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Coaching beginning adult rec players

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Old
04-11-2012, 10:28 AM
  #1
qmechanic
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Coaching beginning adult rec players

Hey guys and gals, I'm an assistant coach for a hockey club of beginning adult rec players and we're having trouble getting some of the players to progress. Everyone is relatively young (in their 20s) with a mix of men and women and a wide range of skill level. Most of them never played hockey before joining our group. The club has 1.5 hour practices once a week; the schedule is usually something like 10 min warmup, 60 min drills, 20 min scrimmage. We usually try to separate the lower skilled players from the higher skilled ones for at least part of the practice.

The people who have athletic talent and/or experience pick things up pretty quickly, but for those who don't, a lot of them get stuck. Their skating is still very elementary and it hinders their development in other areas. I realize there's only so much we can do since most people only skate once a week (at best) and some of them probably aren't as motivated as they could be.

Still, is there anything we can do to help them improve more quickly? Many people don't bend their knees enough. Is there some drill we could do to get them to bend their knees? I wish I could get them to cut their sticks shorter, but that's probably unrealistic for adults.

Also, does anyone have suggestions on what kind of drills and what mix of drills to do? Ideally, I think they should work on their skating first, but most adults would be unhappy and bored doing skating drills for an hour. We only have 2 coaches (1 if I'm not there), so it would be hard to do small group instruction.

Sorry about the long post. Coaching is a complicated topic. I appreciate any thoughts you have.

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04-11-2012, 11:31 AM
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TickleMeYandle
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I'm not a coach, but an adult beginner so I'm going to share with you my view of things.

My background is that I did speedskating about 6 years ago. I was never great at it, but I did get the basics. As an adult learner, it took me a LONG time to get to the point where I could do everything I needed to do and have it work out. I was very, very motivated, skated 2-3 times per week, but it still took me quite a bit of effort to get things right.

I've been doing hockey for a month now. I skate twice a week - once for our practice/scrimmage, and then once for stick time.

We spend the first 30 minutes or so doing skating drills. Our class is a wide range of abilities - some who can pretty much skate forwards and kind of stop, others who can skate pretty well backwards and forwards, do crossovers, etc.

What I've noticed is that what it really takes to 'get it' is time. Time to practice the drill and work it out for myself. A lot of times I take twice as long to do the drill as the others who are better skaters. I always feel like I'm holding the class back if I make them wait for me, so I usually do what I can and then move on with the rest of the class. So if we do a drill and they make it all the way up the ice, I'll go halfway.

Then, when I do stick time (or public session) I will work on those things at my own pace. I admit that I am NOT athletic, I am NOT coordinated, but I am motivated enough that I want to be able to do things well enough to participate. I've noticed that I improve by leaps and bounds when working on my own, but I've never gotten better at the actual practice - I just need that time to work out the muscle memory and let it 'click.' So I look at practice time as the time where I see the drills and get my 'assignment' for the next week, and then stick time is where I really practice and learn them.

As a coach, the best thing that you can do for me is to watch to make sure I'm doing things properly, even if not perfectly. If you see me doing a drill incorrectly, tell me - otherwise I'll go to the rink and practice it incorrectly on my own! Give me encouragement on what I can do, and let me move at my own pace. The nicest thing my coach said to me that really made me feel better about being a total pylon was that I skate better than I think. It's probably true, I don't fall very often and I can see myself making progress - but to have someone else say that really made me feel like I belonged there, even though I'm quite overweight and not at all athletic.

Sometimes it's not motivation that holds me back (I have that in spades), but fear of doing it wrong. I skated at public sessions for over two years - on speedskates, without padding - so I never really learned to 'cut loose' and really push myself. Always having to watch out for other people made me a little nervous, and it's hard to just let it happen. Even though I'm wearing pads, and everyone else is wearing pads, I'm still nervous about falling and/or causing someone else to fall.

