Rob Pearson knows a thing or two about the importance of hockey sense.
The former Toronto Maple Leafs first round pick shared the ice with a number of greats and was Eric Lindros’ linemate when the two played for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.
“Hockey sense is huge in the game of hockey, it helps a player rise above the rest into star or super star status,” said Pearson, who now coaches Minor Midget AAA in the OMHA.
Long thought of as 'unteachable,' this year Pearson and his team are going to test that hypothesis. They’re trying out a new program to help hone hockey sense, called Hockey IntelliGym.
The IntelliGym is a game like software program that was adapted for hockey from a program originally designed to train fighter pilots. Researchers found that many of the cognitive functions used in aerial combat are also employed on ice.
USA Hockey has had great success with the program since introducing it to the National Team Development Program (NTDP) in 2009. The Americans have medalled in 23 of the last 24 international tournaments, winning 16 gold medals, including six IIHF U18 World Championship titles with IntelliGym.
“If IntelliGym can help my players grow, why wouldn’t we try it? It’s not that time consuming, and let’s face it, kids nowadays play a lot of video games. So for them to do two sessions a week of 30 minutes is not a lot to ask for,” said Pearson.
In the end it’s about making players free and mentally flexible says Pearson. “Many coaches push system play really hard. We need to allow our kids think for themselves on the ice, let them make mistakes and learn from them. You can still coach to win but you need to allow freedom.”
While Pearson’s players have only started with the IntelliGym he hopes it will help out. “Players have enjoyed it so far. We are only a couple weeks in but there has been a positive reaction. Anything we can do to help is a success.”
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