It is often said the small things make the biggest difference. Here are five simple things to watch for in practices which will – if repeated throughout the course of a season – will make a huge difference:
1) Drill Start – If the drill starts on the goal line, make sure your players feet are completely behind the goal line. Don’t allow cheating in any of your drills. If a player cheats 5 feet on every drill repetition 20 times during practice, for 50 practices a season, that’s almost a mile of skating the player has cheated his/her way out of! Little stuff adds up.
2) Drill End – Just as starting is important, finishing is just as important (if not more). If the drill finishes at the blue line, make sure your players don’t stop skating until after they have crossed the blue line. This habit reenforces not letting up. Letting up early can lead to sloppy play or even injury. If you’re running a more advanced drill that finishes with a rush to one end, have the players hustle back to the red line on the whistle ending the drill. This will help players naturally get in the habit of hustling back – hopefully for a backcheck during the game.
3) Quick Starts – When beginning a drill, force your players to execute a proper quick start. The degree to which they are able to execute the quick start depends on their age, but it should still be reenforced at all age levels. Making this a habit in practice will help your players transition this into the game.
4) Stop in Front of the Net – Too often, drills are run at a tempo that forces players to “get out of the way” quickly to try and keep as many players moving as possible. While it’s good to have players moving, don’t force your players to abandon a rebound in front of the net. Give them time to stop in front and play their rebounds. As the goaltenders get better, more and more shots need to be scored on rebounds – give your players time to work on this during practice. Try making a simple rule for all your drills – after you shoot, you must stop in front of the net and look for a rebound.
5) Carrying the Puck – If a drill begins with a player carrying the puck, make sure they start with it on their stick instead of pushing it 10 feet in front of them. If you force them to practice their quick starts at the beginning of the drill, and also carry the puck, you’re forcing the player to improve his/her explosive abilities with the puck. Also, if the drill involves a tight-turn around a cone, don’t allow your players to chip the puck to the side of the cone they’re turning and pick it up – force them to carry the puck all the way around the cone.