The coach looks at the slide of rink diagrams depicting options to divide the rink for practice. Most make sense. One, where the rink is cut diagonally, raises questions. Under what circumstances would a coach run a practice in a triangular piece of rink? I couldn’t think of one.
Then there’s the slide with a slice down the middle of the surface, from net to net. The coach says he’s used it for his team during shared practices for the warm up. The kids skate up and down the length for a few minutes (as does the other team) before they revert to half ice across the middle for the rest of the time.
I pose some questions. If both teams are warming up doing the same sorts of things, why bother to split the ice at all? Which coach determines when they stop? If they’re cooperating on that, then why not just run the warm-up together? Besides, have we not had enough of long linear skating exercises? Don’t we need more agility and curvilinear movements? The coach nods in agreement.
Minor hockey actually hasn’t done a great job of maximizing practice ice nor training coaches how to do it properly. I often see teams of seven-, eight- and nine-year-olds having full ice practices with coaches seemingly feeling obligated to run the same drills as juniors. I say obligated because it looks as though, given full ice, they feel the need to run drills that use the entire surface. In fact, kids below peewee can have a very effective practice in half the ice. I’ve also seen plenty of peewee and bantam teams run terrific practices in small spaces.
Associations neither encourage nor train coaches how to run shared ice practices using a combination of stations and individual tactical drills. In that scenario, the two head coaches would combine their practice plans so that in effect it would be a single practice for a 30-player team. It requires communication and cooperation.
Instead, what we see are two teams at similar levels of the same age group running entirely separate sessions. While, indeed, the skill sets may differ, developmentally there are more commonalities than differences. If we put tier 2 and tier 3 competitive atom teams on the same sheet, there’s actually not much difference between the bottom few kids on the tier 2 team and the top kids on the tier 3. Besides, since kids need instruction on skills and individual tactics, it’s not hard to create stations or drills that focus on those and just set aside the team stuff for a while.
Oh, and one other reason to put two teams on one sheet: It’s half the cost!
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