Drills and Plans for Success
Hi there coaches! If you're looking for some general coaching tips and practice outlines, you've come to the right place. I've found that there is a serious lack of content for coaches on the internet, so I've put this page together to help out.
Planning for Success
Whether you're a coach of a younger team or an older team, your goal is the same: You want to develop the skills of your players individually, while allowing them to work together as a team for in-game play. It's important to use constructive criticism when teaching a player what s/he is doing wrong. Emphasize that this is right, and this will work great in that situation. As a coach, you need to get a feel for the individual, and what teaching methods will work best for them. If you have assistant coaches, try to set aside a time for one of them to work one-on-one with one or two of your players (different ones at each practice) to develop skills. Check out our hockey drills for the Drills of the Month and our hockey skills for the basics each player shoudl master. Read on, we have some ideas that may prove useful!
Sportsmanship and Team Play
Young or old, all players should have an excellent attitude toward hockey and other players. No one wants the hot-headed guy that takes penalties at the wrong time on their team, and no one wants the girl that "coaches" everyone else on the bench. Being a good sport is an integral part of hockey, and is also what makes a good hockey player. If you have a team full of "good sports", team cameraderie will be better, therefore team cohesiveness will be better, and everyone will play together better.
- If a player takes a dumb penalty, let it be known to that player that it was a dumb penalty and not good for the team (bench the player for a shift, extra laps at practice, talking about it, you decide what's best)
- Encourage positive comments from everyone on the bench
- Discourage players acting as coaches on the bench (even if it's "friendly advice", I've learned that it causes tension on the bench, even if the person commenting means well)
- Practice passing a LOT
- Have players practice communicating on the ice during drills
Working with Parents
This is a tough one, being a coach of a kid's team isn't easy. There's almost always at least one parent that is a little over-zealous when it comes to their young superstar. Here are some ways of heading off potentially awkward situations before they happen:
- Set a precedent at the beginning of the season, have a meeting with all the parents indicating your coaching style. Don't be abrasive, but let them know that hockey is a team sport and you are going to do what's best for the team. YOU are the coach, they should let you do your job.
- Listen to parents, choose your battles carefully if necessary.
- Let the parents know you're there for the kids, you want them to have fun and it IS a game. I find that often parents are too tough on their kids and the kids just want to play and have fun.
Include your Goalie!
Now, this is a pet peeve of mine solely because I am a goalie and I know that being "left out" of practices is fairly common for goalies. Not because the coach forgets about them, but because either the coach feels that the drills being done are including the goalie so that's good enough (it's not!) or because the coach doesn't know what being a goalie is all about and therefore doesn't know how to teach that position. Think about it: Your goalie is on the ice for the entire game, and is your last line of defense when it comes to keeping that puck out of the net -- you want your goalie to be ready and on top of the game! Also, as a goalie, it's very easy to be left out of "teamness" (ie. you're not on the bench during the game, you're alone in the net) so make sure your goalie gets a feel for that too. It's a tough position.
- If the players are doing a drill that doesn't include shooting on the goalie, have one player or assistant coach take the goalie through drills (at least just shoot at the goalie).
- If a drill requires stickhandling, by all means have your goalie do the drill too. A goalie needs practice stickhandling too.
- Make sure your goalie gets an adequate warm-up. Shoot 5-10 pucks from the hashmarks at the goalie. No fancy moves!
- Set aside at *least* 5-10 minutes each practice for a specific goalie drill (which may or may not include the players)
- Allow sufficient time between drills for resting (this goes for everyone!) or a water break
Develop the Individual
Any player on your team can use some work on individual skills, whether it be skating, passing, or general play knowledge. Take some time to work on these individual skills with your players.
- Encourage your players to perform to the best of their ability, give it their best!
- Pick one or two players each practice and have them work on some individual skills (face-offs, poke-check, skating)
- Compliment each player's strong points throughout practice, build up confidence
Develop the Team
Not only does a good coach help his team learn how to work together on the ice for important plays, but also makes sure the team has *fun* playing together. Even at a competitive level, the fun of the game (and the love of the game!) should still remain.
- Put some competitiveness into the drills. Take a simple drill and have the players race against each other (i.e. the lightning drill)
- Try to set aside a minumum of 5 minutes at the end of each practice for a scrimmage
- Emphasize the importance of each position, and that it takes a good performance by everyone to work together as a team.
I'm working on developing some practice plans for you to use and improve upon, complete with diagrams! Stay tuned!
And if that's not enough for you, there are some wonderful resources for drills and practice plans available. I recommend The Hockey Play Book: Teaching Hockey Systems and The Hockey Coach's Manual: A Guide to s, Skills, Tactics and Conditioning, both by Michael A. Smith (former Toronto Maple Leafs staff member). Another good book is Coaching Youth Hockey (Coaching Youth Series) for it's focus on coaching youth hockey. If you manage to find The Complete Player: The Psychology of Winning Hockey (it's not widely available), it's excellent for overall mental and physical conditioning.