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Giving Players the Tools they Need to Improve

By Aaron Wilbur, The Coaches Site, 05/16/24, 12:15PM EDT


What the job of a coach really is

“Not everyone is built the same way so not everyone skates the same way.”

That’s the philosophy of Corey McNabb, the Director, NextGen Development with Hockey Canada. He’s worked with teams and players of all ages and levels, and has come to understand that players show their skills in ways that work for them.

“It comes down to giving the kids the tools. As they go through the system, to me, your job as a coach is to teach them the when, the how and the why,” said McNabb.

McNabb points out that all the top players shoot different from one another and skate in different ways to be successful in their own methods.

It comes down to simplifying elements to be age-appropriate to build that confidence in the toolbox of skills.

“When they see themselves getting better at something, they’re going to continue to want to do it.”

In setting up game-realistic drills the first step is to have the opportunity to let players develop their hockey sense. Coaches should determine how a drill fits into game application, but leave the decisions on which way to turn, how to get around a defender, and other choices up to players to figure out on their own.

The Hockey Canada Player Pathways are designed for development. The hockey calendar finishes later – at the end of winter – without eliminating teams and having their season end in January if they lose in the playoffs.

This is an increased emphasis on development at the start of the year, with more competition taking place at the end of the season when it should be.

Now that it’s the off-season, if parents are looking for spring hockey, McNabb recommends programs that are focused on fun and individual development over multiple travel tournaments. 

A final reminder in that any situation, there is always going to be a ‘best’. Someone always has to win and lose. But that doesn’t mean they are automatically ‘exceptional’ or ‘elite’ compared to the rest of their peers.

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