“Teaching Concepts Through Small-Area Games is a great new small-area games resource for coaches, especially those that want to know how they can teach systems and team play through small-area games,” says USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager, Michele Amidon. “It’s categorized by topic/concept and also includes animation and voice over for each small-area game.”
This collection of small-area games is designed to help coaches teach aspects of the sport in a fun and challenging atmosphere. These activities will allow the coach to incorporate many hockey concepts (puck support, special teams, breakout, etc.) into practice in the form of a game that does not have a pre-determined outcome. Small-area games represent an efficient use of valuable ice time and will help maximize the development of players while dramatically increasing the competitive level of practice.
USA Hockey continues to be influenced by Bill Beaney, Middlebury College head hockey coach. Bill has long been viewed as the leader in using small-area games and allowing the game itself to be the greatest teacher. The games that children play should not look like the games that adults play. Small-area games with a purpose help create the age-appropriate training environment that will enrich young athletes of various skill levels and experience. Small-area games begin by emphasizing basic fundamentals, such as skating and shooting, and progress to a more complex coordination of skills as players advance. The majority of time on the ice should be spent working on skills, regardless of age. The second component is “sense,” both with and without the puck. Hockey sense, one of the most sought-after traits in our game, involves the ability to read the play and react (or anticipate) appropriately. “Systems,” or team play training, includes concepts such as defensive zone coverage and forechecking patterns. Small-area games enable you to train your players in all three areas (skills, sense and systems) in an efficient, competitive and fun environment.
In his article titled, “Small-Area Games,” NHL coach Mike Sullivan says, “Situations in hockey rarely occur the same way we draw them up in practice. We, as coaches, would like to make the game black and white. The fact of the matter is that the game, by nature, is gray.”
Part of coaching is finding the balance between guiding players through the game and over-coaching, thereby stifling their creativity. Hockey is an instinctive, largely unscripted game, where players are constantly trying to gain time and space in offensive situations and take away time and space on defense. As such, players who can think for themselves, adapt and find their own solutions to game-play challenges have a major advantage. Small-area games encourage players to learn by doing, while competing in an environment that encourages creativity and deception skills. These games will force players out of their comfort zones and move the traditional landmarks (crease, hash marks) of the playing surface. Players will be forced to make decisions repeatedly while battling for space in confined areas. In addition, your goaltenders will see many more shots in various game-like scenarios.
The games within are organized by concept. As you progress through the chapters, you may notice that some games will be in more than one chapter. That is because many concepts can be taught within the same game. Coaches can choose to focus on one concept over another to change the key teaching points and emphasis of the game, whether it’s an offensive or defensive situation.
USA Hockey wants to thank all of our great volunteer coaches around the country who interact with the athletes on a daily basis. We want to arm you with the best possible drills and philosophies to help improve the most important part of our game: the player.
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