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Teaching the FUNdamentals

August 18, 2011 General No Comments

Teaching the FUNdamentals
By Robby Glantz
Oct 30, 2001, 07:20

 

No matter where I am, coaching power skating—whether it is in North America or Europe—I am asked one question by the coaches more often than any other: “How do we incorporate skating training into our practices when we barely have enough ice time to teach shooting, passing, positional play and strategy?”

They ask it not in a cynical manner, but rather because they are honestly perplexed. These coaches seem to know how important skating is to the game, and truly want to incorporate it into their training regimen. They just do not know the best way to go about it.

I can certainly understand this difficult problem faced by the coaches. As most of us involved with hockey are well aware, there is a real scarcity of ice time. Therefore, the tendency is to emphasize only the “fun” aspects of hockey—i.e. shooting, passing, scrimmages, etc.—during team practices. However, learning to skate better makes the whole game easier—as well as more enjoyable—to play. And the learning aspect itself can also be fun and imaginative.

Stress the fundamentals

As mentioned in the introduction, lack of ice time is the biggest problem that leads to the minimal time spent on skating training in practice. However, another problem is that teaching skating fundamentals can sometimes be a very subtle art, and most coaches are not trained as power skating instructors. But there are certain aspects of skating fundamentals that we can all see, and these are the fundamentals that coaches should stress.

They include; having the players bend the knees more than where they feel comfortable; pushing the legs to full extension in the forward and backward stride; teaching them not to run on the skates—instead, use the edges and not the flats of the blades; and to make sure that the players do not hunch over, but rather that they bend at the knees while keeping their back straight. These are just a few examples of fundamentals that all coaches can repetitively talk about with their players.

Make it fun!

Certainly, players need time to work on their other skills—such as passing, shooting and stickhandling—which are the so-called “fun” part of hockey. And while these vital aspects of the game should be practiced, let’s not forget that skating better only helps to make these skills stronger. And learning to skate better can be fun, too.

One of the major problems I have with coaches is the way in which skating is used as a negative, or a punishment. This automatically sets the wrong tone for the players. Coaches, try to be creative when disciplining your team.

Simply threatening your team, or an individual player, with laps or other skating drills (minus the puck), for example, sends the signal to them that skating is only punishment, and no one likes to be punished.

Further, it sends the message that if skating is to be practiced, it’s practiced as a last resort.

There are, of course, times to emphasize stamina and endurance drills, and times to emphasize technique as well. Each individual situation being different, it is the coach’s job to weigh all the factors surrounding their team’s needs and decide the best times for each. I find that the beginning of the season is an excellent time for technique training, and it is also very important to stick with it as the season progresses.

As many of us know, a good time to practice skating technique drills is during the warm-ups, before the pucks come on the ice. But—surprise!—hockey skating techniques can be practiced while using pucks, too. One of the greatest problems I encounter in my travels is with the creativity on the part of some coaches, and the lack of imaginative and well-rounded drills.

For example, simply because the pucks are on the ice does not mean that the players have to carry them with them everywhere they go. Be creative! Maybe place the pucks in a certain location and have the players do some fun and explosive skating maneuvers before they pick one up. That way they have no distractions, and are free to concentrate solely on their technique.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, encourage players at all levels to try so hard that they make mistakes. Instead of frowning when a player falls down, give them a pat on the rear and let them know that even Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux fall down. Then try to explain from a technique standpoint why it happened.

All players must make mistakes and take chances if they are to improve their skating. And coaches have to be there to support them.

 

Robby Glantz, power skating coach for the Los Angeles Kings, Swedish champions Malmö, and the German National Teams, conducts skating programs throughout North America and Europe.

This first appeared in the 07/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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