Minor hockey coaching questions

Discussion in 'The Rink' started by Yukon Joe, Oct 1, 2019.

  1. Yukon Joe Registered User

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    So I'm the head coach for one son's initiation team, and an assistant coach on another son's novice team. And I have questions...

    Novice: It's only week two and we haven't had any games yet, but my novice kid is just not really engaged. When I say it's time to go to hockey he starts moving really slowly, says he's 'tired' (despite him being active as can be 5 minutes earlier). In practices, he isn't out-and-out refusing to do them, but he's very obviously going at maybe 50% speed.

    How do I get him to be a little more engaged and having fun? His most recent practice was a tiny bit better, and he was right in there when we start playing games like freeze tag or asteroids, it's just the practice drills. It's to the point where we will definitely re-assess whether he continues to play hockey next season, but the season just started (and other activities have already filled up too), so we're kind of stuck with hockey for this year.

    My response might have been "well just do more fun games", but I'm not the head coach and it isn't my call.


    Initiation: We had our first cross-ice games last weekend. The teams by design are NOT tiered - they're all supposed to be balanced. My kid is definitely a weak skater. That's okay - I can try to work on that with him. And he at least appears to be having fun out there. My question isn't about him.

    I have two other kids on the team. One kids father coaches minor hockey at a reasonably high level, and another kids father is associated with the NHL. Both kids are quite skilled and talented - I was blown away when I saw one kid blast a shot top shelf. Most kids this age can't raise the puck at all, even using the lighter blue-coloured pucks. But both kids also really dominate the play when they're on the ice. Being cross-ice there's so many bodies they can't just skate around everyone, but they have the puck much more often than the other players.

    So... I don't want to hold back the talented kids. I want them to develop their skills as much as they can. But I want to make sure the other 7 kids on the team get a meaningful hockey experience as well.

    The only thing I can think of is to ask them to pass. But at this age no one is passing, there are no positions, no overall strategy or tactics. We're just trying to work on basic hockey skills like skating and puck-handling. Or do I just try to keep both of them out on the ice together as much as possible, so they A: have someone who can match their speed and ability, and B: maximize for the other kids the times when the talented kids aren't on the ice?

    Any ideas in either situation?
     
  2. I am toxic . . . but I'm not viral

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    Consider suggesting the strong initiation kids be moved up to a higher age group. If that can't be done, tier the cross-ice groupings (ie. I assume the full team is balanced, and plays against another balanced full team - tier within both teams, set up the cross ice games that way).

    For your novice, they need games to look forward to. In the meantime, if they aren't going 100% in drills, at least get them to focus on some aspect of technique - if skating, working the outside edge (usually the left foot); if puckhandling, working the wrist roll/making a roof over the puck with their blade, and not looking directly at the puck, rather looking a blade length or two in front. Find out what they are currently crazy about (lego, minecraft, Inspector Gadget) and use the language from those things to challenge them in the drills. Finally, gently remind them that it is a large commitment, both money and time, and if they don't give it an honest effort this season, then next season you try a different activity.
     
  3. FFWRX Unregistered User

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    You could try a hat trick rule if they cant play up. After you get 3 goals you have to pass.
     
  4. Yukon Joe Registered User

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    Moving kid up an age category is not going to be possible I suspect. Teams are already formed. And the novice category teams have been practicing for a few weeks now.

    Trying to match the other team's good players against mine... worth a shot somewhat, but these two kids are really good. I've been coaching at this age level for a few years now and they might be the best kids I've seen for that age.

    And "three goals then pass" is what I'd like to try and avoid, just because it's not like anyone on the team is open for a pass - it's still an age where most kids just swarm around the puck. Plus I don't want to stifle their development, and their dads have way more pull in the hockey world than I do.


    Thankfully my novice kid is showing a modicum more interest and enthusiasm out there. Hopefully it'll just continue to pick up over the year.
     
  5. jw2 Registered User

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    novice - some kids take more time. Is this the first year he seems uninterested? Is he bored? When kids are only practicing drills, and not free skating or scrimmaging, it can get boring. Help him understand that the drills make him a better skater and a better puck handler for the games. But if hes having fun, while not paying attention, that comes with the age.

    kid 2 - here, it is the league that determines when kids get moved up. I would not discourage these kids, or force them to change, simply because they are good. I'd try to teach other kids where to go on offense (scoring/passing position, rebounds) and defense. Let them take advantage of the kids carrying the puck and learn positioning away from the puck. It's amazing what a few rebound goals does for a kids enthusiasm.
     
  6. Yukon Joe Registered User

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    Bump.

    As the season approaches an end the stories are pretty much the same. Novice kid has certainly improved his skills over the year, but struggles to stay engaged. We don't have to force him to go to hockey any longer, but games can be painful to watch as there are only so many times I can yell "Look at the puck" before he tunes me out, which I don't want.

    Initiation kid, this is where I have a question. He tries to follow the play, but the really skilled players control the puck so much out there he gets discouraged and then just kind of halfheartedly skates around out there.

    So yesterday (I'm out on the ice with him) I lean down and tell him just to stand in front of the other goalie and wait for the puck. So he does. At first he looks silly as the play is on the other half of the ice and he's just standing there. But sure enough within about a minute someone shoots at the net, rebound, and my kid scores his very first goal ever.

    Is that good coaching, or bad coaching?
     
  7. goalie29 Registered User

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    I say "good coaching". Not everyone is a playmaker. Gretzky pulled up everyone around him, right?

    I have to say, I laughed when I read your last paragraph. I play in a fun work league where the skill level spread is almost as large as it gets - from young ladies who left college hockey a couple of years ago, to older ladies who are learning how to skate. I'm a goalie. There are a few beginners who have been coached to stand in front of me and take whatever they can get. And they do score occasionally! Makes the game more fun for them, and for their teams and they celebrate like it's game 7 when they put one in. There is no benefit to expecting them to try to keep up with the skill players, so they use their abilities where they are right now.

    I don't think it's like you're setting your son up to a life time of being a cherry picker. If this increases his enthusiasm, it's possible it will lead to a jump in his skills. Sports are supposed to be, in the end, fun for everyone. Unless someone's cheating or hurting people, go for it, I say!
     
    cowboy82nd likes this.
  8. Pablo Messier Registered User

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    I think it's good coaching because you are teaching him that it's where a player is positioned without the puck that matters and possibly leading to the understanding to think ahead to where the puck will go rather than following and chasing. However, I think the first post says it all. If the player is not engaged in a game and not doing hockey drills, but is right in there when it's a fun activity, then that tells you that the drills need to be changed to be more fun.
     

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