At a workshop, when asked for priorities for next season’s team, a coach tossed out Hockey IQ. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable response, except for the fact he was coaching atoms. This isn’t to say Hockey IQ isn’t a priority nor an appropriate objective in atom hockey. On the contrary, they’re both valid. Except I’m not sure if the coach knew what is meant by the term for minor hockey youngsters, let alone how to teach it.
When pressed on what he meant, he replied he wanted his kids to learn to think. He just wasn’t sure how to go about it.
Isn’t it interesting how in sport, and education, things tend to go full circle? Hockey IQ used to be called “smart,” even creative. A player who knew what to do and when was preferred over those deemed “uni-dimensional,” though there always seemed to be a place for them, too. Could you have a “stay-at-home” D who couldn’t do much with the puck, would never play on the PP, and sure wasn’t going to lead a quick transition? Then? Yes. Now? Not as much.
What’s made the ubiquity of the term ‘Hockey IQ’ challenging for minor hockey coaches is that its use in major junior or pro has been extrapolated to minor. Here, it’s much less easily defined and darn tricky to teach. Sure, everyone wants smart hockey players. But how smart does one expect an eight- or ten- or 13-year-old to be?
Do an internet search for Hockey IQ. You’ll find some excellent sites with definitions, examples and even drills to illustrate. Here’s one: howtohockey.com. It’s worth reading whether you’re a coach or player – older player – much older player!
Let’s be clear: children aren’t surfing the net looking for articles. It’s up to coaches to do the research then examine how they can approach it with kids. From that site mentioned above is this about decision-making: “You always have multiple options on the ice, good decision making will make you more effective.”
Yes indeed. But when you’re dealing with little ones or young teens, the very nature of the decisions they’re being asked to make is radically different. In junior, on a 3-on-2 rush, there are a great many options for the attackers and thus decisions to which the defencemen must react (or initiate in order to force the attackers into disadvantageous positions). Even top level atoms are limited in their ability to make similar decisions. Why? For the simple reasons that they haven’t the playing experience, game knowledge, and skills foundation of juniors. Their Hockey IQ potential is narrower, for the moment.
Next week, we’ll look at ways to imbed thinking into practice, even into basic skill drills.
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