3 Reasons Why Your Players Aren’t Improving From Competitive Games

Competitive games = league games, tournaments 

Below are 3 potential reasons why you or your players aren’t developing from competitive game play. Learning the road blocks and understanding how you the coach or parent can positively influence some of these areas is the goal of this article. Send questions if you have any by emailing bkeane@prodigy-hockey.com 

  1. Social-cultural impact: How your culture, organization, parents, and coaches view competitive games will have a major impact on development. If the cultural focus is strictly on game results, the majority of players will do what it takes to achieve the task to make everyone happy around them. Not often do you get a divergent thinker trying to push the envelope, and be creative outside of the tacit cultural norms. But shouldn’t we be encouraging exploration, creativity? Failure is a major part of learning. If you don’t feel comfortable or are never put in a position to challenge yourself and at times fail, no adaptation will happen. When the environment around you doesn’t incentivize trying to make plays, you’ll see very little individual development. 
  2. 5 on 5 hockey is the highest level of complexity of the game form. With so much going on in the 5 on 5 competitive game you might not be able to learn / evolve because of the amount of information present and frequency you get to interact with certain weaknesses in your game. Learning needs to be scaled based on where the player is at. Games sometimes don’t provide the opportunities for this or the frequency of that opportunity is much too low to interact with the specifying information needed to regulate the decisions. Recognizing this sort of situation as a coach or parent will provide a great opportunity to scale down the situations in a practice situation and start to give the player opportunities to work the problem at a high frequency. 
  3. Coaching awareness and ability to adapt to players. What about the player currently dominating at the Peewee, Bantam level? These players are often neglected and are also at the mercy of the culture and current level of the play they’re engaging with. If they’re faster, bigger, stronger than their peers, competitive games may continue to invite solutions in their game that may not be transferable to higher levels. This is where a coach can step in and create different challenges within a competitive game to invite new solutions for the player. Once you get to junior hockey everyone is big, and fast. These players need challenges and a diverse solution base. Scaling their development, providing the proper challenge point and rewarding different ways to solve a problem are crucial. It’s a cognitive game and the more physically advanced player in a lot of cases needs to stimulate that area much more to have long term opportunities. Coaches need to be aware of these players and provide them the support they need to get more out of competitive games.