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I just finished the USA Hockey Level 4 clinicn this past weekend. There was discussion on imporving practice tempo.
This was an area that I would like to see improvement from our past season.

There was some discussion regarding running practices of shorter duration to avoid "pacing". I'm curious to your ideas on how to achieve practices of higher tempo with a Pee Wee A travel team.

Thanks.

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Tony, good topic.

I like to have good tempo in most of my drills and games and overspeed in some of the actvities. I don't think you can have high tempo all of the time with Pee Wee players U14.

If we are doing skill drills where they are learning new things the pace will be less than if they are doing something they already know and are accomplished at. If you want high tempo then the ratio must be at least 3 times rest to 1 time work or performance will drop. Sometime if it is shorts bursts of speed then more rest between intervals is needed. Thinking speed also is important and restricting time or puck touches is also important.

A.I.M. is the goal for my practices.

Activity - 80%
Instruction - 10%
Maintenance - 10% (moving from place to place etc.)

The rest is part of the activity. Minimize down time like explaining things at the whiteboard. After I teach my team a new drill or game I give it a name and expect the players to remember it when I give a 15 second description. You can also simply add a rule, an extra pass, a new player, a regroup to a drill or game as it is happening with a voice command while everyone stops to listen for ten seconds. Another way to save time is for players to move pucks at the end of one activity to where they are needed next and then explain the next activity.

So in my view a 60 or 75 minute practice should be full of activity and part of the practice should emphasize doing everything at either top speed or overspeed.


'The Game is the Greatest Coach'
'Enjoy the Game'
   
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Tony,

Congrats on attending the Level 4 clinic!

I personally don't believe in running shorter practices to avoid ‘pacing’. I find ‘pacing’ primarily occurs when the players perceive the practice as boring and not overly mentally engaging: for instance, when the coach requests them to work on skill drills in isolation (not in a fun, challenging or game-like environment - the kids aren't involved in 'playing' a game while performing skills under pressure) for too long periods of time - just like 99% of all 'traditional' hockey practices out there! This isn’t the fault of the coaches; they are unwitting ‘victims’ of their own athletic upbringing, the traditional 19th century learning / teaching methodologies still prevalent in our universities today, and the outdated coaching certification clinics that are also based on these old teachings.

Some background: As part of my work, I help facilitate Provincial and National Sport Organizations (administrators and coaches) and school boards (administrators and teachers) with new learning, teaching and mentoring models. An excellent example of this is Sir Ken Robinson. He makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence. He gives two excellent presentations on www.TED.com - I suggest you watch both as they are both entertaining and informative.

"Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment and it's not enough. Reform is no use anymore because that is simply improving a broken model. What we need, and the word has been used many times the past few days, is not evolution, but a revolution, in education. This has to be transformed into something else. Human communities depend upon the diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability. We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education and it is impoverishing our spirits and our energies as much as fast-food is depleting our physical bodies. It's about passion and what excites our spirit and our energy and if you are doing the thing that you love to do; that you are good at, time takes a different course entirely. It's about customizing to your circumstances and personalizing education to the people you are actually teaching. Doing that, I think, is the answer to the future because it's not about scaling a new solution, it's about creating a movement in education in which people develop their own solutions but with external support based on a personalized curriculum. We have to change from the Industrial model to an agricultural model, where each school can be flourishing tomorrow." - Sir Ken Robinson.

Things are starting to change a bit now, in isolated pockets around the world… finally!

To understand this question of 'pacing', one needs to examine their own philosophy and understanding of their coaching situation. You need to assess your own type of coaching style and realistically determine how much time each player is engaged vs. waiting; you can have someone watch your practices – that can identify the kids by name, colour or number – and use a stopwatch to give you some data. Can you increase engagement time (or time on task) and decrease ‘non-engaged’ time? Yes you can!

It will take an open mind to embrace a different way of looking at things, but it isn't as difficult as it might seem... if you want to personally improve as a coach to make the game the best and most fun for the kids (and that's why you took the Level 4 clinic and read forums like this in the first place!) You will be constantly evolving your coaching philosophy. "To think we already know it all is the logic of fools." It is tough to change 180 degrees overnight, so instead, focus on taking smaller steps towards a larger ‘big picture’ direction. You almost need to become a hybrid coach as an intermediary step.

