“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” - Sherlock Holmes
Now we apply this to minor hockey practices.
“Once you eliminate the bad things in practices, whatever remains will likely be appropriate.”
If we could somehow get coaches to recognize what things should not be done in practice then not do them, we’d have pretty good practices. I know, easier said than done. Certainly this should be one of the roles of a mentor, to point not just how to tweak practice approaches and content but also how to remove the bad stuff. The field evaluations done for Hockey Canada’s Development 1 and High Performance certifications touch on this. But because these are “one-off” situations where coaches are on their best behaviours, it’s not often we see drills or teaching that just shouldn’t be there.
Here’s a list of what we should mostly eliminate from practices (not in order of importance):
No water breaks - The kids have to earn them? Really?
Yelling at players to go faster or slapping your stick on the ice as they go by
Coaches not engaged or teaching or giving feedback
Coaches dressed like they’re gardening or at the beach
Coaches playing with or shooting pucks while someone is talking or teaching
Beginning a practice with 5 minutes of players just goofing around
Yakking at the rink board for more than about a minute
Using a rink board for kids under age 9
Using a whistle on and on and on to tell kids when to start or stop
Not enough pucks (should be about 3-4 per player)
The absence of fun
Full ice drills for little ones
Linear drills (versus ones with more east-west skating)
Drills or exercises to punish (eg. skate the lines!)
Exercise as punishment (“If you get it wrong again, you’ll do 10 pushups!”)
Teaching team play principles with kids standing still or being shunted around a zone like chess pieces
Coach who look bored themselves or display little enthusiasm
The same drills done the same way in most practices
Demos that are way too fast
Regroup drills for young players
No practice plan
Lines of more than 3-4 to do a drill
... and so whatever remains will likely be pretty darn good.
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