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Deflections - Repeat Until Learned


What’s in a rep?

The summer hockey school had 22 kids on the ice with seven instructors, one of whom was the head fellow. That’s an unusually good player:teacher ratio. Of course, parents pay for it, in this case $600 for 15 hours of instruction over the week.

What was interesting about the approach taken at the school had to do with the number of reps kids were allowed to do an exercise. I wrote about this in a general sense in my June 14 blog The Value of Repetition. It was meant more for team situations than a specialized hockey school environment. In a regular season practice, where the coach might devote 15 minutes to a skill, often imbedding the skill in a multitask activity, a summer program can devote much more.

On this day, the school was teaching various skating balance manoeuvres without and then with pucks. By the end of the hour, it was a bonafide puckhandling session. The kids were in fours with their own age group and lined up at one end. On each whistle, a wave would head to the far end doing the prescribed exercise. Generally, each child got four or five chances along that length of ice to practice the skills, some of which were tricky.

The exercises and instruction were very good. The feedback from nearly all the instructors was also strong. The one issue I had with it was that for almost the entire session, the only reps the kids got to do an exercise was over a single length. A few got it right away; most were partly there. A second or third length was warranted to cement the skill, or, as we know to call it, build that muscle memory.

What happened instead was that after each length of tries, the head instructor would add to or complicate the exercise a little more, well before most of the kids had a handle on the previous exercises. As well, only once did the head instructor stop the group in mid-try to re-teach something that wasn’t going well. The rest of the time the kids did their thing.

Given the number of instructors present, even one more length of tries might have been beneficial to the ones who struggled, about a third by my estimation.

Overall, it was a very good ice session, better than most I’ve seen in recent years. But kids need to repeat new or challenging skills. The session would have been much more effective as a learning environment if all the kids had had a couple more lengths to practice skills which were new to them.

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