Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day One in the "Hockey Wars"

That's what I've for a long time called an extreme stretch of hockey commitments, the "hockey wars"!
Up at a little after 7am this morning, I checked email first (as usual), shaved, showered, dressed in really warm garb for this brisk day, gathered a must-do list from my diary, and then drove the 40-ish minutes to a Team NEHI off-ice practice.  Now, you should know that this Saturday morning dryland session is my very favorite practice of the week. I truly mean that. It's the only time I feel I can relax with the kids, at least partly because the clock at our off-ice facility isn't ticking away at about $5 per minute (as it would be when we're at a local ice rink). The mix of things we can do there is also fun for me. I mean, I generally enhance my players' athleticism with a ton of gymnastic type drills for a good half-hour or so, we'll shoot and do lots of puckhandling and passing drills for at least another 30-minutes, and then we'll don in-line skates and do just about anything we'd normally do on the ice -- from skills training to tactical stuff. And, when I want to introduce something new to our playing system, this is the time and place where I can do that without feeling rushed. [caption id="attachment_94" align="alignright" width="194" caption="Tumbling for Athleticism"][/caption] Oh, and there's one other good thing about this kind of training atmosphere... Like most of our off-season off-ice sessions, I get to observe my kids without all their heavy ice hockey gear. Minus that stuff, I can usually tell how athletic a player is. And, when they're dressed very lightly -- like in shorts and t-shirts, I can usually gain a better sense of where they are in their physical development.
As an example of the latter... A number of years ago a young goaltender joined our junior high school team looking like he'd never done any sort of physical exercise. (Like, his legs resembled a pair of straight stove pipes, with no kind of muscular shape whatsoever.) Unbelievably, 3-years later this kid was a physical specimen. I mean, he really took to our way of doing things, he worked his butt off, and his body showed the results of his efforts with drastically improved play and a truly athletic looking body. My guess is that a coach who hasn't had the chance to observe his or her players in this way wouldn't have ever noticed something like the above. (Of course, if the coach isn't using some of the things I use, it's quite possible he or she wouldn't be able to affect those kind of changes anyway.)
Well, after that awesome article about my grandson appeared in the local paper last night, I've been silently praying Anthony Chighisola would do well in his game against nearby Stonehill College today. Tony C did his thing, though, notching the game's first goal, and then adding another goal and 2-assists in his team's 7-4 win. Actually, Anthony's line accounted for all 7-goals, and this first score gave him 50 career points as just a sophomore. (And, phew... At least tomorrow's newspaper ought to have some decent stuff to report on my young buddy.) Thankfully, I got to see 2-periods of that game, between the off-ice practice and a 4:30pm game down in the New Bedford (MA) Junior High School League. It was a downer that I had to miss my Mighty Mites' game that was scheduled for Hingham, MA, at 2:40pm. (No way I could have coached that game up north, and still made my junior high game about an hour+ to the south.) Thank God I've groomed some really good assistant coaches to run the little guys in my absence.
Bummer, but my Jr HS kids lost a nip-and-tuck game with just seconds to go. We'd kept on coming back all night, initially digging ourselves out of a 4-1 hole. But, we did lose it in the very end, 6-5.
I'll tell you, though, my kids are really coming along, and this is in accordance with a plan I've designed for each.
You see, my main goal is to get these kids onto the high school team of their choice (which means winning games is secondary to their development). So, while some of my youngsters are a couple of years away from that challenge, a few have to be ready a little less than a year from now.
That said, at least two of my 8th graders have started to look like they're ready to make the leap... Both of them made some big-time plays tonight. And, on two different occasions I told each boy that his was a "high school goal". (Or, in jargon, we might say that they were true "highlight reel goals"!)
Speaking of my junior high school kids and I have a special section over there where I share some of the notes or observations I make about our games. (I do the same for my HS Prep guys while they're with me, and I even do it for my little Mighty Mites. Usually these are things I'll want to deal with in future practices, things that need correcting, or maybe parts of the game we'll need to talk about.
Among tonight's notes...
- I have to re-establish a drill we do in warm-ups, because my defensemen are definitely not handling their man in the slot and clearing the view for their goaltender. I'd put that drill into our pre-game routine so that certain things would be constantly reinforced. However, the kids' sloughing-off in that drill is leading them to also not do the job when the game begins.
- We have gotten away from "finishing checks". And, in case you don't know what I mean by this, anyone playing an enemy puckcarrier has to follow-through -- or body-check or tie-up his man momentarily -- after that man gives-up the puck. The idea is to prevent that opponent from jumping back into the play.
- I then wrote myself a reminder to return to a drill I'd been using to help my "D" on 1 on 1 rushes, this called "stick-on-stick". I've been planning to explain that soon in a post, but now I have a very good reason to get it done now-ish.
Well, that's it for me tonight, because I have to rest-up for Day Two at the Hockey Wars!