USA Hockey Magazine

January 2013

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By Paul Cannata Wet Heads And Glistening Eyes The Right Approach To Practice Can Create The Right Results A s we reach the unofficial halfway point of the youth hockey season, coaches should realize that planning and implementing a quality practice is the one area where they have the most impact on the development of their players. Coaching during games certainly provides many teaching moments, and is not without its merits. However, much of what happens during a game can be out of the coach���s control. The quality of one���s players vs. their opponents will generally dictate the overall outcome. The role of a coach before and during a game is to help prepare for the competition (i.e. provide the jerseys, water, location, time, etc.) and reinforce the rules of the game. Adding a few thoughts related to tactics, as well as supporting and monitoring the temperament of the players, is also helpful. However, planning and implementing practice sessions over the span of a season is where a coach can truly impact the development and hockey playing experience of his players. Coaches have 28 January. 2013 Both on the ice and during dryland training, it���s important to keep it fun for players of all ages so they develop a passion for the game. control over what players are doing and the learning environment in which they are doing it. History suggests to us that what happens during practices and in the locker room, more than winning or losing games, dictates whether a young player may return for another season of hockey. I recall a Swedish coach years ago suggesting that the sign of a quality youth practice is the players finishing with wet heads and a glisten in their eyes. This is an admirable goal for all coaches as they consider what they will ask the kids to do. Thus the questions become, ���How do USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM we get the wet head and the glisten in their eyes? What do we ask our players to do during practice and why?��� These are the fundamental questions for any coach or teacher: What do we do and why do we do it? Yes, we could line up our players on the goal line and skate them from line to line and back. Or, we could do a 1-on-1 full-ice drill over and over until players collapse from exhaustion. These types of activities may very well produce a wet head but I doubt they will create a glisten in their eyes. How does a coach achieve these results on a consistent basis? The words of legendary Russian coach Anatoli Tarasov may provide the litmus test: Are we practicing speed of hand, speed of foot and speed of mind, and often all at once. If what the kids are doing on the ice requires Photos By Michael Martin (2); Tom Kimmell (2)

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