I started coaching as a traditional style type hockey coach (skill drills in isolation), as we are all products of our upbringing, as that’s the only way I knew. When I look back, I felt this was not just the best way; it was the only way! How times change! The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know… Now I try to compete as often as possible; using as many games as possible - mainly 1 vs. 1 to 3 vs. 3 game-like situations – and I heavily embrace accountability and integrity. I am a ‘fully actualized’ Game Intelligence coach now and my athletes and parents thank me for that!

Fortunately, I had several important mentors who greatly influenced my personal coaching evolution. Some included Dr. Joan Vickers and Dr. Darren Kruisselbrink (Neuro-motor Learning and Decision Training); Dr. George Kingston, Dave King and Tom Renney, Mike Johnson, Andy Murray, Pat Quinn (hockey knowledge and communication - ‘people skills’); Bruce Brown, Joe Ehrmann, and Jim Thompson (transformational leadership); and John Castrillon and Theresa Maxwell - as well as the numerous people who have written about Game Sense / Tactical Awareness / Teaching Games for Understanding - who have helped me understand the critical importance of practicing how you want to play, using modified small-area games. “The Game is the best teacher of the Game!” Tom has shown me the European influence surrounding skill development and several new ways to take line rushes and turn them into more realistic game-like situations with varying numbers of players taking part (entering and exiting on their own – just like a game requires!) so the coach can influence different focus areas during practice. As you know, there are lots of great game-like ideas on the site and I encourage you to order his book / jump drive.

The coach needs to put himself in their skates... and keep in mind, Pee Wee kids (12-13 years old) are not miniature adults - especially those children growing up in today's "Fast Food" society (seeking and expecting immediate gratification.) They grow bored even more quickly than in my time (a 1960's era product!)

If you feel the need to ask your kids to perform skill drills in isolation, or even skills in combination, change it up every 30 seconds or so (you will find a comfortable time that works for your individual age group) but I wouldn't go any longer than 5-10 minutes total of 'typical' hockey drills. Perform these as your warmup, and then get to ‘the good stuff!’

Try to make these traditional drills competitive whenever possible (typical skill drills in isolation don't appear to have any immediately measurable outcome to the kids and thus lack immediate built-in motivation, such as competition) and hold them accountable to the results (losers receive extra training in the form of skill-related exercises (especially with the younger kids) or fitness related, such as pushups or situps). Bruce Brown http://www.proactivecoaching.info/proactive/ takes a bit of a different approach, in the booklet “Team Building Through Positive Conditioning”. There are a wide variety of ways to increase competition and to help hold kids accountable to their performance. To each his own!

Some specific suggestions I would make to help mentally engage the players in these isolated skill drill situations include “How many successful reps can you perform in 30 seconds?” or whatever time you set (the kids count) and contrast their results to the rest in the group. You can keep track of personal bests and provide opportunities to try to beat them. Or set up obstacle courses or other challenges so they can compete against other players. What other ideas do you have?

Challenges can appeal to both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations... try to ignite the passion inside the kids! See the work of Dr. Carol Dweck regarding motivation; her book, "Mindset" is excellent! http://mindsetonline.com/ As coaches, we should recognize that within all kids lie the seeds of greatness. It is up to us to try to reach them all and find the right buttons to press to help allow them to become the best they can. Joe Ehrmann's book, "InSideOut Coaching" is an invaluable read http://www.insideoutcoachingbook.com/ regarding one’s own coaching philosophy and how others see you / your coaching approach and motivations. We should strive to be ‘transformational coaches!’

Kids don't necessarily see the connection between truly applying themselves physically and mentally on these isolated skill drills (fully applying oneself is the very definition of 'Deliberate Practice' and the application of this state for 10,000 hours to become ‘an expert’ - http://www.missiontolearn.com/2010/04/deliberate-practice/) and the relationship these isolated skills have to the game by starting with a drill-first approach.

That's why I start with games first. The kids come to realize they need to improve various elements of their skills to give them the best chance to compete successfully in game situations. Tony, since you have an 'A' level group, these kids will absolutely love the games and the chance to compete; more so than instructing practice predominantly with repetitive skills (removed from a realistic, game-like environment) with games as an afterthought - if at all. Besides, Tarasov said, "Speed of mind is most important. Train it!" Games require decisions to be made. Players need to fail to learn from their mistakes so future mistakes become minimized. This is how you train Game Intelligence.