I'll admit, keeping the knees bent is hard. It was one of the hardest things to do in speedskating, and it took a long time to build up the muscle strength to be able to do it. The only way to make it happen is to constantly remind yourself to bend, and that's what I try to do.

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04-11-2012, 11:36 AM
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Jarick
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Spending lots of time getting comfortable on edges, single edge work, that's a big step. Learning to drive and cut with the inside and outside edges of one foot at a time. Getting more knee bend is more strength dependent. You can tell them to do it, but if they don't have the strength or willingness to push through the pain and build the strength, it's going to be uphill.

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04-11-2012, 11:41 AM
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Every good drill instructor will always tell his players to get into the hockey stance (knees bent, kind of squat) before starting drills. Work on getting long powerful strides, and bringing it back to that hockey stance after each stride. For the guys/girls who can't skate, make the practices 90% skating, 10% puck handling. If you can't skate, you're not going to have the confidence to do anything if you DO get the puck.

Also, maybe pair off the rookies with the vets and see how that works with drills, I find that one-on-one time can really help progression. Sometimes it is hard for a rookie to see what he is doing wrong, and an outside set of eyes helps.

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04-11-2012, 12:03 PM
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I notice beginning players sometime are scared to go too fast or make hard stops because their skates aren't sharpened right for their skill level/weight. In turn they're more worried about falling or hitting the boards then stick handling and other parts of the game. Try getting starting them off on a flatter hollow like 3/4" and see if they feel more comfortable stopping and gliding.

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04-11-2012, 01:06 PM
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I'm not a coach but I've done a couple sessions of beginner classes and I don't mind sharing what works and what doesn't.

I am more motivated than some of your students, as I am currently taking three classes per week:

1) Beginners hockey
2) "Stickhandling 101"
3) General skating lessons.

In my beginners class we have a pretty wide range of players - people who have never played before, up to people who are probably more in the intermediate range, playing in casual men's leagues etc.

My weakest area is skating, which is where the lessons help with some of the fundamentals. Likely it is where most of your students are the weakest as well. If you can, encourage them to take additional skating lessons. Sure, it might be taught by figure skaters, but whatever - the point is they are learning the fundamentals and getting the muscle memory down.

I think the best use of the time in beginners classes, however is to work on skating drills outside the player's comfort zones. Stickhandling, passing and shooting are important, but watch your players closely - my guess is they have a pretty small repertoire of skating "moves" they are comfortable with. They turn well to the right, cross-over better to the left, can only stop one direction, can only pivot one way.

Develop skating drills that FORCES them to use their uncomfortable sides.

Set up cones 15-20 feet apart in a zig-zag and make them simply skate to one cone and stop - skate to the other cone and stop. They'll be good one direction, crappy the other.

Keep the cones set up that way, make them do tight turns around them. Same thing, one way they'll be good, the other way they'll be garbage.

To get us to bend our knees, our coach had has stick-around the circles with our hands choked WAY up the stick. You have two choices - either bend at the waist, or bend your knees. We learned pretty quickly that bending at the waist is MURDER on your lower back. A deep knee bend sucks too, but sucks way less in comparison.

Anything you can think of to FORCE them outside their comfort zone is where you will see improvements.

They are wearing full pads and will not hurt themselves if they fall. Don't waste that opportunity to come up with all sorts of drills that WILL make them fall. If you're not falling, you're not learning your limits.

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04-11-2012, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qmechanic View Post
Ideally, I think they should work on their skating first, but most adults would be unhappy and bored doing skating drills for an hour. We only have 2 coaches (1 if I'm not there), so it would be hard to do small group instruction.
Further to my above post, I disagree with this. Most beginners want to see progress. If they aren't doing tight hockey turns, show them how and make them practice until they get it. Far from being boring, you'll see them using any excuse they can to use that new "tool" every chance they get.

