Below Johnny aged 11 doing a number of hockey drills on our backyard ice using a tennis ball. All drills end up with a HEADS UP shot on the Hockey Shots Game. Using a tennis ball is great for developing quick hands and soft hands. Read what Wayne Gretzky says about using "tennis balls" on the Quotes and Links Page. All these drills and more can and should be used at the Mite and Squirt level in the US and novice and atom level in Canada. Both Countries tried the blue puck without success, it was too light and would not slide properly. Tennis balls are light enough to be moved back and forth correctly, handled around corners correctly and shot correctly etc... and using a tennis ball in this age group allows better and easier movement of the ball forward and this will lead to a quicker Game. The tennis ball can be shot, passed and stickhandled with the same techniques you would use if you were using a puck. All kids want to lift the puck and they develop bad habits of shooting the puck off the middle or tip of their blade causing it to flutter or butterfly with no accuracy or power. Why wouldn't a parent want to have their kids taught early on in their hockey stars career to shoot, stickhandle and pass correctly. The videos below prove that it can and will work. Who will be the first to grab a hold of this idea and run with it... Canada, the USA or the Europeans. If you drag a few Hockey Shots Games on to the ice espically for 5-10 year olds where there might not be a lot of goaltending you can ALSO teach kids to get and keep their heads up. This is the most important skill of all for beginning hockey players to learn and a huge advantage for kids that can learn to do this, the sooner the better.
ADVANTAGES OF USING A BALL
1- Easier to move a ball back and forth and be pushed forwards because it is lighter and WILL NOT stick to the ice
2- Quicker Games and Drills because the ball is lighter and WILL NOT stick to the ice
3- Easier to learn and use BETTER technique like correct stckhandling, passing and shooting technique because the
ball is lighter and WILL NOT stick to the ice.
Correct techniques and habits learnt at an early age will never be forgotten nor wiil they have to be broken when the kids get older. NOT ONLY DO INCORRECT TECHNIQUE AND BAD HABITS have to be broken as our kids get older BUT proper techniques and proper habits have to be relearnt. . Kids that slug around the ice chasing after a heavy or sticky puck are not learning all they can at this young age. Just watch a bunch of young skaters chase the puck around now, Whack, Whack and more Whacks no handling of the puck or even trying to handle a HEAVY STICKY PUCK, so no passes OR no decent shots and definitely no 1 on 1 moves. All these things are hard to do when the player CANNOT control the puck because it is heavy and sticky so what we end up watching is Whack, Whack and more Whacks. No longer do kids have to use sticks and equipment that are too big for them so why can't we find something better for them to practice with, wait a minute I think I did... Black puck too heavy, Blue puck too sticky, Tennis ball just right. New ideas and new innovation but will they work. I think they will. The drills below prove that this can and will work, what do you think Jack?
The videos below show the kids at my 3rd Annual Summer Camp competing hard doing a stickhandling drill and ending up with a HEADS UP shot on the Hockey Shots Game. The emphasis being on proper techniques and team work. The kids work hard and enjoy the competition. Kids of all ages and skills are competing together as a TEAM. What does your Summer Camp do for off ice training? Do they teach the kids what they can do off ice to get better on ice? Does your summer camp know what to do? Stickhandling on the pavement in the arena parking lot with golfs balls will not improve their skills.
The kids that pay attention and work at their skills at home are the ones that have improve the most at my camp. You only get out of something what you put into it.
Why don't Local clubs, State or National Organizations have shooting and accuracy contests. A great way to evaluate age groups and to get kids off the couch. There are contests like speed cup stacking, why not have speed target shooting for hockey players?? You could get kids from inline, street and ice hockey all competing for the title of "Top Hockey Shot" ... sounds like a reality TV show in the making.
Below are a few of the many drills that can be done at the rink. Imagination is all you need. Does your local hockey program provide an area for off ice hockey training? Is there an area available but it is not being put to good use? Why not? Does your arena have a designated area that is never used? Why not? Below are some videos of drills being done in a small corner of a hockey arena. These drills are fun to do and will improve your skills. Do the drills while you wait for a siblings practice to get over, before your own practice starts or anytime you are at the rink. Anybody that thinks kids want to mindlessly just shoot pucks isn't understanding what this website is about. We need to give all hockey players the correct direction. Mindlessly shooting 10,000 pucks with bad technique will not help your hockey game. Hockey programs need to come up with new and interesting drills that WILL improve our kids skills and their "WANT" to practice them. Having shooting evaluations and shooting contests are a couple of ways.
