This is a continuation of last week’s blog on integrating creativity into drills and practices.
You can’t see learning nor can you easily measure it, particularly in kids’ sport. This means the coach’s question about what they’re learning in the “choose your pylon” exercise is nearly impossible to answer. We can provide strong observations, all purely anecdotal, but that’s about it.
What I’ve noticed among coaches at all levels is an impatience with development. If kids can’t do a drill quickly and properly, are they improving and/or learning? The word “fun” is usually left out. Can’t drills be fun?
Yes, in fact, creative ones usually are. Back to the puckhandling exercise, something I’ve used frequently with kids in teaching situations. The players do it two or three times before I change it; sometimes they go around three pylons, sometimes seven; sometimes they can only go backwards; sometimes they’re allowed to poke check someone’s puck and protect their own; and sometimes they have to do acrobatic stuff en route, like jumping over lines or rolling over. They have a blast and for the most part, every choice of what they do or where they go is theirs as they work at being creative.
The coaches’ eyes widened when I described the possibilities. Devising a drill - for lack of a better word - that strays from the standard issue isn’t hard. I asked the coaches how they could change my puckhandling exercise to address their own teams’ needs. What I got was quite a lengthy list of options. One coach even suggested having the kids carry the stick the opposite way, i.e. righties become lefties and vice versa.
The key was, I said, to create a base drill and build on it, as long as the players had to make choices. Plus, throwing in a competitive component now and then would add to the fun.
Is there a time and place for the static pylon course drill? Sure. We know repetition plays a critical role in learning, especially with the development of fundamental skills or tactics. Even repetition though can have creative components.
I asked the coaches in that session to give ways to teach passing while the kids are moving. Each coach who provided an answer then had to build on the drill with a simple variation. Example: The kids skate around the rink passing to a partner. Variations: one-touch passes, passes while going backwards, passes with one going forward and one backwards, passes off the boards, passes off the skates, passes while jumping over every line on the ice, etc.
The response from both coaching groups was entirely positive. Their eyes had been opened by the unending options surrounding any typical skill or tactical drill.
By creating more interesting (and fun) drills, they’d be tapping into their players’ creativity as well. Hockey is not a static sport, which means how we teach it can’t be static either.
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