A blog dedicated to the fact you cannot make an NHLer,

Obviously you see the sarcasm in my blog name. This blog is about teaching the love of the game, the skills of the game and hopefully open some eyes to the crazy parents that think they can push their kid into becoming a star only to have the opposite happen or be the limiting factor in their kids hockey development. Remember, if you turn hockey from a game into a job, then all is lost and kids will drop out either physically or mentally.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Value of Feedback

As coaches we always are looking to make all of our players better. If you only want a couple players on your team to become better, please do not coach hockey (or any sport).

Players develop on many levels (I am sure I am missing some):

  1. Physically get stronger and grow taller.
  2. Mentally get sharper and increase hockey IQ.
  3. Hockey skills technically get better.
So aside from getting taller, we as coaches can develop players in all aspects of the game. Today I am going to talk about giving feedback and how a player with a strong will and good direction and succeed with the help of a coach and not in spite of them.

Let me tell you a story about summer hockey. Over the past 10 years I have played summer hockey (unlike my youth which was spent on the ball diamond and summer hockey was not an option in rural Saskatchewan). I play against players of all skill levels. Some are terrible, some are amazing. Take Tyler Bozak for instance, he truly deserves to play in the NHL and after playing against him a couple of years back, it was only a matter of time till he forced someone to recognize how good he really was. He definitely took the long route to the NHL, going from AAA midget, BCHL, college, minors and then the NHL. Along the way he must have gotten some great feedback that helped him develop into the player his is today. Is he the best player out in summer hockey? Pretty much, but there are others that are at his level. Do they play in the NHL??? Nope!

Why is that?

Many reasons:

  1. Attitude
  2. Lack of hockey sense
  3. Skating
  4. Passing
  5. The list goes on and on........
So if they know the reasons, why can't they improve them to get to that level??

Feedback is the answer and the eternal gap between coaches, players and others who are involved (managers, trainers........). Some of them just get cut without any feedback.

So lets take a scenario like Yannic Pearault who played a far bit in the NHL. Here is a guy who gets something like 180points in the qmjhl and is having trouble making the NHL and is told his skating sucks, then one year in the ahl all-star game he wins the fastest skater. Imagine how confused this guy is. So was skating what was holding him back??? I have not seen him play, but can tell you that incorrect feedback probably kept this guy from reaching his full potential.
He did make the NHL and even the NHL all-star game one year, but was not thought of as an all-star, just a great face-off man. So maybe his issue was turning, stopping or acceleration or maybe it was not skating at all. Maybe it was how quick he read and reacted to the play. The last one will always leave you a step behind. If you do it faster than everyone else, then you end up like Jordan Eberle and can perform with success at all levels.

So what does this mean for us as coaches?? It means that when we give feedback, make sure your players understand what you mean. Do not use generic terms like "you need to be better", "your skating needs work", or "its a numbers thing". You owe it to them and yourself to help them. Even if you are cutting them from your team, it is a small world and the respect you lose with players will gain you a well deserved reputation.

"I watched him skate and something seems wrong, not sure what it is!!"
If this is you, then you need some feedback too......others may see what the issue is and may help you correct it. Coaches should be developing and improving every year too!!

Moral of this post:

Give real feedback, with real information that a player can use to improve. You may have some kid that goes from average to amazing over the course of a couple of years. If you cannot describe or are not sure what they are doing wrong, get advice. Lots of great hockey people see the game differently and you should be able to take away something from all of them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Less injuries without contact study says!!!

So a new study about body contact came out and here are the highlights before I discuss:

  • Eleven-and 12-year-old ice hockey players showed triple the risk of injuries in games that allow body checking,
  • Many leagues in the U.S. introduce body checking at ages 11 and 12. In Canada, body checking is allowed in some leagues for players ages 11 and 12, with the exception of Quebec, which doesn’t permit the practice until ages 13 and 14, according to the authors.
  • Over the season there were 209 game-related injuries and 73 concussions in Alberta compared with 70 game-related injuries and 20 concussions in Quebec, the researchers found.
  • Most of the injuries in Alberta were the result of body checking, the authors wrote. In Quebec, the majority of the injuries were from incidental game contact, Emery said.
  • The study was of 11-12 year-olds in Alberta and Quebec.
  • They will be doing a study of 13-14 year-olds in both provinces, since both have contact at that age.
First off, this study has its merits and is a good starting point, but definitely not adequate information to make a decision as to what the age body contact should start at. Maybe after the next study we can actually get some data we can use, since we are comparing 2 full contact groups, just one has 2 years experience in contact.

Now lets look at the study with some logic. This study should not be shocker, more kids get injured in full contact than in non-contact. That is the equivalent of saying that more kids get hurt playing full contact football versus flag football. No one needs a study to prove that point.
This is where the study needs to continue to (and should include Saskatchewan with the younger players who started earlier) gain any credibility or true meaning.

What I would like to know is::
  1. If learning at a younger age meant they were less injuries when the kids were pee-wee, bantam and midget age?
  2. What roll does this play out for tier 1 level players, does having more skill help with the contact and injuries?
  3. What were the most common causes of the injuries? Head down, cheapshot, lack of balance, incorrect checking technique or poor position relative to the boards?
Now you can guess where I am going with this, so here are my thoughts:

Correct Age for contact:

-Depends on the physical development. My logic tells me that kids should learn how to take and give a hit correctly before puberty sets in and you have some 12 year old who shaves before the game and pulls beer for the high school seniors, trying to run little Billy (all 4'10 of him) through the boards. (p.s. I do not condone drinking in High School or anytime before it is legal in your area).

-Depends on the league. If you have Alex Ovechkin as a 10 year old vs a group of house league 10 year olds that still are learning to balance, then you are asking for trouble. They will get hurt, especially when you get kids that are full of testosterone as they are hitting puberty that can be very aggressive.

-Depends on the skating, checking knowledge and checking skill of the player. Players that are strong skaters are generally faster and harder to knock down or off the puck. If they lack checking skills and knowledge they will put themselves in dangerous situations and others in dangerous situations. A good player with good checking knowledge will always be aware of when the should be ready for contact and position themselves to either avoid the hit or absorb it (up against the boards, not 3 feet away). A player with good checking skills will be able to give contact effectively with getting penalties (eg. from behind, elbows up, knee out) and give themselves the advantage the contact is supposed to. Many times players go for the hit in an effort to "crush that guy" when they could easy gave a clean check, grabbed the puck and create a turn over for their team.

Moral of the post.

Body contact is part of hockey for boys and men. Injuries will happen. If you want safety, teach it to the kids. Teach them:
  1. Proper skating for balance and agility (this will help them give, take and avoid hits)
  2. Proper way to take a hit (avoid danger zones, use the boards to absord, and roll off hits)
  3. Proper was to give a hit (avoid penalty, strong core and recovery to next step after hit)
  4. Checking knowledge (play development, when to check, proper angles and use as a strategy)
Thanks for reading,