Monthly Coaches Corner

Skate First, Hockey Second

Jan. 28, 2014

I have decided to start a monthly memo regarding winter sports topics that I get numerous questions on through emails, phone calls, and daily interactions with people. I feel like providing a monthly update would be a logical way communicate with everyone about specific topics that I think are relevant in today¹s sports environment. For those who I have not had a chance to meet, my name is Kevin Deeth and I serve as the Assistant Manager of Programming and Instruction at the Compton Family Ice Arena.

The Compton Family Ice Arena hosted its first winter session of Learn To Play on Sunday Jan 26th. This was the 4th session of our Learn To Play clinics where kids of all ages strap on the gear and have a chance to learn the fundamentals of the greatest game on earth. The first 3 sessions are operated with no sticks so kids can focus on the fundamentals of balance, coordination, and most importantly… SKATING! The 4th session is when the kids get to actually have a stick in their hand and receive instruction on things like shooting, passing, skating with the puck, and stick handling.

After playing hockey at Notre Dame and transitioning into a full time South Bend resident, I can¹t tell you how lucky I am to be able to work with 80+ kids who want to learn the game that I fell in love with at their same age. The interest in hockey continues to grow at an alarming rate and between our facility and partner organizations we are thrilled with the local progress. Growing numbers is important and at the forefront of every board meeting and discussion. In my mind the issue of WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS LIKE ? sometimes over shadow the aspect of WHAT THEY ARE LEARNING ? or HOW THEY ARE PROGRESSING?. I think in today¹s hockey culture parents are too adamant on getting a stick in their kid¹s hands prior to learning the fundamentals of skating. I applaud USA Hockey¹s mandate on keeping a stick out of the kids hand for first 3 weeks but is this enough?

The question remains; What is it that will allow our kids to focus and develop the MOST IMPORTANT SKILL in hockey? I am not saying practicing stick handling, shooting, and passing are not important, but, for the first few years, these should take a major backseat to edge work, stopping, crossovers, and stride technique which will all make our kids better skaters. In my opinion, every kid should complete a Learn To Skate program before they are allowed to pick up a stick. I can tell you in our upcoming Compton Classroom sessions, March 27-May 22, skating fundamentals will be at the forefront of the curriculum. I think parents need to also take some ownership of their child¹s development as a future hockey player. Take your kid to a public skate and let him work on everything they have learned from LTP or LTS sessions. When he falls, let him get up on his own. When he asks to go skate outside in the polar vortex, bundle him up in an extra scarf and jacket.

I will close with one of my favorite quotes which ultimately falls on us as instructors, coaches, and administrators of our YOUTH SKATERS (notice how I didn¹t say hockey players?) to make sure we create an environment conducive to skating development. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.