Planning Your Practices: New Coaches

“I think the thing you always got to keep in mind, you know, hockey is a game of one-on-one battles,” Mark Messier

Please be sure to SHARE this link with your peers and Assistant Coaches!

When you’re getting ready to hit the ice with your team you need to have a plan! Experienced Coaches will always tell you that you’ve got to PLAN your practices in advance and often this begins soon after your last game or practice… it’s about maintaining forward momentum.

On this site we will try to make sure you have a lot of links and information to help with planning your practices. While we’re not trying to tell you how to coach, it will be up to you to determine which resources make the most sense for your style and your team.

The following points are intended to give NEW Coaches some consideration when planning your practices:

  1. Plan in advance: With 15-20 players and assistant coaches on the ice you will have a lot of moving pieces and distractions. Using practice sheets to develop your drills in advance will make your life easier AND ensure that you accomplish your plan.
    1. Hockey Canada provides practice plans for various age groups:
      1. Blank Template
      2. Initiation
      3. Novice
      4. Check out Hockey Canada’s “Drill Hub” for more.
    2. USA Hockey breaks down the drills by U8, U10 & U12 and includes beginner, intermediate and advanced sessions:
      1. Practice Plans
    3. Additional Options: For more information visit our post on “Coaching Sites
  2. Tell them, Show them, Correct them: With your nice big Coach’s white board hanging up on the side boards, using one of your 3 dry erase markers show them the drills you are going to do next. After that have somebody, if not yourself, demonstrate the proper drill technique and then watch your team perform, correcting each individual based on their own needs. Sounds simple, but many coaching staffs forget the second and third steps.
  3. Child psychology and practices: I was once told by my wife that a child has an attention span in minutes, that’s equal to their age in years. Margo was so right! If you have 6 year olds, expect their attention to be lost in about 6-10 minutes. So keep your drills short, include variety and mix in the fun during the practice, not just at the end. I can’t tell you how many times I had a cool, fun game that we never got to do because the zamboni was heading onto the ice!
  4. Put the “Fun” in first: When starting out make sure you’re regularly including fun games that will encourage team-building and help players to get to know each other. Make sure everyone participates fully in the activity and consider laughter and healthy smiles as your feedback mechanism!
  5. Use the “Jedi Mind-trick”: Build games that lead to skill development without the Players even realizing that they’re doing a ‘skills’ drill. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this. We will provide posts to help you in the future.
  6. Ensure your goalies are engaged: While there is greater focus on developing specialized skills at later ages, even when the kids are young it’s important to make sure your goalies are getting a lot of shots so that they can feel the puck, learn to move and feel like they’re included in the practice. Goalies are a fickle animal, so as a Coach be sure to boost their confidence and focus on what they are doing well MORE than pointing out what they’re doing wrong. This goes for all players too.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, these key points often get left behind over time as Coach’s get too busy or too focused on narrower pursuits. If you’re an Assistant Coach, keep these points in mind when assisting your Head Coach so that they aren’t entirely left out in the planning process.

Note: If there are any errors in the above information or broken links please don’t hesitate to let us know. We’re doing our best to help the Minor Hockey community through value-added and interesting content. Everyone can make a difference, we hope you will. Thank you.

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