By: trtaylor (offline)  Monday, September 29 2014 @ 12:11 AM GMT (Read 76683 times)  

Coaches this is a coach discussion thread. If you want to reply go to the bottom of the post and click on Post Reply. If you want to post something new do the same thing at the last post of the thread and it will start a new topic discussion.

Can you recommend some good games that would help our Pee Wee's with the following scenario?

Transition from O to D, then back checking into DZC.

In particular, our team is struggling in DZC when the attacking players have all collapsed low into the scoring area and they may have two players cycling the puck below the goal line. We need to do better job of picking up a man and tying up sticks.

For these kids it's a different scenario than defending when the attacking teams's D men stay high. That's the typical DZC we've practiced so far, but the game isn't always played like that at this level.

We played the first place team in the league today and lost 3-1. Two of the goals against happened during times of confusion in front of our net.





Registered:: 09/25/11

Posts: 19
By: TomM (offline)  Monday, September 29 2014 @ 05:06 PM GMT  

Tim, it is a problem I am dealing with as well. The players tend to 'stare' at the puck when it is below the goal line and they lose track of the attackers in the slot.

The practice that I had Wally Kozak come to focused on DZC and a few key points are worth passing on to your players.
1. Closest player get on the puck carrier right away leading with the stick on the puck and always maintain defensive side.
2. The second closest player cover their closest supporting player at a stick lengths away.
3. Third man be half way to their thrid man so he can get there the same time as the puck.
4. Other players have toe caps up ice and maintain a 'Man - You - Puck Triangle' with their head on a swivel and sticks in the passing lanes.

If their D are up at the top of the circles these points should help.

Before our last game we did the Murdoch game where the players are all in the low slot in a tight 2-1-2 and they can only take one stride. The offense can do everything to try and score in 45". There were zero goals against when we did this. It shows that if you have the sticks in the lane, block shots, box our, control sticks in the slot, then it is very difficult to score. We progressed to 'man on and box behind.' and got a shut out our next game.

Jay Bouwmeester was the only NHL player I saw do the following. He world skate back and see that his partner had the puck carrier and then he would turn and skate backwards and look up ice for the next offensive player. This way he could see everything coming toward him. Of course he would keep his head on a swivel to check what was happening with the puck carrier. I am going to teach my players to do this so the identify their man early. We will try some walk through s.

I will attack links to the two practices I am referring to.

If any other coaches have ideas to help out here you are more than welcome to comment.

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


Registered:: 06/25/08

Posts: 2947
By: Anonymous: Kai K ()  Tuesday, September 30 2014 @ 11:23 AM GMT  

Quote by: TomM

Jay Bouwmeester was the only NHL player I saw do the following. He world skate back and see that his partner had the puck carrier and then he would turn and skate backwards and look up ice for the next offensive player. This way he could see everything coming toward him. Of course he would keep his head on a swivel to check what was happening with the puck carrier. I am going to teach my players to do this so the identify their man early. We will try some walk through s.

If the situation is 2 v 3 (where the 3 is our D1, D2 and F1 who is backchecking). We teach that when F1 reads the play as 2 v 3 he/she should turn into backwards skating and pick up the trailer.

Good to hear from you Kai.

It makes sense to face the play and find who you man is instead of having things happen behind you that you don't see.

The last two practices I have been working on getting my 13-14 year old boy's team to face the play with the puck move it to an open player quickly then go for a return pass, skate hard to open ice when the get the puck. It is a struggle to get them to play with good habits like these when they have never done them before.

Who are you coaching this year.


By: trtaylor (offline)  Thursday, October 02 2014 @ 02:47 AM GMT  


Just wanted to give you some feedback after our practice tonight. We tried the King-Kozak drill you provided and we very pleased with how well it went. We started off 1v1, then went to 2v2, up to 3v3. One of my assistants, who has more experience than me, said this is really good, but let's try this 3v2. That really worked well. We started the two D on their knees and set up the 3 O in an offensive triangle.

Upon making the pass, we instructed the receiver to begin skating towards the puck. The other O were to start skating to get open and try to begin a cycle (these are low level 12U players). Once the pass was received the D were instructed to get up and defend. We let them play it out for 30 -45 seconds. We encouraged the O to pass the puck behind the net. This forced the two D to switch, which was exactly the practice we needed.

We were very pleased with how effective this drill was. It was great for working on many game concepts, all played low in the zone. Just what we needed. Thank you.


Glad to read that the King/Kozak drill worked for you. It is a good way to isolate situations and focus on how to play them.




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Posts: 19
By: dajmitch (offline)  Friday, October 03 2014 @ 09:20 PM GMT  

One bad defensive habit I have seen with my players in the past is chasing the pass instead of coming off their check and beating him back to the net. This behavior can be reinforced by a lot of odd man in zone drills if you don't stay on top of it. Even with midgets, we are often having to remind our players not to chase the pass. Something to keep in mind.

I agree. The puck is a magnet for a lot of players.



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By: TomM (offline)  Sunday, October 05 2014 @ 02:26 PM GMT  

Tim, one of my favourite games to practice both the offensive attack and defensive zone coverage is the DT400 3-3 Krusel Battling Game. One former and one current NHL player have both told me that it is the the practice activity they liked the most. You can do 3-3 or 3-2, 2-2, 2-1, 1-1 with the same flow. You could also send a different amount of players out from each team, so they have to read the play or else delay sending some of the players. This game practices all of the offensive and defensive individual and team skills in the game. The video is W Olympic team practicing the low 3-3.

You can use controlled scrimmage as well and blow the whistle and everyone freeze while you point out things like boxing out, cycling, etc..

DT400 3-3 Krusel Battling Game - Pro W

Key Points:

Transition happens when the defending team passes to their team mate at the point.
The players must go from offense to defense when the puck is passed to the point and
give support on both offense and defense.

1. Players line up behind the blueline in teams.
2. Coach shoots the puck in and any number from1 to 3 players on each team
battle for possession.
3. The team that gains possession of the puck is on offense and tries to score.
4. The defending team must pass to their player at the point to be on offense.
5. Player at the point must shoot or pass within one second. He can’t skate in and
6. Play shifts of 20-30” then pass to the coach and hustle outside the blue line on the
coaches whistle. Alternative is to pass to your own team but they can't enter the zone until everyone is onside.
7. The coach dumps a new puck in for the next group.

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


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By: Kai K (offline)  Tuesday, October 07 2014 @ 04:50 AM GMT  

Here is a transition drill that i use to teach the defensive triangel, DZC and overload basics + fast break out after the turnover



Kai K

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Posts: 159
By: TomM (offline)  Thursday, April 16 2015 @ 02:33 PM GMT  

I came across this coaching conference and was wondering if any one knew anything about it... Seems pretty legit.

They had Barry Trotz and Marty Gelinas last year!

A coach ()

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


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Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Thursday, April 16 2015 @ 02:37 PM GMT  

A coach ()

I went to conference last year and it was the best conference I have attended.

It is pretty high level material with mostly NHL coaches speaking and the small presentations in between the feature speakers were also good.

They host it at the U of British Columbia beautiful and situated along the Pacific Ocean. I stayed in student residence which saved a lot of money then rented a bike on-campus and rode along the ocean a few hours each day. My plan is to go again this year.

Here is the info.

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


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By: TomM (offline)  Monday, May 25 2015 @ 02:56 PM GMT  

I just got a call from Osmo Rantakari who is a player agent from Finland. He is looking for players for the top league SM Liga. I have helped him find some good players over the years.

I coached his son Otso in Salzburg and he just won Rookie of the Year for the SM Liga and is going to the Islanders rookie camp. What a great skater he is and I am told he has the hardest shot in Finland. His hockey IQ is off the charts.

I thought is was neat to hear. Now I have been lucky enough to have played a small part in the development of an NHL Rookie of the Year, SM Liga Rookie of the Year, Hobey Baker winner, two other NHL players and lots of others who have played in various pro leagues around the world.

