Six months after starting with your team, you and the kids are practiced out.
They’ve had enough of your warm ups, cool downs, fancy drills, technical jargon (“a Mohawk turn!?”), and rink board hieroglyphics. You’re tired of the same kids acting up or not trying hard or cheating in drills, let alone needing to control or discipline them.
Everyone wants a break from everyone. Alas, there are still a few weeks to go and you’ve even tossed in a couple more practices. Squeeze in one more breakout drill, one more 1-on-1 drill, one more neutral zone regroup drill (good grief! why!?)... There must be a bit of masochism in every minor hockey coach.
Halt! Desist! Don’t do it!
Give yourself and the kids a break. Yes, yes, we all want to teach the entire canon of hockey tactics in one season. We know it doesn’t make sense, but we still want to do it. Isn’t there another kind of forecheck they should know?
Take your final practices in an entirely new direction: Fun. Just fun stuff. Small area games, low organization games, relays, even get a guest coach or two to run them.
1. Change of pace. Minor hockey is the longest of any activity kids do aside from school. If the players are high school age and are semestered, it’s even longer than that. Variety is crucial to keep anyone motivated and wanting more. Besides, changing it up puts the coach in a more positive light, even if you’re the best coach in the hemisphere.
2. Subtle link to what’s been taught: Teach without teaching. Review without reviewing. The secret to making end-of-season practices both fun and worthwhile is to create activities, not drills, that are somewhat linked to what you’ve done during the season. Playing a cross-ice mini-game that focuses on passing is a terrific way to reinforce passing skills if you’ve taught a lot of it during the season. Relay races with agility built in allow you to see how much your players have progressed after a few months of agility skating instruction.
3. Competition can be fun: Most activities coaches do during the season are without much resistance, which is proper especially for new skills or tactics. By the end though, you want to see the kids trying things under duress, as close to replicating the playoff game experience as possible. The only way is to have competitive activities. At the same time though, you want those activities to enable the kids to experience some success. Thus, a 3 vs. 3 cross-ice game will be far more beneficial than 4 vs. 4 or 5 vs. 5.
Doing these kinds of things doesn’t mean abdicating your leadership or coaching roles. It’s just a different look, one that usually pays off with increased confidence.
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