Keep in mind that if you are feeling they are stalled, they are probably feeling the same way too. I sincerely believe most of them would welcome a good long session of "back to basics" hockey skating lessons. Most are probably to embarrassed to ask for help on some of those fundamentals.

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04-11-2012, 01:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neksys View Post
Further to my above post, I disagree with this. Most beginners want to see progress. If they aren't doing tight hockey turns, show them how and make them practice until they get it. Far from being boring, you'll see them using any excuse they can to use that new "tool" every chance they get.

Keep in mind that if you are feeling they are stalled, they are probably feeling the same way too. I sincerely believe most of them would welcome a good long session of "back to basics" hockey skating lessons. Most are probably to embarrassed to ask for help on some of those fundamentals.
As someone who attends some of these clinics as a goalie I agree with the OP's point about adults not wanting to spend an hour doing skating drills. In fact, the one that I attend lists the skills that will be worked on each week and the 1st week that is pretty much all skating is the least attended clinic.

Even though skating is the most important piece of playing hockey, most adults want to work on stick handling, passing, shooting and strategy more than skating. Honestly I think if you ask adults to make them practice tight hockey turns "until they get it", you will have most of them leave.

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04-11-2012, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by pelts35.com View Post
As someone who attends some of these clinics as a goalie I agree with the OP's point about adults not wanting to spend an hour doing skating drills. In fact, the one that I attend lists the skills that will be worked on each week and the 1st week that is pretty much all skating is the least attended clinic.

Even though skating is the most important piece of playing hockey, most adults want to work on stick handling, passing, shooting and strategy more than skating. Honestly I think if you ask adults to make them practice tight hockey turns "until they get it", you will have most of them leave.
This hasn't been my experience at all, but I suppose I could just have a unique group.

On the other hand, its easy enough to throw a puck into the mix and call it a stickhandling drill.

Set cones up 20 feet apart (or whatever). Spend a few minutes without the puck getting the stopping on each foot down, then introduce the puck. Cradling the puck when you stop to either side isn't that obvious to many beginners as a skill, and you hit two birds with one stone.

Same with tight turns around the same cones. You have to learn how to keep the puck on the inside your turn. Practice for a few rounds without, then introduce the puck.

By the end, set it up so you have to stop at the right hand cone, skate to the left cone and do a tight turn around it - switch it up the next round.

You've just spent half an hour working on legitimately valuable stickhandling/puck possession skills while, by the way, developing fundamental skating skills.

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04-11-2012, 02:17 PM
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As a beginner myself, I have to agree that just doing skating drills for the entire session would push most people away. Granted, I know that I need to spend most of my time working on my skating and doing edge drills for hours on end, but I prefer learning new skills and doing stuff like stickhandling and passing during clinics. Not to say that you should ignore skating during these sessions, but I like being taught new drills and stuff that I can then work on during warmups at pickup or during stick and puck time.

All of my improvement so far came from just spending time working on things that I was taught. If people want to see improvement, they need to spend more time on the ice than just once per week. I also found that cutting my stick down helped a lot, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that I play forward almost exclusively and had the wrong lie for me.

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04-11-2012, 02:51 PM
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TickleMeYandle
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Another thing I wanted to add:

If at all possible, do drills where each person gets a section of ice to practice, rather than having it be more of a start to finish thing. I know that's not possible for every drill, but it's easier to work on things if you don't feel that you're competing with others to get around the rink.

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04-11-2012, 03:36 PM
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If you can't skate well, the rest of it is irrelevant. 90% of a beginner's time should be spent on skating, and most of that should not involve a puck. Take the pucks away and get them skating well first. Anyone who doesn't want to work on their skating doesn't want to be a better player.

I coach kids as well and when a kid can't skate, he isn't able to execute any of the stickhandling or shooting drills properly anyway, so unless you back him up and focus on the skating, the rest is really just a waste of time. Some kids just aren't mature enough to understand that, but you would hope most adults would be.