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


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Posts: 2947
By: LuNchBoX1371 (offline)  Tuesday, June 16 2015 @ 06:39 PM GMT  

Hey coaches good to get back to the site. In my research over the past weeks i didn't find much stuff about: defensive schemes, offensive schemes, power play stuff, etc., and was wondering where would i be able to find some good stuff on strategies of the game. I noticed there are a lot of drills and games and other great things that i can use once i get on the ice but not a lot about the actually game planning and strategies themselves; do any of you have any links to posts about strategies of the game that i can read?

To Tom,
I didn't find that post you were saying unless it is the post about practice formatting; if it was the practice formatting post i did enjoy seeing what the practices brokedown into so thank you for that. If my post doesn't work again i would like to resolve the problem anyway we can.
If u use the search function and specify Forum u can find many postings on team play.

Search this. Team play handbook



Registered:: 05/11/15

Posts: 1
By: Anonymous: SMAC ()  Tuesday, June 16 2015 @ 10:22 PM GMT  

Hi Lunchbox

This is the best site on the web bottom line !! If however you want a hard copy the book to get is Plays and Strategies by Mike Johnson ( Tom's buddy ) and Ryan Walter - killer stuff !!

By: TomM (offline)  Friday, July 03 2015 @ 02:05 PM GMT  

My son suggested I should post updates on Twitter about a year ago, so I followed his advise and have an account where I put the updates from this site. I also post on LinkedIn.

Here is a pdf. of the posts since I started.

The last month I have focused on cleaning up all of the video files of practice ideas that accumulated over the last two years. I had a few hundred that needed a title and to be converted. They are now in the Video section of this site and most have been put into the proper category A-B-C-D-E-F-G-O-T and T1 to T4. The next stage is to post them in the forum with description, diagram and video link. It is a lot of good material.

Mike Hartman has agreed to be in charge of hockey for the AAU organization and has asked me to help him with the on-ice material. I have put a few thousand hours into this site, so it will be an easy transition to become a resource and coaching mentor for them.

I have sent the 32 GB coaching disk to one coach in Manitoba. To order one you click on the DONATE button on the right side of the homepage. The amount of international coaching material in incredible. Basically the drills from this site. 1000 pdf.'s of drills. 1600 drill video clips, diagrams and about 10 GB of bonus material not on the site. There is nothing else out there in any sport that remotely compares to this resource.

When I taught PE I would always be looking for coaching material. The athletic council would decide to add a sport i.e. Wrestling. I have never wrestled and didn't take it in college, so I would be searching for films or books to help me out. When I started coaching I had the players knowledge and would try to remember what we did at Bemidji or in junior. My practices left a lot to be desired. I attended lots of seminars and got a great understanding of team play and fitness training but didn't have a great data base of practice ideas.

I have been collecting things for many years and learned how to use various inexpensive tools to put them in the present format. I have a lot of trouble understanding diagrams when there is more than one step to a drill, so the pdf.s have a description, diagram AND video demonstration. Even I can catch on. Dwight was kind enough to set up this site so coaches with a half decent internet connection anywhere in the world can click on the link and see the drill inaction. The USB makes it easy to create practice plans by opening the pdf. copy and paste the description and diagram onto the TCWhiteboard Word practice template and then save it as a pdf. which can be sent to your assistant coaches, players etc. and kept as a record.

Everything in hockey must be learned. All the other sports have a natural transfer from running and using your hands. In hockey instead of the back and forth movement of running you stride to the side. You are on the ice with a thin blade, you carry a stick instead of use your hands. If players don't get the proper technique when they start and practice inefficient technique then they get 'really good and being really bad.' Some learn from playing and modelling good players and some from direct instruction. It is usually a combination of both.

The idea of the site is to help coaches use drills and games to run the most effective and efficient practices possible in order to teach kid's the proper way to play, be creative and 'Enjoy the Game.'

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


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Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Sunday, July 12 2015 @ 03:30 AM GMT  

The Game as the Teacher: Cross, Full, Half Ice

How can a simple game teach skating, puck handling, passing, cooperation, creativity, good habits.

I watch teams of all levels use games during practices but I seldom see them used as teaching tools. Usually they are 3 on 3 with short shifts and are rewards for doing drills well.

Lets take the same game and modify the rules to cause skills, technique or good habits to be worked on.

- All must touch the puck before you can score. - puck support, head up, passing and receiving skills, man on man defense,

- You must take at least 3 hard strides when you get the puck before you can pass or shoot. - moving to open ice.

- You must play man on man defense - defensive side, stick on puck, sitck in the passing lane, marking.

- Only 2" with the puck. Head up, move to open ice, puck support, passing receiving.

- Everyone must only skate backward, or flat footed with two skates on the ice, - skating skills

- Everyone must face the puck all the time, if not all do one push up and offender identify himself and do 5.

- You must make an escape move before you pass or shoot. - puck handle.

- At least two passes and all passes must be forehand. - get the players to play in the triple threat position and see the play.

- Goals can only be scored on one touch shots. - players go to the net and get open. Puck carrier must make the play.

- You must beat at least one defender before passing - puck handle, moves, skate.

- Goals must originate from plays below the goal line. - cycle, pass out, cover low and be aware of attackers behind.

- All 3 offensive players skate behind the net on a change and defenders angle - angling, pick up man.

- Both teams skate behind the net on the change - closing the gap, getting open, create 2-1's.

- Regroup before scoring - get open, awareness of players behing.

- No passing allowed, or only one pass and you must score - puck handling, playing 1-1's.

- Only backhand passes allowed - that skill and the skating into position to do it.

- Scoring team get the puck and go the other way. Team scored on change - change on the go, transition. picking up man on defense.

- Game where all players must score before you can score a second goal. - puck support, awareness, involve all players, get open.

- Start with 3 puck and leave them in the net when score.

- Start with 3 pucks and shoot in a new puck when a goal is score. Play shifts and at the end of a certain time count the pucks.

- Jokers behind their own goal who must be passed to. - regroup, breakout

- Jokers behind the offensive net who must be passed to before scoring. - one timers, pucking up sticks, getting open, rebound.

- Jokers on the side who can pass or shoot - get open, screen, tip.

- Each team has a Joker behind each net who must be passed to - give and go, breakout, regroup.

- Add Jokers can check Jokers. - moving to open ice, protect the puck.

- Start 1-1 and give and go to waiting teammate to add players up to 3.

These are a few off the top of my head.

Coaches add to this list.

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


Registered:: 06/25/08

Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Tuesday, July 14 2015 @ 03:09 PM GMT  

How to Improve Drills

This site has hundreds of great drills and there are countless great ones out there but the question is;
are they teaching or practicing what we are trying to accomplish?

Most shooting drills practice only the first shot. The shooter goes down, shoots and then back to the line-up. The goalie gets square, makes the save and then gets ready for the next shot. This may be ok in the first few minutes of warm-up but is it helping shooters score and goalies control the rebounds? Probably not.

The most important play after the save is who gets the rebound. Good scorers follow their shots and get second shots or are the first one to loose pucks. Good goalies control rebounds by either freezing the puck or directing it to a safe area or if they are really good to a teammate. A better way to do a shooting drill would be to allow the attacker to get the first rebound if it is in the scoring area. This would cause the goalie to put the puck to a safe area or freeze it.

On situation drills like a 1-1, 2-1 etc. the defender has to box out the shooter and player going to the net and take their stick. Allow the play to continue until the puck is frozen, in a safe area or in the net. A practical way for a coach to do this is to give a ability appropriate time limit to each rep so the players can make the rush and then complete the play. This will help develop the skills like following the shot, covering the shooter, the goalie controlling the rebound.

The same principle applies to progressing from situation drills to transition games that only use one puck. After working on the situation in a drill where the next rep happens with a new puck progress to a transition game where the next players give passive support and the defenders pass to them to start a new rep. Then teach offensive and defensive support by having the players come into the zone and cover a player on defense and support the puck on offense. There are lots of transition games examples on this site. A few of the better ones are done by the former Detroit coach Mike Babcock where they do a continuous 2-1 and then continuous 2-2 which end up being a 3-3 and then a 4-4 at each end.

