The 3 Areas of Hockey Dominance




Improve your Physical Skills, Mental Skills, and Physical Conditioning to Dominate your Opponent!

In this post I’m going to discuss what I call the 3 AREAS OF HOCKEY DOMINANCE… now I know that title sounds a little dramatic, but the reality is, if you implement the information I’m about to share with you into your hockey development strategy, you will be miles ahead of your opponent, EVERY TIME YOU STEP ON THE ICE!

This video will be equally beneficial for both players, coaches, and even parents who want to be on-board with their players’ development. So, let’s go ahead and get started!

3_areas_of_hockey_dominanceThe 3 Areas of Hockey Dominance
The 3 Areas of Hockey Dominance are Physical Skills, Mental Skills, and Physical Conditioning. Now we can break each of these areas down into sub-categories, and get very specific, which we will, but at the end of the day, the best players at ANY age group (that’s correct, I said ANY age group), will be the ones who perform the best in each of these 3 areas… neglect even one of these areas, and we’re giving our opponent the opportunity to gain an advantage over US!

Physical Skills
We all know hockey is an extremely dynamic game… there is so much going on at so many different levels of cognition… our strategy will be to systematically eliminate as much THINKING as possible on the PHYSICAL and TACTICAL aspects of the game, so that our players’ brains can free to function at higher levels during game play. I know that might sound a little confusing, so let me give a quick example:

There are three key components that go into an effective skating stride:

  1. Proper knee bend
  2. Correct pushing angle – which is to the side at about a 45 degree angle
  3. Full extension (including the toe-snap) with a full recoil back to the starting position

Well… that’s a lot to think about! If a player had to worry about all that on the ice, the likelihood of he or she to be able to read, anticipate, and react at any level of proficiency would be extremely LOW!

So, we need to teach and reinforce proper technical skills until they become second nature. Our players should execute the three elements of a skating stride properly, every single stride, of every single game, without ever having to think about whether or not they’re doing it properly!

Now obviously, skating isn’t the only physical skill that players need to be able to perform in their sleep. A few years ago I put myself through an interesting thought exercise. I wanted to map out ALL of the skills a hockey player needed to be able to perform. So I sat down and wrote out every single variation of every single skill in hockey I could think of. I might have missed a few, but I think I got most of it.

I knew the list would be big… but I was surprised by HOW big it really was! Here’s what I came up with:

Skating Skills

  • Forward Skating in a Straight Line
  • Inside Edges
  • Outside Edges
  • Forward Crossovers
  • 5-Step Crossovers for Drive Skating
  • V-Starts, Crossover Starts
  • 2-Foot Stop, Inside Edge Stop
  • Outside Edge Stop
  • Crossover Stop
  • Backward C-Cuts
  • Backward Cross-Unders
  • Backward 3-Step Cross-Unders for Drag Skating
  • Pivots – Forward to Backward to the left side and to the right
  • Pivots – Backward to Forward to the left side and to the right
  • Inside Reverse Pivots both directions
  • Inside Mohawks both directions
  • Power Turns both directions

That’s just skating! At some point you’ve gotta put a puck on your stick, and hopefully be able to execute the following, WHILE maintaining proper skating technique on everything we just mentioned:

Puck Skills

  • Stationary Stickhandling (to the Left Side, Right Side, and Center of Body)
  • Toe Drag
  • Deking
  • Puck Protection & Body Positioning
  • Puck Control While Skating

Passing

  • Cushion Puck While Receiving & Sweep While Delivering
  • Touch Passes
  • Drop Passes
  • Saucer Passes
  • Bank Passes
  • Chip Passes for Breakouts
  • Backhand Passes

If everything got as planned… hopefully you get a chance at a shot on net. SO… you’d better have a solid shot selection to choose from!

Shooting

  • Wrist Shot
  • Snap Shot
  • Slap Shot
  • One-Timer
  • Deflections
  • Backhanders
  • Flip Shot for Dump-ins

Now obviously it takes YEARS to become 100% proficient at all of these skills… but that’s all the more reason to begin implementing these training methods AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Structured training sessions are key to making this happen, and it can, and should be done at even the YOUNGEST age groups!

Get Skills “Out of the Way”
As I mentioned earlier, our objective is to get our players to become SO well-skilled, that we can psychologically “get skills out of the way” so to speak, opening up mental real-estate for the more complex aspects of the game. This development strategy will allow our players to think the game more quickly and clearly than the opponent.

So… what are the MENTAL SKILLS that we should be teaching our players? well, I’m glad you asked! The same day I penciled out all the physical skills of the game, I also went through and mapped out all the MENTAL aspects of the game, which include both tactical skills and positional, or situational, understanding.

Defensive Tactics

  • Gap Control
  • Force vs. Contain strategy
  • Angling
  • Checking
  • Pinning
  • 1 on 1’s, 2 on 1’s, 2 on 2’s, 3 on 2’s
  • Defensive Support

Offensive Tactics

  • Triangulation
  • Cycling
  • Front and Backside Support
  • Delays
  • Give and Go’s
  • Angling and Body Positioning on Forecheck

Neutral Zone Tactics

  • Area Passing
  • Timing
  • Neutral Zone Support
  • Backchecking (which sort of happens in any of the 3 zones, depending on where the turnover occurred)

defensive_zone_coveragePositioning
Continuing along on the mental skills side of the equation, we progress into POSITIONING. The objective with positioning is not only to BE in the right place at the right time, but our players must be capable of DOING the right thing, while in the right place, at the right time, or in other words, applying the proper TACTIC while in the proper POSITION.