I don't experience any ‘pacing’ in my practices because I use games with rules and keep score; holding the losing teams accountable. The kids are so mentally engaged that they quickly learn to give their 'all' consistently because they are having fun (learning Game Intelligence - see that thread for more ideas) while improving their skills under pressure... just like in a real game! As a side benefit to playing lots of intense games, they are also training their fitness and don't even know it!

When / if individuals eventually get tired, the tempo might drop slightly, making it difficult for those tired players to compete – resulting in the more fit athletes might score more goals – and the less fit people / teams might lose the modified game (just like a real game!) thus having to perform additional fitness as a result. But because this drop in tempo occurs in an accountable game, those less fit people usually push themselves past what they would normally do in a traditional practice; spurred on by the knowledge that the score is being kept and it will potentially impact their result (or that of their team) – so it allows those kids to dig deeper and push farther than a traditional practice. Once again, the game helps them realize that fitness matters and this can help increase their dedication to improving their fitness levels.

Taking this knowledge to another level, I try to structure the games based on the number of players; so the work to rest ratio is at least equal to what occurs in a game. In fact, I will often shorten the rest time or increase the work time to physically and mentally challenge them so practices are tougher than games... the games seem easier once you play them! (Just like how the Spartans trained... their training was far tougher than actual war; that is why their enemies feared them so much. For the Spartans, war 'felt' like a 'nice break' from their rigorous training. Obviously, games are much more fun than war...)

When the athletes aren't actively 'playing', they are watching intently because they need to know when to jump in. As a coach, I have tried to eliminate using the whistle as much as possible because now they have to take responsibility for their own performance. No longer do they jump and salivate when "Coach Pavlov" rings his bell / blows his whistle! They must watch the play and 'Figure it out' (FIO)!

I have started using hand signals or conversely, played loud music over the rink speakers... Why? Because if we take the ability to hear away - hearing a whistle or hearing someone telling you to go or NOT being able to hear - this forces you to have your head up and forces you to watch the play... and shouldn't we be training our athletes to play 'heads up' so they can see the play... their support players... their opposition... to help them make the best informed decisions regarding the use of their time and space? That's Game Intelligence.

My definition of the ideal athlete; possessing Game Intelligence is:

Execute Skills
with Heads Up
Quickly (at game-like tempo or above i.e.: overspeed to challenge oneself)
Under Pressure
even While Fatigued
CONSISTENTLY


I have been training kids with games as young as Timbits (5 years old) and up (to adult university and pros) and it works great!

One of my latest 2001-born kids, whom I trained once per week from October till last week (March), sent this note yesterday:

“I wanted to thank you for all of your coaching over the hockey season. I had a lot of fun and I think my game improved a lot from all of the ways you taught us to compete. Could you please let me know if you are doing any other training programs that might work for me, I would really liked to be coached by you again. Sincerely, Nate (Messi!)”

When I ask the kids what they want to do today - Drills or Games - what do you think they unanimously ask for every time?

What would you prefer to do yourself if you were in their skates? Even as an adult? I know what my answer is... we 'play' the game; not 'drill' the game!


After checking the Game Intelligence thread, please feel free to post any more questions. Myself, Tom and the others are here to help and I hope my response has triggered many new thoughts, ideas and questions for you. Looking forward to more discussions...


Dean
M.Ed (Coaching)
Ch.P.C. (Chartered Professional Coach)
Game Intelligence Training

"Great education depends on great teaching."

   
Active Member
Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 2059
Location: Calgary AB Canada
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I appreciate the thoughts gents.

I do run SAGs for a large percentage of my practices and enjoy making up rules to fit the improvement needs of our team.
We always have something on the line and the kids LOVE to compete for the win. That is why they play the game. I get that.

I do not demand ( in fact discourage ) tempo when running skating technique like edgework.

When we work on technique I use some of Tom's formations to get everyone moving (no lines).

A lot of my drills, for example passing all over the ice, look like mass chaos.

I still would like to see higher effort level in the parts of the practice. I agree that changes practices often would discourage pacing.

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Tony,

Sounds like you are well on your way to running a great practice!

You are right to discourage tempo when initiating a new skill... there is a process that occurs in sports when establishing new motor programs - just like for a newborn: they need to learn body control first, then how to move their limbs, turn to one side or the other, roll over, crawl, stand up, walk, run, sprint! Once they get to the walk stage, then they should be encouraged to go faster - out of their comfort zone - so they fail (lose the puck, fall over, etc.) Constant exposure at that pace (along with other work that involves the ABC's, etc.) will help acclimatize them to the higher pace so their boundaries get stretched.

