The pace of a hockey game is extremely fast, so being able to make SMART decisions with or without the puck is vital. At most youth levels, players have a hard time reading and reacting to plays without the puck, as well as understanding their own time and space with the puck in their possession. How can we influence their awareness and decision making positively? Below, I’ve outlined a few key habits for players to master and implement into their game to have better on ice awareness.
How To Increase On Ice Awareness
1. Communication! Make sure players are always using their voices to let their teammates know where they are. This is a skill that seems easy, but it is rarely executed at the youth or even junior level. Volume is key here! In a fast-paced game, you need to yell loudly so your teammates can hear you.
2. Players should survey their options to make a play before receiving a pass or grabbing a loose puck. Teach players to always be looking around with their head on a swivel not only with the puck, but before they possess it. This takes practice and a mind-set to be consistently thinking about where other players are. Many players get mesmerized by the puck and are unable to take a step back and be aware of the entire surface.
3. Understand the common patterns which occur in a game. For example, very similar patterns happen each game on break outs, neutral-zone regroups, offensive zone fore-checks, etc. If your teammate has the puck, you need to have the right anticipation and timing to hit an open hole and become a passing option within that pattern. Being there too late or too early won’t suffice, that’s why controlling your skating speed and anticipating the play is key! Understanding these patterns will give each player the best opportunity to be in the right position to support the puck, at the exact right time.
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