Improving performance on the ice – Youth Hockey player

Hockey Mom:

Starting last season, our son who plays AA Bantam would take shots at the goal during a game, but many of them they wouldn’t go in. Either he would get it in the goalie’s chest or miss the goal or hit the post, etc. So the kids on his team would tease him that he couldn’t finish. It has carried over to this team somewhat since some of the players are from the team last year. I think this was the beginning of a lot of his problems.

One of the things that his team could use is more offense, is there a way to encourage my son to try and take more shots? Does it make sense to encourage him to work on visualizing ways to get the puck past the goalie? It’s possible that maybe just improving his overall game will make goal scoring a natural outcome. It may be something he needs to concentrate on at practice more too.

I guess his expectations are higher for himself now. If he starts to feel like he is playing badly. Is there a way to get him to refocus?

Also if the team is not playing as well overall, is there a way to rise above that?

Coach John’s Answer:

All good questions indeed! I agree, more offense is probably very key and since it is one of his roles to score it makes sense.  I have been working with him on “attitude” and believing more in himself.  We have discussed being “more” involved on both sides of the game (both O and D) and developing a “no fear” approach and not blending with the boards. To his credit and success this has made a big difference in his game. His confidence is up and he is no longer taking a “wait and see” approach. The wait and see approach had a lot to do with playing not to fail verses playing to make things happen without fear of making mistakes. He now has the mindset that mistakes are part of the game and we have established a plan of letting go of mistakes.  This is working! He has been getting a number of assists. In my mind it’s more important at this point to get him more “process” functional rather than outcome oriented especially since we are at the end of the season and about to go into the state tournament.

Another area that we had been working on was his 1-1 and 2-1 skills. This has also kept him from believing he can get around the defenseman and position himself for scoring. I am trying to once again focus on “process hockey” rather than outcome hockey. He has much more control of his attitude and commitment than he did before. When this type of belief develops other things will follow. We do not want him to PRESS to score, but rather be aggressive and put himself in more opportunities to score. This can be achieved by using one of his gifted talents – speed on the ice.

Improving in areas of function will get him to eventually put the puck in the net more. Improving his ability to get more efficient in 1-1 and 2-1 situations solves two challenges; first it positions him to have more scoring opportunities, and second it develops his puck on stick abilities.
He and I talked about the last game performance feelings.  I shared with him that often times we have our best zone performances when we least expect it. Keeping performance demands or expectations to a minimum allows for more freedom to play process (in the moment) hockey.
It’s a whole new ball game when you start to use the mind to your advantage.

It’s important to keep him focused on the things he is doing well and build his confidence before we allow him to set up pressure to score even though it is his role to score.

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