Losing An Edge

Everyone knows how important skating is in this era of the game.

“If you can’t skate, you can’t play,” has become a common theme around the hockey world.

Let’s face it, skating has always been critical, there’s just more emphasis or attention on that skill given where the game is trending.

The real questions that should be asked right now is.

Are we losing an edge? Are we losing ground in this region when it comes to producing great skaters?

Are players improving their skating “in season” every year and are we developing players for the next level?

Those are tough questions to answer especially given the primary focus or new buzz terminology on player and skill development.

We all can agree that player or skill development or skill acquisition is everything when it comes to the game of hockey.

Nevertheless, everyone in the game has their own opinions and definition on what that means or what that looks like and how it should be delivered. Many elite level teams are outsourcing their skill development portfolios to community-based experts in that field, which is great to see, but why are some coaches hesitant when it comes to that aspect?

Why are some coaches uncomfortable delivering skill development themselves?

Why isn’t skill acquisition or player development already built into their yearly practice plans?

Is skill development just “puck skills” or different flow drills once or twice a month?

Is “player development” falling short, in this region?

Are we gaining any ground when it comes to producing quality players or shall we say quality skaters? Is skating even being considered when it comes to the delivery of player development and skill acquisition? What can we do to ensure every player improves this vital skill every year within the framework of their season?

A few weeks ago, I received a private message from a concern hockey parent.

Their question was valid, on point and probably one that a lot of hockey parents have but are too hesitant to ask given the lines of communication within the game and the parent coach dynamic. They asked the following question. How do young players work on things like explosiveness, speed and agility work other than practicing with the team, also given their limited time outside of school and other team events?

Let’s get one thing straight, every coach out there probably has the best intentions heading into the season and have their practice plan for the year all set. Nevertheless, those practice tendencies change on a whim due in large part to chasing the almighty “W.”

Team success often overshadows individual skill acquisition. Team systems often take the time and precedence over skill development even though everyone knows and appreciates the importance of it.

Good intentions, but poor results, that’s perhaps why we are losing the edge when it comes to skating in region. 

When someone mentions skating instruction in this region you go to the source or the best to do it around these parts, the one and only Jill Plandowski.

“Skating is something I’m so passionate about because it’s just not about looking good out there,” stressed Plandowski.

“Being a skilled skater gives players time and space. It provides balance and the ability to make plays without having to compensate for weaknesses, for example only being able to pivot or turn well in one direction.”

“Skilled skating gives you vision to make plays and proper posture to breathe properly and have more energy per shift, it’s so important,” she added.

Associations all across Atlantic Canada would love to have the likes of Plandowski to parachute into practices and ensure players are improving. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, that’s not to say teams or associations aren’t doing a good job, that just means that there should be more emphasis placed on coaches to ensure players are always given the opportunity to improve their skating and that there’s time incorporated into their practices to develop and enhance the skill.

Let’s face it there are so many ways to incorporate as Plandowski says “skilled skating” and footwork into a practice. In some cases, perhaps the coaching staff feel it’s just something else to learn so they revert back to what they already know.

With all the video reinforcement in the game now there’s really no excuse not to watch and provide feedback. Nonetheless, is that happening from a skating perspective? I highly doubt it which is sad really if you think about it.

Again, this isn’t about criticizing coaches, this all about bringing awareness and potentially shifting the emphasis back on the skill that matters most.

Skating is everything, if you can’t skate, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to reach your full potential in the game.

Let’s hope players from this region aren’t losing their edge.

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