For example, let’s say the other team has the puck in the corner, and we’re in the defensive zone… it’s great if our strong side defenseman is near the puck-carrier, in proper position, and ready to make a play, but if he FORCES when he should have CONTAINED… that’s a huge problem. Our players need to be able to read and react both positionally, AND tactically, in order to execute at the highest level.

hockey_tacticsTactical Play can Become Instinctive too
Now, in case you haven’t noticed… many of the tactical skills can also be developed to the point where they become INSTINCTIVE, meaning, players don’t have to THINK about them anymore… just like our objective with physical skills, we want to develop these mental, tactical skills to the point where our players no longer have to think about how to react.

Continuing with our example… The decision of whether to force or contain when the other team has the puck in the defensive corner can be made LONG before our defenseman steps on the ice. Our players should be able to simply RECOGNIZE the ques because they’ve been there a million times in practice, and then react correctly WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE A CONSCIOUS DECISION EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Once a player gets to the point where he or she is no longer THINKING about the Physical and Tactical skills of the game, but acting and reacting instinctively, the game SLOWS down for the player, and his or her effectiveness increases!

Physical Conditioning
Developing a player’s physical and mental skills is obviously EXTREMELY important… but it’s flat out NOT ENOUGH, if we truly want our players to reach their highest and best.

Our third area of hockey dominance is the one that is most often over-looked… PHYSICAL CONDITIONING. Let me start by saying that ANYTIME you hear about something that is commonly overlooked, your ears should perk up, because that means there’s an area where you can gain an ADVANTAGE over your opponent… well, THIS is one of those areas!

Without getting into a whole bunch of “Jeremy Weiss personal history,” let me just say this… I’ve played some fairly decent hockey in my day, with some fairly decent players… including quite a few who are in the NHL now. Even at high levels of play, including Jr “A” in the Ontario Provincial League, and College Hockey, I was always surprised at how FEW players got to the weight room with ANY level of consistency! There is a HUGE advantage to be gained by the player who consistently executes a top-notch, hockey-specific, conditioning program both in the off-season, as well as the in-season.

Intrinsic Factors
Developing our strength and conditioning will not only help us to physically out-muscle our opponent, and go harder for longer without getting as tired… but there are many intrinsic benefits as well that play a huge role on the ice. Some of these include confidence, leadership, motor coordination, and a whole host of others.

Weiss Tech Hockey is associated with a few high-quality, hockey-specific, off-ice training programs that we use and recommend. You can check them out here:

Everything is Interlaced
So those are the three areas of hockey dominance. The interesting thing about implementing this development strategy is that each of these skills play into each other, and as one improves, it brings aspects of the other two up with it. For example, as a player’s leg and core strength develops because of his or her OFF-ICE CONDITIONING PROGRAM, he or she is able to execute and hold a better knee bend, which results in an improved skating stride – a PHYSICAL SKILL, this improves the player’s ability to maintain better gap control on a 1 on 1, which is a MENTAL & TACTICAL SKILL… You see… it’s ALL INTERLACED! The trick as a coach is to get the ball rolling, and provide the type of learning environment where progress can be made skill upon skill, concept upon concept.

A Huge Thanks!
I just wanted to take a minute and say thanks for checking out this post, and thank you for participating on our drills and skills blog. If this post has been helpful to you as a player, coach, or parent, please feel free to continue to spread the word to your hockey friends, teammates, and associates… we sure appreciate it!

Jeremy

6 Ways to Make your Hockey Practices More Effective

The Ice “Crisis:”
It’s no secret that there’s a shortage of ice in a lot of hockey towns. Different organizations have tried to address this problem in different ways… with some outcomes working out better than others. Many organizations run half-ice practices, with two teams sharing the ice. Other programs are running “station practices,” with 50-60 players rotating through various stations. Some programs are still using the “old-fashioned” method of full-ice practices, with one team on the ice at a time. I believe most organizations are using some combination of the scheduling methods above.

The purpose of this article isn’t to critique the various “ice accommodation strategies” that have been tried over the years, nor is it to attempt to solve the world’s ice scheduling issues (although that might be another topic for another day). What I’m looking to accomplish here, is to set forth a philosophy that you can use with your team, regardless of the stance your organization has adopted.

Making Wise Use of Your Ice Sessions:
There are endless philosophies and opinions on how hockey players should be developed, what types of skills should be taught, and at what age the various skills and concepts should be introduced. I have my opinions, and I’m sure you have yours! Regardless of your school of thought, one simple development strategy holds true… teams MUST make the most of their ice time, especially when ice is as scarce and expensive as it is today!

