Friday, July 7, 2017

Don't Play Robot Hockey

These days, youth hockey looks a lot different than it did two decades ago. Now, the focus seems to be on system play and strategy, which, in turn, is having a negative impact on players’ reading and reacting skills. This heavy focus on system play, while not entirely negative, is holding young players back from developing instinctive skills for the game- a real “feel” for hockey- and is hindering them from knowing what to do when something doesn’t go according to the system. All of this feeds into very robotic play- robot hockey basically, and it’s not a good thing.   

This is not to say that system play should be given up completely. That wouldn’t be a good thing since higher level NHL teams are even utilizing this type of play now, making it counterproductive for up and coming young players not to learn it. What can be done, though, is to start trying to build some of those “read and react” components that teach valuable skills back into the game.

Coaches are encouraged to incorporate drills that teach reading and reacting skills to players and that also teach them to them for themselves and make their own decisions on the ice instead of just doing what the system says they should. It can also be smart to hold off on teaching system play until the major peewee or minor bantam stages. That way, kids will learn natural skills first and can then focus on more structured play.

If it’s important to you that your child develops these more natural skills, choose a coach for your child who thinks like you do! You’d be surprised at how much more fun, energy, and excitement this small difference can bring to the sport. At the end of the day, “robot hockey” Isn’t much fun, and it’s not as effective, at least not on its own, as the older methods of teaching either.

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