Planning a novice hockey practice for 6-8 year olds can challenge new coaches. These 11 tips stop your hair from turning grey.
A Hockey Drills customer recently asked me for help with the soft skills required planning and running one of our station based practices. We get this question a lot. I know many of you out there wonder how in the world you will get through the next 60 minutes! Thanks for checking out this post. (I originally wrote this post in 2014 and it has consistently been our #1 read post by minor hockey coaches year after year. Updated Nov 23, 2017)
11 Novice Hockey Practice Planning Tips:
(In no particular order)
- Limit down time by keeping many players moving in every drill.
- Work to Rest Ratio: Have 1/2 the group doing a drill, while the other 1/2 watches/rests. Switch on a whistle. Many drills can keep every player moving. Novice players don’t need rest like high performance players. Do the drill for a few minutes, then if you feel they need a quick break, take a knee with them and ask them how it’s going!
- When you practice skating (ex crossovers around a circle), do it once or twice focusing on technique, then make it a race by sending a few players at once so that they can chase each other. They love it!
- Don’t worry too much about technique. Give 1-2 teaching points MAX! Encourage them to go as fast as they can, add dives, knee slides, rolls, etc to increase agility, balance, and confidence.
- Use games like Squirrels and Nuts, Cross Ice Hockey, Cops n Robbers, Musical Pucks, Tag, British Bulldog, etc to start practice (Body and Brain Energizers). This lets novice players blow off some steam before you try to teach them anything technically specific. Starting with a game makes them excited to get dressed and on the ice on time! (Click for explanations of these games in our complete season of practice plans)
- Alternate a mix of isolated drills and games throughout practice. Limit to 6-10 minutes each.
- Use a tennis ball or soccer ball for cross ice hockey games for fun, hand eye. Increased success for youngest and newest players. They are easier to hit than the puck! This also allows you to safely let kids play goalie, without fear of being hurt by a shot with a real puck. Of course blue light pucks are also great (mandatory in the USA Hockey, I applaud you for so much you do in your ADM).
- Take a knee and speak softly while explaining a drill. Encourage the players to lean right in close to you.
- Don’t expect too much! This prevents the grey hairs mentioned in the intro. 6-8 year olds don’t read Shakespeare at school. They don’t need to run a reverse breakout, regroup, and 3 vs 2 attack in practice either!
- Kids love relay races with and without sticks.
- Sneak peak Game example: Squirrels and Nuts: Players are the squirrels, nets are the nests, and pucks are the nuts. Spread the pucks out around the rink, make as many teams as you have nests, and on your go command see how many nuts they can get into their own nests, but they have to stickhandle the puck back to their net rather than shoot it. They can steal a nut from another squirrel increasing competition and puck protection, but not from a nest.
Download 45 Novice Hockey Practice Plans:Get 45 Practice Plans
Would you sleep better at night as a coach if you understood the game better? Knowledge = power = confidence = impacting young lives. We’ve written an online course for you. www.howtoplayhockey.ca.