Hey Hockey Fans,
I have been racking my brain for years with this one and I finally figured it out in the last few weeks with the help of some of my students (special thanks to Grayson and Maxim!). Here is what I discovered:
I noticed that the majority of new hockey players could not turn properly. What do I mean by “properly”? Well, they could turn both ways but quite often they had friction in their turns on one or both sides. A proper hockey turn doesn’t have any friction as you roll onto your outside edge and glide through your turns. However, I couldn’t figure out why so many people had trouble with this. I also was discouraged as a coach as I couldn’t help them improve this with a couple lessons.
After talking with many different experts in the field of physiotherapy and tons of different drills I had my students perform, I shifted my focus to what I thought was the root cause; ankle mobility. I noticed that my students would not roll their ankles enough to activate their outside edge and thus created friction through their turns, so I wanted to address this first. My plan started out with just a few simple little exercises in order to improve and strengthen ankle mobility. I had students rolling their ankles, balancing on each of their edges, and a few drills on the treadmill to get the feel for this. I did this with several students ranging in ages from 6 to 13 and could typically pack this into a single lesson. My thinking was, if I can get them more comfortable on their outside edges, there was a good chance that they could improve their turns.
The improvements were noticeable and incredible. I couldn’t believe my eyes watching a player who minutes earlier could not turn properly, all of a sudden performing perfectly smooth hockey turns. I had a couple long time students suddenly finally conquer this area, which was not only gratifying for them, but also for me as the coach. The amazing part also is that they had trouble with their turns for a long time and with just a few exercises, the results were noticeable. With a focus on this for their next few lessons, results look to be long term and now they can advance to more complicated drills (turning with a puck, heel to heel turns, etc.).
One of the things I love about working with kids is how quickly they learn and adapt. It is really amazing to watch the progress of a student from their first lesson to their fifth, tenth, and so on. Another great thing I learned through this is that the answers are always out there, you just have to keep trying different things until you get the result you are after. I think that you are never done improving your skills as a player, but you should keep in mind that sometimes you have to come back to the fundamental skills to ensure that you are building on a strong foundation.