You can add a dump in to work on the forecheck and breakout or regroups to work on neutral zone offense and defense. You can also have a half ice transition game going on at each end of the ice.

Hockey Canada brought Erkka Westerlund who is the Finnish Olympic coach and coaches Jokerit in the KHL to write a booklet on transition games and make a video. He did a great job of this but I seldom see transition games used in practices and because they are the most realistic practice activity besides a real game it is something that coaches and players are really missing the boat on.

It is like when I went to school and took French for 3 years and we only learned how to say words, spell them and write sentences but we NEVER SPOKE. It was a very poor way to learn French and when I went to Paris last year I could say thank-you and please and one word or short phrase but I couldn't converse or understand when they spoke. We have to be careful that our practices are not just part-part-part all of the time. Humans learn in patterns and practice activities have to compliment how we learn.

Horst Wein, a famous international soccer/football and field hockey coach works with clubs like Barcelona and reverses everything. First they play a SAG with a rule like all passes must be made with the left foot. This is to create a 'need to know' and then after the players have struggled with the skill they do 'corrective exercises' that help players learn to pass with their left foot. Then they play again with the same rule. The concept here is that now the players are doing the corrective drills to solve an 'actual problem that they have which is How do I make the left footed pass.' This automatically involves the learner and isn't just another drill to fill up the practice time. It also incorporates 'whole learning' because it begins and ends with the 'GAME'.

So creating a need to know, doing corrective drills, engaging the learner, incorporating everything into game situations and making drills as game like as possible are all important components in developing players who can succeed in regular games.

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


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Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Tuesday, July 28 2015 @ 01:07 PM GMT  

Tom what are your thoughts on Practice Format. Is there many differences in a U12 practice from North America to the Europeans? Did they cover this subject in your latest Coaching Conference? Thank you Tom

I would love to hear from all the Coaches on this site. ***Lets help each other ***

This is what I usually do. U12

1. 5 min Free time
2. 8 min Shooting/Passing full ice
3. 24 min break into 3 stations (skating - puck control - Scoring )
4. 20 min 2 half ice game situation drills
5. 12 min Games to Teach the Game


Peter, it changes by country and coach. Generally the practices are similar to what you mention but most coaches would do more game situation than you have outlined. The younger the player the more SAG's they play and U10 never play full ice in most countries. I posted a Swedish U12 practice a few years ago with a Regional Coach Anders Ottosson . It is on the site.

Lots of countries practice in 5 man units and the drills are done with each other. Older teams have 4 units of 5 and two goalies.

I posted a Czech skills practice that I watched while I was in Prague at the World's a few weeks ago and it is a six station sixty minute skills practice with two cross ice games at the end. It was run by Ludek Bukac Jr.

I have always fournd that in NA we work on defense a lot and our players learn offense practicing against the defense. In Europe they tend to work on offense a lot and the players learn defense while they are practicing offense.

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


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Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Wednesday, July 29 2015 @ 02:52 PM GMT  

How Players Learn - Mike Sullivan

This is a really good presentation by Mike Sullivan at one of the USA hockey symposiums. He is the director of player development for Chicago. He talks about many of the concepts that have been promoted on this site for years.

Mike goes over the physiology of how we learn and the need to make mistakes and practice by challenging the edge of our skill limitations (progressive overload) and the necessity to learn how to read the game and anticipate the next play in all 3 game situations and all 4 game playing roles.

Mike gives some examples of the top down approach and using game situations that automatically teach the game. I will attach a pdf on games and another on transition games

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


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By: TomM (offline)  Wednesday, August 05 2015 @ 02:57 PM GMT  

Making Drills More Effective

I am watching lots of teams practicing this week as Hockey Canada has 6 U17 teams, 2 U20, and now U18 are starting and at another arena the Czech and Russian U20 teams are practicing. Lot of coaches and the drills range from great and effective with lots of reps, intensity and little down time to standing around, listening to the coach babble on and getting hardly an reps.

Here are some of the things the more effective coaches do here and other places I have witnessed. (I have watched practices run by coaches from all the countries in the top group at the IIHF Championships and traveled to most of these countries and been on the ice during practices.)

Some Ideas that World Class Coaches Use

How many times during a season will your players get a 1-0 or 2-0 like most shooting drills are. How many times do your goalies get unobstructed shots from right in front of the net?

I would guess that unless your players aren't good enough for he league they are in, these situations don't happen very often.

Here are some thought on how to use drills to make your players better in game situations.

A. Shoot from all three lanes and not just in the middle.

B. Shoot while skating and follow the shot for a rebound - practice various shots.

C. Have a coach or player take about 20 shots at various spots to warm up the goalie while the players do warm up skating, puck handling, passing.

D. Add tasks to shooting drills:
- Shoot, follow the shot, circle back and screen for the next shooter.

- Shoot, follow the shot and then get in position to give and go for the next shooter this involves two players..

- Do both, first look for the rebound and then get into position to give and go this involves three players.

- Shoot and follow the shot, circle out to cover the next shooter and play either a soft or aggressive 1-1, then rebound for the next shooter - three players.

- Combine everything: Shoot - defend vs. the next shooter, rebound for the next shooter, pass to the next shooter. 4 players and now you are practicing three of the 4 game playing roles, 1-player with the puck, 2-support by getting open for a return pass, 3-covering the pass receiver.

You are also eliminating down time standing in line. Players should only be waiting in line to recover for the next rep and not because the drill in inefficient.

I would love to video one player for 60 minutes from two practices and see how much meaningful activity they do. The average in one hour is moving 7-11 minutes and standing around inactively for 49-53 minutes.

A great example of creating a routine with lots of reps that practice individual skills as well as a breakout pass is one that the Czech U20 team uses as a warm-up at the start of practice.

B6-B600 - One Touch 2-0 and Shot Routine - Czech U20

Example of pro players watching when to leave, play the situation out with no whistles.

C600 - 2-1 x 2 – Pro

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


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By: TomM (offline)  Friday, August 28 2015 @ 03:15 PM GMT  

Millennials will soon will be your bosses.

Millennials have grown up in a time of rapid change and technological advances giving them a different view of the world from previous generations. Therefore their approach to leadership is likely to be very different...

Here are five leadership rules I describe in my book that you can expect Millennials to find as natural to implement as hooking up on Tinder with someone for one night.

1. Lead with Purpose

Great leaders are dedicated to a higher calling. They actually give a shit and want to do something big, bold and meaningful in the world.

2. Ask, don’t tell

Leaders in the new world will appreciate the true meaning of empowerment, creativity and collaboration. Their conversations will be adult-to-adult; we will see less command and control, as it is not the world Millenials have experienced growing up.

3. Create leaders not followers

Millenials want to contribute to the strategic direction, they will expect others to do the same and therefore provide space to lead, autonomy and freedom to make values driven decisions.

4. Embrace failure

We all know that the best way learn is to fail hard. Millennials will be entrepreneurial and prepared to take a risks, fail fast and learn quickly.

5. Hold each other accountable

In the new world peer to peer coaching and feedback won't be a fad it will be a natural form of communication widely used and expected. Good leaders hold their people accountable, great leaders will create a culture where team members hold each other accountable.

What has been your experience as a Millennial or working with Millennials?

Andrew Sillitoe

Author of Managing The Mist

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


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By: TomM (offline)  Monday, September 28 2015 @ 08:40 PM GMT  

I really like this article.
by Dr. Tim Elmore, 25 July 2014

Several years ago, I met with a university student, pondering how to provide some difficult feedback on a project he’d just finished. We’ll call him Zach. Zach was a smart young man, but, like so many from Generation iY (the youngest Millennials), he was fragile when it came to taking constructive criticism. Zach is among the millions of kids who got awards just for playing sports, special marks just for completing a school project, praise for merely meeting minimum standards, and money just for being a part of his family. All of this has hindered him from being able to handle less than rave reviews from supervisors.

My meeting was no different.

