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Deflections - About Those Skills Instructors

 

Are we going about skill development the right way by hiring specialists to teach skills to our kids?

As I wrote last week, associations are hiring groups to run extra skills instructions sessions. It ain’t cheap! When people complain about the high cost of the game, this has to be a factor. Skating instructors, for instance, have been known to charge over $120 per hour. That adds significantly to team fees over a few months. So the big question is, is it worth it?

A major problem we see in our minor hockey system is the weakness in skills instruction among our coaches. The certification program can’t possibly do it in its current format. As a long time instructor/facilitator in the coaching program, I’m barely able to scrape the surface of how to teach these skills given the time constraints of a clinic.

One way Hockey Canada feels it’s addressing this is to add to the program through specialty skills instruction training, something that’s been talked about for ages and is only now getting started. A coach – or anyone really – attends a three- or four-hour session on, say, skating and earns a Level 1 certification. There will be three levels. It’s not mandatory for coaches. How many will want to attend is a good question. Ideally, every coach should.

What is more likely to happen is that the private instructors will take this training to certify themselves as Hockey Canada qualified instructors. Will they lower their rates? Will they still offer quality teaching that supplements what coaches do? Well, that’s the hope.

We know coaches are under a lot of pressure to teach technical skills with precious little time and expertise to do it. Private instructors can fill that void. It comes at a price, both financially and also in time. It requires ice time beyond the regular team practices.

A major issue seems to be that there’s a clear disconnect between what the hired instructors teach and the follow-up by coaches who are often urged to attend the sessions. If coaches don’t know what’s being taught, how can they effectively build on this technical foundation in practice? One chap who heads a private group teaching technical skills once told me coaches mostly don’t attend, seeing the evening as a night off from hockey.

Associations hire these groups, putting a lot of stock in their playing backgrounds. Heck, if they played minor pro, they must know how to teach puckhandling, right? But what’s their teaching like? Who sets the curriculum for what they teach and when? Indeed, augmenting regular practice content with this specialized instruction should provide kids with the proper tools.

Is it?

 

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