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5 Keys to Character Development in Hockey

12/16/2015, 2:15pm CST
By Special to USA Hockey

When Jim Thompson is meeting hockey parents for the first time, he asks them a somewhat unfair question.

Thompson is the founder of Positive Coaching Alliance, a national non-profit dedicated to building ‘better athletes, better people’ by helping create positive, character-building youth sports experiences across the country. PCA wants youth and high school coaches to be ‘double-goal’ coaches, meaning that they emphasize both success on the field of play and building better people.

When he asks parents if they should be ‘double-goal’ parents, Thompson knows what the majority will say.

“I’ll ask, ‘should parents be double-goal parents?’ and everybody says yes, and it’s kind of mean of me to say, ‘no, no, the first goal belongs to who?’ and they get it right away,” Thompson said. “It’s the coaches, not the parents. The parents should be second-goal parents. They should be focused on the life lessons, the character piece.”

Clarify Your Responsibilities

Thompson’s message is that hockey parents are not responsible for what happens on the ice. They are, however, responsible for how their player grows throughout his or her time at the rink.

“We ask parents to focus on the character lessons that they want their kids to take away, and look for that,” Thompson said. “It’s really hard, because if your kid is playing hockey and he scores a goal, you go nuts, which is fine, but ultimately scoring that goal doesn’t really have much connection with what kind of a person that hockey player is going to be. It’s the effort they put into getting better; it’s the support they give to their teammates.”

Manage Your Emotions

It’s not easy, of course. Every time your child steps on the ice, he or she is subject to questionable calls and questionable results. Things only intensify as your hockey player ages, as well.

The important thing is to remember why your child is actually playing the sport, and how your actions in the stands, in the lobby or in the car after the game can impact his or her development.

How can you keep your cool during an action-packed hockey game? Thompson has tips for before, during and after the game.

Before you arrive at the rink, have a game plan for how you’re going to handle those questionable plays or frustrating situations. Thompson reminds parents that bad calls happen at every level – even the NHL – so it’s worthwhile to prepare.

“If you’re the kind of person who is really bothered [by bad calls], and you have trouble controlling yourself, you need to develop what we call a self-control routine,” Thompson said. “When there’s a bad call, or something happens on the ice that you don’t like, you have a go-to routine that you practice. Maybe you turn away from the ice, you take two or three deep breaths, or you count backwards from 100, but you do something to keep yourself from embarrassing yourself and embarrassing your child.

“Believe me, kids are embarrassed by their parents when their parents act like idiots in the stands. Even if they don’t say it or don’t dare tell their parents they are embarrassed, they are embarrassed.”

Culture Keepers

Thompson recommends that coaches meet with the parents to begin each season and remind them that the bench boss is the one responsible for dealing with referees and opponents. After setting forth a team philosophy on the subject, teams can choose ‘culture keepers’ – parents tasked with keeping those around them in check during games. 

“If you and I are parents and our sons are playing on a team, and there’s no culture established, and I’m being a jerk and you say to me, ‘Hey Jim, stop being a jerk,’ that’s not an easy conversation to have,” Thompson said. “I’m not likely to respond very positively to it. On the other hand, if the coach has said, ‘I want us to be a team that honors the game, I want you to be quiet, to not yell if the official makes a bad call against our team, and to help us remember us, Sally and Bill, they’ve agreed to be our culture keepers.’ If things get kind of hot, and you’re feeling like it’s a really bad call, they might remind you that that’s their job, and you won’t get mad at them.”

Beware the Distorted Perception

Thompson acknowledges that it is difficult to watch things go astray when it comes to something you care about – especially your child’s athletic endeavors. He says it relates back to the psychology concept called ‘distorted perception.’

“When we really want something badly, it can distort our perception,” Thompson said. “I may be on a diet, but wow, look at that cake…you know, I’ve been pretty good in my diet, I can have a piece of that. When I’m not confronted with the cake, I can say, ‘Oh I’m not going to have any cake, I’m not going to have any sugar,’ but as we get tempted with it, it distorts our perception, and we say it’s not really a violation to my diet to have one piece of cake.

“So distorted perceptions as parents in our kids’ sporting events, it really comes down to this. I really want our team to win, I really want my child to do well, so if the official makes a bad call that goes against the other team and in our favor, we don’t even think about that, we don’t say, ‘Oh man, that was a bad call.’ We tend to see officials’ actions with a bias. We tend to see the officials’ actions through that bias.”

Stay Focused on Development

That’s why parents need to stay focused on what is most important: their child’s development. How you approach a situation, and how you help your child approach the same situation, leads to character traits that will last a lifetime.

“If a kid scores a goal, everyone is going to cheer, and that’s great,” Thompson said. “You can cheer too. But look for the glue actions. Look for the things that glue a team together. If a kid makes a mistake, your son or daughter can skate up to the player and say, ‘don’t worry, we’ll get it back,’ and they can pat them on the back. Look for the things that will make the player a better person. If the puck is stolen, instead of hanging your head, you hustle back to try to get the puck back. You’re supporting your teammates when they make mistakes. You have the mental toughness when you made a mistake that you didn’t hang your head, you hung in there.

