Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
Humans seem wired to seek comfort, and as a result much of daily life is focused around familiar patterns and habits. The grind. When a condition threatens to break those habits, we, oftentimes, feel uncomfortable and nervous. These negative feelings are easily avoided by continuing to live life the same way, rejecting change. If given the chance to enter uncharted territory, a situation where life’s future is unpredictable, people often prefer not to change, clinging to a comfortable situation, not matter whether it is good or bad for them. If we cling to familiarity in these aspects of our lives, there’s no opportunity for real growth — personally, professionally, or athletically.
This is particularly true in the sport of hockey. Ice Skating is an unnatural act that takes years of practice. The athletes who demonstrate the greatest eagerness to abandon fear of injury at a young age will often be the athletes who have the fastest, most dynamic learning curve.
As a coach, I believe all activities should be made competitive, and exciting. Each drill or activity should have several different variables that incorporate several layers of instruction and practiced athleticism. For example... Who teaches crossovers by teaching kids to skate all 5 circles? Everyone does. It's a basic hockey drill. From mites on, kids start in the corners and skate the circles 3 players at a time. Forwards then backwards. Yet how many times in a game do you actually crossover for an entire 360 degrees? And isn't the most difficult part of the movement, not the crossover itself, but rather the transition from crossover left to crossover right... from crossover forward to a stop or tight turn.... the transition from crossover forward to backward skating. The 5 circles is a basic hockey drill that every bored coach does, and past Pee Wee's we as coaches need to ask ourselves what does it really do? Does it re-inforce bad habits and keep kids in their comfort zone? Or does it challenge them to think outside the box?
Try this idea. Use the helpful hints from this Youtube video from the Canadian Hockey Academy and incorporate them in what I call the "Peanut Drill"- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZnfktIar_o
To perform the peanut drill, take 6 cones and place them in neutral ice in the shape of a peanut. The 4 end cones should be equally wide from one another, and the 2 inner cones should be narrow, about 5-7 feet apart. Your peanut can vary in size depending upon whether you are dealing with a team or in a private lesson environment. Divide your group in half, with half the group skating around the shape of the peanut (outside the wide end cones, and up inside the narrow inner cones), and the other half skating in the opposite direction in a wide crossover 5-10 feet outside the peanut. Instruct your players navigating the peanut that during the drill they should not have any traditional forward strides, and they should be able to generate speed off their edges, by continuously crossing over. On your whistle players will speed up. On 2 quick whistles they stop and change directions. 3 quick whistles they turn around into a back skate. Incorporate pucks to build skill upon skill, and have the groups switch after 3-5 minutes. During the switch demonstrate proper technique and drill down with demonstration what skills are being performed correctly.
Is this a more game-like activity? Does it force players to keep their head up, and multi-task skills? Yes. Is it easy to set up and teach? Absolutely.
On this blog, and through my website, I hope coaches of all levels and ability can have some insight into some of the principles that I have learned in my playing career and through my many years of coaching. Feel free to contact me anytime with questions and comments, as I will be frequently posting.
All the best,