Thursday, 07 June 2012 08:52

Coaching - Intro

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Coaches are one of the most important pieces of a successful hockey team. They must know the strengths and weaknesses of each player, be able to teach and strengthen systems, abilities and principles and to be able to adapt the team's play style to different situations. In short, they must always be analysing the performance of their team and players and finding ways to improve their performance.

Traditionally, coaches use their practise time to improve the abilities of their players while implementing various strategies (called a system). However, team performance is largely based on the adoption of a number of principles that take advantage of the players abilities and upon which the strategies are based.

The relation between strategy, principles and ability can be represented by a pyramid. The pyramid relies on base abilities, and is composed mostly of principles while the strategy relies on the underlying principles and abilities.

Strategy principles abilities pyramid

It is therefore important for coaches to ensure players have a strong ability base, usually acquired during practises and games in the first years of playing the game. Once the abilities are at a sufficient level, the focus should shift to teaching the hockey principles. These principles should be reinforced through practises and reviews using whiteboards for players at all levels of play. Finally, a strategy should be implemented that takes into acount player ability and acquired principles.


At the begining of the year, coaches should first conduct an evaluation of their player's abilities. This will let the coaches know each player's strength and weakness from the ability point of view. These evaluations are usually done by independent evaluators before the team is formed. If no evaluation was conducted or the evaluation criteria are not adequate, a practise session should be alotted for evaluation.

In a further step, evaluation of the acquired hockey principles should be conducted. This can be done either via a paper questionnaire with game-like examples (what would you do in this situation... option a, b, c, d) or via scrimmage play during a practise.

Once the abilities of the players and their understanding of hockey principles are evaluated, the coach should look at the results and find the strengths and weaknesses of the team. The coaching staff should then establish a teaching plan for the year that will work on the weaknesses of the team, reinforce and teach hockey principles as well as establish a strategy that takes advantage of the team's strengths while protecting against the exploit of the team's weaknesses.

Teaching abilities, principles and strategy can be done using various methods as outlined below:

Abilities - Practise, off-ice

Principles - Whiteboard, practise, off-ice, video

Strategy - Whiteboard, practise, video

It is important for coaches to note that drills used in practises can combine aspects of abilities, principles and strategy. Good coaches will use drills that will reinforce a combination of abilities and principles or abilities and strategy. This will maximise the effectiveness of the practise time. This should also be supported by off-ice sessions and whiteboard/video sessions to teach material that does not require expensive ice time.

Coaches should re-evaluate their team every few months to note where the team has improved, and where it still needs improvement. This will also allow them to modify the long-term plan accordingly. The new evaluation scores should be compared with the previous ones to know how effective the plan has been so far. In an ideal case, each player should have a file kept by the association which contains his previous evaluations and comments from coaches which could be used to improve player development.



In short, coaches should evaluate their players, create a plan, teach and reinforce while continuing to re-evaluate their players and modify the plan as the year progresses. Coaches should emphasize the teaching of principles while re-inforcing their abilities through the use of advanced drills supported by off-ice work, whiteboard teaching sessions and video review. Finally a strategy should be implemented which takes advantage of the team's strengths while protecting against the exploit of their weaknesses.



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Read 7310 times Last modified on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 15:36
Jean-Michel Roy

15+ Years experience as a goaltender

20+ Years experience playing hockey

Currently a goalie coach for Phil Martin's Goalie Academy.


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