Minor Hockey Chronicles 2nd Edition: Does Your Team’s Hockey Practices Suck?

Are you sick of watching flow drills?

Are flow drills killing the game of hockey and player development?

Every coach wants “good flow” and I’m not talking about hockey hair. Every coach wants “good flow” to their practices, but at what cost?  

How does one create a well balance practice that works on every aspect of the game?  With the cost of ice time on the rise, coaches have pressure to create a well run practice every time out!   

You got to keep them moving, right? 

Flow drills can be your worst enemy, I know that this goes against conventional wisdom and if some coaches read this they will probably take a “shit fit.”

The benefits of “flow drills” are endless, but when I was associated with teams as an assistant coach in the past some coaches were just content running continuous “flow drills” during every practice.

I couldn’t believe it!

It wasn’t my place to say anything, but I really couldn’t believe it. 

Running flow drills like that, just leads to lack of execution and “bad hockey habits“ like not stopping on pucks and lack of focus during the drill especially when each drill is done without resistance.

I still remember that season, players got caught up into the flow and focused to much attention making cross ice passes and the perfect play rather then focusing on going hard to the net and taking quality shot opportunities.  

Whatever happened to you practice like you play? 

Oh that’s cliché, I think not. 

To many “flow or continuous drills“ can also cause complacent play especially if they are not performed against resistance as I’ve already mentioned.

 From previous articles everyone is well aware of my philosophy of “defence first”, so when I see teams running flow drills for over half their practice I just don’t understand and usually walk out of the rink.  

Don’t get me wrong flow drills definitely have purpose, but one aspect that could make flow drills more effective is adding variations to hook the interest of the players.  

 The drill should be “short and sweet” and of course change the side or flow of the drill 3 or 4 mins in and never do one “flow drill” for more than 6 mins.

 To limit the length of the drill will also increase the teams intensity and execution.  Whether you think “flow drills” are your ally, be careful because the enemy is lurking. 

The misconception that teams with good flow during their practices will be “tough to play against” is slightly exaggerated and often times overrated.

What can associations do to fix poor practice habits? Well it starts with education, it starts at the grassroots. Let’s not kid ourselves,most coaches mean well, but they fail on delivering solid practices day in, day out. Every association these days have developmental coordinators that can help educate and provide support, which is great, but how often are those coordinators on the ice with the coaches implementing drills and observing?

There’s a definite need for coordinators to be on the ice with every Prov. Team at least once every two weeks, but we can’t forget about the other teams and kids. Technical directors in this region are some of the best around, and we are very lucky to have them, they probably just don’t have the time to be on the ice as much as they should.

It’s easy to blame the coaches in all of this, but we need to support them, we need to educate, we need to praise them when they develop kids. Now I didn’t say we need to praise them when they win.

You see that’s the problem.

“Oh that team or coach doesn’t need any help just look at their record.”

It’s that take right there that cause kids to hate practice and eventually hate the game. Practice should be fun it should interesting, it should be challenging. I wonder what players would say if you gave them a survey about their team’s practices. Now that’s shit that I could get behind.

Do associations and it’s board members actually watch practice? Do they even watch games anymore or are they just looking at the win and loss column of their teams to determine success?

What ever happen to you practice like you play? In my opinion far too many coaches look to textbooks or drills from online sources for the answer to solve their team’s weaknesses.  

Be innovative and create your own personal drills that focus on the aspect of the game that your team needs to work on.  Whether they are your ally or your enemy, flow drills can be critical in a teams success.

Nevertheless, to all the coaches out there, please change up your practice plans and differentiate your drills, just imagine if they are boring to watch, how would you feel being on the ice?

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