During the course of a game, the successful player must be proficient in three
critical components of skilled performance: sensing the environment, deciding
what to do, and executing an action. The sensor component uses the player’s
visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses to scan the surrounding environment
for teammates, the opposition, the puck, and everything else going on in the
game. The decision-making component requires the player to decide the best action
to take based on his “read” of the situation. Finally, the executor component
enables him to effectively carry out the prescribed action.
These roles are interdependent because a weakness in one role limits proficiency
in another. For example, a strong skater who lacks solid decision-making capabilities
usually makes poor choices with the puck and creates turnovers. Now consider
the following positive example of the sensor, decision maker, executor process.
The puck carrier makes a visual scan of the playing surface and sees a wide
open teammate in the slot; he then decides that passing the puck to his teammate
is the best opportunity for a scoring chance. Finally, he makes a pass.
Each component requires a certain amount of processing time, and in a hockey
game that processing time is measured in milliseconds. If you and your teammates
can decrease the amount of time required to process each component, you will
create enough time and space to maneuver the puck into the slot.
The best way to make the sensor, decision-maker, executor process faster is
to make each component automatic. When a player is capable of performing each
component automatically, he can then perform all three roles virtually simultaneously.
Try the following practical approaches to make yourself more skilled at each
component when picking up loose pucks.
To decrease the time spent in the sensor role, constantly pay attention to
your “look, listen, and feel” senses in order to gauge the direction, speed,
and position of these four things: yourself, your teammates, your opponents,
and the puck. As the play unfolds, keep a running tab on available open space,
because that is where you will be headed the instant you or a teammate gains
possession. The less time you spend looking for open space once your team has
gained possession, the faster you can execute. But before you can act, you must
first decide on the best action to take.
Limit Your Options
The easiest way to speed up the decision-making process is to limit the number
of options. The time required to process a decision that involves a single option
is so small that the process appears to be automatic. When you or a teammate
picks up a loose puck, you have a single option: skate the puck to open space
and towards your opponent’s end.
The first thing this does is create time for you and your teammates. If you
are the puck carrier, you will need some space in order to maintain possession
while looking for a good play option such as a pass or a shot. Under heavy defensive
pressure, a successful outcome becomes virtually impossible as you attempt to
get possession of the puck, then scan the surface, then decide your next move,
and finally, carry out the action. In most instances, the single best decision
for the puck carrier is to move the puck to open space along the boards with
speed, then look for a play that will move the puck into the middle.
The second reason “get it and go” works is that it gives the supporting players
time to get away from the defense. When a teammate gains control of the puck,
the best decision a supporting player can make is to quickly break towards the
offensive end, while leaving an open passing lane between themselves and the
puck carrier. Offsides is not a concern, so at least one forward should scream
towards the opponents’ net and set up for a shot. The key is for the whole team
to break into attack mode the instant you gain possession. Remember, a defender’s
reaction and recovery time is longer on inline skates than on ice skates, so
turn the puck up quickly and catch the defense out of position.
Avoid Dumping It
It is almost never a good decision to “dump” the puck into the offensive zone.
90 percent of all roller hockey is played with no offsides rules. Roller hockey
is a possession game, so don’t give up the puck. If upon entering the attacking
zone, the puck carrier decides that he has no good options for a scoring chance.
He can back the puck out of the attacking zone without regard to sending his
Executing faster than your opponent’s ability to react creates time and space.
The defense cannot stop what it cannot catch. You must move as fast as you can
while maintaining control of the puck and yourself.
In the defensive end, roller hockey forwards tend to pick up loose pucks along
the boards near the points. A good transition technique in this situation is
to use your stick or skates to push the puck past the defender to open space,
and then skate after it. Once the forward has gotten around his check, he can
cut hard into the middle or look for a pass. This move works especially well
in roller hockey because of the defender’s reduced capacity to stop and then
chase on inline skates, besides, most roller hockey is played without body checking,
so there isn’t much concern about getting “drilled” as you sneak in between
the defender and the boards.
The next time you are playing roller hockey, and you find yourself in possession
of the puck. Don’t just stand there wondering what to do. Instead, “Get it and
A national examiner for the National In-Line Skating Associa-tion, Jack
Brumm recently wrote the organizations level 3 roller hockey certification program.