Photo Credit: Julie Whelan Photography
The season grinds on.
At this point in the season it’s easy to feel as if your team's fate has already been determined. But it’s actually an ideal time to do some reflecting and skill honing.
For coaches, regardless of where you are in the standings, be sure to be positive and optimistic with your players. In some cases, winning, as our society tends to define it, may not be a realistic goal, but a creative and caring coach can find a way to keep the team focused on improvement. Remember, it is common for teams that struggled earlier in the year to compete very well in the second game against that same opponent later in the season when development is emphasized over outcomes.
Be sure that practice continues to be fun and that you include some small area games and competition drills to keep the players energized and enthusiastic about coming to the rink. You could also consider mixing in a few unorthodox drills that require players to adjust to new situations.
Players also benefit from a bit of self reflection this time of year. What elements of your game can you improve? Continuing to work hard on skating, passing and puck handling skills opens up endless possibilities for you game and allows you to play in any system a coach may deploy.
Both players and coaches can also get a leg up by training a skill that is often overlooked, especially as the season grinds on. That skill is hockey sense.
The constituent parts of hockey sense are well known, though historically viewed as something a player possessed innately. The term refers to the ability to predict game flow, set-up plays, find space, and see opportunities before they develop. A strong cognitive game not only improves performance, but it’s also a valuable skill for safety as players who are more aware of their dynamic surroundings tend to suffer less unanticipated contact and get hurt less.
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There is a proven solution to training hockey sense. A software program called Hockey IntelliGym has been shown to help players hone the mental side of their game any time of the year. Hockey IntelliGym was first created by cognitive psychologists, computer engineers, and game theorists to help military fighter pilots develop precise instincts. It was then adapted for the ice. A number of Junior clubs have used the product as have recent OMHA champions.
Hockey IntelliGym is currently used by over 50,000 athletes aged 10 to 25. This includes many from across the ranks of the OMHA. If a player trains twice a week, results usually show up on ice after about 6 to 8 weeks. With consistent use, the Hockey IntelliGym may just be what a player needs to round out their hockey IQ.
So while the season is on its way to being completed, the optimists within us say that there’s still a lot left to go. Finish strong!