It was one of the last practices before playoffs since ice is hard to come by these days in my area. Then, in the world where nothing falls into place as you’d like, one goalie couldn’t make it nor a defenceman, the one with a penchant for laziness when not having the puck.
The plan was to have just three drills, focus on execution and speed, tighten up some bits of our defencemen’s play and finish with a rousing small area game of 3 vs 3. High tempo, flow, and mostly get the heads in it.
Right away, the two 1-on-1 drills went flat. Having just one goalie didn’t help. But my choice of full ice drills with the dee working on passes to wings and following forwards before transitioning to defend didn’t work. It was a matter of the kids’ skill level and speed over a large space, the full rink. They weren’t fast enough nor technically sharp enough to make quick passes and cover the space in the time frame needed for the drill to hum.
Some aspects worked. The forwards got a handle on how to pick up rimmed passes and finally understood the importance of getting wide to accept passes while looking inward. Meanwhile, the defencemen’s transition skating was better. Still, each play took too long. They weren’t used to flow drills where you had to stay mentally sharp to keep it going. I hadn’t done many over the year for these very reasons. I figured though that by now, after nearly six months, they’d be better. Well, yes, they were better, but the sheer size of the space to cover and maintain speed or accelerate was a bit much.
It’s interesting, in an instructive way, that while they play the game on a full sheet, a drill that uses the entire length and much of the width just doesn’t work well. There was far too much time where players did nothing constructive but skate the length of the rink. For a coach who puts so much emphasis on agility and puck skills and not wasting space, I was surprised at myself for coming up with this one. Even worse, I didn’t fix it mid stream as I could have.
The kids didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves in open ice. Sprint? Coast? Push the puck? And then when the 1-on-1 part began, from a far blueline to the net, it was again a case of too much space that allowed them to make la-di-da moves and the defence to cover a gap width which just wasn’t realistic.
Afterwards, a parent asked me how I thought the practice went. Lousy, I said, and he as much as agreed without saying so. My fault, I said, and told him why.
Here’s hoping the boys have wiped it from their brain hard drives. One instance where I wish for muscle memory failure.
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