Good demonstrations are one of the key things I watch for in practice assessments. They’re one of those line items which illustrate if a coach truly understands the importance of good teaching, not just good drill diagramming.
In last week’s blog about everything being hard before it’s easy, I referred to a power play I once tried to show a junior team. What I didn’t mention is that there was no video of it. I’d watched an NCAA Div I team use it years ago and had only seen bits of its components used at the pros. Never have I have seen this same power play set up.
Without the visual, a vital component in attaining physical skills or tactics, the task of teaching the set up was much harder. From the players’ standpoint, they had no standard to emulate aside from my own diagrams and movement on the ice. It’s likely I underestimated its importance as I figured elite junior athletes were used to being walked through or shown complex tactics. While that’s true, even elite players would have found good demonstrations helpful. Plus it might have been an easier “sell” for the me. I’m a big proponent of mental training and here was a case where visualization and mental practice of something they’d seen would have made world of difference.
The same is much more important with minor teams where kids don’t have the visual experience of having seen variations on a skill theme dozens of times over the years. What you’re showing them is likely entirely new or nearly so.
A tight turn while puckhandling is a good example. There are a many terrific videos you can show the kids. But the best teacher is, and has always been, the teacher, not the machine.
If you demonstrate that skill combo slowly, using key words and phrases to describe what they need to learn while watching, it’ll go a long way. Instead, what I too frequently see is a nearly full speed demo given by some who’s really good at it. Sometimes the narration is by the person doing the demo; other times by a coach on the side. Either way, the demo must be at a speed the kids’ eyes can follow.
For example, when you watch a baseball game on TV, a batter going after a pitch at full speed live is hard to track. It’s only when the video is slowed to a crawl that you can see how important various components of the hitting skill are as the commentator breaks it down.
When you’re coaching, think of yourself as that TV commentator using a slow mo replay. That’s what the kids need to see.
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