Creating An Effective Practice Plan

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"Keep it simple, find a handful of great drills that fit your particular team's identity and systems, and own them."

Practice is where the magic happens! Creating an effective practice plan is extremely important to the success of your team.

I’ve found that preparation and repetition are two great ways to run an effective practice. First and foremost, figure out what your team’s identity is. Some examples: is your team a physical team? Is your team based on speed? Is it an aggressive team? Or a team built on skill and creativity?

Once you chose your identity, pick your tactics or systems. For example, my high school varsity team identifies as aggressive. We call it “hunters” and we are not letting the other team have any room on the ice. So now that I know what our identity is, I want systems that fit that persona.

I will spend time finding drills that can be altered or already made to fit this team identity. Choosing drills that fit into our system across all three zones, the penalty kill, and power play. The drills will stay mostly the same all season long. This will obviously help players become familiar with drills therefore not wasting ice time explaining each drill every practice. Most importantly, it will create tactical success through repetition. Let your players name the drills, this gives them ownership and helps them easily remember every drill.

You might be thinking “that is going to get dull, quickly,” and it can. Some coaches will want to change up drills weekly or every practice. Some will find a drill that looks good, or has players getting a lot of puck touches, or even a “bagger” and has them sweating. But sweat does not equal a good practice. Having players use their brain and create an automatic habit through repetition of drills – this equals a great practice.

Here is a particular example of my varsity team. This is one of the drills we called “Rover- Dive Bomb.”

It is a simple 3 on 3 drill. Since our team identity is aggression, I want my defencemen to be a part of the forecheck and the O-zone. So this means I will add a defenseman to the drill. The defenseman is to find openings and do dive downs to create scoring opportunities and smother the zone.

We will run this drill every practice and add in players to progress the drill until we are eventually running live 5 on 5. Through repetition of this drill every practice, players are using their brain to find patterns in this particular game scenario. These patterns transfer to habits in games, which takes away from the overthinking and/or hesitation that comes into game scenarios. This leaves more room for their creativity and reaction skills.

Here is an example of game success from this particular drill.

The success from this drill would be extremely difficult – if not impossible – if I were to change the drill every single week, or if I had chosen a drill based on the way it looks or how it flowed.

Keep it simple, find a handful of great drills that fit your particular team’s identity and systems, and own them. Always have a purpose and theme to every drill. Give your team repetition after repetition until it becomes an automatic habit and all but guarantees their success.

Dustin Donathan

TCU Men's Hockey Team Head Coach & TCS Live 2023 presenter.



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