Creating fun and engaging practices require much thought and preparation.
Player abilities and team weaknesses must be constantly monitored to create the proper plan of action. Of course, it’s always possible to think of drills on the fly, but doing this regularly and expecting growth or improvement is next to impossible.
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Remember that everything starts from the top. If you show up unprepared and disorganized, expect the effectiveness of your practice to reflect that fact. Here are a few suggestions to help keep things on track.
1. Show up prepared
This is absolutely the most important thing you can do for your team.
Arrive early with a plan of action that fits your team’s needs. Know your practice plan well, what items you’ll need (cones, tires, passers, etc.), if you’ll have/need any coaching help, and how many players are coming. Practice plans can change drastically depending on attendance, so having players confirm attendance in advance is a huge help.
Ice time is a precious commodity, and considering most of us are lucky to get just an hour of ice at a time, there is no time to waste. Utilizing assets, such as this website and programs like Coach Them for creating and storing practice plans is a great start in helping you keep everything on track and organized.
2. Keep things simple
This is relevant for hockey drills at every level.
Nothing is more frustrating than drawing up what you feel is the perfect drill, explaining it for 3-5 minutes, and then watching the first group go out and do it completely wrong. The best drills are the ones you can draw up and explain in two minutes or less. Or even better yet, if you can just get them going with a quick demonstration.
Kids today seem to have much shorter attention spans, so the faster you can get them moving, the better. Always study drills so you can break down the specific skill or lesson you want to teach. There is no need to overthink your drills.
Never forget that you can always (and frequently should) stop a drill to educate or elaborate on a point you feel is important to your team. Tired players always listen better after all!
I highly recommend adding progressions to your drills.
Start with the most simple version and then make them progressively more difficult or competitive as needed. When you can simply call out drills and get to work right away; it not only saves precious ice time, it builds your players’ confidence. There are many coaches at the highest levels that will run the same 3-5 drills for an entire season and just build on that foundation.
Hockey is a pretty simple game when you break it down. No need to overthink it!
4. Keep records
Save your practice plans and player evaluations to reference throughout the season. It’s a huge help in evaluating where your team is currently at, and where you want to go.
Also, finding a volunteer to film games and practices for you is a massive asset. This let’s you see things you may miss while coaching, and gives you the ability to have great film reviews.
5. Keep it fun!
Never forget that hockey is a game. Kids play because it’s fun and we should coach for the same exact reason.
If things are starting to get stale, or you start to see your players getting bored, don’t be afraid to switch things up or make a change. Sometimes you have to throw your plans away and just let loose and play!