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Planning a Better Practice in Four Easy Steps

By Ontario Minor Hockey Assocation, 10/21/14, 6:15PM EDT

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4 Things for Coaches to Consider when Planning your next Practice

Keep Them Moving
Whether it’s practice, clinic, or camp, ice sessions should be designed to engage every participant consistently. Kids don’t attend practice to watch others play. Kids enjoy practices when they have fun and they experience an improvement in their overall skills.


Emphasize the Fundamentals
Build a foundation that will never crack by properly teaching the basics. Learning the fundamentals and perfecting the same basics at every level of play is essential to having any chance of success.

If one player does not execute the fundamentals of his position correctly, the most sophisticated drill or play in the world will not work. It is unfair and not fun to focus on running plays that will fail 9 out of 10 times. Practices that focus on Team Play over executing fundamentals are cheating every participant out of the chance to learn the game properly.
Do not attempt to replicate plays you see in NHL and Junior games! Every scheme that is attempted in a junior or NHL game is supported by years of training in the fundamentals of the game.


Incorporate a Progression of Skill Development for Every Participant
Regardless of a player’s skill level, it is your responsibility as a coach to teach every kid on your team. It is no secret that if kids experience improvement in their skills, no matter what their athletic ability may be, they will continue to participate and return to learn more. Teach the skills in the proper order so you can continue to improve and build on each training session.


Considerations for Development
Following are some general observations of youth sports as stated in the Long Term Athlete Development Plan.

  • Young athletes under-train, over-compete; Low training to competition ratios in early years
  • Training in early years focuses on outcomes (winning) rather than processes (optimal training)
  • Poor training between 6-16 years of age cannot be fully corrected (athletes will never reach genetic potential)
  • The best coaches are encouraged to work at elite level;

Basically it takes 10,000 hours or 10,000 repetitions to master a skill. With the ages of 9 – 12 being the most important for skill acquisition it is during this time period that the skills included in the specialty clinics need to be repeated consistently. To that end, the skills were chosen so that a coaching staff can work on these specific skills until a reasonable level of mastery is achieved and then move onto more advanced skills.


Ultimately, if you as a coach can master teaching these skills, and players can become proficient at performing these skills then success will be the outcome. The goal is to concentrate on teaching these limited quantity of skills and move on only once the players can reasonably master them.

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