As I ventured into the conversation, I began with positive remarks on his progress. I affirmed everything I could. As soon as I got honest about his unsatisfactory (even unacceptable) work, however, his entire demeanor changed. He bristled and began to defend his performance. Then, he actually turned on me. I became the enemy and he was the victim. He lashed out at me, and told me everyone else was on “his side” and believed in him. He actually reviewed the litany of awards he’d won in his past as if to convince himself he was special. (Interpretation: I was a lone critic, aggressor, and most certainly mistaken). In the end, I don’t think he heard me. He was emotionally disabled from consuming helpful, corrective feedback.

The Secret That Enabled Me to Improve

Every coach or teacher knows there’s no moment more important than the one when feedback is delivered. Do it well, and the learner makes progress. Do it poorly, and the opposite happens. We assume the secret to effective feedback is the quality of the information we share: Do this, or don’t do that, and you’ll be better. But this may not be the case.

Daniel Coyle is a member of a team of psychologists from Stanford, Yale and Columbia who set out to explore this issue, and what they uncovered is that helpful feedback had far more to do with “how” than “what.” They asked middle school teachers to give a writing assignment to their students, and afterward, give the students various types of feedback. To their surprise, the researchers discovered there was one particular type of remark that improved student effort so much, they called it “magical.” Students who received this feedback chose to revise their paper far more often than students who did not—a 40 percent increase among white students and a 320 percent boost for black students. In the end, it improved their performances significantly.

What was that magical remark? Just one simple phrase:

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them.”

That’s it. Nineteen simple words that carry weight because they communicate the exact opposite of what students hear when we critique them any other way. According to Dan Coyle, “they are a signal that creates something powerful: a sense of belonging and connection.”

When we examine them closely, the phrase contains several distinct signals:

You are part of this group or team.
This team is special; we have high standards here.
I believe you can reach those standards.

The secret is to understand that this feedback isn’t just feedback. It’s a vital cue about the relationship. The reason it works so well is about how our brains are wired. It’s normal to become guarded when attacked. Our effort is very personal, and we naturally want to defend it. When we receive authentic, clear signals of trust, belonging and expectation, however, the floodgates open. Feedback offered this way pulls the student toward you rather than repelling them. It’s the difference between saying: “What’s wrong with you?” and “You’re better than this.”

My Suggestions for You

Today’s adults have raised a fragile generation. Constant praise and rewards that are not connected to reality have actually hindered their maturation. This kind of research enables coaches or teachers to move the needle and enable them to grow. Kids are capable of so much more than they’re currently showing us—because we set the bar low. Consider these “takeaways” as action steps of this research:

Build a connection first. Ensure your students know you believe in them.
Spotlight the team and it’s special persona and characteristics.
Communicate expectations up front and remind students of them.
Relay to each individual that they belong on this team; they’re worthy.
Don’t soft pedal high standards. Don’t pretend it’s easy.
Embrace the challenge with your students. Show them you’re up for the challenge of meeting those standards too.

If we treat kids as fragile, they will most assuredly become fragile adults. But if we communicate they’re worthy of high standards, they will rise to the occasion.

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By: TomM (offline)  Thursday, November 05 2015 @ 02:34 PM GMT  

'Attitude is the father of all action.' may be considered a trite comment by some but in truth I have found it to be a very valid statement.

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By: TomM (offline)  Sunday, November 15 2015 @ 03:36 PM GMT  

This is a very good article about the stage of brain development in the teenage years and it explains a lot about risky behaviour.

The Terrible Teens What’s wrong with them?
By Elizabeth Kolbert

Terrible Teens (link to article)

The New Yorker

In adolescence, the brain is wired to experience pleasure more intensely than before or after.

C57BL/6J mice are black, with pink ears and long pink tails. Inbred for the purposes of experimentation, they exhibit a number of infelicitous traits, including a susceptibility to obesity, a taste for morphine, and a tendency to nibble off their cage mates’ hair. They’re also tipplers. Given access to ethanol, C57BL/6J mice routinely suck away until the point that, were they to get behind the wheel of a Stuart Little-size roadster, they’d get pulled over for D.U.I.

Not long ago, a team of researchers at Temple University decided to take advantage of C57BL/6Js’ bad habits to test a hunch. They gathered eighty-six mice and placed them in Plexiglas cages, either singly or in groups of three. Then they spiked the water with ethanol and videotaped the results.

Half of the test mice were four weeks old, which, in murine terms, qualifies them as adolescents. The other half were twelve-week-old adults. When the researchers watched the videos, they found that the youngsters had, on average, outdrunk their elders. More striking still was the pattern of consumption. Young male C57BL/6Js who were alone drank roughly the same amount as adult males. But adolescent males with cage mates went on a bender; they spent, on average, twice as much time drinking as solo boy mice and about thirty per cent more time than solo girls.

The researchers published the results in the journal Developmental Science. In their paper, they noted that it was “not possible” to conduct a similar study on human adolescents, owing to the obvious ethical concerns. But, of course, similar experiments are performed all the time, under far less controlled circumstances. Just ask any college dean. Or ask a teen-ager. I happen to have three adolescent sons and in this way recently learned about a supposedly fun pastime known as a “case race.” Participants form teams of two and compete to see which pair can drink its way through a case of beer the fastest. (To get the most out of the experience, I was told, it’s best to use a “thirty rack.”)

Every adult has gone through adolescence, and studies have shown that if you ask people to look back on their lives they will disproportionately recall experiences they had between the ages of ten and twenty-five. (This phenomenon is called the “reminiscence bump.”) And yet, to adults, the adolescent mind is a mystery—a Brigadoon-like place that’s at once vivid and inaccessible. Why would anyone volunteer to down fifteen beers in a row? Under what circumstances could Edward Fortyhands, an activity that involves having two forty-ounce bottles of malt liquor affixed to your hands with duct tape, be construed as enjoyable? And what goes for drinking games also goes for hooking up with strangers, jumping from high places into shallow pools, and steering a car with your knees. At moments of extreme exasperation, parents may think that there’s something wrong with their teen-agers’ brains. Which, according to recent books on adolescence, there is.

Frances Jensen is a mother, an author, and a neurologist. In “The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults” (HarperCollins), written with Amy Ellis Nutt, she offers a parenting guide laced with the latest MRI studies. By her account, adolescents suffer from the cerebral equivalent of defective spark plugs.

“When we think of ourselves as civilized, intelligent adults, we really have the frontal and prefrontal parts of the cortex to thank,” she writes. But “teens are not quite firing on all cylinders when it comes to the frontal lobes.” Thus, “we shouldn’t be surprised by the daily stories we hear and read about tragic mistakes.”

“The Teenage Brain” retails a number of such stories, including several involving Jensen’s sons, Andrew and Will. One is about Will’s totalling of the family’s Dodge. (He miscalculates the time he has to make a left turn.) Another features Andrew, his girlfriend, and another girl, who has passed out in the back of their car. The two conscious adolescents keep hoping the third one will wake up. Jensen insists that they take the girl to a nearby hospital. There her stomach gets pumped; it turns out that she has downed seventeen Jell-O shots—perhaps more, she can’t really remember. Then, there’s the story of Dan, “an all-around great kid,” who, one summer night, gets drunk and, together with a bunch of friends, scales the fence at the local tennis club to take a 3 a.m. swim. The friends get out, get dressed, and rescale the fence, only to discover that Dan is no longer with them. When they return to the pool, they find him lying face down in it. (Readers will be reassured to learn that Will and Andrew, at least, made it through high school in one piece and went on to graduate from Harvard and Wesleyan, respectively.)

The frontal lobes are the seat of what’s sometimes called the brain’s executive function. They’re responsible for planning, for self-awareness, and for judgment. Optimally, they act as a check on impulses originating in other parts of the brain. But in the teen years, Jensen points out, the brain is still busy building links between its different regions. This process involves adding myelin around the axons, which conduct electrical impulses. (Myelin insulates the axons, allowing impulses to travel faster.) It turns out that the links are built starting in the back of the brain, and the frontal lobes are one of the last regions to get connected. They are not fully myelinated until people are in their twenties, or even thirties.

