Start Them Up

I have had this peeve about minor hockey warm ups for years. Players race out onto the ice shoot pucks at an open net , miss the net , hit the glass or they ricochet into the protective netting. It really pissed me off for some reason. Then last week as I was discussing with a friend the short comings of Coaching in Minor hockey and in particular how the mental game has been for the most part ignored it dawned on me. The warm up time is one of the most under Coached areas in the game. These young athletes get 5 minutes to prepare their bodies and minds for a game that is fast, has collisions, and decisions that are made quickly. How can Coaches talk of about performance when we have yet to fully understand the potential of the combined physical, mental and emotional power?

For years the culture of hockey has told us that the warm up is for the goalie(s) so they can feel the puck and focus on speed of puck and tracking. True. However, what about the other 15 players? What is the game of hockey doing for them. Coaches are preaching to their team that we need a good start, we need to start on time and when that does not happen they say ” we were not ready to play” as if it was the players fault. Wrong! The players who participate in minor hockey IMO are not prepared properly for puck drop. Physically, a five minute warm up does not cut it, but due to ice time constraints that is the best case scenario. What about the mental side? How well prepared are players for the start of the game,? When the game starts competition starts. Do Coaches prepare players and teams properly? I do not think they do. Coaches that I have teamed up with understood, that practice is different from a game. They understood that a practice is a controlled environment where a game is a variable environment. Sure, certain tactics can be employed to reduce the variability factor to make it a little more predictable but for the most part it is unpredictable.

A thought to consider and I wish I would have come up with this idea when I was coaching is to designate 2 or 3 practices a month and simulate the start of a game. From the time players arrive at the rink, the off ice warm up, getting dressed, Coaches instructions, warm up, and start the game. Actually play the first five minutes. After the practice the Coaches and the players can evaluate the value that this exercise brought. I can bet you that their is not a single Coach that has done this. From the outside looking in , it will definitely look odd because the pressure of a game start is never practised. Pressure is the ultimate separators of Coaches, players and teams. In competition, those that question their readiness will easily be surpassed by those that know they are ready, and are focused on competing.

Legendary LSU baseball Manager Skip Bertrum Coached his players on How To Win Awareness. It is a pretty simple concept that he made sure his athletes were better prepared for situations that were happening in a game.

What did he know, he only won five National Championships !

Until next time

Follow on Twitter @Betweentheears2

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