Understanding Token Pressure can be a Game Changer in your Development Drills
In working with youth hockey players, I often end up working with a wide range of coaches; some of which are more experienced than others. A common mistake I see in less experienced coaches is providing the wrong kind of pressure in development drills.
Sometimes this means too much pressure, sometimes it means pressure from the wrong angle, or pressure with the wrong timing. In any respect, the wrong type of pressure can change the entire nature of a drill.
For example, if a drill is designed to work on puck protection, with the puck carrier driving the net, the pressure needs to come from a side angle, or even slightly from behind. The player needs to have the opportunity to drive through the defender’s stick, and own the lane to the net. If the coach comes at the player straight on, it now becomes a completely different drill.
Another problem is when a coach comes at a player too hard, too soon in the development progression. Of course, we want players to be functional in intense situations, but if we jump to that point too early, they won’t learn to feel the pressure and respond to it. We need to progress our development models from Acquisition, to Development, to Application. Or in other words, give them opportunities to ACQUIRE the skills before making them APPLY the skills in game-like pressure.
Token pressure, or token resistance, is the key to letting them feel pressure and respond to it. And as a coach, we can easily control the intensity of the resistance, then ratchet it up as the players become more and more proficient.