“You have those kinds of conversations with your kids where you’re looking as a second-goal parent, you’re watching the game to see the things that your kids do that helps the team get better and the kind of qualities that make you a better person."


Original Article Link:

3 must have Game Skills for forwards

12/15/2015, 9:00am CST
By Minnesota Hockey

12/15/2015, 9:00am CST
By Minnesota Hockey

Every hockey player knows they need to have certain basic skills in order to be successful. They have to be able to skate well. They must able to handle the puck, give and receive passes. And of course, kids should know how to handle body contact and shoot the puck.

But what about taking that next step? What can forwards do to create more scoring chances and more goals for their team?

“What’s becoming more and more important is awareness and knowledge of game skills,” said Mark Loahr, head coach for Totino-Grace’s boys’ high school hockey team. “To some extent, those skills kind of even override the skating and the pucks skills because if you don’t understand the game very well, you could be the best skater in the world and not be able to be a very good hockey player.”

On a recent edition of High Performance Hockey Insights, Minnesota Coach-in-Chief Christian Koelling shared that sentiment. Koelling pointed out that today’s generation of youth players may be the most skilled ever when it comes to skating, stick handling and shooting, but developing players’ creativity and hockey sense is an area we could improve.

So let’s take a look at three game skills every forward (and really all players) should always be working to improve.

A Net Front Mindset

“One of the skills that we really try to get across to kids is the intensity of going to the net when you don’t have the puck,” said Loahr, who is one of only 12 coaches with more than 500 wins in Minnesota high school hockey history. “Goaltenders are so much better and not just at the NHL level, but all the way through, even the high school level. It’s hard to just blow a shot by a goalie.”

With fewer first attempts finding the back of the net, players must learn how to create and capitalize on secondary scoring chances.

“If you can learn to go hard to the net and be there when that rebound is there, you’re going to have a better chance of scoring goals,” said Loahr. “The kids that don’t have those skills are not going to score much because they’re not going to be in the right spot.”

“Some kids don’t like to be in front of the net because it can be a dangerous place to be, but that’s where goals are scored. You have to have some courage to be there, and that’s what separates kids out there.”

Creating Goals Without the Puck

While it’s true players need the puck on their stick in order to score, it’s also critical for young players to learn that what they do without the puck has a huge impact on how many goals they will score.

To Loahr, movement without the puck is all about learning how to get open, when to get open and knowing how to read your opponents and your teammates in order to do that. Those mental skills can be difficult for coaches to teach so Loahr tries to focus players’ attention on a few key components.

“Try to get them to learn to get inside position on a defenseman with stick on the ice, have an awareness of where the puck is and stopping at the net, not flying by it,” said Loahr. “If they can do those three or four things, they’re going to be a little bit more successful than kids who don’t.”

Winning Puck Battles

Having been a high school coach for more than 25 years, Loahr has seen a number of changes take place in hockey over the years. One of the most obvious changes is the increased emphasis on puck possession and protection. Today, coaches and players spend much more time developing skills that will allow them to maintain possession rather than playing the dump and chase style that used to dominate the game.

The first priority in terms of puck protection skills is skating and, “it’s not just being a fast skater, but it’s being strong on your skates, having good balance and learning to keep your knees bent,” Loahr pointed out.

Once players have the right foundation of skating skills, it’s a matter of giving them a number of repetitions where they have to protect the puck from someone so they can learn those skills in a game-like scenario.

“We do a lot of 1-on-1 battles along the wall,” said Loahr. “And we do it in open ice too - learning to control the puck in a small area in open ice. Again, it’s kind of working on skating and balance at the same time. We probably try to do one of those drills at least every other day. We do a lot of small area stuff, especially as the season goes on.”

Developing Game Skills

The best way to learn these skills is for players to experience them first hand. Playing pond hockey is a great way for players to get additional repetitions on their own time, but coaches play a key role as well.

“At the youth level, coaches just have to continue to emphasize practice versus games,” emphasized Loahr.

This may seem counterintuitive at first. Wouldn’t the best way to develop game skills would be by playing more games?

But the reality is games are much less efficient than practices. Three, 15-minute stop time periods takes 75-90 minutes of actual time while only providing 45 minutes of actual game play. Compare that to 65 or more minutes of activity in a 75 minute practice and then add in the increase in passes, puck touches and scoring chances in small area games, and it becomes easy to see why a 3:1 or 2:1 practice to game ratio in youth hockey has such a positive impact on player development.


Original Article Link: 


Milkshake Shootouts at the Dodge County Fair

07/03/2014, 7:45am CDT
By Bob for Howie

Squirt B Team Staff

Eric Ellingysen

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Phone: 507-251-7527

Dan Dale

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Carl Krause

Squirt C Coach

Carrie Giesler

SQB Team Manager

Heather Dale

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Michelle Stevens

Squirt C Team Manager