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How to Teach Kids “Defensive Side Positioning”

In Tactics by JasonYee

Today, we learn to teach kids who don’t understand “Defensive Side Positioning”. As you all know, I will go about this in a slightly uncommon way.

Defensive side positioning. It’s simple, isn’t it? Just get on the defensive side.

But then if it’s so simple, we are we pulling our hair out of our head as your left winger is poking at the puck from the offensive side? Doesn’t your blood pressure go wayyyyyyyy up as your centreman gets stuck on the offensive side, AGAIN? And isn’t it true that your bench often hollers, “DEFENSIVE SIDE!!!”?

We all know it is a simple concept. But it doesn’t seem to be a simple concept for some kids. Even though they are nodding their heads, they don’t seem to truly get it. Or maybe they are trying to put you to an early death due to heart troubles. We can’t rule that out.

Today, we use analogy learning to make the process of learning “defensive side positioning” faster and simpler.

We know that most coaches will teach something by giving its definition. They’ll say, “Defensive side positioning is when…[you’re between the puck and the net/you’re between your defender and the net/etc]” We know that those coaches will give a bunch of rules that help to define “Defensive side position”.

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We also remember that players who are not 100% clear on a task will probably get worse as you yell at them more. We remember that just because you think your instructions are clear, it doesn’t mean that the players are 100% clear. We know that players who are 100% clear on what to do, will usually do it.

So we can probably agree that most players don’t truly understand “Defensive Side Positioning”. If there are a bunch of rules associated with a concept, it is probably hard to understand. It is also probably hard to apply.

For some reason, human beings seem to learn best from stories and analogies. An analogy compares something dissimilar to a concept you are teaching. A story may use a narrative to communicate lessons. We already discussed storytelling as an upgraded means of coaching. Analogy learning and storytelling work on your brain in a similar way. It is just natural.

Since we know that analogy learning is natural and easy for the human brain, we can leverage it to teach advanced concepts. Instead of creating long lists of rules, we can clearly instruct players by creating a rich analogy.

And since we’re in the mode of leveraging natural learning, let’s use something else players find natural: video games. To teach defensive side positioning, let’s use the “heads up display” in Call of Duty analogy. Here it is:

Imagine you have your heads up display in Call of Duty. You know that little triangle in front of you on your radar? That is your target zone. At all times, your check should be in your target zone. But if the net and your check are both in your target zone, you are not in defensive side positioning. If your opponent is in your target zone, and the net is behind you on your COD radar, you are in defensive side positioning.

Players may find this amusing. But it works.

Using this method takes analogy learning, and something your players relate to to make learning simple and fast. This method takes an advanced concept with many rules, and makes it simple. You might find that this method works surprisingly well. You might also find other analogies for other concepts. But today, you just learned your favourite one.


I’ve written lot’s of articles about uncommon hockey coaching. Some people seem to like them.

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About the Author


Hi, I'm Jason Yee. I'm a professional hockey player, kinesiologist, and the founder of Train 2.0. My goal is to make instructions for hockey players simple, trustworthy, and measurable by leveraging science, technology, and psychology. My method is to research NHLers through video, instruct others and myself, then gather feedback to refine my knowledge. I love documenting the journey publicly and online. I'd love to hear from you and let me know what you think - Your feedback is my oxygen. Thanks for reading my article today. Hit me up on email: or follow my Instagram account: @train2point0


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