Skill Development is a common phrase that has flooded the hockey market, especially over the course of the last few seasons. So many players, teams, and associations are utilizing skill development programs in hopes to increase their talent level. It is not an area that we, as a player development outfit take lightly, or brush off as a general term. The way we look at it, teaching a skill, fine tuning the technique, and working on it repetitively is just the start. How are we going to translate this skill into a game scenario? If we can’t, then why are we working on it? We also need to look at on top of the skill itself, how we can combine it with other skills into a game pattern. And furthermore for older/elite players, how he or she can use these skill blends when dictating a game.
Skill Development according to CrossIce Developments, is correcting/improving a skill in such great detail that we will break it down into 3, 4, or 5 different steps. Emphasize the form and break the skill into areas, and then combine it back into one. Following that, we repeat it over and over perfectly, adding a puck if necessary, as well as speed or motion. Different from many, we don’t stop there.
That is just a fraction of Skill Development. In order for the player to honestly improve their skill sets, now we need to put it into a game situation. Tailoring drills to emphasize the player to make a read, and then execute the skill, is paramount. When a player can perform the movement perfectly, at game speed, in a game situation… we have developed the skill set. For age groups between Novice and PeeWee/Bantam, this is a great process. But for our older players and teams, there is a lot more…
What we find lots are missing with elite players, is the processing and reading part of “skill.” The other pillar of skill development is analyzing habits, seeing how players are limiting themselves, and how they can create more puck possession, more options, and what we hear lots of…. time and space. This is an aspect of what we pride ourselves on when we do 1-on-1 skills training, or small group training. Or for instance, when we break up forwards and defence with a team. Why is the player running out of space? Why are the forwards’ shots never inside the dots in the offensive zone? Why are our D never getting pucks through from the point? First, we build the tools necessary to fix these things. Now, we need to pinpoint how to fix the underlying issue. The thought process and the habits. Every situation and player are unique.
It could be anything from puck placement, to how the player is receiving the puck, to not enough deception, to not being fast at the right times. Do we need to add weight transfers, change of speeds, different routes, fakes, etc? But first, we need to create a pathway of which the player can create options for themselves, without reading and reacting when it is too late. Players who can manipulate opponents to create time and space are special. These habits, although some may not notice, will be what makes the difference in being able to extend possession or lose it.
More times than not, the raw skill a player has will not move him up to Jr A, the WHL, NHL, or wherever it is they are wanting to go. A player who relied just on his speed to get around opponents and score, may not translate unless that speed is used properly. Because at the next level, players will keep up to you. They have to have certain habits or a mind set of creating their own options, dictating, and constantly being able to put themselves in good positions with and without the puck. They have to be fast at the right time. Manipulating can be with or without a puck.
The game moves so fast nowadays, that if you need to read and react you simply will not make it. Take the reading and reacting out, and throw in control and dictating. Have certainty in your skill set. Plan 2-3 steps ahead, so you are not having the same issue over and over. When you have the ability to create options and space, and have mastered the skills within, you have just opened the door for limitless SPEED, DOMINATION, and CONFIDENCE.