Four pieces of advice to kick-start your summer
I have to admit, my life is pretty hockey-centric. Even in the months when I take things a little slower (May and June), I’m still in hockey mode.
What can I say? I love what I do, and I’m always thinking of ways to help you get to the next level.
I was in the middle of a workout the other day when I started to think about little tidbits of advice I could sh are with you to help you get better. And once I started to write the first few down, they just kept coming. I came up with eight overall and I’m going to share the first four with you today. I’ll save the next four for later in the summer.
So here are the first four little pieces of advice that will help you be a better player. None of them are life changing, but they could be a game-changer for you when you hit the ice next season.
1. STOP TRYING TO HIT THE CROSSBAR!!!!!
Sorry for yelling, but this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. We all love the highlight reel goals where a player goes bar-down. But just think about what happens if you miss?
Depending on how hard you shoot, it could lead to an easy breakout for the other team or at least a 50-50 puck that you have to battle to get back. I really don’t understand why players cheer in practice and games when the puck hits the bar – it’s not even a real shot on net!
I want players to aim for the mesh part of the net – because that’s where the goals are. And we all know we need more goals in girls’ hockey. I heard an interesting story about Mike Bossy that I wanted to share. If you don’t know who Mike Bossy is, google him.
He is the NHL’s all-time leader in average goals scored per game (573 goals in 752 games in 10 seasons) and has the record for most consecutive 50-plus goal seasons (the first nine seasons of his career).
So he scored … a lot.
He would always practice shooting at the end of practice.
No surprise there, goal scorers do that a lot.
But he would always aim for the MIDDLE OF THE NET.
Sometimes his teammates would ask why he was aiming for the middle of the net. Seemed like a strange place to aim for a guy who was obviously a sniper.
His reply: If I aim for the middle and miss, it’s still going to hit the net.
Just a little something to think about. His numbers don’t lie :)
2. DO YOGA
I know some of you are thinking, “that’s not for me.”
And I used to think the same thing. To be honest, I didn’t think yoga was hard enough or athletic enough. Until I tried it and realized how playing hockey had gotten me all twisted up in the wrong places and I desperately needed to work on my flexibility and mobility.
Trust me – those first few sessions weren’t pretty. I started on my yoga adventure in my second year of university. I bought two VHS tapes online and did them each once a week in my dorm room. I wish I had videos of myself doing those videos the first few times – very humbling to say the least.
But I got better and it definitely made me a better player.
How? I recovered faster from games, practices and workouts. I could see a difference in my flexibility and mobility within a few weeks.
I felt better. And when you feel better, you play better.
I’ve been doing yoga at least once a week ever since. I’m not fanatical about it, but it’s made me a better athlete and a better coach.
So try it. You only need to do it once or twice a week to feel a difference.
3. PLAY MORE THAN ONE POSITION
Time for a mindset change here, ladies.
You are not a left winger, right winger or center – you’re a forward.
You’re not a left D or right D – you’re a D.
Goalies … well, you’re usually staying put.
And sometimes D’s can play forward and forwards can play D.
There’s no greater example of how effective a player can be by changing positions than Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks.
The guy was an excellent forward in the NHL, but when he moved back to D, he became a superstar. And I’m sure all his coaches love the fact that they could move him up and down the bench to play either position if they needed to. That’s called versatility.
I love having players who can play forward and D. Defensemen who get moved to forward have a great sense for how to pressure the opponent’s D on the forecheck. They aren’t afraid to go into traffic and play physical in the attacking zone. They always tell me that they feel free up there.
And here’s the reality for all you centers out there: As you move up to higher levels, more and more players are centers. You have to learn to play on the wing. I’ll put it into numbers for you:
There are only four centers on the national team. But there are eight wingers.
If you can play both positions effectively, you give your coaches a lot more flexibility on where they can put you in the lineup. If you are only effective in the middle, you might find yourself on the outside looking in.
4. PLAY MORE THAN ONE SPORT
We’ve all heard this one before. Hockey has become a year-round sport. Players are getting burnt out at alarmingly young ages. And the number of overuse injuries in young players is scary.
But I’ll save you the lecture on how being a multi-sport athlete will help you be a better player and will prevent injuries in the long-term.
I’ll focus instead on the emotional side of the equation.
To be the best player you can be...
... You have to miss it.
You need to take some time off from playing in games and tournaments. You simply can’t sustain the level of focus and intensity you need to play your best every day.
I’m not saying you should sit on the couch and eat chips all summer. And I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t skate at all.
In fact, I truly believe players benefit greatly from doing one or two ice sessions per week throughout the summer that are focused entirely on pure skill development.
But real champions are great athletes. Depending on your age, that may mean spending some serious time this summer training off the ice. Maybe with weights, maybe with just your bodyweight. It might just mean playing another sport at a high level or just spending lots of time playing a lot of different sports.
The bottom line is...
... When training camp comes around, you should be so excited about getting back on the ice that it keeps you up at night and gets your heart racing.
You definitely shouldn’t feel like it’s just another day at the rink.
I still feel that excitement when training camp rolls around for my team in late August. And I’ve been doing this for 20-plus years.
So there you have it. A little advice to kick off the summer months.
I’ll share the next 4 pieces with you in the next few weeks.
Feel free to share this with any friends, players, coaches and parents who you think might benefit from reading this advice.
In the meantime, keep Working Hard & Dreaming BIG.
Your friend and coach,
Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS, is director and founder of Total Female Hockey. Visit www.TotalFemaleHockey.com.