Hockey coaching starts well before the puck drops. It’s important for hockey coaches to assume an immediate leadership role when tryouts take place, when player evaluations occur. This is no different from any type of athletic coaching. A coach is an authoritative figure, but also a teacher. Hockey requires significant natural ability, but also demands that players effectively execute the fundamental elements of the game, such as skating. A good hockey coach can’t simply teach a player to become an excellent skater, but he can exhibit the fundamentals of what allows certain players to glide up and down the ice with great footwork. Skating is the most basic aspect of player evaluation in hockey tryouts, but it’s also the most important.
Skating drills typically include short bursts of speed skating, similar to what a sprinter would do on the track. These drills simulate in-game skating movements and help coaches determine which players have true potential to become increasingly talented on the ice. The most common speed skating drills involve “sprinting” between the blue lines and the length of the rink. Other skating drills focus on agility, in which cones are used to force players to weave in-and-out of each designated marker. Skating drills exhibit how well players can maneuver on the ice, while also showcasing their respective abilities to start and stop.
Puck-handling, passing and shooting are three vital aspects of playing hockey. Good coaches are able to teach their players how to become better in every facet of the game. The best method of helping players improve their puck-handling skills is to design an obstacle course that requires players to maneuver in-and-out of cones while handling the puck. This simulates an in-game scenario where a player must advance the puck to opposition’s side of the rink in transition. The end of this drill should result in a player testing his shooting skills by unleashing a slap, snap or wrist shot on an empty net. This drill can be manipulated to include multiple players, in which players must pass the puck to one another while weaving between the designated markers on the course.
Advanced levels of hockey training involve position-specific practice situations, such as testing a forward’s ability to create a breakaway in transition, and forcing a goalie to recognize various shot types and shooting angles. This type of training can be simulated while scrimmaging. A good hockey coach will help his players improve their skill sets by incorporating several position-specific practice techniques into one drill. Executing the basics of the game are building blocks for becoming a better all-around player. If a player is able to properly execute the fundamental aspects of the game in practice, he will likely succeed when the puck drops. A hockey coach is ultimately responsible for preparing his players to perform at an optimal level come game time.
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