Four Years Of Initiation Before Spring Hockey
After coaching my boys for their first 4 years of Initiation hockey I finally got the oportunity to help as assist coach for my oldest son’s 06 spring hockey team.
Again after 4 years of Initiation hockey I jumped at the chance. Needless to say it was quite an eye opener. There was no more getting parents attention because their child has to go to the bathroom or making sure the kids are shooting on the right net. None of that, this was the big time. Well maybe in my own little world.
These kids on the spring hockey team were motivated and came to play. Because it was the teams first year together we as coaches decided to keep things pretty low key and only went to 1 tounament with 7 – hour and a half practices to prepare.
What follows are some key take home principles that I found invaluable during the tournament and practices and will definitely utilize in future coaching situations.
Get the Players to Give 100% Effort
The players owe it to themselves and their teammates to give 100% effort at all times. There is no worse feeling going in to the dressing room after a close loss knowing you could of gave more and what might have been possible had you left everything on the ice. It’s also not fair when your teammates are going all out and your leaving some gas in the tank.
The Opposition Will Push Back
One thing I experienced during the spring hockey tournament was the push back. When you have the opposition on the ropes heading into the 3rd period with a lead whether substantial or only by one, every team will experience the push back.
The push back is the oppositions last push, their last gasp of air to get back into the game. They throw absolutely everything they have left at you to try and come back. How you respond to this push back is what separates the champions from the we gave it a good shots.
It took us until our third game to realize that when you come out for the third period with the lead you have to dig extremely deep to withstand the other team’s push back and to not take your foot off the pedal. We tied one game after having a 4-1 lead going into the 3rd, a 6-4 loss after a 4-2 lead heading into the 3rd in another game, and then finally figured it out with a 6-5 win holding on to the lead through the 3rd.
Championship teams know how to play with a lead. They know how to play to win and just not play not to lose. There’s a difference.
Take Each Spring Hockey Game Period By Period
Forget what happened last period the next period is a new game and the score is 0-0. Go out and win that period! Do the same for the next period after that. This help narrow your focus and concentrate on the present. It can release a bit of pressure while still keeping the next goal right in front of you which is to win the period your currently playing.
Battle By Battle In Spring Hockey
The above principle can be further expanded to include more in-depth breakdown by playing each game period by period, shift by shift, and battle by battle. The team plays to win the period the line plays to win every shift, while the individual goes out every shift and tries to win every battle for the puck, every battle for position in front of the net, and every race to the puck.
Keep It Simple
I find simple is always best. As the saying goes something that is simple doesn’t necessarily make it easy. The coaching staff for the 06 Jr. Raiders spring hockey team came up with 6 tasks that if the team were to execute these tasks 99% of the time there was a greater chance of success. Here were our teams tasks or processes:
- Do not lose the puck in the grey zone(the first 3-4 feet inside of your blue line). This is a very crucial area for turn overs.
- Defensemen do not try to carry the puck out of their own end unless they are absolutely WIDE OPEN! Either they pass it to the winger along the boards or shoot it up hard off the boards.
- The centremen help out the defensemen in the defensive zone and help out their wingers in the offensive zone.
- Wingers live and die by the boards. They must be along the boards to accept a pass from a D man. Wingers must get the puck out of the grey zone. The best way is usually a chip along the boards.
- When the team is in neutral ice and in control, make sure you get the puck in DEEP! This is another terrible place for a turnover.
- Defensemen must keep the opponents to the outside in the defensive end. Also if the puck is loose in front of your net get control or at the very least slap into the corner out of harms way.
There you have it 5 foundational ideas that I will definitely be carrying forward with me as I continue coaching my two boys in spring hockey and regular season hockey as well.
Staying true to these 5 principles; giving 100%, warding off the push back from the opposition, Taking every game period by period, shift by shift and battle by battle, and keeping it simple, managed to get us a bronze medal in our first kick at the can in spring hockey. Hopefully you can utilize a few of these on your team.
If you happen to be looking at an off ice program to help with spring hockey, you will definitely want to check out Kevin Neeld’s Ultimate Hockey Transformation! Kevin is currently the head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins and has worked with the Women’s Olympic Hockey Team.
If you are more interested in strictly increasing skating speed, Kevin also has a great book Speed Training For Hockey which explains exactly how to improve your skating speed and explosiveness.