Q: Megan B. describes herself as an adult who is relatively new to playing the game. She goes on to ask The Old Coach if he has any advice on skill development, adding that, “I have one game per week and usually one on-ice practice per week, so my ice time is limited.”
A: Aaaaaah, smiles to Megan, because I loved seeing that question come in. After all, she pretty much describes what all adult recreational players go through — getting limited ice-time while still wishing to improve their skills. Furthermore, I’m sure Megan knows — along with all the rest of us, that improved skills are ultimately going to make the game even more fun.
To begin, I’m going to offer an idea that is sure to help every member, young or old, new or very experienced. For, what I’ll suggest is that a player (or the parent guiding a player) should arrange training conditions so easy that the work is almost sure to be done. Megan probably asked this between the lines, in that she likely doesn’t want to drive a half-hour several times per week for a couple of fairly costly extra skills clinics. No, something like that is apt to take about 4-hours out of her night, what with travel, dressing, the ice-time, undressing, showering, dressing again and then traveling home. And, if the time required doesn’t ultimately get to her, the slightest health, work or personal complication WILL make it awfully easy for her to skip a training session (or two or three or four).
Now, what I’m getting at is that Megan should seriously consider training at home, or at least somewhere that isn’t going to present a huge hassle.
As an aside here… My notes from last night’s hockey game included a need for me to advise one teen to do some hand strengthen exercises. Actually, an observation like that is worth sharing with all of my kids. So, we sat for a few minutes as a team at this morning’s off-ice practice, where we discussed that subject and a few others. In reference to hand strengthening, I suggested that the kids squeeze tennis-sized rubber balls as a start-up exercise. Then, in keeping with my want to make this easy for them, I offered the idea of doing that for a short time each night as they watch television.
That’s what I mean by arranging training conditions that are so easy that the work is almost sure to get done. And that’s what I’m suggesting to Megan, hoping she can create circumstances that are easy for her to undertake, and ones that aren’t likely to annoy a roommate, family members or neighbors.
Then, since she is relatively new to the sport, my guess is that improvement in the two most basic skill areas — skating and puckhandling — will result in her quickest improvement:
- Although rather costly, a slideboard is an awesome tool for smoothing the skating stride and adding great power. (Thankfully, I’ve previously commented on the proper use of The Slideboard below.)
- Easily done indoors is an exercise my older players do frequently. I call it the Simulated Skate, and I’m including a short video clip below to show you what it looks like (I’ve also included a few others).
- At the end of that video is a clip of the same young guy performing WallSits. This exercise — working up to about 15-seconds, resting between sets for about 30-seconds — helps a player get used to sitting low in his or her on-ice movements. (Oh, and while the stickhandling shown in the following video is purely optional, I included it just to keep this player’s mind off the pretty intense burn that can usually be felt in the thigh muscles.) I’d avoid doing this exercise if knee pain arises.
- Down the road I’m going to do a special post on something I call SkateDrills. Briefly though, I’ll suggest that Megan can wear her skates indoors on a carpet area (or on a carpet square), and actually practice things like cross-overs, hopping on one skate and the other, jogging lightly, and balancing on one skate while kicking the other. I’ll even suggest she experiment a bit with this idea, perhaps working on skills closer to her current needs.
- Then with the spring gradually coming to New England (Megan is a fellow Bay Stater), in-line skates can be excellent cross-trainers for on-ice skaters. Roller training transfers best if the skates are close to a player’s on-ice ones. And, if a safe area can be found, I always suggest getting rid of the heel stopper. (Skaters tend to be overly conscious of that extension, consequently making abnormal cross-over movements.)
- Something like the ball seen in the following video is awesome for quickening hand movements. (Ours are wooden “Swedish Stickhandling Balls, but a golf ballis also good.) Just fiddling with it is going to improve Megan’s puckhandling.
- A very simple — but very good — drill is to stand with the eyes closed and just dribble with soft hands while feeling the ball and the vibrations coming up from the stick blade to the hands. One can even try to sense where the ball is on the blade.
- Finally, the above drill is one of a series of off-ice puckhandling drills that will appear in the Highlight Reel Skills section very shortly. So, if Megan and others can start with the above drill, there will soon be enough advice here to take an enthusiast player from this spring to late summer, and from beginner to pretty advanced.
Well, I hope that helps you, Megan. Be sure to let me know if you need clarification on any of this. And, good luck!