What Defines An Intelligent Hockey Player?

MN State Championship and former NCAA Coach Sean Goldsworthy talks hockey IQ

State Championship-winning hockey coach Sean Goldsworthy has been around the game since he was in the womb.

Son of Minnesota North Stars legend Bill Goldsworthy, Sean has long called the ice his second home. As a player, Sean led his senior high school team to state tournament finals and went on to have a rewarding hockey career at St. Olaf College. He has extensive experience working with USA Hockey, Minnesota Hockey, and as a board member, coach, and clinician. As a coach, his team recently won a state championship. It’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about hockey.

Sean’s hockey expertise is helped out by a background in physical therapy, and he holds a degree in exercise science and biomechanics.

But more than anything, Sean’s experience’s around the game have underlined the value of intelligence on the ice; the fact that there is no substitute for hockey sense. In recent years Sean’s teams have begun using a software program called Hockey IntelliGym.

Using technology originally designed to train fighter pilots, this software program helps athletes improve their hockey sense – including awareness, anticipation, decision making, concentration, and execution – which in turn improves their performance and reduces their chances of injury. Thousands of players of all levels have used it to get a leg up on the competition. USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program has been using the software for ten years and has seen an unprecedented run in international play winning seven IIHF World Championships with a total of 28 medals since adopting the software

We asked Sean about what traits define an intelligent hockey player.

“In general, great players think fast, play fast, and really focus on finding space,” he said. “You notice right away that intelligent players are never late to support the puck, they’re always in a position where they have multiple options. Defensively, players with great hockey IQ are really good at eliminating time and space from their opponents.”.

So how does an athlete train hockey sense?

In practice, it is important for players to be in “high-conflict” situations on the ice where they need to make primary and secondary reads, or decisions, in succession.

“Your primary read is the first read, or most immediate decision, but your ability to manipulate or see beyond the first decision into the second or third layer will buy you more time,” he explained.

Training with IntelliGym three times a week is an excellent addition to any on-ice work, according to Sean.

“Developing skills on the ice is important, but where players can really stand out is in their cognitive game. My teams have seen major gains using IntelliGym.”

Intelligent play is also about seeing the big picture. Comparing intelligent on-ice play to driving a car, Sean said, “Do you only look at the car in front of you, or do you look three cars ahead?”

While it is important for intelligent players to seek out “high-conflict” situations, they first need to develop the confidence to do so.

“You have to develop the skill set to have the confidence so to not get overloaded with your attention. If 95% of your attention is just trying to handle the puck, then being in a high-conflict situation isn’t very productive,” he explains. “In order to properly manipulate the game, you need to feel confident about your skills.”

Many coaches and parents have noted that players who have trained using IntelliGym have seen improvements in their confidence on the ice.

Overall, intelligent players are one-step-ahead, playing what he calls an “active” rather than a “reactive” game. On top of handling the puck, a player with high hockey IQ will also have the ability to position themselves and dictate the terms of play.

“If you’re constantly chasing the puck, the majority of your game is reactive,” he says. “IntelliGym has been a big part of helping my players see what is going to happen before it happens.”

The off-season is a great time to hone hockey sense and make major breakthroughs when on-ice training starts up again. Hockey IntelliGym can help.

Categories: Advice

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