The following is a deeper illustration of my thoughts towards how teaching needs to evolve in order to further develop the girls/women's hockey. For illustrative purposes I'll show you a learning sequence as it relates to my 10 year old daughter and the challenges I have when approaching her development.
One of the things I've had to be mindful of is the limitations she imposes on herself when learning because of her literal interpretation. To that end, I try to ensure that I approach her development with several different learning strategies - here are three for you to review:
All the video illustrations are development sequences we worked on this week. You will notice I have incorporated all three of these learning strategies into the fabric of her game. I assign a learning strategy to the skill set depending on the execution elements of the skill set - all the while trying to develop more pro-active thinking in her play.
1. Skill Automation
My daughter as with most girls I've trained are fanatical about details - before she starts anything she has a series of questions to clarify everything in her mind. Many times this diligence to details causes her to impose her own sequential skill execution (executing one skill - break of time - executing second skill - break of time, etc) rather than skill blending. My goal with her is to develop skill blends in all skill execution and eliminate as many breaks of time between skills as possible - so her movement patterns are blended and her upper body works independently from her feet and her anticipation or mind works independent of her upper and lower body. Meaning, she should be able to simultaneously read a pattern while skating and executing puck skills. She shouldn't have to stop her feet to make a read or a puck play.
In this video I'll illustrate how I approach skill blending with her and you'll see last week's lesson unfold from training to practice to game transfer.
2. "Literal Anticipation" (yes I coined this term - frankly I didn't know what else to call it)
Literal Anticipation for our purposes means, my daughter will do exactly what the coach tells her to do. If he says "stay in front of the net", she will stay in front of the net. If he says "guard the player in front of the net," she will guard the player in front of the net. Of course, the problem is, she literally does what she is told without any level of liberal interpretation of that instruction. In other words, you won't see he guard the player in front of the net, and then read a pass coming to him and intercept the pass and go. She will guard the player. Nor will she guard the front of the net while the puck is on the other side of the ice, and when the puck comes to her side, leave the net front to defend her side. "Coach said, guard the net front" -- so that's what she is doing. It can be quite comical at times. However, the habits she is learning at 10 will shape her development going forward. So now instead of telling her to "guard the player in front of the net," I tell her, "intercept any passes that come to the player in front of the net." This tells her to guard the player in front of the net implicitly while telling her to anticipate passes to him and intercept them. It allows her to literally do what she is told, yet work from a position of anticipation - forethought, or proactive thought. Big difference!
In this video, you will see her go from practice to a game and see some development indications.
3. Anticipation of opportunity
At this point, the reality of 10 year old hockey is that there are a ton of loose pucks. My daughter recently has focused on trying to engage offensively as a defensemen, we have chosen the HotZone as her key area of focus. Her challenge is to anticipate loose pucks in the Defensive Zone that will allow her to lead the rush. By keeping this on the anticipation of loose pucks on the forefront of her mind, she is now starting to recognize these pucks and jump on them with an intent of leading the rush. This is the first step of several steps we have to get to to become a great HotZone player.
Here's the video:
The goal of course is to blend as many skill executions as possible, then take her mind and turn it from a literal and reactionary athletic state and learn how to interpret coaching instructions and game patterning in a way that continually encourages her to anticipate, think proactively and recognize game patterns and blend that recognition with blended movement patterns.
I believe that the girls/womens game will find a way to overcome these challenges - hopefully this little tweet, may spark your enthusiasm and encourage you to challenge the way you approach teaching/coaching the next generation of women players.
Some other time, we can further explore the critical development of women coaches who understand the mind of these young women and can provide insight that someone like me will never begin to understand. Which will provide the bridge we need to reach the athletes learning capacity and deliver the best quality message.