2 Jan 2018–While much of the United States and Canada is mired in a record, 100-year cold stretch, it is often the case that coaches’ practice plans freeze as well.
It is certainly understandable, and easy to fall victim. But challenge yourself not to let it happen to you and your team. It’s never too cold to plant a new hockey seed.
There are near countless ways to re-energize your practices. Here are a few suggestions.
- Start working on a new forecheck: By now your opponents are expecting you to run your standard forecheck. That’s okay. Your team has it down. Great! But start working on another complementary forecheck. A more aggressive one. Your team has time to get it down, before the playoffs. Think of the surprise on opponents faces–and results on the scoreboard. It’s good to have options.
- Begin teaching a new Defensive Zone Coverage: Challenge your team to play man-to-man in the defensive zone. There are plenty of benefits to man-to-man: Clear accountability, increased defensive skill, increased offensive skill, to name a few. Even if you don’t use it in a game, your players will be smarter, quicker-thinking, and more skilled as a result.
- Introduce a new small area game… or two: A few years ago, we started adding two simultaneous small area games. To increase competition, we broke-out the team into 3-on-3 squads. If you have a small team of 14 (3 forward lines, 2 defensive pairs, 2 goaltenders) this works well, but it also works with more robust rosters. Both mini-games run exactly the same for a set amount of time. At the end, winners play each other and losers play each other. Players love it, and it creates increased competition and keeps a freshness to your practices. Give it a shot. We will expand on this in a future post.
- How about something else entirely? Say, a new recognition program? Start a practice puck for the player who works hardest in a practice. That player puts their number on the puck, carries it until the next practice, and chooses the next “Super-Hustler.” The same can be done with a stuffed mascot.
These are just a few of ideas we have used in the past. The possibilities are endless. And the benefits are exponential. It doesn’t have to be a big thing to have big results.
The seeds you plant in January, may just blossom in March during the playoffs!
Do you have a favorite post-winter break wrinkle? Have you tried one of these? Do you do something else entirely? Let us know about it. Leave a comment, telling us about it.
Best of luck to your teams in 2018!