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

Who IS my Competition Anyways…?

“Who is my competition anyways…?” This is the question EVERY player should ask him or herself!

The purpose of this blog is to help build better teams, by providing players, coaches, and parents with useful drills, tools, and information. You often hear me talking about on-ice strategies and tactics, or off-ice drills and workouts that will give you an EDGE over your competition.

They’re all the same… Well… Almost!
As you move into higher levels of play, the skill-sets of each player become more and more similar. Think about it… who scores the most goals at mite hockey? It’s the kid who can skate the fastest! Who scores the most goals at Peewee? Now that most kids can skate, other tactics like shooting, playmaking, and read & react abilities start coming into play. How about at Midget? Juniors? College? NHL? At the top levels of play, the difference in physical skills from the best player on the team to the worst is minimal. So the importance of gaining an EDGE over your competition is even more crucial!

So who’s my competition?
Who exactly is our competition anyways? This is a huge question, and one that every player needs an honest and healthy understanding of.

When we talk about training, and dominating our competition, the first thought that comes to mind is the OTHER team, right? Of course we want to annhialate the other team… we want to be stronger in the corners, meaner in front of the net, faster to the loose puck… we want to think the game faster, and punish them on the scoreboard… right? If that’s not the case for you, then you’re definitely in the wrong sport. In fact, athletics is probably the wrong field for you in general!

But let’s think a little bit deeper on this… what about our own teammates? Could they be competition too? My response would be ABSOLUTELY!

When you no longer have the “buzzer” to signal the end of your shift…
The moment you graduate from “house league” hockey, your teammates become your competition. Obviously, this needs to be HEALTHY competition, with each player working toward a common, team-oriented objective, but nevertheless… its a competition.

As you move into higher levels of play, the players who produce results will see more ice time. Now these results may come in the form of goals and assists, or maybe in terms of physical play. Sometimes results are considered “momentum shifters” such as a big hit, a big save, a fight, or drawing a penalty at a critical time in the game.

The question is… HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SET YOURSELF UP AS A GO-TO PLAYER? How are you going to make sure YOU get the nod over someone else when you’re down by a goal with 3 minutes left in the game? How are you going to establish yourself as a disciplined, gutsy, hard-working grinder that your coach CAN’T AFFORD to sit during the penalty kill?

The humble opinion of yours truly…
My answer is, you must become a STUDENT of the game, in all respects. You have to UNDERSTAND your positioning better than anyone else, and then EXECUTE it with discipline. You have to be mentally tough, responding to pressure with IMPROVED PLAY, rather than disintegrated execution. You have to think, breath, and live the game, not only at the rink, but at home too. You have to be PHYSICALLY tough… never shying away from a hit. You have to be CONFIDENT that you can go into a battle, and come up with the puck.

So what are the key aspects of the game, that player’s should be working on to gain their edge? Here’s a list of the most important items (again in my humble opinion).

On-Ice Factors:

  1. Technical Skating – get a solid skating instructor and make sure all aspects of your stride are as efficient as possible. Uncorrected stride problems will hold you back as you progress to higher levels of play.
  2. Technical Puck Skills (stickhandling, passing, shooting)
  3. Strategic Shot Selection – knowing which shot to use, and where to shoot in a given situation.
  4. Positional Play – where to be, when to be there.
  5. Tactical Play – what to do when you are in your position (i.e. force vs contain)

Off-Ice Factors:

  1. Strength and Conditioning – becoming bigger, faster, and stronger than your competition, with a hockey-specific workout program.
  2. Off-ice Mental Training – study positioning, visualization techniques, game film analysis
  3. Off-ice Skill Development – many skills can (and should) be developed off the ice… primarily puck skills (stickhandling, passing, shooting, etc.)

If it were easy… Everyone would be doing it!
It’s easy to be pretty good. But becoming EXCELLENT takes complete dedication both on and off the ice. Players at the highest levels understand that hockey is a lifestyle, not a pass time. It takes a lifetime of disciplined execution to achieve excellence in our sport!

