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Deflections: Do as I say…

 

Let’s say you’re out of town visiting family. It so happens the area has hockey rinks and this is an immediate attraction, as in, “I wonder what’s going on there today.”

So you make your way to a rink where the local college team is practising. The team is in a well known league and the level of play? Well, in North America, college hockey is perhaps the best kept secret, more so in Canada than the U.S., but neither attracts the fans nor attention like junior does. Since you’ve had some experience with college and junior, you want to see what’s new in the coaching world.

You’ve seen all sorts of drills and neat ice activities over the years so of late you’ve taken to watching the coaches instead. You arrive as the players hit the ice. For the first 15 minutes, two coaches run them through some fairly standard warm up drills. Pucks fly—off the posts, off the glass, some even hit the goalie. No one says anything and the goalies don’t seem too perturbed about their heads being used as targets in a warm up. Another coach, the head guy it turns out, isn’t watching the drills. He’s toodling with a puck on his own. Occasionally he flips it at the glass, works a bit on his toe drags, takes a couple of half-slappers at a goalie who’s between shooters. In the one hour practice, he spends about a third of it doing this.

Then he takes over and puts the boys through some drills. But you’re not watching them because you know that picking apart a drill or questioning its use isn’t entirely fair. Mostly, drills are used to suit a particular theme or address a need, neither of which you can know unless you’ve been to every practice and game. What surprises you though is that none of the three coaches communicate much with the players beyond the standard shouts. They all stand at centre ice, next to the rink whiteboard, and watch.

You leave a bit miffed. Good drills, nice flow, a few guys allowed to float, one goalie didn’t seem to work too hard. But no feedback. Nothing.

You return the next day to watch another one hour session. The drills are largely the same but quicker, more jump. At one point, the head coach gathers the team and makes some clear points about what the drill needs. Yes, it’s faster, but not better. Execution is a bit sloppy; body position happenstance; defencemen back in too far and to start drills their feet are locked. No individual feedback to them or anyone else.

You leave wondering how much of that stand-offish approach you’ve used. As an observer, it seemed like the players were missing out on important help. You make a note to yourself: Don’t do it that way.

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