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player tips

16

March

Once that final buzzer sounds it’s only a short time before most players start to think “What’s next” . . . “How do I improve my game?” While many players think this, it’s those that follow through, set goals and work hard that actually hit the ice next season as a better player than last season. So the question is, how are you going to make the most of your off season training?

5 tips to the top of your game: 

  1. Start with a plan. This seems simple and obvious, but a plan isn’t a plan unless goals are identified and written down. Think back to last season and the difficulties that you had, identify areas of improvement and create a plan that will improve skills in areas that need the most work. Many players work on areas in which they are already strong. The great players spend time focusing on their weaknesses.
  2. Choose a program. There are many options on how and where to train. Do your homework, and research opportunities that are reputable and offer training and skill development in the areas that align with your goals and objectives. Once you make this important commitment, you will be once step closer to your off season goals.
  3. It’s summer, enjoy it! Off season training should be mixed in with a good balance of traditional summer activities. Hockey players that create a mix of training and fun are more likely to reduce injuries and also will stay with the program for a longer period of time.
  4. Dedicate yourself. When it does come time for training, whether it’s before going to the beach or after a round of golf, focus on what you need to improve on. Put yourself back into the place you were last season and think about the areas of your game that frustrated you. Listen to your instructors and coaches and skate each drill with the same intensity that you play the game. Dedicate yourself to the moment!
  5. Split the summer into 3 periods. June, July and August come and go very quickly. If you split your training and define goals for each month, it will allow you to focus and access your progress on a monthly basis. Players that we have trained at our summer hockey schools have told us they will identify 3 key areas of focus, and while they train all summer with them in mind, they may spend more time in June in shooting for example, and then shift the focus of July to power skating, and then August is all about stickhandling.

The goal of your off season training should be to improve your skills, increase your love of the game and to hit the ice this fall as a better hockey player than you left it in the spring. Good luck in all of your training and we hope to see you on the ice at one of our camps in 10 states this summer!

Playoff games can be stressful, but ask any player or parent, and they will tell you that when it comes to stress, tryouts are at the top of the list. Players are no longer competing with their buddies against another team during tryouts, they are now facing each other, competing for a limited number of spots on a team. I have evaluated tryouts for many years and noticed that players seem to fall into a few different categories: those that rise to the occasion and tryout really well, those that don’t tryout well for a variety of reasons, and then those in a middle group that don’t do much to hurt their chances, but also don’t do a whole lot to shine and really help their chances of making the team.

So do tryouts bring out the best in you, or the worst in you? Or are you somewhere in the middle group? What is interesting is that the players that seem to have their best stuff during tryouts, are also the players who have a calm and collected demeanor. In other words, they come to the rink prepared and in a good mindset, ready to compete and showcase the skills that they have developed.

The “Six P’s” can apply not only at tryout time, but also with school, work and just about every task that presents itself. Proper, prior, preparation is all about making sure that you are in the best position possible to succeed. It is often said that a big part of stress is directly attributable to simply not being prepared. When it comes to hockey, and tryouts, how prepared are you? Are you hitting the ice with enough rest to perform at your peak? Have you paid attention to your diet so that you have the fuel that you will need to bring the energy necessary to outwork the competition?

How about your hockey skills? Have you put in the necessary time required to improve the skills in your game? As we have noticed at our Massachusetts-based hockey school, as players advance through the various levels of  youth hockey, the skill level of players increases dramatically, and no where is it more evident than at tryouts where dangles and snipes can be the difference in whether or not you make the team.

What I really like about the six p’s is the word proper. Preparation can mean many different things to players, and the key is preparing the proper way. If you need to work on your skating, you need to understand the proper fundamentals of power skating. If you are working on your stick handling, you need to practice the proper mechanics, such as keeping your head up. If you prepare in the proper manner, you will reap the benefits. Practice like a champion to perform like a champion.

Good luck with your tryouts and we look forward to seeing you at one of our hockey schools this summer!

14

February

It’s The Little Things That Matter

Posted by Greg Carter

Hockey SchoolAs I watched the winning team celebrate a championship at a recent weekend tournament, a parent turned and asked “How in the world did that team win?” My response? By doing the little things.

In every game there are so many things that can go right for a team, as well as go very wrong. When it comes to winning games, especially at this time of year, coaches will tell players to stay out of the box, work hard, play with passion and to give it their all. And within all of these pieces of advice are details that often determine the outcome of a game. And it’s these little details, that when added together, that often play a large role in the final score.

So what are the little things that matter so much? I used to have a coach that said hockey is a game of ten-foot races. Races to the puck. Races to the net. Races to an open area. Quickness is an important aspect of the game and this type of effort is nothing more than will over skill. Teams in the biggest games that win the races are often times the team that also come out ahead on the scoreboard. It’s amazing how many times you see one team start winning the races, and then the other starts to stand around, and once that happens to the other team, good things start happening for your team!