This is where parents step in. “You need to be your teens’ frontal lobes until their brains are fully wired,” Jensen writes. By this she seems to mean near-constant hectoring. Whenever she hears a story like the one about Dan, she rushes to tell Will and Andrew, and, whenever Will and Andrew screw up, she uses it as an opportunity to remind them that they, too, could wind up floating face down in a pool. (After the unconscious girl has been dropped off at the hospital, Jensen relates, she sits Andrew and his girlfriend down at the kitchen table and lectures them about “blood alcohol levels and the effects on coordination and consciousness.”) As a matter of principle, Jensen has attached a lock to the liquor cabinet in her own home. When her sons are invited to someone else’s house, she calls the kid’s parents to make sure there will be no unsupervised fun.

I feel compelled to confess that whenever I hear a grisly story involving a dead or maimed teen-ager, I, like Jensen, pass it on to my sons. However, I also feel I should point out that, in a book packed with charts and statistics, Jensen provides no empirical evidence that scare tactics work. From personal experience, I can say that the immediate response is not always encouraging. When I asked my sixteen-year-old twins how they’d react if I called their friends’ moms to enforce safe-party protocols, one of them said, “Why even have kids if you’re going to do that?”

Laurence Steinberg is a professor of psychology at Temple, a father, and the lead researcher on the inebriated-mouse study. He is also the author of “Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Like Jensen, he believes that teen-age brains are different from yours and mine. But, where Jensen identifies the problem as loosely connected frontal lobes, Steinberg sees it as an enlarged nucleus accumbens.

Consider the following scenario. One afternoon, you’re sitting in your office with wads of cotton stuck up your nose. (For the present purposes, it’s not important to know why.) Someone in your office has just baked a batch of chocolate-chip cookies. The aroma fills the air, but, since your nose is plugged, you don’t notice and continue working. Suddenly you sneeze, and the cotton gets dislodged. Now the smell hits, and you rush over to gobble up one cookie, then another.

According to Steinberg, adults spend their lives with wads of cotton in their metaphorical noses. Adolescents, by contrast, are designed to sniff out treats at a hundred paces. During childhood, the nucleus accumbens, which is sometimes called the “pleasure center,” grows. It reaches its maximum extent in the teen-age brain; then it starts to shrink. This enlargement of the pleasure center occurs in concert with other sensation-enhancing changes. As kids enter puberty, their brains sprout more dopamine receptors. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, plays many roles in the human nervous system, the sexiest of which is signalling enjoyment.
Buy the print »

“Nothing—whether it’s being with your friends, having sex, licking an ice-cream cone, zipping along in a convertible on a warm summer evening, hearing your favorite music—will ever feel as good as it did when you were a teenager,” Steinberg observes. And this, in turn, explains why adolescents do so many stupid things. It’s not that they are any worse than their elders at assessing danger. It’s just that the potential rewards seem—and, from a neurological standpoint, genuinely are—way, way greater. “The notion that adolescents take risks because they don’t know any better is ludicrous,” Steinberg writes.

Teen-agers are, as a rule, extremely healthy—healthier than younger children. But their death rate is much higher. The mortality rate for Americans between fifteen and nineteen years old is nearly twice what it is for those between the ages of one and four, and it’s more than three times as high as for those ages five to fourteen. The leading cause of death among adolescents today is accidents; this is known as the “accident hump.”

Steinberg explains the situation as the product of an evolutionary mismatch. To find mates, our primate ancestors had to venture outside their natal groups. The reward for taking chances in dangerous terrain was sex followed by reproduction, while the cost of sensibly staying at home was genetic oblivion. Adolescents in 2015 can find partners by swiping right on Tinder; nevertheless, they retain the neurophysiology of apes (and, to a certain extent, mice). Teen-agers are, in this sense, still swinging through the rain forest, even when they’re speeding along in a Tundra. They’re programmed to take crazy risks, so that’s what they do.

This is especially the case when teen-agers get together. A teen driving with other teens in the car, for example, is four times as likely to crash as a teen driving alone. (The risk for adult drivers, by contrast, remains constant with passengers or without them.) This effect is often attributed to distraction or peer pressure; kids, the story goes, egg each other on, until, finally, they wind up in the E.R. But Steinberg, who has conducted all sorts of experiments on adolescents, both human and rodent, sees the problem as more fundamental. What matters is the mere presence of peers, or really even just the idea of them.

In one experiment, Steinberg asked subjects to play a video game that simulated ordinary driving. He found that teens took more risks when their friends were around—by, for instance, running yellow lights—whether or not they could communicate with them. In another experiment, Steinberg told his subjects that their actions were being watched by other adolescents, in another room, when in fact the other room was empty. The results were the same. Mice, for their part, can’t taunt other mice or call them wusses; still, the presence of peers is enough to stimulate risky behavior. Brain-imaging studies show that being watched by friends activates teens’ reward centers; this, Steinberg theorizes, primes them to seek out still more rewards, which leads them to do things like duct-tape malt-liquor bottles to their hands. “In fact, the recklessness-enhancing effect of being around peers is strongest when adolescents actually know there is a high probability of something bad happening,” he writes.

My twins spent most of the month of August attending a driver’s-ed course at the local high school. We live in western Massachusetts, and state law requires kids to have thirty hours of classroom instruction before they take the road test, though if they are willing to wait until they turn eighteen they can skip the course. My twins are now old enough to have sex legally in Massachusetts, but across the border in New York the age of consent is seventeen. Here, I am happy to report, they cannot possess a handgun; up the road a couple of miles, in Vermont, a sixteen-year-old can. A year from now, my kids will, with my permission, be able to join the Army. But they still won’t be able to vote, or operate a forklift, or get a job at a sawmill, or buy a pack of cigarettes. It will be more than four years before they can sit down at a bar and order a beer.

The tangle of laws that apply to adolescents bespeaks a generalized confusion. Lawmakers can’t seem to decide whether they think teen-agers are under-informed or overly impulsive or just klutzy. A clearer account of “the teen-age brain” would have far-ranging policy implications, though not necessarily the sort that either teens or legislators would be happy about.

Take my kids’ driver’s-ed classes. From Steinberg’s perspective, allowing sixteen-year-olds to get a license in return for sitting through lectures and doing some practice driving completely misses the point. Sixteen-year-olds are dangerous drivers. Their rate of fatal crashes per mile is three times as high as the rate for drivers age twenty and over, and nearly twice as high as the rate for drivers eighteen and nineteen. Sixteen-year-olds will still be a hazard after listening (or, more likely, not listening) to thirty hours’ worth of cautionary tales. They actually do understand that driving is dangerous; the problem is that they’re having too much fun to care. The only way to bring down their accident rate is to prevent them from getting behind the wheel.

“If we were genuinely concerned about improving adolescents’ health, raising the driving age would be the single most important policy change we could make,” Steinberg writes. He favors a minimum age of eighteen.

Much the same logic applies to drinking, smoking, and doing drugs. Each year, the U.S. spends hundreds of millions of dollars on public-service campaigns designed to alert adolescents to the perils of such dissipations. Hundreds of millions—perhaps billions—more are spent reiterating this message in high-school health classes. The results have been, to put it kindly, underwhelming. A 2006 study by the Government Accountability Office found that $1.4 billion that the federal government had allocated to an anti-drug media campaign aimed at young people had had no perceptible impact. According to Steinberg, this sort of money would have been better spent on sports or arts programs that keep adolescents busy and under adult supervision.

Even violence looks different viewed through the lens of neurology. Crime rates rise steeply starting around age thirteen. They peak at age eighteen and then start to fall again. When the statistics are presented in the form of a graph, the result—the so-called age-crime curve—looks like the Matterhorn. This pattern has been noted for more than a century (it was described back in 1904, by G. Stanley Hall, a psychologist who is sometimes credited with having “invented” adolescence), and it holds true not just in the U.S. but wherever crime figures are kept.

