You can be the smartest coach in the world, but it does you no good if your players don’t understand you.
Go down this mental experience with me.
Imagine you are a player on a team with the world’s best and smartest coach. Now imagine if that coach only spoke Japanese while you and your teammates only know English. How would you feel?
This is how players can feel when coaches use cliches, phrases, or words they have yet to acquire and understand. Words can get in the way of a coach’s message.
Creating a clear picture in your player’s minds is vital to team success. The more a team can understand what is being communicated the more they can effectively execute. Misunderstandings are roadblocks in the way of a player’s development and team connectivity/chemistry.
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A personal challenge I give my coaches is to eliminate cliches. We strive to be specific in what we are coaching. Instead of saying “be heavy on pucks” it could be ”put your body between the puck and the defender.”
How do we go about improving our communication as a team? The answer is simple. Share a vocabulary.
Creating a hockey dictionary for your team goes a long way in increasing your effectiveness as a coach. When implementing, quizzing your players is a highly effective way of holding them accountable and making sure they’re on the same page.
Here is the dictionary I use. This is something any coach can take and expand on. Feel free to copy and paste for your own use. I highly encourage it.
- Above the puck/defensive side of the puck – Player positioning so that a player is always nearer to their goalie than the opponent.
- Angling – Arching skating pattern that forces an opponent to move in the direction desired.
- Area pass – Touch or soft pass to an area of the ice in which a teammate can skate into.
- Awareness – Knowing what is going on around oneself.
- Backcheck – Players behind the play that are skating back towards their own end.
- Back-door – The opposite/far side of the net relative to the pucks position.
- Cherrypicker – A player who stays outside of their defensive zone while their team is defending inside of its own defensive zone.
- Chip/chip pass – A flipped puck into an area. Often past an opponent and/or off the boards.
- Contain – The act of keeping a player in an area of the ice.
- Coverage – The defensive responsibility of a player.
- Cut the net – When a player skates so close around the net that an opponent must skate farther around to catch up or would otherwise fall into the back of the net.
- Crashing the net – Act of offensive players heading toward the net as a puck is being shot to the net or is already near the net.
- Cycle – Circular rotation of players on offence. Movement meant to create offensive opportunities with confusion.
- Deflection – Act to redirecting a puck. Often referring to a redirection of a shot going toward the goal.
- Deke – Act of faking a player with a change of direction.
- Five hole – The area between the goaltender’s legs.
- Forecheck – Applied pressure against a team attempting to get the puck out of their defensive end.
- Fly-by – When a player moves past an opponent with little to no resistance.
- Fronting – Positioning of a defender in which they stand in front of the opposition rather than behind them.
- Gap – The distance between an offensive and defensive player.
- Give and go – Offensive tactic where a player passes the puck and immediately moves to an open area in an attempt to get open.
- Good stick – A phrase attached to a player who does well with their stick positioning. Having their stick in the passing lanes and leading with a stick-on-puck when checking.
- Half-wall – The spot on the ice where the outside hash marks are nearest the boards.
- Hashmarks – Small lines on the edge of a faceoff circle.
- The house – Area in the offensive and defensive zone outlined by the goal posts, faceoff dots, and top of the faceoff circles.
- Holding the lines – A strategy where the defending team attempts to use the natural barrier of the blue line or redline to put the attacking team at a disadvantage by forcing an icing or force an offsides.
- Hook pass – A pass where the player pushes the puck forward and then snaps their wrist to go between the defenders stick and skates. Used to get around a D with good stick-on-puck positioning.
- Linear crossover – A crossover done in a straight line rather than around an arch.
- Long change – When a team has to make changes during the second period and is at risk of poor player changes due to the bench being further away from its defensive zone.
- Moving the puck – Passing of the puck to teammates.
- One-touch – Act of shooting or passing without stopping and controlling the puck first.
- Over-backchecking – When a team’s player(s) backcheck so far into their defensive zone that they go past their defensive responsibilities.
- Overlapping – When an offensive player skates through an area, hopefully clearing out the opposing players and then having a second player skate into the recently vacated area.
- Pick – Interfering with a defending player’s ability to play defence on a teammate.
- Pinch – Action of a player at the blue line moving further into the offensive zone (a) toward a player attempting to breakout the puck or (b) to play the puck.
- Pin – To secure an opponent on the boards when legally hitting them.
- Pocket – An area of defensively uncovered space.
- Point – Area just inside of the offensive blue line. Often where defencemen stand.
- Puck management – Regulating risk when it comes to puck possession or puck placement into areas of the ice.
- Puck watching – Act of players watching where the puck is at while losing focus on their defensive responsibility.
- Punting – Act of throwing/chipping the puck over top of the defenders.
- Quick-up – Another name for a stretch pass.
- Regroup – Reorganization while maintaining possession and preparing to attack.
- Reverse – Switching sides of the ice. Traditionally when a D goes around the net and banks the puck off the boards to their partner on the other side of the net.
- Saucer Pass – A pass that lifts off of the ice before landing.
- Scissor – An offensive play where two players switch positions in an attempt to create defensive confusion. When crossing/switching the puck carrier goes to the outside while the player without the puck is on the inside.
- Shadowing – When a player covers an opponent one-on-one everywhere on the ice in order to limit their effectiveness.
- Six-holes – The space created between top of the goalie’s pad and below their blocker/glove.
- Slip pass – A pass placed between the defender’s stick and skates.
- Slot – Area of the ice in front of the net.
- Soft catch – Receiving a pass directly into a loaded position where it can be shot or passed immediately.
- Stepping-up – Changing from backwards skating to forward skating into an opponent or puck.
- Stretch – Sending a player up ice to drive the opposing defenders back, in an effort to create open ice for teammates to use underneath.
- Stretch pass – A long pass made toward the opposition’s zone.
- Speed behind the puck – Positioning. A player with speed is currently below the puck. In other words, the puck is further up ice than the player with speed.
- Stopping in/at the battle – Player stops near or where a puck battle is occurring.
- Strong-side – The side of the ice (width-wise) that the puck is currently on.
- Support/puck Support – Players away from the puck positioning themselves into available space where they are a passing option.
- Swinging – Crossover skating on an arch pattern.
- Taking back ice – When a player lengthens the route to the potential pass reception area. By taking a less direct route a player allows for better timing of the play.
- Timing – Arriving at the right place, at the right time, and with the right amount of speed.
- Tracking – Another word for backchecking. Often used to indicate a backchecker whose role is to backcheck to the puck carrier.
- Traffic – An area of ice with a high concentration of player.
- Trailer – A player who is supporting the play from behind. Often the next player coming into the play after teammates enter deep into the offensive zone.
- Triangle – The space between a defenders toes and their stick.
- TWIG (Acronym) – Take What Is Given. An offensive concept.
- Under-handle – Act of pushing the puck or holding a puck in a position where it can be shot, passed, or carried immediately.
- Underneath – Being behind the puck or other players. Often a key in proper timing.
- Weak-Side – The opposition side of the ice (width-wise) from where the puck is.
- Width – Lateral distance between the teammates.