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Deflections: A taste of fun in practice

A staple from my pantheon of low organization games is one called “Crazy Puck.” It’s adapted from a gymnasium game and I’ve used it with just about every age group in practices or hockey schools.

It looks chaotic - to adults. But for kids, it’s just unadulterated fun. You throw a team or large group inside a zone with many pucks. No one is allowed outside the zone. In short, the idea is for a kid to get a puck and pass it to hit another kid’s skate blade. Kids with pucks aren’t allowed to move. Kids without pucks can go anywhere. When struck, the child kneels on the spot and returns to the game when he can reach out and touch a puck with his stick. So players are constantly in and out of play.

The coaches stand at the blueline and send pucks back into the zone as they fly by. No fun for us. Unless you count as fun watching kids jump, dive, twirl, and zig-zag to escape being hit. A perfect illustration of agility skating minus the instruction.

I’ve used it in coaching clinics, too, with slight accommodations for not wearing equipment. In the two minutes we play it (longer and they’re exhausted!), the sound of coaches having fun makes it worth the price of admission. In fact, whenever I use games like this in low organization games (LOGs), or small area games, invariably coaches race to their notepads to jot them down.

They don’t need a lecture or video to tell them what will work with kids is something that’s fun. Once you’ve experienced a truly fun game or drill, you know its value. No amount of fancy drilling or technical skills dissection can replace a good game’s fun.

I fear that in our haste and exuberance to teach stuff, we forget this isn’t a school system. The nature of the hockey education we provide is quite different. True, not everything should or needs to be fun. It probably can’t be. But what minor coaches frequently leave out of their practice plans is that they should be fun to do. Challenging can be fun. So can being competitive, if properly tempered.

I ask coaches at every coaching clinic or seminar if they can recall the last time they played something that was fun. When have they participated in an activity that included laughter? More importantly, have they recently watched kids outside hockey just have fun?

Tags: coaching

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