Best Coaching Drills for Youth Hockey

Best Coaching Drills for Youth Hockey

Youth Hockey Coaching Drills

When you join a hockey team, expect your practices to be filled with drills. All for a good reason, though, as they are essential to help players improve their skills and be prepared when an actual game is happening.

The best coaching drills for youth hockey are drills such as skating the circles, the star passing drill, the superman drill and shooting drills for accuracy. They improve players’ skating abilities, improve their ability to pass, and help with their shooting. Some fun drills include sharks and minnows.

Through the repetition of different drills, players are guaranteed to improve their fundamental hockey skills and get young kids ready for higher hockey levels. If you want to learn more about what youth players should be practicing, the best drills they can do during practice or warm-ups, as well as some fun drills to help keep them engaged, keep reading.

The Most Important Things to Practice

There are plenty of different skills that go into playing the game of hockey, and when the player is young is the best time to get them to practice and master the fundamental skills of the game so as they get older, they can learn to perfect the game.

Some of the most obvious things that need to be practiced as a youth hockey player include:

  • Skating quickly both forwards and backward
  • Stopping on skates quickly
  • Turning quickly on skates
  • Being able to skate while simultaneously using a stick
  • Stickhandling; the player can maneuver the puck with their stick around the ice

Although, while this outlines the basics of playing hockey, actually being able to do these skills requires a lot of practice and hence why drills are the best way to get in this practice. Some more complicated things that hone in on a players technique that youth need to practice to become a skilled hockey player include:

  • Puck Handling: Being able to balance and be agile on their feet and shift their weight appropriately to pass and shoot while controlling the puck.
  • Passing: They can shift their weight utilizing their legs (edge transition) to put force into the pass.
  • Shooting: Being able to shift their weight to powerfully shoot the puck (edge transition) and gliding their front foot as they shoot.
  • Specialized Techniques: While this includes the most basic skills, it is essential they practice over and over to master turns, crossovers, transitions, edge control, and coordination.

Overall, the most important skill to perfect is skating. If a player cannot skate well, all of the more advanced aspects of a hockey game will be much harder to accomplish. Luckily, all practices are done on ice, so most drills will also help players master their skate ability.

Best Practice Drills

As you oversee a team play, there are a handful of drills that you will want them to do every time to develop their skills throughout the season. Also, if you only have half of the rink to work with, we have another article going over five half-ice hockey drills for mites that is worth a read, and another covering seven half-ice hockey drills for forwards.

These drills all help the player get better at skating, passing, shooting and feeling more comfortable being on the ice. Below, we have outlined the best practice coaching drills you can have a team do. Some of these drills are even good for your team to do during a warm-up,

Skate Circles

Skate circles are one of the simplest and most common drills you will have the players do. This is also a great drill to have the players do during a warm-up before a game.

For this drill, you want to set up half the team on one half of the rink and the other half on the other. To start, you will have two players start in opposite corners, and when you say go or blow the whistle, they will begin skating around the face-off circles in a figure-8 motion, as you can see demonstrated in this video below:

This helps them build speed, agility, practice quick turns, and ensure they keep up the momentum, so the other players get a chance to go. You will also want them to hold their stick during this to get used to where it needs to be, depending on how they turn. Then, after a player finishes a figure-8, have a new player start there’s up.

Ideally, you will want every player to do at least 3-4 rounds.

Star Passing Drill

Another common one is the star passing drill, which helps develop players’ passing skills. You will need to divide the players into up to five groups of 5 players in each group. Then you will send each group to a different face-off circle. You will then have four players stand on the outside of the circle, each guarding a different “side” facing in, to the one player standing in the center.

The player in the center will then pass the puck to each player on the outside, and the player on the outside will pass the puck to the player in the center. Once the player in the center has passed it to every player, they can switch places with someone on the edge, and it repeats.

This drill helps players learn how to make short passes, learning how to sweep the puck, and not slap it. This also helps them learn tape to tape passing and gives them a chance to try backhand passing. Which you can have them do solely if you think they need to practice this more.

Horseshoe Give and Go

This drill is another great one as it requires players to develop better stick-handling, increase their skating speed, and improve on their passing skills.

For this drill, you will need cones placed in the middle of each face-off circle. To begin, you will let players skate horseshoes around the cones you have placed at half-ice. Once the player reaches the “go” line, another player will join them while passing them a puck while skating by.

Superman Drill

The Superman drill is a great one to help your team practice skating, making it especially important for youth players. More specifically, this helps players learn how to get up if they fall as fast as possible, something that comes in handy in the middle of a game.

First, players can start without their sticks, but once they begin to get comfortable with the drill, having them practice with their stick is beneficial.

