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Deflections: Do tactics presentations help?

You coach an elite minor or junior hockey team. It takes up about 15 hours or more of your time each week. Perhaps you have some expenses paid and you may even get a few bucks from the club or association. Not enough to retire on, but it certainly keeps your skates sharpened.

You figure that of the many ways you can improve yourself as a coach, one is to attend a coaching seminar featuring major junior, CIS or NHL coaches. Off you go, laden with blank drill diagrams and notepads.

The presentations are interesting, sometimes stimulating, mostly insightful, but consistently have the same theme: here’s what we do and why. As these experienced coaches talk, you wonder how on earth you could ever implement any of their content in your situation. Occasionally you pick out a drill that, with some tweaking, your team might try. A couple of presentations contain tips on what you need to look for in setting up that umbrella power play or forechecking with pressure.

But no matter what these coaches say or show, you can’t escape the fact they’re on the ice daily, sometimes with nearly unlimited access. They can spend an entire session on power play breakouts and another one on improving their defencemen’s agility. Their practice scenarios are as different from yours as night and day.

At the seminar they diagram and explain options for penalty killing which are altered according to whom they play and even when. Sometimes a 1st period PK is not the same as the 3rd period one. These are called adjustments, honed between periods or during TV timeouts. Certainly those teams are not locked into having games completed within a specific timeframe.

So you ask yourself two questions: what have I learned? what are my “takeaways”?

You learned and took away:

  • the team play approach of minor or entry level junior hockey expands greatly at the higher levels
  • the higher you go, the more you need to understand about how to communicate a message, not just the message itself
  • there’s a huge emphasis at the upper levels on skill and the ability to think, which both impact on your need to develop these in kids
  • all coaches steal then adapt for their situations
  • upper level coaches work hard in order to get positive results, then risk getting fired because winning is the be-all and end-all. (Thankfully, you’re not in that position - or shouldn’t be.)
  • drill ideas
  • some cool ways to do a PP, PK or breakout, one of which your team may be able to try

Presenters’ content may not have been directly applicable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from attending such sessions.

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