As I work through the process of hiring an assistant coach to join me in the MJHL next season, one of the main perquisites will be the ability to deliver an efficient pre-scout. There’s a lot of room for personality and passion during these video sessions, but for me the key to the whole thing is creating an automatic response. The best way to do that is to cover the same areas of the game each time. Like most coaches I used to watch an entire game and gather clips as I worked through it. This led to a lot of 3 am nights and feeling like a zombie come morning, and I simply don’t function well enough when I’m consistently sleep-deprived. Rest is a weapon, as John Tortorella used to say, and that’s true for coaches and trainers as well as players.
A couple summers back I was working with a coach on delivering practice pre-scouts. I had what I thought was a tight presentation, but by the time I was finished we were looking at upwards of 15 minutes. That’s borderline abuse for the players. They don’t want a lecture that reminds them of the classroom. They want the meat of the message and they want to get to business. I looked for a way to organize the pre-scout so that not only did I have to watch an entire game, but the players didn’t have to be subjected to multiple examples of a team sending one or two forecheckers. This is a lot easier these days with programs like Instat and Statstrack.
I’ve been guilty of adding extraneous clips in the past because I want to convince the players that I’ve done the homework necessary to prepare them for the opponent. This approach is flawed. You don’t build trust by boring the players with video meetings. You build trust by connecting with them and awarding candy for winning a small area game in practice.
Besides, if you actually do the necessary homework and you find ample evidence of a particular breakout or neutral zone forecheck strategy, then you can be confident in the fact that you only need to share one.
Ironically this post contradicts the strategy of keeping things tight and short. But you’re the coach, not the player – the more you understand the source material before the meeting, the more efficient you can be when it’s time to deliver.
So tie up your skates; here are the seven buckets I focus on during the 5-on-5 pre-scout. The buckets are separated into two larger buckets (let’s call them pallets – yeah, I like that, pallets), based on puck possession.
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