Getting the puck out of the zone or into the zone. Blue line play is so important, yet often overlooked in the flow of the game. During this championship game that I was watching, the winning team won nearly every battle of the blue lines. When they were killing penalties and in a defensive zone scrum along the sideboards, they found a way to get the puck out of the zone, thus killing more time on the penalty. On the other end of the ice, when they needed to get the puck into the zone to get a change, they didn’t simply get it into the zone ten feet across the blue line, they shot it in deep, and made the other team retrieve it, and start back up the ice. Making a team go 185 feet for a goal can make a big difference, no different than field position in football!

Face-offs. As youth hockey players get older face-offs become super important. While the center hopes to win the face-off, the coverage of players by wings is equally important. I watched a face-off in this championship game where the team won an offensive zone face-off and drew the puck back to the top of the circle, but it was picked off by an opposing wing that skated right out through two players that didn’t tie up. The result? A goal on the other end of the ice!

Another great coach once told me that you have to believe you are going to be good before you ever will be good. And while this may seem like a trivial thing, believing leads to confidence, and confidence leads to momentum. Again during this championship game one team not only looked like they wanted it more, but it looked like they believed more!

Good luck in your own playoffs this year and remember, it’s the little things that matter!

Training

I was recently watching a TV feature on an NHL player who invited the viewing audience on a tour of his childhood home. We met his mom and dad, his siblings, his dog, got a tour of the house and hung out with some of his friends. What was really cool was getting to see where and how he spent most of his time growing up, which included his basement where he shot pucks, in his backyard on the family ice rink and even playing tennis, basketball and just about any competitive sport.

As the game of hockey has evolved into a national sport with great players coming from every corner of the U.S., it should come as no surprise to aspiring players that if you want to maximize your potential, it’s really what you to away from the rink that will determine how far you make it as a hockey player.

When players leave practice at the rink, they all have the same decision to make after they get their homework done. As an old coach used to say, ‘we all have the same number of hours in a day, it’s up to you how you spend them’. So players have a decision to make, will they watch TV, play video games, sit on their phone, or work on hockey skills and hockey development?

During one point of the TV feature the father of the NHL player was standing in their unfinished basement which served as their shooting room. The father was standing in front of a wall that, at one point before the color of vulcanized rubber took over, was probably the color of fresh wood and perhaps even the name of the shooting tarp was visible. The puck marks on shooting area of the concrete floor looked like the track at the Daytona 500.

“I can’t tell you how many thousands, and thousands of pucks have been shot down here,” said the father. Later in the show, talking about their backyard rink, it was again stated that the time, memories and frozen toes were too numerous to try to begin to quantify.

Meeting this NHL player via the TV show made me think back to some of my own experiences, and of those around me who were fortunate enough to play in college or even the NHL. They were the first ones on the rink and the last ones to leave. And they were also the players that had a net in their backyard and dozens of sticks in a barrel in their garage with the blades worn down to nothing. These worn out blades and banged up nets were a badge of honor for these players, and a testament to their dedication to the game. You could tell exactly how bad a kid wanted it by the condition of his training area.

And years later, after watching this segment on today’s NHL players, the same is true. So the question is, how bad to you want it? Are you willing to put in what it takes away from the rink?

After all, everyone has the the same number of hours in a day.

17

January

Tough Season? No Problem!

Posted by Greg Carter

Mid-season can be a challenging time of year for players, coaches and parents. It’s that in between time when the hype and anticipation of the new season has worn off, and although the playoffs are on the horizon, the next few weeks can be a bit of a grind. This can be especially true for players who just aren’t quite having the season they expected.

We have written about the importance of setting goals at the start of the season, and that development is a marathon, not a sprint. This is the time of year to remind yourself of these goals and that this is one season and one moment in time when regardless of how good, bad or average things are going, there is a ton of opportunity down the road, be it the next game, tournament or season!

Many coaches take the opportunity at this juncture to provide mid-season evaluations that should give players some specific examples of successes, as well as areas that need improvement. This feedback should be the motivation for players to refocus and get energized for the homestretch of the season and beyond.

Every team needs positive players who work hard and bring energy to practices and games. As the old saying goes, there is no substitute for hard work, and the best way to get the results that you want is exactly that, working as hard as you possibly can during each and every practice.

Changing the way things are going on the ice can also start with changing habits off of the ice. For example, if you aren’t scoring as many goals as you anticipated, try shooting pucks for 30 minutes prior to going to the rink. If you don’t feel like you have the energy or quickness you need during the game, try changing your warm up routine and pay attention to the types of food and drink you are consuming prior to the game.

Finally, I like to tell the story of a very successful coach who addressed our team prior to a big game by saying “In order to be good, you first have to believe that you are good.” While that is a relatively simple statement, it’s extremely meaningful in that players who enter games and practices with a positive mindset are well positioned to achieve the success they anticipate.

So as you start to enter the final stretch of your season, bring a great ‘can-do’ attitude with an excellent work ethic and you will help your team skate home with the hardware!

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