9 Keys to Playing with Speed
I am going to start by telling you about an epiphany that I had about three years ago. I have been coaching since 1988 and I am embarrassed to say that I had this epiphany after coaching for 24 years. It came to me in my son’s Atom year and I like to think all coaches know this intuitively (I certainly did) and we teach so many things that support this fact but…we don’t really live and die by it with everything we do. So here it is:
Hockey is all about speed.
(and you can substitute any sport for hockey in this blog!)
Playing fast, and not just skating fast, makes better hockey players and wins hockey games. Everything we do as coaches needs to be with speed in mind.
Here are the things that we work on to develop speed in our play:
1) Off ice conditioning always is all about being quicker. Players should be working on speed work, core strength and conditioning. All three things play a crucial part in playing the game faster.
2) Skating skills learned during on ice drills should be about quickness and speed. Clearly there are fundamentals on proper striding and technique but skating drills should also be at full speed and executing "on the edge". If players are trying a new skateboarding trick they expect to fall, players working on new skating skills should expect to fall as well.
3) Skill work needs to be done at full speed. Passing, shooting, puck handling has to be done at tempo during practice. My experience as player was that every time I made a jump to the next level there was a huge difference in speed of execution of skills. If you want to be better you have to execute faster.
4) Individual tactics need to be practiced at full speed. Anexample is working on angling on the forecheck. If players aren't playing/skating/battling at full speed in the drills there is not much benefit and improvement. Players must be practicing tactics with high intensity.
5) Players need to understand team tactics and systems in order to execute them at top speed. I always try to keep the system play as simple as possible so that players don't have to be always thinking "where I am supposed to go now?" There easier it is to understand team tactics and system play the quicker players can execute and the faster they can play the game.
6) Everything at practice needs to always be at full speed. Make sure players are getting enough down time in practice to be able to practice at full speed the entire time.
7) Mental preparation needs to focus on going full speed ALL OF THE TIME. Constant reminders are crucial and if your team has some regular visualization exercises they should always include playing fast.
8) Shift length needs to be appropriate for players to be able to play full speed while they are on the ice. Maybe one of the most important factors in playing full speed is making sure shift lengths are kept to no more than 40 seconds. Line changes can be a huge factor in dictating tempo, flow and quality of a team's play.
9) The last thing I tell a team in the dressing room before a game is "Play full speed. Pressure the puck carrier." The two go hand in hand and I know that when we do those two things we tend to succeed.