Creating A Winning Culture Through Fun

It seems no matter what age group you coach there is an expectation to create a winning culture, and for many that seems to come from doing things “the way they’ve always been done” which means practices right out of my 1990s childhood. Bag skates, and full ice drills that leave kids standing in line, skating from one cone to another, and then getting back in line.

While this method of conducting practice may result in kids who can skate straight, follow directions, and maybe some increased stamina, you aren’t building a winning culture even if by chance you are winning games.

I coach a group of 10U kids currently and here and there I watch other 10U practices and I see a lot of what I described above. The old way of doing things. Then I look at my practice. We get half ice for an hour two times a week and I need to utilize every moment of that ice. And while a winning culture keeps parents happy, it doesn’t necessarily keep kids on the ice for years to come, but fun does.

What many coaches fail to realize is you can have fun for your entire practice and get in all the repetitions, game like scenarios, and in the end, that winning culture. Because a team that wants to be on the ice, wants to have fun, and is learning the entire time, well, those teams win.

I begin every practice with some form of a game, something I learned from Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. Get the practice tempo up right away and have the kids enjoying themselves. We will play coach keep away, tag, or another game in my catalogue. We then usually switch to a skate, but we don’t bag them, or at least they don’t think we do. We work on edges, our stride, or even run an obstacle course (see, fun!) and rarely, if ever, just skate them in a straight line.  From there, we will run a cross ice skate for 45 seconds and we track the top 3 skaters each session. 45 seconds of back-and-forth racing to stay in the lead (find my hidden bag skate?). This builds stamina, but without sending them all the way down the ice and back, and 45 seconds is just around that shift sweet spot.

Read more at: The Hockey Think Tank