Eventually people will have to decide between fact and fiction and what will work for their kids training. Spending more money on hockey training than other parents is not a guarentee the your kid will be good. I know for fact that this is a myth. The kids that put in the time training AT HOME with little or no cost can and will improve, my own kid proves this. If you have a good local hockey program that is knowledgable and has the success of all kids in mind then you are ahead of most and this helps. Ultimately you have to do your own homework and you have to find the good training aids and directions from all the snake oil products out there. Most of the programs I have seen in recent years are a political joke. No integrity and No direction to make the Game fun or their programs competitive... house league programs at best. When this is the case it is more important than ever to do your homework. You need to find people and websites that are willing to help you by telling you the truth and giving you the proper directions without taking you to the cleaners. You DO NOT I repeat you DO NOT need to play hockey year round to get better. Practicing year round helps BUT you do not need to play year round. These AAA leagues, tournys and teams telling you what you want to hear and promising you that you kid will get discovered is a money making myth. If your kid is good he will be found. If your kid is not good and does not want to practice then no amount of money can help his hockey career.
CONCUSSION SUMMIT: An Exciting Meeting of the Minds in Oct of 2010 says USA Hockey Magazine in their August 2010 issue. Eveyone from medical people to hockey coaches will be there. I have tried without success to get onto the Mayo Clinic website and when I do below is what I will say.
I remember as a kid getting my "bell rung" a few times, whether it was from a cheap hit or because I had my head down and I was run over. I know for one thing I DIDN'T LIKE IT! What I learnt from those hits quickly was to GET AND KEEP MY HEAD UP and to acquire a keen sense of ON ICE AWARENESS. Experience + learning = getting and keeping my head up. A lesson experienced making me learn to get and keep my head up and isn't that what life is all about learning by trial and error? I think if I had some better training and direction as a kid things could have OR should have been learnt sooner in practice. I am very curious as to what the people attending this meeting will talk about? Better drills and training? Better equipment? More rules? Better reffing? Who will be there and do they know what the problems really are and what are the solutions are? Will anything be accomplished or will it be more of the same old same old from the same old same old. I'm afraid it will be a lot of theories and nonsense.
These are my fixes and they are simple and straight forward.
1-BETTER DRILLS AND TRAINING:
a- Teach kids to GET AND KEEP their heads up right from the start of their hockey careers and this includes proper teachings both on the ice and off. Using drills like the ones above with a tennis ball will help and work. If a too heavy or too light puck isn't always sticking to the ice then a kid WILL NOT always be looking DOWN for it. Also coaches need to include more reactionary drills in practice at an early age and this includes drills where players do the same drill from 2 DIFFERENT directions and end up passing each other going the other way... in other words if they do not GET AND KEEP their heads up they will run into each other. The hardiness and flexibility of Blue Mite and Novice players is amazing. This is the age to learn by trial and error and to learn the proper way to play, we as coaches and teachers should NOT allow bad habits to form BECAUSE they become unbreakable as the kids get older.
b-Teach kids to play the puck properly with their feet at an early age. This will help them escape pile ups and spend less time looking down for the puck. There are many line drills that teach this. Using corner 1 on 1 battle and open ice 1 on 1 battle drills to reinforce that importance of learning puck protection and the playing of the puck with feet.
c- More 1 on 1 battle drills and contact drills (not hitting drills) to teach young players to stay on their feet... builds stability
and balance... most important for a player to learn how to stay on their feet regardless of their size and this needs to be taught and reinforced at an early age.
d- All of the above can only happen with coaches that understand the Game. You can't have a successful practice of multi stations if some coaches (parents) don't know what they are teaching. How can a coach corect a mistake when they do not know a mistake was made. The answer is they can't. This is the major problem with having muti station practices. Inexperienced coaches ended up teaching and allowing bad habits to begin at an early age. If your program is like this you need to stop it NOW. Does your program have hockey knowledgable on/off ice coordinators? If not why not? Your program is only as good as the people running it.
e- Much of this stuff can and should be learned off the ice... CHEAPLY with PROPER DIRECTION AND TRAINING AIDS. I teach all this stuff off ice at my summer camp so I know it can be done. Again knowledgable people are needed that are open to new ideas on your hockey board to accomplish this. The same old training and drilling isn't working. Send this website to them or take this website to the next board meeting. I'll help them fix their hockey program.
2- BETTER EQUIPMENT:
a- One of the many hockey equipment companies must make a face mask the kids can actually see out of without it costing the parents an arm and a leg. I have a problem with the wire face mask because I think the wires are too close together thus making it hard to see out of. The front view and side view are hindered by all these wires. If you think I am wrong then put one up to your face and see if you think you could make split second decisions and reactions when you can't see clearly. These wire openings MUST be opened up to just under 2 inches which is the minimum stick blade width, this will help, how much I don't know. My kid uses a clear shield that I think is better than a wire mask but only slightly because after a few weeks it is not so clear any more. The cheapest I have bought this mask for has been around $39.00 and I have to buy him a new one every year because of all the scratches and smears. How can a face mask that has about as much plastic as 5 empty 2 litre pop bottles cost so much? Something wrong here. Hockey organizations and companies are pricing families out of the Game. I'll bet these face mask are made in China somewhere for a dollar then for some reason cost $39 dollars when they get here, it doesn't make any sense. If USA and Canadian hockey systems really want to improve the Game for our kids and protect our kids from concussions they must encourage hockey manufacturers to make a better and cheaper face mask. It is hard to react to a Game of this speed when you can't see see whats going on... A new face mask design is needed now.
