DEVELOPMENT verses EXPOSURE
Sean Skinner believes that top level teams (Junior A, Prep, AAA, or High School) DO NOT develop players….they only provide exposure for the dynamic, impact type player who is developed. They do not develop the players because of their model of games and tournaments, their focus on winning, and their shorter seasons which leads to lack of time to develop all players on the team.
1) GAMES, GAMES, & GAMES: All teams and hockey academies play in leagues and tournaments all season long. The focus of any coach involved in league or tournament play is trying to win the next game or tournament. As long as they are trying to win they will just install the face-offs and systems needed to win. This mentality is not focused on developing and training of ALL of the players on the team. It does not consider what long-term skills and tactics these players need to play in future years. And, it creates an environment where players are in fear of making a mistake and too afraid to lose. Practices are sculpted just to get by for the next weeks opponent. This is not what is necessarily best for player’s future. This model serves the coaches resume and clubs/schools record. These teams have to win so others will think their training is great when in actuality it is usually their recruiting, not the coaching. This is not a dig at the coaches. The coaches are usually great coaches but in this system they do not have the time or the freedom to develop players, as they have to play the next game and win or get fired.
2) LEAGUE PLAY: In league play many of the games are against either weaker or stronger opponents. These games end up just being a waste of time. It would be better to schedule fewer games against opponents that are at your same level where the players have to work and struggle to make the victory. This is what makes the game so exciting with a challenge where we do not know the outcome before the game…a real test.
3) RECRUIT or PERISH: If the top teams recruit the best players, and if top teams have the best coaches, why don’t the top teams win the nationals every year, or the league title every year? Why doesn’t every player on the top team improve their shot speed, skating speed, stickhandling, and hockey sense during the course of the season? The reason is because the top teams are not developing players, they are just exposing already great players to great competition.
For example, the top US Prep School recruits from all over North America taking only the best players. The best coaches with professional experience run the practices daily. The team plays in the most competitive tournaments and competes at the year-end national tournament. However, the team wins the Nationals occasionally, not routinely. They play against other teams that only recruit regionally or locally and who do not practice everyday, they do not have organized dryland training and do not have a professional staff of coaches. These other teams compete well against this prep school. The top school with its resources should win 90% of the time unless the puck did not bounce their way or they met a hot goalie, yet they don’t. The reason is that through the course of the season, the emphasis is on winning, not player development. Imagine if with the resources at its disposal, the top school had every player on the squad shooting 15 mph faster, skating 5 mph quicker, using more stickhandling moves, understanding zone entry tactics and using systems like experts: then they would dominate the other teams at the end of the year by many goals.
4) USING THE WHOLE TEAM: We have all heard of rotating the lines. Top teams use three or four lines to win championships. Top coaches know that it is your third and fourth lines that win tournaments. Two reasons why:
First, because even the top players need appropriate recovery to perform at their maximum. If the third and fourth lines are adequate in not allowing a goal to be scored, then they allow your top players appropriate recovery time to try to score. Yet are the third and fourth line players being used on the power play? Are they out there when the game is on the line? Are they learning how to play in pressure situations? No, they are not and they are not developing. Only the top players of a team, the top 1/3, are being given the opportunity to develop.
b. Second, your team needs depth, meaning your third and forth lines are needed to score the goals to win the big games. The teams top lines should cancel out with the other teams top lines and your third and fourth lines, if developed enough, should beat the other teams third and fourth lines. Again, we don’t see all the players developed on a team to accomplish this.
5) PREP or HIGH SCHOOL SEASON: Most prep and high schools are restricted by a shorter season and multi sports schedule, and do not allow for hockey skill Mastery. Many do not have the time or the resources for dryland and off ice training. Imagine a system where a player gains, speed, flexibility, strength and endurance throughout the season. Usually a player makes their gains in the shorter summer season and tries to maintain those gains throughout the rigorous long season. How about making gains for 9 months of the year?
6) POWER PLAY: The best power play in the NHL only works 20% of the time. The top players are the ones who log the majority of power play time. However, have they really developed into Power Play Experts? They spend 15-30 minutes in practice a couple of times a week working on one power play hoping for 2 or 3 chances to test it out. At the SKINNER HOCKEY Academy all players will study the power play extensively for 1 month. They will learn all the types of power plays not just one. Players will study the power play in lecture and video. Players will learn which type of power play to use against a passive box, an aggressive box, a totally aggressive penalty kill with no box, what power play works against the diamond penalty kill, what power play works down low and up high. Players will learn how to play all the different positions on the power play because players rotate and interchange in the course of a shift. And for 1 month when we play games every week we play 2 hours of power play and we keep score by the success of the power play. SKINNER HOCKEY Academy creates Power Play Experts. A much more effective use of time and more repetitions testing out what you practiced.
7) DRYLAND TRAINING: Many hockey teams just practice on-ice. This is not enough. Some do minimal dryland such as strength training or plyometrics just a couple of times per week. This is only one small aspect of dryland training. Other prep-schools or academies will show you there weight room but ask the players if they really use it and how often? We are offering:
a. Hockey skills dryland.....everyday!
b. Strength and core dryland.....everyday!
c. Conditioning dryland.....everyday!
d. Tactical dryland.....everyday!
8) TACTICS & SYSTEMS EXPERTS: Most teams teach one or two power plays, one or two penalty kills, a fore-check, and maybe a defensive zone coverage. Do you think that this makes them experts? What if they meet a team where that tactic or system does not work? How can they adapt or run another system if they have only learned one? At the SKINNER HOCKEY Academy all players will study ALL the power plays, the penalty kills, fore-checks, zone entries, cycles, 1 man tactics, 2 man tactics, 3 man tactics, when to be defensively passive or aggressive, defensive zone coverages, regroups, neutral zone strategies, and multiple systems.
9) CLASSROOM STUDY: Players will learn with in-class lectures, video analysis of NHL and Olympic games, video analysis of their own play and analysis of their practice. Players will learn which type of power play to use against a passive box, an aggressive box, a totally aggressive penalty kill with no box, what power play works against the diamond penalty kill, what power play works down low and up high. Players will learn how to play all the different positions on the power play because players rotate and interchange in the course of a shift. At the SKINNER HOCKEY Academy, players will learn mastery of the skills, tactics, and then systems. This progression will be communicated be a HEAR, SEE, DO method. They will hear by chalk talk diagram, see by watching video and do by dryland and then perform on-ice.
10) PLAYBOOKS: Did you know that masters and doctoral thesis have been written by experts just on tactics and systems? Did you know that the great coaches travel and study with other great coaches to learn? There is a huge knowledge base that players should become familiar with. When we send a child to school we are asking them to learn as much as they can in many subjects, and to become proficient in a few. Why do we not apply the same learning to the game of hockey? Popcorn football players can have numerous complicated 11 man plays in team play books but we can’t even ask a bantam hockey player to have tactical and systems playbooks! Players at the Skinner Academy will study and know the game of ice hockey.
11) POSITIVE PRESSURE FREE ENVIROMENT: Players will finally be put in a teaching environment where they will be asked and encouraged to try new things. Not where they are being yelled at or worried about making a mistake and costing the game or the tournament. In a positive environment, players learn 11 times faster than an environment where they are afraid to make a mistake.