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04-11-2012, 03:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stickmata View Post
If you can't skate well, the rest of it is irrelevant. 90% of a beginner's time should be spent on skating, and most of that should not involve a puck. Take the pucks away and get them skating well first. Anyone who doesn't want to work on their skating doesn't want to be a better player.

I coach kids as well and when a kid can't skate, he isn't able to execute any of the stickhandling or shooting drills properly anyway, so unless you back him up and focus on the skating, the rest is really just a waste of time. Some kids just aren't mature enough to understand that, but you would hope most adults would be.
What this guy said.. I'm in an adult beginner's clinic every Wednesday night (tonight! woo!) and while it is kind of lame spending so much time on skating drills (because most of the other guys can hardly skate, I'm a TAD better meaning I can go forwards and backwards and do cross-overs both ways and stop both ways and what not... I mean these guys make me look like Gretzky haha) it DEFINITELY is necessary for the guys that aren't comfortable on their edges. The constant reinforcement also helps the guys like me that are more intermediate than beginner.

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04-11-2012, 03:57 PM
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Thanks everyone for your input and suggestions so far. I wish people would go to extra skating or stick sessions, but most of them are students who don't have cars, and the campus rink shut down a few weeks ago. And they aren't hockey nuts like us.

Looking back at my original post, I didn't mean to imply that anyone here who is a beginning skater isn't "motivated." Just wanted to state that for the record.

frackiewicz: Good point about the psychological aspect in coaching. I do try to chase after people during full-ice drills and point out things they can work on. I'm not so good at encouragement (it doesn't come naturally to me.) As for giving people their own piece of ice, I have done that and it seemed to work well. For example, I'd have people lay their stick down on the ice and do forward to backward transitions around their own stick. The other good thing about this, was that I could go around and help people one-on-one, without having to chase after them (like I had to do for full-ice drills).

Jarick: More edgework, good idea. Maybe we could do 20 minutes of powerskating at the beginning of each practice.

JoeCool16: Pairing up rookies with vets is an interesting idea. I'll have to think a bit about what drills would be appropriate. This would definitely address the problem of not having enough coaches.

neksys: I really like the drill your coach did to force people to bend their knees. Thanks for telling me about that -- exactly what I was looking for. Pushing people out of their comfort zone is a good idea. There's too much room for "cheating" when people skate on two legs. One-legged edgework would probably challenge them more.

JoeCool16, Stickmata, Santini5389: We did run mostly skating drills during the fall. I'm not sure we could continue to do that without driving people away. They signed up to play hockey, not for skating lessons. This winter, we mostly ran stickhandling and passing drills. I agree that we should be running more skating drills, but I don't think we can do skating 100% of the time. During the fall and winter, we kept the beginning players separate from the more advanced players. So it was easier to do more elementary drills. Now during the summer session, everyone will be practicing together, so skating drills all the time definitely won't work. The advanced players won't like it and if we have the beginners doing skating while the advanced players are doing tactical drills, I imagine that resentment will build up.


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04-11-2012, 04:19 PM
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Jarick
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Skating isn't fun but it's necessary to improve. Why would someone be participating in a beginner's class if they don't want to improve?

In my mind, there's usually three parts to a good skills practice:

1. Skating (stride, edges, balance, turns, etc)
2. Puck drills (be it passing, puck carrying or control, movement, etc)
3. Scrimmage (to let loose and have people incorporate the teaching into actual hockey while it's fresh in the brain)

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04-11-2012, 04:29 PM
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frackiewicz: Good point about the psychological aspect in coaching. I do try to chase after people during full-ice drills and point out things they can work on. I'm not so good at encouragement (it doesn't come naturally to me.) As for giving people their own piece of ice, I have done that and it seemed to work well. For example, I'd have people lay their stick down on the ice and do forward to backward transitions around their own stick. The other good thing about this, was that I could go around and help people one-on-one, without having to chase after them (like I had to do for full-ice drills).
That's the exact same drill our coach has us do. When I'm working on that sort of thing - whether it's going around gloves, stick, etc. - I'm able to focus on my edges, my transition, etc. I can completely ignore what everyone else is doing. When we're doing laps around the rink, I'm more concerned with not running into anyone, not getting into someone's way, not holding people back because I'm going slow. I can DO the one with the stick on the ice, precisely because I was able to go at my own speed. It's not pretty, and it's not fast, but it's correct and will get better as time goes on.

