There’s a few different ways of looking at this topic and I’d like to focus on two of them. First up:
Time on the ice
There is no question that any hockey player at any level of the game is going to get more time on the ice during practice then they are during a game. If anyone questions that think of this:
During practice – the entire team is on the ice the majority of the time and engaged in some type of drill the majority of the time.
During a game – A max of 5 skaters are on the ice at any given time. Consider a team with 3 to 4 lines and it’s a pretty easy equation to determine that there is less time on the ice in games. Let’s not even consider the coach aspect (1st, 2nd, 3rd lines) of this equation at this point.
With that fact out of the way, now consider the differences in coaching styles. This is a huge factor in what happens during a practice. A coach that is utilizing his ice time its max is prepared with a good practice plan that involves every player in drills without much standing around. Fast paced, high tempo practices with skill work intermingled. Have a coach that comes prepared in this manner ratchets this up another notch – now not only are you getting more time on the ice during practice, but you are also becoming a better player at the same time – not just another kid that is in shape and can go hard during their shift.
So with that said, it definitely makes sense to keep practices at a ratio relative to games that produces high quality, highly skilled hockey players. It can’t be all about number of games and tournaments you play. If you want improvement – there is a balance between games and practices that is essential. Something to look for when you decide what team to hitch your wagon to for the upcoming season.
The Next way to look at this topic:
What you do with that time on the ice
How many times have you gone to your son or daughter’s practice and noticed a consistent lack of effort by one or more members of the team? Have you ever heard your son or daughter tell you that they don’t like doing drills with this player or that player because they can’t pass or can’t skate or don’t try hard?
The fact is that you won’t get 110% effort from every player in every practice. But on average you expect to get 110% effort as a coach. That’s the way you prepare drills and the expectation you want to set on the ice with your team. The effort given by the players is in many ways tied to these expectations, but is also a product of preparation by the coaching staff. Good drills, high tempo drills, organized practices, flow drills – all these things set the tone for the players during practice and must be there if you have the expectation of getting 110% from your players in practice.
The other side of this is the players themselves. They must be willing to give 110% on the ice during practice. There’s an old saying that I’m sure everyone has heard:
“Practice makes Perfect”
I completely disagree with this statement when it comes to hockey – and for that matter any sport. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Here’s a version of this statement that I heard many years ago:
“Practice makes permanent”
Now that makes more sense. I can practice a skill for hours, days, weeks, months and years and get very good at it. However, if I’m not practicing it properly I’ve developed bad habits and potentially restricted the skill level I might have attained had I done it properly to begin with. This is where quality coaching plays a big part. But let’s turn that around to the player – If I practice at 75%, what am I going to do during a game? If I don’t backcheck at 110% during practice, what happens when I’m tired at the end of a game and there’s a turnover in my offensive zone? I haven’t practiced backchecking and because I’m tired instinct takes over and I simply give my 75% effort to get back and play some D.
Most players I’ve encountered that don’t give 110% in practice will tell you; “I can turn it on in games” or “I’ll have more jump when it matters”. And my response to these players has always been the same:
“Practice makes permanent”
See you at the rink.