Both Steinberg and Jensen make the case that the violence hump, too, is a function of weak frontal lobes and oversensitive pleasure centers. And both argue against decades-long sentences for youthful offenders. Steinberg maintains an active side career as an expert witness for the defense; Jensen is a co-author on a brief submitted in a 2012 Supreme Court case involving two fourteen-year-olds who had been convicted of murder. In the brief, she and her colleagues asserted that “adolescent criminal conduct frequently results from experimentation with risky behavior and not from deep-seated moral deficiency reflective of ‘bad’ character.” The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that states could not impose mandatory sentences of life without parole on defendants under eighteen, though courts could impose such sentences on convicted murderers if they chose to.

Many recent innovations—cars, Ecstasy, iPhones, S.U.V.s, thirty racks, semi-automatic weapons—exacerbate the mismatch between teen-agers’ brains and their environment. Adolescents today face temptations that teens of earlier eras, not to mention primates or rodents, couldn’t have dreamed of. In a sense, they live in a world in which all the water bottles are spiked. And so, as Jensen and Steinberg observe, they run into trouble time and time again.

But perhaps, it occurred to me the other day after one of my twins nearly plowed into a mailbox, to look at the problem this way is to peer through the wrong end of the MRI machine. Yes, adolescents in the twenty-first century pose a great risk to others and, statistically speaking, an even greater risk to themselves. But this is largely because other terrifying risks—scarlet fever, diphtheria, starvation, smallpox, plague—have receded. Adolescence evolved over a vast expanse of time when survival at any age was a crapshoot. If the hazards are new, so, too, is the safety. Which is why I will keep telling my kids scary stories and why they will continue to ignore them. ?

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By: TomM (offline)  Thursday, December 03 2015 @ 10:20 PM GMT  

Endurance skating is practicing slowness
In this case, after 35 second stop-start, his acceleration is half as fast.

By Jack Blatherwick
Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

During every physical movement, your brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves are learning. The (anatomical) structure is modified in order to memorize and repeat the exact range and speed of motion in training. This is especially true for young athletes in the years just before puberty and for the next 2-5 years (to learn more about adolescent brain-nervous system plasticity, start a search with either “Adolescent learning” by JN Giedd; or “White matter matters” by R Douglas Fields).

Changes to the nervous system have nothing to do with your stated intent; it’s all about the speed and quality of movement. What you repeat most often determines what you will become. If your endurance training is slow – and most endurance training is slow – these patterns are imprinted into your nervous system … permanently.

It is now possible to “see” these changes with modern (MRI and other scanning) technologies, but the concept is not new. We’ve known for decades that training is specific, meaning the final result looks and feels just like the training repetitions. This is why we practice the golf swing with as much quality as possible, using video or having a coach observe. We’d never think of intentionally repeating a bad swing over and over.

Therefore, it’s amazing that in every sport (except track) we have mindlessly accepted a tradition that endurance training should be mostly slow, when our objective is to play the game fast. If we thought about it for 10 seconds, we’d conclude that in hockey our conditioning program should prepare us to maintain – for an entire game – the highest quality skills at the fastest possible speed. But outside “experts” convinced us that long, slow aerobic training was necessary.

Our conditioning objectives became confused with those of middle-age fitness folks – aerobic training at a slow jogging pace – heart rates at a steady 70 percent of maximum. Instead, hockey practices and off-ice conditioning should feature speed, with high-intensity intervals. Peak heart rates reach maximum, and might not drop below 70 percent during recovery. This resembles the endurance challenges of a game.

But endurance conditioning in youth hockey is not as high a priority as it might be in college or the NHL. Stick skills, playmaking, skating fundamentals, quickness and agility are much more important at young ages when these fine motor skills can still be learned. Therefore, coaches should never sacrifice quality skating skill with the thought that conditioning-skating needs to be a slow, torturous grind. Stops-and-starts and agility or flow drills at top speed should not last more than 10 seconds, and rest intervals must be adequate – but just barely (40-60 seconds).

Long, hard (40-second) conditioning-skates only teach the central nervous system to remember slow feet, inadequate knee bend, weak extension, inefficient posture and excessive arm swing – all resulting in slow acceleration. This is like practicing terrible golf swings over and over for decades. In that regard, my CNS became a repetitive machine.

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By: TomM (offline)  Sunday, December 06 2015 @ 05:03 PM GMT  

This is a great post by Dean on his sports IQ site where John O'Sullivan shows how elite coaches want multi-sport atthletes. You need to read the attached pdf or go to the site to see the diagram.
Can You Guess the One Thing That Most Elite Athletes Have in Common

Posted by Dean Holden at February 23rd, 2015

by John O’Sullivan, 18 February 2015

In January, my e-mail and social media accounts lit up with a simple image first shared with me on Twitter by @ohiovarsity.
It’s amazing because the image portrays something that is widely known among experts, widely discussed in coaching circles, and has certainly been written about by me and others many times. Yet this excellent blog article on a high school sports site got over half a million shares in its first three days because this image touched a nerve.
Why? Well, here is the image:

The question I was asked over and over was, “What do you think of this?” My answer, over and over was, “Amen, agreed, hopefully now people will start paying attention.”

If it takes an infographic of [football head coach] Urban Meyer’s football recruits at Ohio State [the Buckeyes won the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship in January] to shift the paradigm in youth sports, then so be it. The image above clearly demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of his recruits are multi-sport kids.

This is not new information, but it has caused quite a stir. Here is what it says in a nutshell: To be an elite level player at a college or professional sport, you need a degree of exceptional athleticism. And the best medically, scientifically, and psychologically recommended way to develop such all around athleticism is ample free play and multiple sport participation as a child.

Why? Well let’s see what the experts say:

Coaches and elite athletes Pete Carroll, former USC and now Seattle Seahawks Football coach, says here, “The first questions I’ll ask about a kid are, ‘What other sports does he play? What does he do? What are his positions? Is he a big hitter in baseball? Is he a pitcher? Does he play hoops?’ All of those things are important to me. I hate that kids don’t play three sports in high school. I think that they should play year-round and get every bit of it that they can through that experience. I really, really don’t favor kids having to specialize in one sport. Even [at USC], I want to be the biggest proponent for two-sport athletes on the college level. I want guys that are so special athletically, and so competitive, that they can compete in more than one sport.”

Dom Starsia, University of Virginia men’s lacrosse: “My trick question to young campers is always, ‘How do you learn the concepts of team offense in lacrosse or team defense in lacrosse in the off-season, when you’re not playing with your team?’ The answer is by playing basketball, by playing hockey and by playing soccer and those other team games, because many of those principles are exactly the same. Probably 95 percent [of our players] are multi-sport athletes. It’s always a bit strange to me if somebody is not playing other sports in high school.”

Or in this interview with Tim Corbin, coach of NCAA Champion Vanderbilt Baseball, on why he chooses multi-sport athletes over single sport kids.

Or Ashton Eaton, world record holder and gold medalist in the decathlon, who never participated in 6 of the 10 required decathlon events until he got to the University of Oregon.

Or Steve Nash, who got his first basketball at age 13 and credits his soccer background for making him a great basketball player, a similar story to the 100 professional athletes interviewed in Ethan Skolnick and Dr. Andrea Korn’s book, Raising Your Game. The list goes on and on.

What about the medical experts?

As I outlined in my ebook, Is it Wise to Specialize?, and something echoed in world renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrew’s book, Any Given Monday, there are strong medical reasons for not specializing at a young age:

1. Children who specialize in a single sport account for 50 percent of overuse injuries in young athletes according to pediatric orthopedic specialists.

2. A study by Ohio State University found that children who specialized early in a single sport led to higher rates of adult physical inactivity. Those who commit to one sport at a young age are often the first to quit, and suffer a lifetime of consequences.

3. In a study of 1,200 youth athletes, Dr Neeru Jayanthi of Loyola University found that early specialization in a single sport is one of the strongest predictors of injury. Athletes in the study who specialized were 70 to 93 percent more likely to be injured than children who played multiple sports.

