If you had to guess what the #1 weakest skill is of girls' hockey players...
... what would it be?
Last summer, I was sitting in a classroom, alongside elite level coaches
from all over Canada, listening to a presentation given by a national expert
in skill development of female players.
One of the coaches asked the presenter what he thought was the single
biggest skill deficiency in female players.
And I thought to myself, it's got to be shooting, or the mental game, or the
ability to see and use open ice...
.. But that's not what he said.
Without hesitation, he said "giving and receiving passes".
And when I really thought about it, it totally made sense. I can picture
myself out on the ice telling my players to "pass it like they mean it".
I also remember going to my first national team tryout and being blown
away at how quick, hard and accurately the best players in the country
passed the puck.
We've got our Total Female Hockey Elite Skills Camp coming up in a few weeks
and we'll pay extra attention to the passing skills of the incoming players.
We'll make it a primary focus of the week to teach them how to give and
receive passes effectively. Most players can pass, but very very few of them
are able to make and receive effective passes on both their forehand and
backhand while moving. They can get the puck in the general vicinity of
their target, but they don't move the puck with authority.
Quite often, girls try to push the puck and place it on their teammates stick,
instead of sweeping it and snapping their passes.
One of the main reasons for this is that when they start the passing motion,
the puck is already in front of them. This causes them to "flick" the puck
and push it towards the receiver. Girls must get comfortable starting the passing
motion from behind their body. The challenge is that when the puck is behind you,
you can't see it. Players who don't have high level stickhandling and passing skills
will be very uncomfortable having the puck outside their field of view while it's on
their stick. This is a skill that can be practiced off the ice and must be constantly
reinforced on the ice.
Similarly, girls tend to stop the puck out in front of them when they receive a pass.
This usually leads to the puck bouncing off their stick, instead of being cushioned
and caught to the side of the body. When players receive the puck out in front of
them, they have no choice but to push a weak pass to the next receiver, or to have
to stickhandle the puck to get it into a proper passing position - which is ineffective
because it wastes time. When players cushion and catch the puck out to the side
of their body, and allow the puck to move outside their field of view, they can
immediately sweep and snap the puck again for a quick and hard pass. Again,
this is a skill that must be taught explicitly and practiced constantly.
With the start of the season still a few months away for most teams,
these passing and receiving skills will have to be practiced by players on
an individual basis for the rest of the summer. This can be done very simply
out on the driveway with a stick and stickhandling ball. Remember - all the
little details count and any extra time you devote to developing your individual
skills this summer will pay off once the season starts in September.
PS - For those of you who want to take your stickhandling and shooting skills
to the next level in time for the start of training camp, check out our Total
Female Hockey Elite Shooting and Stickhandling Video Series.
It's a 16 video series that you can follow along with to make sure your puck
skills are ready for the start of the season.
Click on the link below for all the details:
Tag(s): Coach's Corner