This is an excerpt from Coaching Hockey With Small-Area Games by Dave Cameron.
The needs of the team will be dictated by the time of the season, and each team will be different based on age, skill level, schedule, and the best use of practice time. Developing effective practice plans is difficult because a lot of time is needed to get a read on what practice should be based on. Factors to consider when developing team practice plans include what happened in recent games, what is coming up in the schedule, what the energy level of the group is, how many players are on the ice, and what messages need to be sent to the players so that they remember topics or concepts.
Planning for the Unplanned
Keep in mind that despite all your efforts in planning, practice will not go perfectly every day. On some days you will have to throw the practice plan out the window because for whatever reason, it just was not going to work. That is OK, and your ability to adapt and change on the fly will come from experience. Be creative and work to understand how your players are receiving the information you (or your staff) are passing on.
Things to consider when planning team practice:
- What is the most important topic to cover that day?
- What from the previous game did not work that you can address in your practice to correct it? You can even do this with very young players with a topic like passing. If the team did not pass the puck well in the last game, how can you set up drills that will create a clear opportunity to pass the puck?
- Do you have all your players? This issue is more common with older groups because injuries or various situations may take players away from your team. If you only have one goalie, do your drills still allow you to accomplish what you want to accomplish? Players will be less interested right at the start of practice if they know they are shooting on an empty net or targets. I have found it successful to let players know that the drills we will be doing in that end of the ice are not useful for goalies, so we do them on a day when no goalie is available. The drills revolve around taking multiple shots quickly or one-timers with cross-crease passes. When players work on these concepts and get more reps because they do not have to wait for the goalie to get set, they quickly realize days with one goalie can be valuable.
- What topics are working well that you can continue to work to reinforce and build more confidence in?
- Are your players ready for a change in structure or a new concept, or are you continuing to reinforce things they should already know?