Can you please be specific and describe your last statement more fully.... give a detailed example of 'what' you are talking about? This will help us formulate further comments to try to help you with this problem.

"I still would like to see higher effort level in the parts of the practice. I agree that changes practices often would discourage pacing."

Thanks!


Dean
M.Ed (Coaching)
Ch.P.C. (Chartered Professional Coach)
Game Intelligence Training

"Great education depends on great teaching."

   
Active Member
Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 2059
Location: Calgary AB Canada
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Tony, sounds like you are doing a lot already.

Just some thoughts. Maybe I am totally wrong but maybe there is some value in them.

Have one or two Overspeed drills. Also incorporate Mental Overspeed. In my hockey class today we spent the last 30 minutes playing games with mental overspeed. i.e. you must take three hard strides when you get the puck and then you MUST pass or shoot. Another that is almost the same. 1" with the puck but you aren't allowed to pass when standing still. - we did this one cross ice and full ice.

-----------------------------------------------
In my retired guys game today there were 3 former NHL 1 former WHA, 4 old American league players. It was a skilled group. The difference between these guys and the rest of us who maybe played jr., college, low minors etc. is that they do eveything while moving and make plays when they are there, i. e. don't wait until the player is no longer open. It isn't skating faster or even better with the puck rather it is playing the game at a high Mental Tempo and that is what I think we need to teach players in practice.


'The Game is the Greatest Coach'
'Enjoy the Game'
   
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Tom,

Funny you mention "speed of mind" (Tarasov) as John told me he saw you at Crowchild that morning. I noticed a few of the 'old pros' were warming up on the ice when I left.

I watched them for 45 minutes last week and a couple of guys stood out exactly for that reason - they saw the ice and knew what they were going to do before they got the puck. When they got the puck, they didn't lose any speed. They moved the puck or moved their body WITH the puck. Passing windows didn't close because they hung onto the puck too long. If the pass was there and it improved their team's positioning on the ice, they moved it QUICK!

For guys who played at the highest level (NHL / AHL as you say), they are used to reading the play and making decisions QUICKER and typically BETTER than those who didn't (couldn't?) play at the higher levels. Those who have played in the NHL and the minors tell me, "it's easier to play in the NHL because people know how to play their positions.")

So your suggestion of incorporating Mental Overspeed is a good one! I like the phrasing!

I encourage my players to always 'play at their highest tempo' meaning in two areas: physically (lose the puck, fall over, etc.) and mentally (make a pass to a strong option but because they are developing 'speed of mind', it might not be on the tape - or they might fan on the pass.) Being able to play 'heads up hockey' is the key to seeing the options and then making decisions.

Execute Skills
with Heads Up
Quickly (at game-like tempo or above i.e.: overspeed to challenge oneself)
Under Pressure
even While Fatigued
CONSISTENTLY


Dean
M.Ed (Coaching)
Ch.P.C. (Chartered Professional Coach)
Game Intelligence Training

"Great education depends on great teaching."

   
Active Member
Registered: 08/05/09
Posts: 2059
Location: Calgary AB Canada
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Tom

Mental Overspeed really fits with exactly where i would
Like to see improvement. Thsnks forcquantifying it for me!

I love the idea of those SAGs. Could you give me a list
Of mental overspeed type SAGs? Thanks!

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Tony I don't think it is just SAG's that practice Mental Overspeed. You can do it with these small area games, full ice games and drills. You can reduce time, reduce space, limit touches, add competition, have tournaments.

Reduce Time; i.e. one second, two seconds.
Reduce Space; i.e. nets close together, cross ice, box in front of the net.
Reduce stick touches: one touch, two touches.

You can play full ice with everyone and decrease space because it is crowded and then require things like;
-at leact one pass in each zone.
-one second.
-two seconds.

Competition:
At yesterdays ice time we did a passing drill around the clock 3 times rotating one way and three times the other. 4 players at the 5 circles and they were competing with each other and went down to one knee when they finished. This competition motivated them to pass more quickly.

Practice the power play where there has to be a shot every 3 seconds and everyone has to get a shot. This stimulates quick thinking and quick movement.

No LOLLYGAGGING - do things quickly.


'The Game is the Greatest Coach'
'Enjoy the Game'
   
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Thanks. That gives me the right mind set.

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