I've found that hockey is the hardest sport I've ever tried. I've done fencing, archery, speedskating and of course the PE version of football, soccer, basketball, etc. But in terms of the sheer amoutn of skill and time it takes to get good at it, hockey blows them all out of the water. There is just SO MUCH to do. That's good and bad - it's good because I'll be able to do it for many years and still feel like I can get better. It's bad because it can be very overwhelming. I know that when the coach shows us a drill that is challenging, putting several things together, I feel pretty hopeless about it. It's easy to say "skate here, transition to backwards, do a couple of crossovers, come around and then take a shot" - but when the beginner is still working on being able to go backwards at all, it's easy to get discouraged.

So my other piece of advice is to break things down. A lot. You don't have to spend the whole hour on one thing, but work on little things one at a time, and then combine them once people can do the little things. I have a hard time getting my left outside edge. So I've been focusing on that. Until I get that one skill down, there are a lot of things that I'm going to struggle with. I'd rather work on that for 10 minutes and then do something else than do 5 things for 2 minutes each, because that's what I need to do.

Again, I'm not a coach - but I have been a teacher for 17 years now. I teach French. French is similar to hockey in that there are so many different little pieces. Just to write a simple sentence like "I go to the store" requires people to know not only the vocabulary, but how to conjugate the verb, how to make the words "to the" correct, etc. If I throw something like that at my students right away, they get frustrated. But if I teach them little bits and get them comfortable with "I go" and then they learn "to the store" they are able to use those tiny skills together to make a sentence. So with a sport that has so many different discrete skills, it's something to think about.


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04-11-2012, 05:11 PM
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qmechanic
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarick View Post
Skating isn't fun but it's necessary to improve. Why would someone be participating in a beginner's class if they don't want to improve?
Sometimes people come for social reasons, because their friend or significant other is also playing hockey. I think everyone would like to improve, but some people want to improve more desperately than others. Like people here on HFBoards.

I find coaching frustrating sometimes. But I'll try to remember that hockey is a hard sport to learn, to be positive and not think about being frustrated.

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04-11-2012, 05:23 PM
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I should also mention that since the coaches (including me) are friends with a lot of people in the club, I sometimes find it awkward to badger or suggest "unpopular" drills. That's the trouble with coaching your own peer group.

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04-11-2012, 05:25 PM
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You might want to check out this dvd set; I found it to be very helpful with the basics; from skating, shooting and stick handling.

http://www.amazon.com/Team-Canada-Sk.../dp/B000H5VAE8

They have a lot of videos on youtube if don't want to buy the dvd.

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04-11-2012, 10:16 PM
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One more piece of advice that a very wise, professional coach once gave me after observing one of my PeeWee team practices. He told me to have the kids do the drills as fast as they can, not slowly and deliberately. They learn it better and they don't think too much. They just feel and do.

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04-11-2012, 11:31 PM
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The good things with (most) adults is that you can explain the mechanics to them and they'll figure it out.

Don't just explain to them what to do... explain how to do it and why it works. Even something as simple as the forward stride has a lot of detail to it, from the value of a deep knee bend and low stance to the full leg extension with toe snap and recovery, and of course the angle at which the edge digs into the ice.

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04-12-2012, 10:26 AM
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Also fewer is better than more drills.