Here are a few tips I recommend:

1. Take it Outside! Lots of stuff can be worked on off the ice, away from the rink. An obvious one is conditioning. It kills me to use precious ice time for skating ladders! If players, coaches, and teams all got on board to consistently execute a well-designed, hockey-specific workout program, both during the off-season and in-season, then conditioning wouldn’t need to be addressed in practice.
Check out our free, 3-Part video series on Off-Ice Training for Hockey.

2. Off-Ice Skills Sessions: Conditioning isn’t the only thing that can be developed away from the rink. Many teams are holding off-ice skills sessions to supplement their on-ice practices. Modern advances in off-ice training aids have made the experience much more realistic for players looking to develop their stickhandling, deking, shooting, passing, and even some aspects of skating. Getting set up to hold off-ice skills sessions takes a bit of financial investment up front, but the return on investment in the long run can be HUGE. Here are some examples of off-ice training sessions we’ve run:




Visit our friends at HockeyShot to start collecting your off-ice training aids.

3. On-Ice-Specific Development: On the flip side, there are some skills that can only be developed on the ice. Skating technique, agility, passing in motion, 1 on 1’s, 2 on 1’s and other battling tactics all fall into this category. Positional play and systems work are also tactics that must be developed on the ice. Stuff that can’t be worked on OFF the ice, should be highly stressed ON the ice!

4. Homework Assignments: Another place a lot of practice time is wasted is at the whiteboard, while drills are being explained. I know a lot of coaches who assign homework before practices. Usually these are web links to video diagrams, animations, or demonstrations of new drills. There may still need to be a quick explanation, but if the player has done his/her homework, there learning curve is significantly reduced.
Many coaches have used the videos in our Coaches’ Training Course as homework for their players.

5. Core Drills: I also recommend having a core set of 10-15 drills you use on a regular basis. Players will begin to memorize these drills, and know them by name. You’ll eventually be able to just call out the drill, and players will get themselves set up without needing the explanation again. This tactic can help keep practices running smoothly, and it also reinforces the concept of perfecting drills and skill sets.

6. Coach’s Preparation: Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a HUGE believer in planning every single practice. Keeping your thoughts organized on the ice is extremely important to running a smooth practice. In my opinion, the best way to keep yourself, and your practice organized is with a computerized diagrammer/practice planner. The two I use (and recommend) are DrillDraw and HockeyShare. Both are phenomenal!

It doesn’t have to be “either/or…”
Lastly, many coaches and administrators have the mistaken belief that systems play shouldn’t be taught too early, because it detracts from skill development. This can be true if you LET it be true, but I believe it doesn’t have to be an “either/or” proposition. If you make proper use of your team sessions, both on and off the ice, and develop individual and team skills in the proper order, then positional and systems concepts can naturally be built into your practices, even at very young ages!

As players begin to learn the recurring patterns of the game, because of well-structured practice sessions, they will begin to see the play better, and react more quickly when those same patterns present themselves in real games. It can be done, and you’re the one who can do it! Check out our playbook for more information on developing systems hockey at young ages.

What have we missed?
Are there any on-ice productivity tips you’re using that we didn’t mention here? Leave your tips in the comments below!




Home Hockey Training Objectives and Considerations

This is the 3rd of 3 intro videos for the Home Hockey Training Center. Check out the first two videos before moving on to this one. Here are the links to videos 1 and 2:

Before you start putting together your Home Hockey Training Center, it’s important to have a game plan. Here’s an example of the things I thought were important considerations for my situation. I think this list is a good start, but I’m sure there are other considerations that might fit different scenarios:

  1. Age: older players are bigger and stronger, which may have implications on how sturdy the equipment needs to be, and how much space you’ll need
  2. Ability: more advanced players will have more advanced needs, which could affect what types of equipment you’ll need
  3. Space: self-explanatory… you need a place to put everything!
  4. Objectives: what are the main skills you’re looking to develop? what equipment best fits those needs?
  5. Budget: if you’re like me, you’re ok with investing in your skill development, as long as the value is there

Once you’ve mapped out your game plan, then the fun begins! Time to start picking and choosing what you’re going to put in your Home Hockey Training Center. That’s where I’m hoping this course will come in useful.

Join me as I give you a peek at my own Home Hockey Training Center, complete with reviews of everything I’ve included in it. And when you’re ready to start shopping, just click the link below to be taken to my favorite store for Hockey Training Aids!

Introduction: Skill Development Strategy




Off-Ice Skill Development Strategy

This is the 2nd of 3 intro videos for the Home Hockey Training Center. Check out the first video before watching this one. Here are the links to videos 1 and 3:

There are certain hockey skills that can very realistically be developed away from the rink, and then there are some that don’t work quite as well. You can gain an advantage over your opponent by practicing as many skills as possible off the ice. This video breaks down which skills can (and should) be worked on away from the rink, and gives a quick overview of how you might want to strategize your off-ice training plans.

The main hockey skills that can be developed at home are as follows:

  1. Shooting
  2. Stickhandling
  3. Passing Technique
  4. Some Skating Elements

Then there are a few physical performance items that should be worked on at home as well:

  1. Agility
  2. Strength
  3. Explosiveness

With the cost of ice so high, developing your hockey abilities at home is a cheap, and extremely effective way to improve your game!