4. Children who specialize early are at a far greater risk for burnout due to stress, decreased motivation, and lack of enjoyment

5. Early sport specialization in female adolescents is associated with increased risk of anterior knee pain disorders including PFP, Osgood Schlatter and Sinding Larsen-Johansson compared to multi-sport athletes, and may lead to higher rates of future ACL tears.

And the sport scientists?

In January 2015, I had the honor of sitting in a lecture with Manchester United Performance Coach Tony Strudwick, winner of 13 titles as the fitness coach for Manchester United’s first team. His advice was that a multi-sport background sets up athletes for long-term success by lowering the rates of injuries and making them more adaptable to the demands of elite level play.
“More often than not,” he stated in a recent interview with, “the best athletes in the world are able to distinguish themselves from the pack thanks to a range of motor skills beyond what is typically expected in a given sport.” He recommended tumbling and gymnastic movements, as well as martial arts, basketball, and lacrosse as great crossover sports for soccer. Here are some other advantages:

1. Better overall skills and ability: Research shows that early participation in multiple sports leads to better overall motor and athletic development, longer playing careers, increased ability to transfer sports skills to other sports, as well as increased motivation, ownership of the sports experience, and confidence.

2. Smarter, more creative players: multi-sport participation at the youngest ages yields better decision making and pattern recognition, as well as increased creativity. These are all qualities that coaches of high-level teams look for.

3. Most College Athletes Come From a multi-sport Background: A 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey found that 88 percent of college athletes surveyed participated in more than one sport as a child

4. 10,000 hours is not a rule: In his survey of the scientific literature regarding sport specific practice in The Sports Gene, author David Epstein finds that most elite competitors require far less than 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Specifically, studies have shown that basketball (4,000), field hockey (4,000) and wrestling (6,000) all require far less than 10,000 hours.

5. There are many paths to mastery: A 2003 study on professional ice hockey players found that while most pros had spent 10,000 hours or more involved in sports prior to age 20, only 3,000 of those hours were involved in hockey-specific deliberate practice (and only 450 of those hours were prior to age 12).

Are all sports the same?

No, they are not. They each require specific athletic, technical, and tactical skill sets. Some sports, in order to be elite, require early specialization, such as gymnastics and figure skating. Other sports are so dependent upon physical prowess (American football, basketball, volleyball, rugby, and others) that the technical skills and tactical know-how can be developed later. There are many stories of athletes taking up these sports in their teens, even in their 20s, and playing at a very high level because of the ability to transfer skills learned in one sport to another.

And then there are sports like hockey and soccer, which without a doubt require an early introduction to the sport. There are technical movements and skills that are most sensitive to improvement prior to a child’s growth spurt, and it is unlikely that a post-pubescent child is able to catch up if that is their first introduction to the sport.

However, there is no evidence that pre-teen athletes in these sports should only play a single sport. As both the hockey evidence and the interview with Tony Strudwick mentioned above demonstrate, playing multiple sports early on sets these athletes up for longer-term success. They can better meet the demands of elite level play. They are less likely to get injured or burnout, and more likely to persist through the struggles needed to become a high-level performer.

If you want your child to play at a high-level, then the best thing you can do is help them find a sport that best suits their abilities, and help create an environment that gives them the best chance of success. That environment is a multi-sport one.

The evidence is in. It’s pretty conclusive. It’s time for our youth sports organizations to not only allow but encourage multi-sport participation. Yes, it’s tough on the bottom line. But ask yourself this: Is your bottom line worth more than the well-being of the children you have been entrusted with educating?

So what do you think? Should kids play multiple sports? Only one? If you think specialization is the right path prior to the teenage growth spurt (excluding gymnastics and figure skating), then by all means bring some evidence and links to the discussion. And if not, then how about some thoughts on how we can stand up and change the status quo that forces kids to choose far too young.

Thanks to Urban Meyer and the poignant image of his recruiting class breakdown, we now have the opportunity to have this discussion. We have the opportunity to serve our children better. We have the responsibility to help them become better athletes by encouraging them to become all-around athletes. And we can do this by letting them play multiple sports. Let the discussion begin.
Guest post by John O’Sullivan

John founded the Changing the Game Project in 2012, which promotes a child-centred approach to youth sport. The author of the book, Changing the Game, John is a training centre director for the Major League Soccer Portland Timbers. Follow John on Twitter, Facebook, or read more at his blog.

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By: TomM (offline)  Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 05:52 PM GMT  

Finland - Czech U20 teams are playing on TSN right now and it is 3-3 after two periods. It is a terrific game. Most of the Finnish U17 players were on the team that played in and won the Mac's U18 tournament here in 2013 and were coached by my friend Kalle Kaskinen who is and assistant coach for Jokerit in the KHL right now and has worked with Juhani and myself for years. I mentored Petr Svoboda in 2010 who coaches the D for the Czech U20 team now now playing and continue to communicate with him.
So they game has a lot of meaning for me because of these connections so I wrote a posting about how these groups have a connection with this ABC site.


Finland and Czech U20 Teams - World Juniors and ABC's

Finland U17 Team 2013 – Outdoor shinny at Glendale Community Rink in Calgary

There is a photo of the team with my grandson and I on the outdoor rink after we played with them.

Finnish U17 team with Tom and his grandson Aidan.-Video

Christmas Shinny Finland U17 Team The Finnish team is is Calgary for the Mac's Midget Tournament. No arenas are open Christmas Day; so I got the ice ready at Glendale Community and they joined my grandson Aidan and I for shinny.

Drill by Finnish coach Jalonen.

E1 Speed Scoring 2-1 to 2-2 - Finland

Czech Republic

Petr Svoboda a former Toronto defenseman coaches the defense for the Czech U20 team playing now. In 2010 I was brought to Jihlava, Czech Republic to run the hockey school and mentor the coaches. Petr was the only coach who spoke English so I always met with him about practice plans and then he presented them to the players and coaches. I also mentored him with his team who started their training camp at the same time. I would meet and develop a practice plan with Petr and then watch and talk with him after. The club offered me a job as coach mentor but I returned to Calgary.

Here the Dukla Jihlava team is doing a Double Cross and Drop from the practice plan. I watched and took video from above.

Drill section fourteen has many drills from this July when the Petr was coaching the Czech U20 team that was here last July and I watched most of their practices. They were missing 7 of the best players who were at pro camps in the Czech Republic.

Here is a drill where they are working on a breakout and attack.

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


Registered:: 06/25/08

Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Thursday, December 31 2015 @ 11:35 PM GMT  

You Gotta Read This article by Russian player Evgeny Kuznetsov, who came to the NHL to play for Washington. Is the link to the article with picture.
How We Play Hockey in Russia
Dec 28 2015
Photograph by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Evgeny Kuznetsov
Washington Capitals / Forward

How much I do I love hockey? I can’t even describe. In Russia, we don’t really have a Christmas break, but from December 31 to January 3, everything closed. Even hockey school. These were the worst days of my life. Four days with no hockey, I get so depressed. I can’t even sleep. Just sit watching YouTube of Kovalev and wait.

Some people in Canada understand this, I think. In my hometown of Chelyabinsk, hockey is religion. Only one sport. Hockey.

For me, it start when I’m little boy. I tell you one of my very first memories. My dad take me to the rink, and I see this older guy score goal, and he do a really cool celebration. Slide around on his knees, you know? I say to myself, I want to do that. This looks so fun.


Photograph By Yury Kuzmin/KHL Photo Agency/Getty Images

From that day, I live at hockey rink.

Actually, I can give you my schedule. I remember, because it was same every day:

I wake up at 7 a.m.

Go to school for five hours. All morning, think about hockey. Can’t concentrate on school. Just want to skate.

As soon as I can, I run out of school and go to the rink. I live 30-second walk from hockey school. If I run, 10 second. My mom would be waiting for me at the rink with my lunch and my hockey bag. My mom cook unbelievable. I’d eat like a hungry guy. Quick as I could, you know? Because I couldn’t wait to get on the ice. I’d practice with my team, and then after practice I’d do another practice with the older guys.

