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Deflections - The Post-Turkey Practice


There are some practice situations that leave coaches scratching their heads. One is the first practice following a long Christmas break. You can bet the kids have done practically nothing from a hockey or conditioning standpoint. Unlike pros or juniors who, even during rest sojourns, manage some form of maintenance training, minor players probably spent the break lounging on a couch. Yes, it’s needed, but it leaves the coach with an awkward conundrum.

Invariably your team gets one, perhaps two, practices then jumps back into games. Do you ease the kids back into practice mode and hope they’re geared up for that first post-turkey game? Do you work them hard right away to get them back into game shape? Do you review key skills or tactics? At what intensity? Walk them through some group tactics? Do flow drills?

It’s a tough call.

Here’s what one coach did with a single 50-minute practice after a 10-day layoff and immediately before two consecutive games. It was a competitive minor bantam group.

  • Drill 1 (12 mins.): Pairs raced from one end to the other, battling for a puck and a shot. Work-rest ratio of 1:3 in a high intensity opening drill
  • Drill 2 (5 mins.): In 3s on a circle, 2 kids pass to a player who skates forward to backward to forward, always facing a passer. Work-rest ratio of 1:2, but a low intensity drill.
  • Drill 3 (12 mins): Breakout 3 forwards with 2 def. and attack 2 defence to the other end. Medium speed drill with some work on positioning.
  • Drill 4 (9 mins.): Forward on Defenceman from neutral zone stop and go, both ends at the same time. A few more frequent reps for the dee while the forwards went about once every 4 reps. High speed with adequate rest between reps.
  • Drill 5 (10 mins: Cross-ice small area game of 3 vs. 3

At first, the drill sequence seems a bit odd, especially at the beginning when the low intensity passing drill was done second and at the end, when the 1 vs. 1 occurred after the small group tactic drill. But it all worked on a number of levels, namely:

  • Three of the five drills were fairly intense and involved competitive situations. Two of those were 1 vs. 1 situations, which heightened the intensity.
  • There were two solid skill-based technical drills, one of which was a fine review of previously taught passing and skating transition skills.
  • The sole group tactic drill was just enough to get the brains in gear.
  • Finishing with a cross-ice game added that fun and edgy component.

This was a well-thought out answer to a tough question: what to do for that turkey burn?

The next night, the team won 8-2.

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