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Deflections: Boredom is the enemy when coaching young hockey players

 

Kids never get bored of what they like.

It seems so obvious. We know it’s true from everyday activities. A game, a toy, a TV show, a song that sticks in their heads. If the child likes it, they’ll want it again and again.

Which begs the question, what do we do with our kids in hockey that they like? It’s an important question because it’s actually pretty easy to find things in the game they don’t like or bore them.

This isn’t to say we must always avoid exposing children to boring tasks. But let’s keep in mind we are talking here about a sport, not cleaning their rooms. They need to like it. They need to feel as though they’re getting something out of it, whether that’s success or friendships or skill improvement or just the sensation of pure fun.

In minor hockey though coaches often provide activities or drills, which appear to be good or useful. But to the kids, they aren’t much fun. The difference in perspective is substantial.

With the best of intentions, coaches tend to rely on technical-based exercises or repetitive flow drills. Yes, yes, one learns through repetition. The late great basketball coach John Wooden said, “The importance of repetition until automaticity cannot be overstated. Repetition is the key to learning.”

Indeed. But can we not find activities so that when they’re repeated, they’re still enjoyable and the kids don’t get bored?

Besides, there’s a significant difference between wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes on a basketball court and doing anything in the hockey environment.

In a rink, boredom is deadly. If the kids aren’t moving, they get bored - and cold and tired and cranky. If they do the same thing over and over again, they will tell you it’s boring. And having them go faster is the exact opposite of what’s desired of new skills or tactics. It delays the boredom just a tad. A few more reps at full tilt doesn’t eliminate boredom, it merely hastens fatigue and ruins whatever technique was taught.

Kids won’t get bored of small area games or any related low organization game (like tag) because they have competitive components. Just don’t expect to see much application of recently taught skills. The chasm between the first stage of skill acquisition and mastery is wide.

They also won’t get bored when the coach tweaks drills to make them different or more challenging. The slightest alteration, even during a drill, such as practicing crossover turns around a dot or a partner after going around a circle, will minimize boredom.

Do your players get bored in or of drills? What are you doing about it?

 

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