Mental focus is a key for next shift
I am often queried by youth coaches for tips on markedly improving their respective team’s on-ice performance devoid of roster manipulation.
A great question for many reasons, not the least of which is that most league and association governance/rules do not allow for the addition/subtraction of players beyond the half-way mark of any season.
So today, I answer the above request for help with a column entitled “N-U-F said!” It outlines a simple, easy coaching tactic that, if adopted, will undoubtedly lead to GREATLY enhanced individual/team game-play.
Again, my use of my favorite teaching tool – the acronym – is evident. The N, the U and the F each signify a critical piece of today’s lesson-plan:
Specifically, I am referring to each player’s focus and concentration-level on the bench WHILE AWAITING/ANTICIPATING THEIR NEXT TURN ON THE ICE! In other words, if a coach can teach and discipline each of his/her players to intensely watch and observe ALL of the action on the surface before THEIR next respective turn, a tremendous amount of good fortune can be manufactured.
How? For example, knowing/learning which opposition defenseman has trouble turning to his/her right when going forward to backward? Which player on the other team is generally weak on face-offs?
What player takes forever to wind up and shoot from the point; hence, a body in the shooting lane can lead to a breakaway for us? What center on the other team only at-tempts passes to his forehand side?
And, aside from the potential weaknesses of the opposing players that can be exploited, an AWARENESS of where the puck is heading and in-which direction should I be JUMPING on is also extremely important. A mistake made here could definitively be that difference as it relates to winning or losing a specific match. A player can only hope to make the correct decision if he/she is fully engaged and thinking “ahead” as if they are ALREADY on the ice involved in the current play.
COACHES: Continuously reinforce the need for each and every player to be 1,000 percent tuned-in to what is occurring on the ice at ALL junctures of a contest. The concept/tactic is far too often overlooked and efforts made in this direction allow you to “coach” more adroitly and your players/TEAM will respond in-kind.
PLAYERS: you must internalize the notion that true TEAM PLAYERS take their responsibilities OFF of the ice just as seriously as ON! Begin utilizing the “N-U-F” bench-management tactic and your production/contribution to the TEAM’S success will soar!
It is one way to emulate the professional stars of today’s NHL, Junior and College Hockey before you get there!
Best of luck.