On top of all that, you have to be PATIENT. You might not be a go-to player in the coach’s eyes yet. So, take the chance NOW to prepare yourself so that when you get your shot you’re ready to step in and prove that YOU deserve to be there more than your teammate!

There’s an old saying that goes “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Prepare yourself now to meet your opportunity, then seize the moment when it comes!

Jeremy

PS – What do you think of my list? Did I forget anything? Leave a comment and let me know what aspects of the game are “MUST HAVES” for you!

QuickStickz Review




QuickStickz is a Fun and Effective way to Develop Stickhandling Ability

I’ve been really excited to get this post out, and let you know about a cool product called QuickStickz. QuickStickz is an innovative new way to work on your stickhandling abilities off the ice, and it’s a lot of fun too!

A few months ago I was invited to take a look at QuickStickz, which is a video-game-based, hockey stickhandling development system. I had seen the product before, but I’d never had the chance to get my hands on one. The idea seemed really cool, so I was excited to see what it was all about.

How it Works:
QuickStickz uses a special infrared camera that connects up to your PC via USB jack. The camera combos up with a customized SmartHockey stickhandling ball, that has been machined out with a whole bunch of tiny reflectors all over its surface. As you stickhandle, the camera picks up the movements of the ball, and sends the signal into the computer, which allows you to see your stickhandling movements on the screen.

Set-up is pretty simple, just plug in the camera, go to the QuickStickz member’s area, and install the plug-in when prompted.

Drills and Games:
Once you’re up and running, just select a drill or a game from the member’s area, and have at it! The drills are designed to help you work on various skills such as tight puck movement, wide puck movement, dekes, toe drags, etc. The games apply these skills in a more dynamic environment.

Member’s Area:
The member’s area is a great way to track your progress. You can check your own stats and progress, or see how your top score compares to other top scores from around the world. The member’s area also tracks how much time you’re spending on QuickStickz. This makes it easy for parents or coaches to check in on the player’s efforts and progress.

Conclusion:
QuickStickz is a great tool to help any player develop his or her stickhandling abilities. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a product that I think connects with kids on their level. The one weakness of QuickSticks is that it’s fairly sensitive to the ambient lighting in the room you’re using it in. Sunlight badly interferes with the infrared signal put out by the camera, and makes the ball just jump around on the screen. So make sure you close the blinds, and rely on your “artificial lighting” (regular lightbulbs), and you should be just fine!




P.I.G. is One of my Favorite Off-ice Shooting Drills

When I was in high school, we had a hockey net and backstop out in my parents’ side yard. We also had a Shooter Tutor strapped up to the net, with about 100 pucks. Almost everyday my buddy and I would shoot pucks together. To keep it entertaining, most of the time we’d play a game called P.I.G.

P.I.G. is really fun, and can be played on or off the ice. Here’s how it works…

The Rules:
P.I.G. works a lot like H.O.R.S.E. in basketball, except that it’s a shorter game, so it’s a little more intense. Basically, a player calls his or her shot. The shots can be any typical shot, or you can get creative and start calling posts or crossbar, forehand, backhand, or even specifying shot type. If that player makes the shot, then the other player has to match it. If the other player misses, he or she gets a letter.

The player who called the first shot keeps calling shots until he or she misses the called shot (you don’t get a letter if you miss your own called shot). At that point it’s the other player’s turn to call a shot, and the process repeats itself.

You get two chances on the last letter.

In this video, my good friend Brett Fuller and I play a high-stakes game of P.I.G., to make it a little more interesting, the loser has to ride the bull (Happy Gilmore style) on camera. With so much on the line, neither of us wanted to lose!

I love putting a little additional pressure into practice drills––even off the ice! It gets you used to performing in clutch situations. Putting something embarrassing on the loser is definitely a fun way of doing this!

You’ll notice, 5-hole was giving us both a hard time in this video, and proved to be the game winner! Enjoy!


My weight set from high school…

Had a makeshift workout at my parents’ house today. Not a bad home gym to tell you the truth. This is what I used all throughout high school!

Sent from my iPhone

Posted via email from Jeremy Weiss’ Posterous