The One Skill That Will Make You 10 Times The Hockey Player
Learn To Skate With And Handle The Puck With Your Head Up
In Part 1, I mentioned that are systemic issues with the process of learning to play hockey that cause the bad habit of looking down at the puck and hamper the development of the proper skill sets. In Part 2, I want to go over this in more detail so that you can be aware and hopefully take steps to avoid falling onto bad habits.
One problem is that most start to play hockey at a very young age and they learn to play with a puck that is the same size that is played with by mature adult professional players. They don’t have the strength to move the puck so they separate their hands on the stick to create leverage. This brings the puck in closer to their feet and forces the head down. But this is just one of the problems that this creates. The young players are forced to grip the stick tighter and stiffen up their shoulders in order to engage their upper body strength to move the puck. Stick handling becomes more like chopping wood. Also, try locking up your shoulders and see how well you can skate ……. good luck with that.
Problem 1A – To Be A Good Stick Handler You Need Short Stick
The worst aspect in Problem 1 above is that the puck is brought is closer to the player’s body. In order to be aware of the puck the player is forced to keep the head down. I still hear of coaches who see a kid struggle with handling the puck recommend they shorten their stick. A short stick means the puck is brought closer to the players body and promotes having the head down. Now-a-days this advise usually comes from the old school coach that played a long time ago. Modern instruction and teaching of the proper techniques for handling a hockey stick make for very effective and comfortable use of relatively long stick.
A second problem is that in hockey schools or in team practices pylons or obstacles are set up to skate around. No player wants to lose the puck and look foolish while doing a drill; so once again the head goes down and the player gets fixated mainly on the puck.
Also, I almost never see a coach promote skating with the head up during practice and what is even worse, I don’t often see it emphasized at hockey school skills sessions.
A little bit about fear in hockey (this is a fairly big subject that I’ll deal with in more detail at a later date).
There are two categories of fear in hockey. The most obvious is physical fear; the fear of being hit by a body check and the fear of injury. The second type of fear is psychological/mental fear. Psychological fear is more subtle, however more critical and perilous. (Anyone who has ever tried to be a serious golfer knows all too well the effect of psychological fear.)
It’s my belief that psychological fear plays a big role with Problem 2. Even in a practice drill, no player wants to look foolish by losing the puck. As a result, the player focuses on the puck in order to keep control of it and then develops this habit of keeping the head down.
In Part 3 I’ll do my best explain the essential elements necessary to learn how to skate and handle a puck with you head up to the max.
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