AHU COACH’S CORNER: The key to better performance lies in constant improvement
Continuous improvement is a very important concept for any athlete’s development.
The best athletes work every day to be better than they were the day before. They live by the concept that says if you aren’t getting better, you are getting worse. There is no such thing as a superstar player who doesn’t work to be better than they were the day before.
The Arizona Hockey Union helps develop players through the American Development Model, always striving to help our athletes improve their hockey capabilities.
It is important for players to develop excellent habits, and one of them is the desire to continuously improve every time you get a chance to go on the ice. You want to show what you are getting better at and coaches agree, you can always get better at things like shooting and passing. Continuous development means continuously working on the fundamentals of skating, stick handling, shooting and building confidence. Some other areas that can always be improved include control, agility, reflex, technique and edge.
Body control can be mastered through drills that help a player understand and enhance body movements to improve overall balance and body posture. Agility is gained through quick lateral movements and foot work. Coupled with proper body control and weight distribution, players can develop and improve evasive technique – making them far more effective hockey players. Hockey is a fast read-and-react game. Players who continue to hone their split-second decision-making skills will become playmakers. Quickening reflexes in skating, stick handling, passing, shooting, checking and edge control will raise the level of play in every aspect of a game.
Repetition is a great way to improve hockey techniques in controlled situations where you then incorporate the speed of a game to increase performance. A hockey player can always improve their edges using control and over speed drills. Attending power skating sessions will take a skater to the next level.
Small improvements add up to big results over time. Even improving one percent in every category will have an exponential effect in the long run when you are working toward continuous improvement. In order to improve any skill, you have to master the basics with an emphasis on time and quality repetitions. Without exceptional footwork, positioning, shooting and other basic skills, there is not one system of play that can overcome improper skating technique, inaccurate passing or shooting, or inferior stick handling. Structured skill development is necessary for continuous improvement.
Keep in mind, practice isn’t just about getting in shape and playing with your teammates. It’s also about mastering skills. College- and professional-level coaches focus on continued skill development, too, setting practice time aside for both skill development and system-oriented practices. There really are no shortcuts when it comes to developing hockey skills. The foundation has to come first and must be continually improved upon throughout a player’s career. Proper training focusing on technique and form is essential for players to become fast, powerful, quick and efficient skaters.
What you are is what you make yourself into. If you are not committed to continuous improvement and the work ethic required to continuously improve, you will never see the benefits. Develop excellent habits and the desire to continuously improve. Setting personal goals is the best way to increase focus and effort, making every repetition and drill count. Identify the goal, make sure it stretches outside of your comfort zone and determine how you are going to measure the goal. Ask your coaches for feedback on how you are progressing on your goals and what you can do to make the improvement. Once you have reached the goal, set new ones and continue the process.
Playing hockey is hard work. By applying a willingness to always seek improvements, players will continuously evolve. Ultimately, performance isn’t about skating faster or shooting harder. It’s about something much simpler – continuously getting better.
Kurt Goar is Arizona Hockey Union’s coach-in-chief