3 challenges players face when increasing level of play

usa hockey
Players need to prepare for the next level ahead of time, so they have the tools necessary to succeed.

Every driven hockey player wants to play at the highest level possible. In order to accomplish that goal, players need to prepare for the next level ahead of time, so they have the tools necessary to succeed.

When boiling down the differences between the lower and higher levels there are three key areas:

  1. Physical speed increases: The most obvious, players must get physically stronger. The less obvious is having better technique to extract more speed and power from increased physical strength.
  2. Space shrinks: Players are larger, they can cover more ground, and they understand how to close off space better. The mental space/time to think decreases and decisions must be quicker.
  3. Better puck management: All players are better at retaining possession and knowing when to takes risks. How players receive pucks also changes drastically the further up the pyramid they play.

While the traditional bigger, faster, stronger holds true, there are technical differences that must be prepared for and are why certain player skill-sets transfer better from level to level up the hockey pyramid.

In this article we are going to dive into all three differences and what that means for players and the type of game they will be asked to play as they increase their level of competition.

1. Physical speed increases

Each player’s physical development is further along. This includes increased strength and conditioning. That fitness and strength leads to greater physical capabilities, whether that be skating speed or ability to use strength in order to win puck battles.

Time away from the rink in the gym becomes a larger and larger factor in enabling players to perform on the rink.


As players increase their strength and fitness, they need to translate their physical improvement into on-ice performance. Extracting the most from their increased strength comes down to their technique. For example, are they dropping their weight when shooting? Is their runner angles digging into the ice properly?

Poor technique is often easy to spot. A great example is when comparing on-ice to off-ice performance. One season we had a player who was the fastest 40-yard sprint time off the ice, but one of the slowest from goal-line to red-line. This was a huge flag that we needed to work on technique with that player.

By the end of the season he was one of the fastest and understood how to translate his strength into speed.

Players need to prepare for the next level ahead of time, so they have the tools necessary to succeed . . .



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Greg Revak

Greg Revak is a Certified Level 4 USA Hockey Coach. You can find him on Twitter @CoachRevak. or sign up for his Hockey IQ Newsletter.

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