Today’s post was submitted by TCS contributor Kyle McLennan.
Every hockey season as coaches select their rosters, we are always thinking about the identity of our team. Some teams are built on speed and transition, while others may be more defensive minded and patient. In either case, it would be rare for a team to not want to be considered a “competitive team”: a team that outworks the opposition and wins their 1v1’s and small battles all over the ice.
Once a clear vision of your team’s identity is established, you must now take the necessary steps to embrace and live that identity on a daily basis. Your identity isn’t really your identity if your actions and behaviours do not match that every day. If part of your identity is to be an ultra competitive team then your actions have to match this consistently. One of the easiest and most influential ways to promote competition is through your practices.
Here are 5 methods that will drive compete in your team practices and help establish your teams identity:
- Use of Small Area Games – Natural competitive drive emerges in small area games, and best of all, players have a blast while playing them. Use small area games that directly or indirectly connect to other aspects of your team’s identity (ex – quick transition) and watch the execution increase as players are more engaged. Skills, tactics, team play – small area games have it all.
- Use Battle Drills, 1v1’s, 2v2’s – Nothing says competition like player on player battles. Whether it’s full ice, half ice, or other confined areas, players naturally want to beat each other in these scenarios. Have a clear purpose, promote and correct the key teaching points, and be sure to include points 3 and 4.
- Keep Score – Not just in small area games, but 1v1 battles, 2v2 battles, and full ice drills as well. There’s always a way to keep score, and players will raise their level of compete when they know points are on the table. Points can be awarded for a variety of successes, including goals, saves, scoring chances, and defensive stops.
- Find Small Ways To Integrate Competition – Much like point 3, there are plenty of ways a coach can drive compete in their group in a variety of non traditional ways. Forwards vs. Defensemen, one jersey colour vs. another, power play vs. penalty kill, and puck races for example. Reward the winning team at the end of the session!
- Ensure Players Know “Why” – When players know the purpose of each drill or exercise it is much easier to establish buy-in, and promote competition. If players can’t see the importance of a specific drill, and aren’t sure why it’s being executed, you can’t expect them to have the same motivation and thus the same level of compete as when the purpose is clear. Why does this drill matter? Why does compete matter in this drill? How is this going to translate to success in a game?
In conclusion, there are many ways to establish competitive drive in your team whether it’s on ice or off. It’s important to promote a high level of compete daily with your team, regardless of the team’s desired identity. Practice should provide your team the opportunity to express this on a daily basis.
Practice like you play, because you’ll play like you practice.