b- A better helmet must be made that also does not cost an arm and a leg. With all the technology and new materials out there a safer helmet should be at the forefront of all hockey equipment makers. It seems like the more so called safe a helmet is the more expensive it is, why is this? If you have the technolgy and capabilities why not built it... CHEAPLY? I watch a young kids football game and the players are all clashing heads all the time what is the difference between a football hemet and a hockey helmet? I do not want hockey helmets as big as football helmets but there must be some new bubble lining that will displace contact energy better. Things have come along way from when I was a kid. The helmets we wore had very little padding and no eye protection, kids learned to and made it a point to keep their sticks on the ice, could see the ice better and weren't as bulked up with protective equipment and as a result I think we skated with a little more caution. Kids nowadays have very little fear and skate out of control with false sense of security that goes with having so much good protection. This leads to reckless and uncontrolled skating and reckless and uncontrolled hitting. Coaches and Refs that understand that this is a dangerous trait need to address the player on the spot. Reckless skating leads to reckless hitting and this leads to injuries to him and his opponent. I tell my kid ALL THE TIME to skate in control and always protect himself from the kid that isn't.
3- MORE RULES, BETTER REFS OR BETTER COACHES:
a- There are enough rules already, just enforce them. Anytime a player carelessly uses their stick call a penalty. Hitting another player by accident with the high stick is a penalty so call it. Remind players constantly and make sure players know that their sticks belong ON THE ICE. Anytime a player recklessly skates into another player it is a penalty so call it. You have a lot of leeway with the Charging and Interference Rules so USE them to keep kids safe.
b- Reffing is a tough job, you just can't see everything. 50% of coaches understand the other 50% don't. I stopped reffing last year due to the fact I was sick to death of dealing with so many hockey stupid people, most of them coaches. It was also embarrassing to me to work with other refs that didn't know or understand the game and some of them had been working the Game for a long time. USA Hockey must come up with a better way to evaluate its refs, there are too many know it alls and kids doing it for the wrong reason ($$). The 2 most important things for a ref to do is to stay out of the Game if possible and may the best team win and KEEP THE KIDS SAFE. This is hard to do if a ref does not know the Game or its Rules. A better evaluation system nationwide is needed to ensure that the most qualified refs are doing the Games they should. This reffing system also needs a better mentoring system in place for new younger refs. Refs also need to learn to ref the Game correctly from a young age if they don't then they might end up being bad refs for a long time.
c- Coaching can be a fun experience every year if rules, expectations and goals are set and understood by players and parents at a parent/player/coach meeting right after the team is picked. Having a coach that has an understanding of the Game and can teach the Game is a bonus as many teams do not. Rules of behavior are needed for smooth sailing and to let the kids and parents know who is in charge. These Rules apply EQUALLY to EVERY PLAYER not just some NO EXCEPTIONS. Coaches need to have hockey knowledge and be organized. Practices must have a flow, anytime kids are standing/kneeling around for long periods of time the ice is being wasted. Stretching is done off ice and new drills need to be explained off ice. Most teams need to find 10 drills that including everything from skating, passing stickhandling and shooting and stick with them throughtout the year. YOU DON'T NEED A NEW DRILL EVERY PRACTICE. And do drills that are age appropriate. Don't spend a lot of time on breakouts if kids can't pass. Spend more time on passing first. The basics and repetitions of passing can and should be learned off ice Stop wasting precious ice time doing stationary passing or shooting drills. Keep kids moving and SPEND more ice time on drills that teach kids to keep their heads up . Kids NEED to skate and to KEEP their heads up while skating.
If you are a good coach you can have many expectations for the kids you are coaching like having FUN and learnig to play ALL aspects of the Game correctly. If you think you are a good coach but really aren't (Your Hockey Stupid) then you won't be able to have expectations because you will not be able to teach or give correct direction to your players. You know who you are. You are the guy that makes excuses for every loss, including blaming the refs, the other team, other teams fans, the ice, and/or the rinks snack bar workers. The lost is probably YOUR fault and the fault of your hockey players parents because they continue to let you direct their kids the wrong way.
It is good to have goals for your team if you know what your are talking about. Get kids excited about the season. Some of my favorite goals are getting every kid to learn to compete to the best of their ability, getting the kids to love the Game by having FUN up tempo practices, getting kids to WANT to come to the rink for every practice and Game. The ONLY goal of some know it all coaches will be that they are not found out that they are hockey stupid and be fired. They can't have goals because they have nothing to teach kids. I feel bad for these parents and teams for about a second because if the parents do not relieve this coach of his postion sooner rather than later they are just as hockey stupid.
More to come
USA AND CANADIAN HOCKEY AND LOCAL PROGRAMS - You want more kids to play Hockey the make then Game funner, safer and CHEAPER!
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