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04-12-2012, 10:51 AM
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I second noobman's advice to explain HOW to do stuff. My first skating lessons at this one location just told us to 'OK now go backwards... Yeah just move backwards' with NO detail about how (yeah I'm looking at you, Skate Canada o.O), it was incredibly frustrating to plug away at it without having a clue as to the 'how'. Later I took some skating lessons at a local rink (local/smaller programs FTW) where they actually explained how to do the backwards stride and fine-tuned it as we did it, and it actually clicked. Same story with where your power comes from when doing sculls and c-cuts. Oh I could go on...

And that's just skating, so when teaching both skating and hockey skills I think it would be even more important to give them a breakdown of what their bodies need to be doing.

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04-12-2012, 11:13 AM
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I second noobman's advice to explain HOW to do stuff. My first skating lessons at this one location just told us to 'OK now go backwards... Yeah just move backwards' with NO detail about how (yeah I'm looking at you, Skate Canada o.O), it was incredibly frustrating to plug away at it without having a clue as to the 'how'. Later I took some skating lessons at a local rink (local/smaller programs FTW) where they actually explained how to do the backwards stride and fine-tuned it as we did it, and it actually clicked. Same story with where your power comes from when doing sculls and c-cuts. Oh I could go on...
That. That 1000X times. I can't say how many times I've been told to "just go backwards" or "just stop and turn" without any explanation. Should my weight be on the ball or heel, or centered? Should I be on the inside or outside edge? It's easy to say "Just go backwards" for someone who knows what they're doing already, but it took me several sessions to really get the idea of HOW it happens, how one push could make me go forwards but a different push could make me go backwards. I'm happy to say that now I'm finally starting to be able to go backwards and it's getting faster - fast enough that I can now worry less about the basic movement, and worry more about going fast enough that I plow someone over!

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04-12-2012, 11:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by qmechanic View Post
Hey guys and gals, I'm an assistant coach for a hockey club of beginning adult rec players and we're having trouble getting some of the players to progress. Everyone is relatively young (in their 20s) with a mix of men and women and a wide range of skill level. Most of them never played hockey before joining our group. The club has 1.5 hour practices once a week; the schedule is usually something like 10 min warmup, 60 min drills, 20 min scrimmage. We usually try to separate the lower skilled players from the higher skilled ones for at least part of the practice.

The people who have athletic talent and/or experience pick things up pretty quickly, but for those who don't, a lot of them get stuck. Their skating is still very elementary and it hinders their development in other areas. I realize there's only so much we can do since most people only skate once a week (at best) and some of them probably aren't as motivated as they could be.

Still, is there anything we can do to help them improve more quickly? Many people don't bend their knees enough. Is there some drill we could do to get them to bend their knees? I wish I could get them to cut their sticks shorter, but that's probably unrealistic for adults.

Also, does anyone have suggestions on what kind of drills and what mix of drills to do? Ideally, I think they should work on their skating first, but most adults would be unhappy and bored doing skating drills for an hour. We only have 2 coaches (1 if I'm not there), so it would be hard to do small group instruction.

Sorry about the long post. Coaching is a complicated topic. I appreciate any thoughts you have.
drop the scrimmage. They teach nothing & waste valuable ice time. Incorporate small area games instead. When I coached high school, I used a few of these all the time. They help with basic skills development & decision making.

http://assets.ngin.com/attachments/d...Area_Games.pdf

As far as individuals progressing, it really is on the individual. You can spend time with them, but then you are neglecting the rest of the team. About the only way you can combat this is to refer them to a power skating instructor in your area. The motivated ones will do it, the less probably won't. However, chances are that you'll weed out those who really want to be there vs those who don't.

If you want to break things down between you & the other coach, one of of you could take the forwards & the other the defensemen or split it up another way, maybe 1st line units to one, 2nd line units to another & go from there.

A good coaching tip I learned in one of the USA Hockey sessions is don't forget the goalies either. They need work also. The small area games will help them out on angles & such.

Good luck!

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