As a coach and skills coach, I incorporate some type of small-area games in
every practice and skill development session I run. Regardless of the age,
level and ability of the player, everyone stands to benefit from the use of
these games throughout practice.
I will modify the game, playing surface and rules depending on the ability
of the players on the ice, and I will take into account what skating and
puck skills we have or will be working on during the sessions; this ensures
the small-area game gives the players an opportunity to experiment with
skills they have previously worked on, or skills that have been introduced
during that current session.
The use of small-area games to begin a practice or skill development
session is a great way to get every player engaged and involved right from
the start. As a coach, small-area games are a great way to set the pace and
work-ethic expectation for the remainder of practice.
From the player perspective, small-area games will improve their long-term
development over the course of their playing career and aid in their minor
These games improve a player’s ability to read, react and adapt to a given
situation; improve their ability to handle a puck under extreme pressure
and confinement; and improve their skating ability, edge work and ability
to escape opponents. They will also build a player’s confidence in practice
and games through game-simulated repetition.
∎ by Zach McCullough
For a few years now, we’ve noticed the emergence of many
individually-skilled hockey players. How can we most optimally develop
these skill sets among Canadians?
If Canadian minor hockey (Initiation – U7 and Novice – U9) is evolving
towards cross-ice/half-ice play to increase play time, puck-possession time
and player development, the same tactics should be applied for individual
skills with older players.
While many coaches want players to be able to perform in different systems,
it is important to give these players the proper tools in order to have
them perform at their peak. These skills include shooting, passing,
skating, stick-handling, angling and many more.
Station work allows for an increase in repetition in a condensed amount of
time, important technical movements essential to the development and
performance of Canadian hockey players. Further, the nature of this type of
play implies a smaller area of space for the players to work with, thus
emulating the more restrictive-area hockey of today. Practicing with these
space limitations prepares players to better adapt to certain systems and
perform better come game time.
Individual skills should be an important part of player development and the
maintenance of new skills. The skills coach and head coach should work
together to integrate it into the season plan.
∎ by Philippe Trahan