wives’ tale.  And, let me tell you:  once I did get ticked, you could see smoke coming from my fingertips.

Actually, I’d earlier incorrectly stated that the rest was history.  The truth is that my favorite hockey magazine just suddenly went out of business about a year ago.  (Some would say that it took me 20-years to put them out of business, but…)

Man, talk about withdrawal.  I mean, no deadlines to meet, and no place to vent when I felt the need.  Well, almost…

Of course, you now know that the Internet has given me lots of outlets to say what I feel needs saying…

Most folks don’t necessarily take social media all THAT seriously, but I do.  A number of times today I’ve shared on Twitter my (somewhat controversial?) views about the Chara incident in Montreal, while I’ve had the chance to discuss several other hockey subjects with my friends on Facebook.

For sure, CoachChic.com gives me plenty of opportunities to write (as well as produce training videos or audio programs).  However, that — and anything I do within my Hockey Tips and Tricks store — basically involves technical writing; no, neither is the place where I can be toooooooo opinionated.

And that all brings me to this little corner of my cyber-world…  Ya, Coach Chic’s Hockey Diary is the place where I can at least once in awhile let my hair down or go on a tear.

So, what got me going today?  I guess it was just my reflecting on all those years with Hockey/USA, how I missed it a little, but then how I’m lucky to have this space (and you) in its place.

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Talk about writing…  I’ve promised myself that I’m going to re-release a hockey coaching manual I penned about 5-years back.  I’m doing a lot of editing — or updating — right now, but promising youth coaches that I’ll release it this weekend (likely Sunday night).  The title is “How to Teach a Basic Playing System” (although it includes much more than that), and it aims to take the coach of any Mite or Squirt/Atom team right by the hand.  Anyway, if you work with kids in those rough ages, I hope you look for it.


No Detail Too Small To Study

March 1, 2011

I begin today’s entry with one of my favorite sayings, this borrowed from the late, great Soviet hockey coach, Anatoli Tarasov…  As I recall, “The Father of Russian Hockey” was referring to his players taking pride in doing their jobs, as he quoted someone famous in Russian theater, noting that:

“There are no small roles, only small actors.”

As you’ve probably come to know, something always seems to stir my hockey diary entries.  (Oh, and as usual, this post isn’t really all about hockey, but more about a certain philosophy I feel has served me well over my many years of doing what I do.)

Anyway, what got me going was really just a simple question posed to me by one of my beginner clinic parents just prior to one of our on-ice sessions.  Basically, a new hockey dad just wondered how he might know when or if his son’s skates needed to be resharpened.  Again, just a simple question, but one that sent me off on a tear…

The short answer was that one can run a thumb-nail across each edge of a skate blade to test for its sharpness.  If that results in some nail shavings, the blade is probably sharp enough.  Actually, doing this at various times soon gives the tester a pretty good sense — more shavings meaning the blade is good and sharp, less shavings telling us the skates probably need to be done fairly soon.

Of course, I can never seem to stop at just that short answer — ;) .  Naw, I then went into several other aspects of skate blade care I thought might also be helpful to a group of fairly new hockey parents…

I let them know that skates don’t come pre-sharpened from the manufacturer, so they always need to be done prior to a first-time skate.

As a matter of fact, I explained the entire skate sharpening process to them — in abbreviated form, obviously.

I also warned them about the damage done to the blades if the skates are used outdoors.  I mean, outdoor ice is covered with microscopic grains of sand and other grit, and it’s also extremely hard compared to indoor ice (mainly because it’s frozen at extreme temperatures).

I then went into the shape of a typical hockey skate blade.  Ya, you see, each of the different kinds of skate blades — figure skates to speed skates to hockey skates — are shaped in a way that helps with the demands of that specific sport.  So, while we all know speed skates are long and flat — to accommodate long, straight-ahead racing, figure skates have quite a curve in their design — this to aid in spinning, turning and so forth.  Hockey skate blades, on the other hand, are shaped with a slightly flatter curve — because hockey skaters need to fly over straight-aways at times, while also needing to make quick cuts, pivots and spins.  I used the term “curved” in those earlier sentences just so you might understand better my description.  However, in hockey jargon, we call the shape of the blade a “radius” (as if the hockey skate blade is cut from a large steel circle of a 9′ radius).  Of course, you know I also went further into explaining the radius for my beginner parents.

So, one might ask why I’d need to know all that.  Ya, why.  And the next most obvious question might be where in heck I ever gathered all that knowledge.

Well, as a skills teacher, it’s never hurt me that I’m the inquisitive type.  No, not a bit.  In fact, I sense that’s one of the things that sets me apart from others in this line of work.  More than anything, though, this kind of knowledge helps me unbelievably in troubleshooting my players’ or students’ difficulties.  (Honest to God, I have resolved some equipment problems that may have caused kids to otherwise quit the game.)

Where did I learn all I know about hockey equipment?  Well, basically I’ve gone to the guys who know that kind of stuff inside-out — the hockey pro shop owners, I mean.  I’ve picked their brains every chance I’ve gotten — Why do you do this?  How do you do that?  Which way is best for (whatever)?

Now, I’ve from time to time been teased — as in, “You know a lot of facts!”  I never had a good reply for that until — ya, until…  A few years back I read an article with the author ultimately stating that “…common sense is the result of knowing a lot of related bits and pieces of information.”  In other words, in order to reason-out a difficult problem, it helps to know a lot of underlying and slightly related stuff.

Still, the real reason I delve into so many areas of my sport is because I feel that there are a whole lot of people who rely on me for help.  Of course, there are always new people coming into hockey, and the ones who come to me are obviously hoping my 40-ish years in the game can save them some anguish.

As importantly, there are numerous very experienced players, parents and coaches who quite often need my guidance in far more advanced areas.  That’s at least part of the reason I’ve made sure I know plenty when it comes to physiology, biomechanics, psychology and just about anything else that might affect a player’s development or production.  Again, people are looking to me for that kind of stuff, and I’m not the type who can let them down.

This aside…  Believe it or not, I’ve been able to drastically change a hockey player’s game with just a slight modification in his equipment.  I mean that!  There are actually ways to help a skating be faster, just be adjusting his or her blade radius, or the way the blade is sharpened.  And, I can even influence a player’s shooting power (or other shooting traits) with just a slight adaptation to his or her hockey stick.  (Want to know more on these things?  Visit and browse the articles and videos available at CoachChic.com.)

Finally, as usual, this entry isn’t really all that much about hockey.  No, it’s more a philosophy I thought I’d share with you, sensing you might like to consider it for your own line of work or your other interests.  Hey, I honestly don’t believe we can ever know enough about what it is we do, no matter how small a part that might play.

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I’ve wrestled a bit over something I know has to ultimately be addressed.  So, if I have the heart to do it, my next diary entry should be entitled, “The Trouble With Hockey Moms”.  Ya, it might pain me to tell parts of that story, but I think they DO need to be shared.

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If you’d like to know how to analyze the skating stride,
I have an awesome video available at my
Tips And Tricks
website.