Practice is much different in Russia. We skate, skate, skate. As a kid, that was the focus of the coaches — to make sure you were skating the proper way. No hitting, no dump in corner. Practice was about playing hockey — scrimmage, one-on-one, lots of skills. This is the Russian style. When I come to America, guys ask, “Is it like Red Army? You skating with weights and stuff?”

No, that’s different time. For kids my age, it’s skill, skill, skill.


Photograph By Yury Kuzmin/KHL Photo Agency/Getty Images

When I was eight years old, I score maybe 10, 15 goals in a game. Give me time to try lots of different celebrations, like the older guys. But not NHL guys. I didn’t know NHL. My heroes when I was young was some local guys in Chelyabinsk. When I got older, maybe 14 years old, I finally got to see a computer for first time. YouTube was everything. I get to see how Wayne Gretzky play, how Red Machine play. I get to see how Alexei Kovalev, Ilya Kovalchuk and Ovi play. For me, Kovalev is the best. Nobody even close to his skill. You can ask any player who ever play with him, or ever see him on the ice, and they tell you the same thing. Kovalev was unbelievable.

When I was eight years old, I score maybe 10, 15 goals in a game. Give me time to try lots of different celebrations, like the older guys.

I didn’t have a computer at home. My friend got one, so we would all sit there for two hours watching YouTube, seeing how guys are playing. Then we go onto the ice and try to do the same thing.

Couple guys who were older than me, they live in an apartment above our hockey school. One guy was Alex Semin. When I see him play for the first time, his skill was unbelievable. I’m like, Wow, I got to learn from this guy. So I started hanging out with him all the time, because we both obsessed with hockey.

The big problem was the rink was closed at night. We still want to skate. But I came up with a plan with Semin.

We would save some money and go buy some Coca-Cola and take it to the security guard as a little gift, and he would open the gate for us. So we got to skate all alone. It was unbelievable. This was important time. After 15, 16 years old, no one can teach you skill anymore. When you are young, it’s automatic. That’s when you need to learn skill.


Photograph By Yury Kuzmin/KHL Photo Agency/Getty Images

My father teach me, too. First thing, you never look at puck. Eyes always up. Look left, right, forward. You look down, it’s over. Even now, if I look down at puck in a game, my dad let me know about it. He texts me. If I score three goals but I don’t have an assist, he texts me. Because he teach me to be unselfish. You have to play for your partner. This is very Russian, this principle. I guess because of the Red Machine.

But this works only when all five guys working together perfect. If a guy skates in and shoots from blue line without passing, it’s like he doesn’t have respect. That’s how we play in Russia. When I come to America last year to play in NHL, I learn it’s a little different.

In my team in KHL, if you dump the puck, coach might put you on bench and you never go out and play hockey again. It’s true.

If a guy skates in and shoots from blue line without passing, it’s like he doesn’t have respect. That’s how we play in Russia.

If you’re a forward and you dump it, like maybe once they say, “Hey, hey, come on. What you doing?”

Next time you do it, that’s it. You must be crazy.

My first 10 games in NHL, I don’t understand why guys keep dumping puck. I’m looking at coach like, Is he going to say something? And he’s like, happy about it.

Even Ovi. I see him dump it. I’m looking at him like, What?!

But we keep winning. So I’m like, Ok, well, I guess it’s working.

Now I totally understand why we do this. But at first, I’m so confused. In the NHL, the space is so tight that you can’t think you’re special. If my teammates play 60 hard minutes, do the right things, and then I turn the puck over at the blue line and we lose, I got 22 big guys in the locker room very angry with me. Not good.


Photograph By Kim Klement/USA Today Sports Images

The way we play for Capitals is a little different than most NHL teams. Lots of passing, movement. We play for our partner. No selfish guys on our team. That’s first thing I notice when I come here that surprise me. Everybody friends. Like, even this guy Brooks Orpik. He’s totally different from me. But he became my friend. He’s a little older, so we call him Batya. It’s like “father” in Russian.

He win Stanley Cup, so I know I gotta learn from this guy. But I try to teach him, too. After every practice, we do what we call “hockey school.”

For 20 minutes, we stay out on ice and work on our skill with Batya. He see how me, Ovi and a couple guys always do it. So he said he want to do it, too. We do some passes and stick handle, do crazy moves, funny things. For a big guy, he can really do it. He’s got skill. He’s not like a wood man, you know?

Brooks says, “OK, now we do checking school.”

I say no way, man.

Some people here in America don’t like Russian style. They say it’s boring, all you do is skate. Nobody fight. Blah, blah, blah. But I like to see when team possess the puck for two minutes and then wait for guy to shoot in the open net. Here, some fans always yelling “Shoot it! Shoot it!” when you cross blue line. But watch how much Chicago holds onto the puck in the playoffs. They don’t have many Russians, but they play the Russian style. I’m happy to see it working in NHL. To me, that’s the best way to play hockey. That’s amazing.

Some people say, “Hey, how are you doing in America? It’s like a big deal for Russians to come. Some don’t like it.”


Photograph By Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images

I’m like, What you talking about?

My decision to come play in NHL was easy for me. My last season in KHL, I had a lot of injuries. I wasn’t scoring a lot. I feel like I need a new start for my career. And of course, I get to play with Ovi. Come on, this is great.

First practice in Washington, I see Ovi and my legs are shaking. I’m so nervous. He’s legend in Russia. He called me right away when I was drafted by Capitals. Every summer he text me: When you coming to Washington? Now finally I’m on his team. I feel like I’m 16-year-old kid.

Everybody know Ovi from his stats. But I tell you, when you get on the ice with him and you see his shot for the first time, it’s crazy. It’s so, so hard. When I shoot, I can see my puck. When he shoots … Oh, come on. Where’s the puck?

To play with him every day is really special, especially for Russian.

For me, it’s same hockey. Same since I was a little boy. I just want to play hockey, come home. Watch the Family Feud, go to bed. Wake up, play hockey again. That’s perfect for me. The only difference is that now I have a family who I must take care of as well — and they mean the most to me.

Who knows, maybe some bored Russian kid is watching my YouTube now. That would be cool.
Evgeny Kuznetsov

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


Registered:: 06/25/08

Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Sunday, January 10 2016 @ 04:11 PM GMT  

Comparing International Coaching Methods


I have spent quite a bit of time the last few weeks putting together pdf.s that compare how various groups practice by putting links to the Forum postings of drills and games. Each posting has a description, diagram, video link and a pdf. that can be saved.

Most of the gold winning Finnish jr. team were here two years ago with the U17 team that won the Mac's. The Russian U20 team is the one they played in the final last week. If you save the pdf.s at the bottom of each posting you can click on the titles to go to the drill.

Drills from High Level Female Teams

Finland Practice Techniques

Czech Republic Coaching Ideas

Russian Practice Methods

Swedish Coaching Methods

Youth Hockey Drills – U15-U18

Slovakia, Swiss, Danish, Canada U20 Practice Ideas

Practice Idea Summary - by Topic

Pro Practice Ideas

There are about 1000 different drills, so the easiest way to use them is to open the pdf. and save it. Then open the pdf. on each topic and save it. Open the various links to Forum postings and if you like the drill or game then save the pdf. at the bottom of each posting.

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


Registered:: 06/25/08

Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Sunday, January 10 2016 @ 05:52 PM GMT  

Moscow Dynamo outside off-ice training 4’ video lead by Jursinov in the 80’s.

They switch from weights to games like soccer, basketball, volleyball and on ice.

Train the body and develop athleticism at the same time.

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


Registered:: 06/25/08

Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Friday, March 18 2016 @ 04:23 PM GMT  

When I edit the video the process is to also prepare a pdf. with the description, diagram and video link. The pdf.s can be saved and I copy and paste them into my practice plan using the Technicoach Word template and then save that as a pdf. to send to members of the coaching staff and the players.

There are about 1200 drills and coaching ideas in this file folder.

A sample practice plan is posted below along with the ABC coding explanation.

ABC PDF's in Alphabetical Order - Updated

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


Registered:: 06/25/08

Posts: 2947
By: TomM (offline)  Saturday, March 19 2016 @ 04:43 PM GMT  
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