AHU Coach’s Corner: The top five mistakes that drive me crazy as a coach
1. Making mistakes at half-speed: I don’t mind if players make mistakes – in fact, I expect them to. Hockey is a game of mistakes after all. Plays rarely work out perfectly, and more often than not, scoring chances and goals result from a bad bounce or a miscue by a player.
When you make a play at half speed (or even worse, without your feet moving), you take away your ability to recover if you make a mistake. Also, when you do make a mistake, play it off as if nothing happened. Instead of banging your stick, rolling your eyes or yelling, just keep going.
2. Turnovers within five feet of the blue lines: This is the biggest one for me. It drives me crazy when a forward makes a move right outside the blue line that throws their teammates offside. Similarly, turning the puck over on the breakout just five feet inside the blue line is infuriating. Defensemen are equally as guilty here, too. They back off the blue line in the offensive zone and keep their team from maintaining puck possession on the attack. The rule of thumb is to keep things simple within five feet of the blue line. No cute drop passes and no trying to make a fancy move. Carry the puck in deep or chip it off the wall to get it out of the zone. Simple.
3. Throwing the puck back into traffic: Puck possession is a very hard thing to maintain in boys hockey because of body checking, but it is much easier to maintain in girls hockey and is absolutely critical to a team’s success. Finding open space when you don’t have the puck and moving the puck to an open player when you do have the puck are two very important skills for players to master – and they are also quite hard to teach.
Too often, players panic when they get the puck and are under pressure and simply throw it back in the direction from which it came. Be patient, keep your feet moving and remember that the puck doesn’t always need to move forward down the ice. Don’t be afraid to pull the puck back and regroup it towards your own zone so that you can maintain control and wait for space to open up.
4. Over-passing the puck: This is a big difference between boys and girls hockey. On a 2-on-1 rush in boys hockey, the player who carries the puck in over the blue line is more often than not the shooter. In girls hockey, the players usually make 1-2 too many passes as they come in on the net, which results in a shot from too tight or no shot at all.
Over-passing the puck takes away space and control, which lessens the chance you will score. I have heard players say that they pass on the 2-on-1 because they don’t want their teammate to get mad at them if they don’t. Trust me, your teammate will not be mad at you if you score.
5. Taking everything too literally: This is another huge difference between the boys and girls game. Girls tend to get very focused on executing the system exactly as the coach teaches it. This is not a bad thing, but quite often it results in “paralysis by analysis.” You get so focused on being exactly where you are supposed to be that you miss out on chances to create turnovers or capitalize on the other team’s mistakes. You need to learn the system, be a responsible player in both ends of the ice, and then look for opportunities to play “outside the box.”
These five mistakes aren’t huge by themselves, but they add up over the course of the game and the season. Focus on these details to have a successful season.
Kurt Goar is the coach-in-chief for the Arizona Hockey Club.
(Sept. 12, 2019)