Important Information for Setting up a Youth Hockey Practice Plan!

Practice plans for our Youth Hockey Team is my Passion, I love the development aspect of Hockey Practices.  Being able to influence young athletes and watch them practice a skill, and then execute that skill in a game is awesome and very much rewarding.  Practice Plans are the core of development for a youth hockey team; there are a lot of items that go into creating a practice plan multiple days a week.  Today I am going to discuss some of those items that are important to remember before you start putting pen to paper or mouse to application.

Being prepared is key for me, and our team has responded very well with always having a plan!  I believe every coach gets into coaching hockey for the love of the game and because they want to be the best coach they can be.  Coming to the rink with a practice plan is the basis of being the best you can be.  Parents and kids want to be on a team that is fun, organized, and well-coached.  Parents can easily see if coaches are not prepared for practice day in and day out, they don't have to be loyal to you, they are in it for their child and pay a lot of money to be on a well-coached team.  So make sure you come prepared with a plan and not winging it out on the ice with your other coaches.

I always remind myself what Hockey is to a kid.  My sons at this time are 8 and almost 6 and what is Hockey to them?  It is not a job, it is a sport they play to have fun.  Fun is a broad term for sure, but it's very easy to recognize when a kid or youth athlete is having fun.  That is the basis for every practice, make a challenging and progressive practice that is fun.  Making sure when they go on the ice and come off the ice they have a smile on their faces.  If you keep that in mind when setting up your practices that will be a great start!

We have Fun as a place to start, next is making sure your practice plan can be run with the number of kids you have that day.  We use an app called TeamSnap; I check our team's TeamSnap before I design a practice plan to see how many kids will be at practice today.  I can't run a full ice flow drill with 8 kids.  I might need 10 for that drill and maybe its conference day at school and a few kids can't make it.  All of our coaches are volunteers and have lives outside of hockey; so making sure you have enough coaches to run the practice is also important.  We rely on TeamSnap for that as well; coaches can check in to a practice or check out of they can't make it.

Time on ice is an important factor of practice; our team skates different amounts of time throughout the year.  We might skate 50, 65 or 80-minute practices; you don't want to design a 50-minute practice when you have 80 minutes of ice and don't have a plan for 30 minutes of the practice.  So verify how much ice time you have that day.  We also do share ice days with another team, my practice plan looks much different on a full ice practice than a shared ice practice.  Doublecheck your schedule for the amount time and how many kids will be on the ice.  Some days we split the ice down the middle and stay on our side, but most often we intermix our players and run a purely station based practice.

I also highly recommend you ditch the pen and paper and substitute that for an online application that will let you store all your drills and practice plans.  I use two different ones for different types of drills.  The first one is called Coach Them it is a great web-based application that you can draw all your drills and store them forever.  It allows you to store them and give them different tags to describe what kind of drill it is and you can easily reuse them later.  There are a lot of different applications out there, this one is the one I prefer.  I also use another application called Hockey Coach Vision and this one allows me to animate drills; it is very useful for flow style drills and it helps coaches visually know where all the players are going and how the drill operates.  You can put notes, and key points on each one of these so your coaches see those when you send it out to them.

My recommendation is to send out your practice plan the day before your practice and discuss with your coaches what they will be doing on the ice during the practice.  Everyone should have a job to run an efficient practice.  Between drills, I will often blow the whistle, let the hockey players get water and come take a knee by the board on the glass.  I will draw and explain the next drill and during that time the other coaches are making sure the cones, pads, dekers, and pucks are all in the correct places so we can get rolling right into the drill.

In a future article, I will go into what I do when I am getting ready to plan the next practice.  All the ideas above are to make sure you account for setting up your practice plan with the team in mind!  Being prepared and conscious of all items will set you up for a world-class practice!

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