Utilizing The Coaches Site for Youth Hockey

Dan Arel

Dan Arel is the Director of Coaching Education and Development for the San Diego Oilers and head coach of their 10U A team. He was also named the 2020 San Diego Gulls Foundation's Coach of the Year. You can email him at [email protected]

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The Coaches Site can help improve your coaching, regardless of level. Here's a breakdown of why.
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Recently, I helped onboard 15 coaches from my home organization onto The Coaches Site. One of the most common questions I got from these coaches was, “how does this apply to me?”

It’s a fair question because at our home rink, we only deal with youth hockey and much of The Coaches Site, at first glance, does seem geared towards juniors, college, and professional hockey. However, having been a member myself for some time now, I have found the site to be incredibly useful, and I only currently coach at the 10U level.

While The Coaches Site is for all levels of coaching, I have found ways to apply lectures, drills, and more that are geared for higher levels of play, to my youth hockey team.

Doing so is surprisingly straightforward, but easy to miss if you immediately feel overwhelmed.

So how did I do it? I find what applies and I apply it, and I bank what doesn’t apply for the future, but most often, I take what I have learned, modify it, and adapt it for my age level, and tell other coaches to do the same.

DRILLS

When it comes to drills, I find I do the most work in modification because I want the same outcome being taught at all levels, but may need to simplify the steps, or how much ice is being used. At the 10U age, and honestly any age group, we focus on stations. So, while I may do a few half-ice drills or the occasional full-ice drill, most are broken into quarter-ice stations and forcing players into small area games.

Other times, it’s knowing when to let a drill go and picking one that will work. For example, Mike Johnston shared several drills over the off-season and almost every one of them I wanted to bring to practice. However, for my group, I knew sometimes it wouldn’t work.

In this post, Coach Johnston shares two drills, the Aussie Chip and Moog Shooting. The Aussie Chip, while it does accomplish some goals for the team, would result in too many players standing around and too many steps for the kids to remember. I would spend more time stopping and explaining than they would be skating. However, Moog Shooting has become a go-to warm-up drill we practice every week or every other week.

What I think surprised most coaches was that you don’t have to modify many of the skill-based drills. One popular skill-based drill we often refer to is John Kennedy Jr.’s defending with your feet presentation. While he demonstrates with a small number of skaters, we have successfully run this with 15 skaters on the ice and 4 coaches there with them helping all of those in need. 

View the entire video HERE

While drills are essential to a successful practice, and The Coaches Site is loaded with amazing presentations on drills, skill development, and more, it was the lectures and presentations that I find the most value in. It’s the value of those I brought to my club.

If you’re like me, a full-ice practice is rare, and many drills are shown using full-ice. While it can sometimes take a little work, you can often drop a few steps from a full ice drill and focus on the part that takes place in the zone. Further, you can then break it into maybe 2 or 3 drills that you will build upon each week. Then, after a few weeks of mastering each step, you can put the whole drill together and execute.

PRESENTATIONS

Nowhere else in the world can you consistently get regular content from some of the world’s best coaches and minds in the game of hockey. Yet, sometimes when listening to coaches speak, it’s easy to start thinking that at the youth level this doesn’t apply to you. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have found something valuable in nearly every presentation by another coach or professional on this site. In The psychology behind the coach-player relationship video, it was easy to get lost in overthinking that at the youth level, those relationships can’t be as deep-rooted. The children we coach will like you and may enjoy your practices, but they don’t necessarily build a relationship in the same way young adults and adults do.

View the entire presentation HERE

Yet, this presentation for me, and the challenge I give other youth hockey coaches, is to take this lesson and go further. You need to build a relationship with the players, they need to trust you, they need to understand why they are doing what they are for you, but you need to also build the same relationship with that player’s parents or guardians. The parents need the same buy-in as the player does at this level. You must win more than one person over per player because parents will want the same level of trust in you and understand why their player is being put in positions they are, or maybe why they aren’t seeing the same ice time as everyone else.

I would argue that at the youth hockey level, not enough emphasis is put on culture, relationships, and leadership. Through The Coaches Site, I have found more than enough videos on all these topics and while not always focused on the youth hockey level, they do apply. Every youth hockey coach will tell you they want to keep their core group of kids together for as long as possible. Yet, nearly all of us deal with competing programs that try to entice the better players away with promises of more ice time, high tier leagues, or simply more name recognition from the club.

While the problems with this happening at the youth level are worrisome enough and merit a discussion of their own, it’s often the culture or the team that brings families back. Is the culture one of winning at all costs or is the team winning because the culture is centered around player development and teamwork? Are the kids begging to come back and play for you because you made it fun for them, win or lose?

 The Coaches Site is Made for Youth Hockey

While some videos and drills may need some modification, at the end of the day, The Coaches Site is made for all levels of hockey, and that includes youth hockey. Not only do they have a standalone youth hockey section, but so many videos are centered around youth hockey practices, and more. Troy Ward’s Mailbag is a treasure trove of youth hockey information for youth hockey coaches. 

And now, with the Initiation Skill Series, we are about to see loads of new youth-based content flooding the site and making a youth hockey coach’s life that much easier to find easily digestible resources.

When all is said and done, coaching is about learning from each other; even talking about coaching with other youth hockey coaches isn’t always apples to apples, and you must learn to apply what will work for your team and what won’t. It’s about knowing your team, its needs, and finding the resources to help you address those needs.

I tell my coaches they will get out of this site what they want, but you must be an active participant. Watching all the videos in the world will not make you a better coach, but watching, listening, and learning to apply certainly will. As coaches, we are all unique in our personalities and styles, but we hopefully all share one goal and that is to create hockey players who fall head over heels in love with the game, who develop age-appropriate skills, and who continue to grow into better human beings on and off the ice. The Coaches Site is one of the tools I keep in my toolbox to help in achieving those goals.

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