Keeping Practices Fun, Interesting And Moving
By Ed Olczyk
Head Coach, Pittsburgh Penguins
Time management is very important to running a fun, productive and energetic practice. It’s important that players aren’t standing around, watching a select few run through a drill. It’s your job as a coach to explain and diagram the drill, what the purpose is behind the drill and what you’re looking for from the drill.
The length of the drill is also important. You don’t want a drill to run too long or players may get bored with it and get sloppy and develop bad habits. The coach must have a feel as to when to change sides or move to the next drill. Keep them moving and thinking all the time.
Here are a few of my favorite drills. I try to mix them up by adding in a little variety from time to time. These are three simple but effective drills that keep all players involved in practice while working on important skills.
Have the forwards line up along the boards at all four spots at the blue line. Put one defenseman in the middle of each blue line. On the coach’s whistle, the first forward passes to the defenseman on the opposite blue line. The forward skates to the center red line, stops, sprints back toward his blue line, receives a pass back from the defenseman and skates in for a shot on goal. Forwards from the opposite side of the ice go at the same time. This allows for more repetitions for each player. Then the next two forwards go. This is a very good warm-up drill that works on skating, passing and shooting.
The forward passes to the defenseman at the far blue line. The forward then skates along the boards and receives a pass from the defenseman on the blue line where he started from. He skates in and takes a shot on goal.
Forwards at the same blue line, but on opposite sides, start on the coach’s whistle. A forward makes a pass to a defenseman on the opposite blue line. He then skates behind the defenseman and heads up ice. The forward on the opposite side skates in front of the defenseman, and the two forwards skate in 2-on-0 for a shot on goal.
This is a straight 3-on-2 drill where you’re trying to create a 2-on-1 and isolate one defenseman.
The forwards start on the whistle. The two defensemen defend 3-on-2, maintaining good gap control while keeping their sticks on the ice to take away passing lanes or contest any shots on goal.
The forwards are trying to isolate one of the two defensemen and create a 2-on-1.
On the coach’s second whistle, the forwards must regroup and skate back over the blue line. The two defensemen must skate up to the blue line, closing the gap, and challenge the forwards as they regroup over the blue line.
1 Fowards skate on a straight 3-on-2 up the ice.
2 On the whistle, all forwards have to skate back over the blue line and regroup in the neutral zone and then attack the zone again.
3 If that’s the case, it’s important for the defensemen to move up to the blueline and take back ice, take away time and space, close the gap and make it a tighter 3-on-2.
Forwards line up in both corners at one end of the rink. The defensemen line up facing the forwards in the middle of the ice near the hash marks. On the coach’s whistle, the forwards skate straight down the boards. The defensemen skate backwards straight back until they reach the red line. If the forward goes by the defenseman, he must step out and do a mohawk turn facing the puck carrier and skate forward.
The purpose is for defensemen to work on quick feet, playing the 1-on-1 and working on their angles, keeping the forward to the outside.
First couple of practices, the defenseman will struggle if done right. Stay with it. Eventually the defenseman will skate backward the entire way playing the 1-on-1.
NOTE: Initial start for the defenseman: one or two quick crossovers than swizzle straight back.