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Six Keys to Designing A More Effective Practice

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 10/10/14, 3:30PM EDT

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Elements may change at various points of the season but the components remain the same

Six key elements make up a practice. The order or emphasis of the elements may change at various points throughout the season and at various levels of play, but the basic components remain the same. 

  1. Warm-up 
    Warm-up starts slowly and covers all muscles and major body areas which are used during skill instruction. Stretching should begin in the dressing room prior to going on the ice. Once on the ice, skating and stretching drills can complete the warm-up. 
  2. Instruction 
    The instruction starts with known content and progresses to the application of skills to situations simulating a game. Instruction may be in hockey, personal, social skills or in sport values. It is important to progress from simple to complex skills (e.g., stationary passing to passing while in motion). Keep your athletes active by including them in the demonstrations during instruction. 
  3. Skill Practice 
    During this part of the practice the athletes practice skills that have been demonstrated during the instruction. Emphasis should be upon creating competition-like conditions. It is important to practice at game speed whenever possible.
  4. Fitness 
    This area of the practice is concerned with physical conditioning activities which are specific to the players’ needs. This is done by setting work times for your athletes that stress the correct energy systems. Although hockey is primarily an anaerobic activity, the aerobic component should also be emphasized as aerobic fitness is essential to top performance, particularly in young athletes under the age of 14. Often fitness activities can be built into the drills that are designed to practice technical skills. The players then receive the benefit of improving both their fitness and their skills. 
  5. Fun 
    Fun should be tied into all components of your practice, however, be careful that you achieve the objectives of your practice. 
  6. Evaluation 
    Evaluation is used to assess the effectiveness of the major components of the practice or of a total practice. It is useful to spend a few minutes with your athletes after practice to get some feedback on the practice. It can take the form of a five minute summary on areas that went well and areas that the athletes and/or coach need to work on. The topics discussed can then be built into the next practice.

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