How to we improve our players best in the limited time we have with them? How do we squeeze the most out and set them up for growth?
Starting at the core, hockey development is really just a learning race. The players that learn the fastest become to the best players. There are million coaches in the world attempting to make their players better.
My advice, create better learners first. Then focus on the drills and practices.
A great practice cannot overcome poor learners. The best coaches understand they are only as good as their players. Red Gendron of the University of Maine said it best. To paraphrase: 90% of the time, the team that gets off the bus with the better players usually wins.
Therefore, we can agree that a large part of coaching is teaching young people how to learn better and acquire skills faster. Let’s explore a few key ways to do that.
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The best athletes in the world learn and process the game through feel. Tiger Woods is a classic example. When he goes to play on the course, it’s all by feel.
Feel learning is something that has taken off in the niche pockets of coaching, but has been around forever informally. You have likely already seen it and haven’t noticed its powerful role in accelerated learning. The next time you explain a skills drill, pay attention to the players in line motioning what they are about to do. They are trying to get the feel for what the repetition will feel like when they go through the drill and get a few repetitions. Without a doubt, those players are going to be some of the fastest learners on the team.
In American football, teams will do a walk-through of plays before a game. This is the same concept. While not going through a physical repetition at full speed and contact, it allows for players to gain understanding of the details and how the repetition will feel when they do go to execute it.
When introducing a concept or new movement pattern a “feel-through” is a great first step. This can also be naturally paired with visualization. Having players visualize a situation and then adding the muscle movement is a powerful way for players to pick up the feel for the movements required during the situation. It’s a perfect way to maximize learning from each mental repetition.
Back of the practice line motioning is a great way to pick out promising learners. Pointing this out to other players and getting them onboard is a great way to turbocharge their learning curve. Encourage the use of a movement “feel-throughs.”
When learning, players need to understand what it feels like. And at first it will feel uncomfortable.
Learning how to watch hockey