There’s not a hockey coach in Canada who would argue that it’s disadvantageous for young athletes to play multiple sports during the summer. Goaltenders who also play baseball? They’re good with the glove. Defensemen who play soccer? They develop quick feet and learn how to defend with their skating. Forwards who play basketball? They learn focus and grace under fire while they’re shooting pucks into carefully placed spots in the net.
But when it comes to spring hockey, it’s not that simple from the coach’s perspective.
For one, spring hockey heralds the return of the sun. No matter where you’re coaching in North America, chances are you’re welcoming the nice weather and slightly resenting the fact you’re spending a chunk of it inside a hockey rink.
Imagine what the kids are feeling. A coach can often tell just how hot it is outside by the level of collective loopiness in your players inside.
One famous story from friend of The Coaches Site and Glass & Out guest Dave Tomlinson of TSN Radio described how New York Islanders rookie Matt Barzal told his Dad he’d rather ride his bike than go to a spring hockey practice a few years back. His Dad eventually agreed, and it looks like Barzal’s development wasn’t hindered.
The reality of this time of year is that the kids are more burnt out than you are, and they lack the requisite adulting skills you possess in abundance.
So whether you’re coaching little guys and gals in spring hockey, running development skates for teenagers, or just keeping your own players active with a skate or two each week, it’s important to have strategies to ensure your practices remain high quality and worthwhile.
Small Area Games
Yes, it’s a god time to teach, but what’s the best way for young hockey players to learn? By doing. Mix things up and try a few new small area games that you were reluctant to try during the season. Keep things competitive. Play short games and let the natural competition carry the pace of play instead of hollering instructions.
Low Numbers? No Problem
Summer hockey development might leave you with only a small handful of players at any given ice session. One on one drills work great in this situation. Plus, there’s no better motivator than the judgmental eyes of seven or eight peers.
Have Fun. Be a Big Kid.
Shootouts. Competitions. Attitude. All these elements contribute to the overall experience of summer hockey development. If we’re inside a rink working our butts off, might as well have a good time doing it, right? Mentally, it will be a lot easier subbing the beach for the ice if you know it’s going to be just as fun for the coach as it is for the player.
Take the Time to Connect
Every athlete skating in your group has something to prove once training camp rolls around in September or October. If you show up, draw drills on your board, and leave, then you’re leaving your athletes with a little less than they could be receiving. Spend some time talking to your players. Take a few minutes while everyone is shooting pucks around to ask questions and build relationships. You’ll probably get a few extra ideas while you’re at it, which makes the experience even more valuable.
Both for player and coach.