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Organizing a Practice

September 8, 2011 General No Comments

Organizing a practice
By Julia Negro
Oct 30, 2001, 17:37


Whether at an Adirondack Red Wings practice or a Huron Hockey School session, Newell Brown is an organizer when it comes to running his drills. Brown believes that planning is critical to maximizing practice time. Here are some tips Brown suggests for organizing a practice.

Set goals. Time management is important for a youth coach, so the coach should know what needs to be accomplished before the practice starts. Planning is necessary for your practice to flow properly. As a coach, you need to identify the skills and problem areas that need to be worked on practice. Think about these things when you plan. You should have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish before the first skate hits the ice.


Have a theme. Every practice should have a theme, especially for young kids. It might be stickhandling, working on agility, or puck movement, but you should have something to focus on. This way your players really master the skill you’ve set out to teach.

Prepare the players. Let the players know in advance the types of drills that they will be doing, and why, so there is no wasted time once they take the ice. “When a youth coach is working with players,” says Brown, “it is important to tell the players how the drill relates to the games. Do as many game-related drills as possible.”


Organize your staff. Make sure everybody knows what and where their responsibilities are, and how the practice is going to flow. Have your assistant coaches ready, so they know what’s coming next. Use your assistant coaches (or parents) to place pucks and cones in proper places, and to make sure there are designated areas on the ice so you can move your group from one drill to the next.


On-ice tips

Divide your team into two or three groups so you can cover specific skills in a shorter time period. Smaller groups are always better because players get to repeat a lot more of the activities. Since repetition is the mother of learning, it is important that the kids get a lot of repetition in their on-ice drills.

Brown also believes that you should be positive with the players. “I think the days that coaches berated players and screamed at them are over,” he says. “Kids today want to know ‘how’ and they want to know ‘why.’ I think you have to be as clear and concise as you possibly can with your players while still being positive. If you are positive with them they are going to enjoy being at the rink and enjoy being with the coach. As a result of that, they are going to learn a lot more.’’

The use of coaching tools is also effective in maximizing ice time. A coaching board is good to diagram drills because it helps your players get a mental and visual image of what you are talking about. This gives them a better understanding of what they’re trying to accomplish in the drill.

If you lack ice time, you can also walk through your drills off-ice, in a gymnasium or parking lot. “Once they get on the ice they’ll know the pattern of what needs to be accomplished and will have a better feel for applying it during practice. I think a lot can be done off ice in preparing for your practice,” says Brown.

Speed, tight spots help

Drills should be executed at top speed as often as possible. It doesn’t matter if players fall or lose the puck. Getting used to doing things at top speed in practice will help develop their skills and practice habits so that when it comes to a game situation they call do things at a greater tempo.

When looked upon positively, mistakes can be valuable learning tools.

Brown thinks a good drill is one that allows the players to play in small areas so they handle the puck a lot. “This kind of drill forces them to read and react with their teammates on ice.” A good example is a three-on-three cross-ice hockey scrimmage which can be played at both ends of the ice surface. Use the blueline and boards as boundaries and put nets across the ice. You can also use this drill in a one-on-one or two-on-two situation.

The cross-ice game also teaches kids how to be quick in tight situations, and ways to get away from pressure—promoting creativity in puck handling. Creativity with the puck needs to be taught at a young age because as you get older and into a higher level of hockey, you have less freedom to be creative and try to beat someone one-on-one. In a smaller space, the pace increases and the players are in a closer proximity, so more passes are completed. “If you can play well in small areas on the ice, you are going to have success in a game situation.”

Let ‘em have fun

Brown also believes practices should have a mix of 90% skills and 10% systems. “Young players need time to utilize their puck skills and improve their skating and thinking skills on the ice. Let the kids have fun. I think young hockey players are all in pretty good shape, and conditioning isn’t such a big factor at their age.”


Julia Negro is a conditioning instructor at Michigan State University and an Administrator for Huron Hockey School in Traverse City, MI.


This first appeared in the 11/1994 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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