By Jeremy Weiss
Hockey development is becoming more and more sophisticated. As on-ice instruction techniques improve, it becomes increasingly difficult to improve your hockey skills to stay ahead of the competition. Furthermore, ice is becoming more expensive, which means less practice time, and even less space for practices.
So if you’re going to gain and maintain an edge over your opponent, you need to keep your development progressing off the ice, between games.
Here are 5 things you can practice at home that will help you improve your hockey skills while yielding the most on-ice results for the time invested:
1. Shooting: Working on your shot from home will pay off all season long. But don’t be tempted to just practice your most comfortable shots! Work on picking all the corners, with all shot types (including backhand), from many different angles.
QUICK TIP: The side panels on practice aids such as the EZ Goal Backstop (pictured below) can swivel to block missed shots from different angles. Use them!
2. Stickhandling: This is something I wish I had done more of, and it takes hardly any financial investment to make it happen. If your budget is limited, score a Smart Hockey Ball for around $10 and throw down some obstacles on your driveway. If budget isn’t an issue, pick up a few of the stickhandling aids available. Fast Hands is one of my current favorites.
QUICK TIP: Use your off-ice stickhandling time to perfect the moves you’re struggling with on the ice, and be creative! This is an important way for you to improve your hockey skills.
3. Off-Ice Agility and Explosive Training: Two of the most valuable physical characteristics a hockey player can have are (a) quick feet and (b) an explosive stride. Fortunately, these skills are both easy to develop off the ice, with minimal equipment. Two simple drills that will help to improve your quick feet and explosiveness are the Dot Drill and Plyometric Training.
4. Study, Study, Study! Become a student of the game. If your team has a playbook, study it. If you’ve got any good hockey books lying around, read them. If you’ve got a favorite player or coach, study their career; learn how they became who they are. I also recommend learning the history of the game; it’ll help you foresee what’s coming.
A few books I recommend to get started are:
- Weiss Tech Hockey Playbook by Jeremy Weiss
- Hockey Tough by Saul Miller
- The Hockey Handbook by Lloyd Percival
- Road to Olympus by Anatoli Tarasov
5. Go to the videotape: If your team has someone shooting video of your games, take some time to review them. This is one of the most effective ways to improve your decision-making ability on the ice. When watching your own games, however, it’s tempting to fast-forward to your own goals and big plays, and then call it a day. Don’t do this! Study your game play methodically. Watch every shift; look for well-executed systems; look for poorly executed systems; look for mistakes; watch your 1-on-1s. How was your gap control through the neutral zone? Look at your breakouts; were you in proper support position? You get the idea. If time is limited you should, at the very least, watch each goal for and against in slow motion, analyzing what went right or wrong along the way.
Many rec hockey players are willing to work on things at home, but they just don’t know what to do. That’s where a little “home study” comes in. You’ll see that you improve your hockey skills and will find yourself competing at a higher level in no time.
Jeremy Weiss is the owner/director of Weiss Tech Hockey Schools, which offer development camps, private lessons, team consulting, and coaching instruction to players of all levels. For more information visit his Hockey Drills and Skills blog, Weiss Tech Hockey.