I absolutely love this Minnesota Hockey article, “The Role of Systems in Youth Hockey“. I read it in the Shoreview Arena lobby in a Let’s Play Hockey before one of our Mounds View Irondale Peewee A practices this season and I was blown away.
I’ve been coaching hockey since 2001 and I’ve always taken pride in becoming a better coach. I self-evaluate practices, watch other teams’ games and practices for ideas, and talk with other coaches. I continuously learn and try to get better each season.
It’s only been in the last three years that I’ve been saying and doing many of the things in the article. I really wish I read this article in my first year of coaching hockey. I could have arrived at where I’m at now, much sooner.
“If we can teach the kids good habits and concepts through small area games or drills, it’s really going to help them in the long term.”
This is so true. My assistants and I are coaching kids for their next team. We want them to leave us as better players. In practices, over the course of the entire season, we do lots of small area games and 2v1 drills. I marvel at the speed and creativity with which they play during our practices.
We only had one practice the entire season that had a focus on power play/penalty kill. Looking back, I probably should have just skipped it. The kids may not realize it, but we work on special teams every single practice in the form of small area games and 2v1 drills. No “system” work for us — we just want them to make hockey plays.
Pressuring the puck aggressively, passing and moving to get open again, making rapid decisions, working hard, playing fast with their head up, transitioning quickly from offense to defense and back again to offense is the System.
“An increasing trend at the higher levels of hockey today is the notion that players are interchangeable.”
“The result is every player must understand offensive and defensive habits and concepts.”
Our players should know what every player’s role on the ice and be able to take on those responsiblities. You never know how a shift might play out. A forward might have three defensive zone responsibilites in the same shift. We might have a penalty on a defensemen, and need to pull a forward back. There might be a line-change and a defensemen might have to forecheck and pressure the puck.
“All of this stuff is a progression,” said Guy Gosselin, who serves as USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager for Minnesota. “We have to make our kids capable of having higher skill sets so when it is time to implement stuff like this, and it starts kind of getting important in later years, they’re capable of doing it.”
Like I said before, we’re coaching athletes for their next team and I think we’ve done a good job this season. I’m excited to see our players next season and beyond. I believe they have developed great hockey habits for the future.