Spring is an interesting time of year for the hockey world. There is seemingly no end to the options available for the competitive hockey player in the “off” season – if you are offering a training option, here are some tips (from a coaching perspective) to make sure you’re serving your athletes effectively.
- Tempo: If you are expecting your athletes to compete at the same level they did over the previous 6 months, you’ll likely be disappointed. There is nothing wrong with expecting effort, but understand the early phases of the off season need to be about lower tempo, higher detail. Get in-depth with whatever skill you’re looking to teach and make sure you’re armed with the proper technical knowledge to effectively communicate the key components.
- Skating: It becomes tempting as a coach to overlook incorporating skating in to each session. It isn’t always exciting, it’s not a player-favorite, it’s an extremely intricate art, and you have to make sure your goalies are still getting beneficial training. The bottom line is there is not a single skater on your ice who does not need to work on their skating. Players and coaches who truly embrace skill development understand this is an extremely important topic.
- Games: Off-season games don’t make your players better, in fact they usually just create bad habits – habits you will need to spend time fixing later. Most spring / summer games are simply glorified rat hockey. This isn’t to say you can’t play any games over the off-season, simply use them sparingly and in an amount appropriate to the level you are coaching. The more competitive the team, the fewer games necessary.
- Off Ice Training: If you are involved with a competitive team, age-appropriate off ice training is a must. Look for qualified professionals to train your players or at minimum oversee the program design. While most coaches are well-meaning, the likelihood of injury skyrockets when the person running the workout is unqualified. A proper off ice training program should include measures to correct specific pattern overloads created by our sport.
- Planning: Many coaches view the spring and summer as a time to “wing” it when they hit the ice. While many coaches can “wing” the drills being run, the concept being taught should not. Plan the skills you want to cover and build a skill progression. This way even if you don’t have time to put together the specific practice plan, you will still be able to teach the concepts in the correct sequences. It is always best to have the full practice plan created and saved for future reference.