In the world of youth hockey, there tends to be a lot of focus on scoring goals.
And, while scoring goals is certainly important, there is something equally as important (if not more important) that is often neglected.
That “something” is playing proper defense. Fortunately, playing defense the right way isn’t all that hard…at least not if you know how to go about it.
Quick Analysis is Key
To start off with, one of the most important things that you must teach your defensive players is how to analyze the “rush,” meaning the players that are coming at them.
They need to learn how to quickly count and evaluate the situation. In other words, how many players are facing off against how many other players?
Once they’ve figured that out, they need to pay attention to whether or not the wings are covered, and, then, based on that information, make an informed decision on how to proceed.
Some of this knowledge comes with real, in-game practice, but a lot of it can be acquired through intensive drills in which you place your defensive players in a variety of different, often high-pressure situations.
If they can learn to handle any situation in practice, they can then handle any situation on the ice.
Teach the Importance of Partnering
Another thing that you will want to embed securely in the heads of your players is the fact that they must always have a partner and that they must always back that partner.
Hammer this skill into your young athlete’s head, and make sure that they understand that the rule applies everywhere, such as on the blue line, in the neutral zone, and especially, of course, in the defensive zone.
Teach “The Swivel”
One final thing to teach all of your defensive players is the fact that they must keep their heads “on a swivel.”
This means that, anytime play is going on, especially in the offensive end, they need to be moving their heads and watching everything. Fixating on one spot won’t do it; they need to be watching where all their own players are, as well as what the defensive team is doing. Their heads, in other words, should never stop moving.
These tips can take some real time and effort to instill, but, if you follow them, you should find that your players do a much better job at defense.