When I get to the rink I really enjoy watching what’s happening on the other ice surfaces at the arena complex (even sometimes watching what is happening out on the soccer fields or in the gym as well). It always interests me how other coaches run their practices and without question I learn something new - often a new drill or a new spin on one that I use regularly.
Often though I find that some coaches don’t utilize their time with the team as well as they could. Here are eleven DO’s and DON’Ts of running practice.
DO plan your practice in advance with drills that you want to do, teaching points you want to make and how much time you want to spend on them.
DO make sure there is a reason for doing a drill and a focus for players while they are doing it. For example, if you are doing a passing and shooting drill, tell your athletes to make “hard” passes all of the time and to shoot below the goalie’s gloves.
DON’T spend too much time explaining a drill. I watched a coach spend five minutes at a white board on the glass the other day. I am pretty sure he lost his player’s attention about minute number three.
DO demonstrate drills when possible. All players don’t always understand best by looking at a diagram on a board. Show them how to do a drill and don’t always default to the board.
DON’T forget to go both ways or change sides so that players work on skills “left and right”. Even when you are doing some skating drill with stops or turns, make sure players are practicing from both sides. I often will tell players in some drills that they always have to stop facing the benches - forcing them to stop both left and right.
DO incorporate progression into your drills or use a certain drill’s set up and patterning to practice some other skill. For instance, my passing drill called Czech 1 (the old horseshoe passing drill) can become Czech 1v1 where two players go from the same line and the first player becomes a defenceman on a 1 on 1. You could then progress to 2v0, 2v1 and even 3v2 sending five players at the same time.
DO incorporate skills into your on ice warm up. Players can warm up just as well carrying a puck around the ice as just skating. Warm up can also consist of working on some skating technique. One of the warm up drill I use a lot consists of different skating parts that work on striding, backwards skating, Mohawk turns and crossovers. By the end, my players are ready to go AND they have improved their skating skills.
DO utilize all your coaches in practice. Make sure they have meaningful things to do on the ice in each drill.
DO incorporate some kind of competitive component to your practice. Do something that requires battles or keeping score.
DON’T leave the ice without having some fun. A game, a relay race, a small area game - anything that makes players want to come back and have fun again the next time.
DO make sure there is aerobic conditioning involved somehow in your practice. Whether it’s “disguised” conditioning playing full ice 3v3 or skating lengths at the end, players typically don’t get much conditioning outside of your practice times.
Practice is the most important time for you as a coach. This is where you can make a difference in the skill level of your players and the team play of your group. It doesn’t take much planning to make a practice run well and be productive.