Developing “Game-Like Urgency” during Practice

Mike Bracko

Mike Bracko is a skating coach, skating researcher, strength & conditioning coach, and fitness educator. He holds a Doctorate degree in Exercise Science and Biomechanics and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach through the NSCA. He played hockey in the AJHL, BCHL and NCAA (University of Illinois-Chicago). He does skating clinics with 300–400 hockey players every year specializing in 1-on-1, small group, and team skating with male and female players ranging in age from 8 years old to pro players.  He is also the strength & conditioning coach for the USA Men’s Deaflympic hockey team. www.hockeyinstitute.org  [email protected]

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Coaches must create a sense of game-like urgency into every drill and practice. Find out how.
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Creating a sense of urgency in drills during practice is a unique challenge for coaches, and players. Creating urgency may be one of the most important components of a coach’s practice plan. We want our players to skate fast on every drill, hit the net on all shots, and make and take all passes. Coaches can motivate players to have urgency by giving them objectives on all drills, use competitive drills, tell them to get missed pucks, and to skate fast on all drills just like they would in a game.

Give Players Goals or Objectives for Most Drills

An example of giving players (forwards and d-men) an objective for a drill is to encourage them to hit the net on shooting drills. We can tell the players we want them to focus and hit the net on 3 of 5 shots or 7 of 10 shots. Or on a forecheck drill tell the defensive players their goal is to force a bad pass and the offensive team to make a good pass.

We can think about designing drills that have a “winner” of the drill. For instance, a shooting drill with one side counting how many shots hit the net compared to the other side. Keeping in mind that goalies get a lot of shots during practice, and we can design drills that have meaningful shots on the goalie. When former NHL goalie Glenn Hall was the goalie coach for the Calgary Flames, he counted how many shots goalies get over multiple practices. He counted between 300 – 500 shots and indicated this may be why goalies get over-stimulated with shots during practice and do not try as hard as they can in practice.

Competitive Drills

Use as many drills as possible that have players racing, battling, backchecking/forechecking, angling, and skating hard for the puck.  This means we need to design most drills to be as game-like as possible.

For instance, on a neutral zone re-group with the d-man looking for an open forward to make a pass. Allowing the d-man to re-group and make a pass with no forechecking pressure does not make the d-man to be urgent with skating and making a pass, and is not game-like. To create urgency, add a forechecker to the drill to put pressure on the d-man to make a quick, accurate pass. This kind of pressure creates urgency by the d-man, the forechecking forward, and the forwards needing to get in the open for a pass in the neutral zone.

Coaches must create a sense of game-like urgency into every drill and practice. Find out how . . .

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