You will have players line up in groups for this drill and have them take turns skating to the closest-face-off circle. Once they reach the circle, they need to throw themself onto the ice in the classic Superman pose and then get up as fast as possible by getting on their knees first, then their skates. Have them then continue this up to the red or blue line until they reach the other end of the ice.

Obstacle Course

This drill is another drill that helps with players skating ability. Instead, it focuses on improving their agility, allowing them to change directions quickly while skating.

For this drill, you can make an obstacle course on the ice using whatever you want, such as cones, gloves, or pucks. You will then have the players skate through the course in a way described by you, which encourages them to have to change directions throughout.

Having them start slowly at first is best, and then have them increase their speed. The critical thing you want them to learn here is how to do it quickly while keeping their head up and focused on what’s in front of them.

Obstacle Course With a Puck

Once your players have mastered the obstacle course drill we mentioned above, have them try it out while controlling the puck the entire way through. You can even have them shoot the puck at the net at the end of the obstacle course if you set it up correctly. This way, you also give the goalie a chance to get some practice in.

Shooting for Accuracy

One of the most basic but useful shooting drills for youth is shooting for accuracy. This requires many pucks and can be made more fun with balloons and some string if you wish. The idea is that a player will have a pile of pucks and position themselves in front of the goal.

They will then need to divide the net into five holes:

  • Left High
  • Left Low
  • Five-Hole (Space between goalie’s legs)
  • Right High
  • Right Low

The idea is that the player will need to spend time trying to get at least one puck into each of the five holes.

If you want to modify this drill and make it a little more fun, you can bring balloons and some string (or a piece of paper and tape) and place it in the one hole you want the team to focus on, and perfect for that day. Although this will take a little extra time to reset after each player, it can motivate them to rip the paper or pop the balloon.

Another great way to set this up is with the Hockey Revolution Goal Targets available at Amazon. These are easy to set up and work well for the players to practice with.

Most Fun Coaching Drills

While practicing hockey means putting in a lot of work, it still can mean having some fun while doing the activity, which can be the key to keeping youth players engaged throughout their practice.

Although the list of drills we mention below are more game-like, they still develop players’ skills in ways that can improve either their skating, puck control, or passing, depending on the drill.

Adding in one or two of the fun drills can help keep the young players stay focused when doing the drills mentioned above. If you’re looking for more fun drills, we have another article focused on fun hockey drills for youth teams and players.

Sharks and Minnows

This drill is more like a game than anything and is widely popular amongst the young hockey player crowd as it’s lots of fun, and everyone loves it. However, while it is a game and tons of fun, it helps kids with their skating skills as they are encouraged to skate as fast as they can while avoiding the “sharks”.

To begin the game, all of the kids leave their sticks on the bench and line up at the goal line at one end of the ice. Then pick 2 or 3 players to be the “sharks” who will make their way to the neutral zone, which exists between the two blue lines.

When you blow the whistle, the players (not the sharks) have to skate through the blue line, avoiding getting touched by the sharks to make it through to the other end, promoting both quick skating and quick turns to avoid the sharks. If a shark touches a player, they will become a shark and join them in the neutral zone. Remember, sharks cannot leave the neutral zone.

The last player remaining who was missed by a shark is the winner.

Finders Keepers

This drill is a fun way to get everyone engaged at the beginning or end of a practice as it gets everyone moving. It also promotes puck protection and awareness in players.

To play this, you will pair off all of the players and put one puck in a designated spot on the ice (such as a face-off circle) for each pair. When the whistle blows, the players will battle for the puck until the time runs out, typically this will be about 30-45 seconds, but you shouldn’t mention this to the players.

Whoever has the puck when the whistle blows wins and moves on to the next round; the other should take a knee off to the side and cheer on everyone else. Tournament style, players will keep making new pairs until the final play plays, and a winner remains.

See a video of this in action below:

If you want, you can do this with teams, where each team is supposed to gather as many pucks as they can onto their side of the ice—the team with the most amount of pucks when the whistle blows wins.

Gates

This drill is great to have the team do if they need to practice passing, as it encourages development when it comes to passing pucks to other players and catching passes with their stick.

For gates to work, you will have to pair up the entire team, and it is best to pair up players of the same ability if possible. You will then set up 5-10 “gates” around the rink, which can be made by setting two gloves or cones side by side about 5 ft (152cm) away from each other. You will want to set them up around the ice and in opposing directions, encouraging them to move directions frequently.

If you are in need of some cones for this or other drills, you can quickly and easily order a set from Amazon.

Then have the players start on one end and make their way from the first “gate” to the last. One player will pass the puck through, and the other will stop it, then it alternates for every gate. For each gate they can successfully pass the puck through, they earn a point. However, they cannot pass through the same gate two times in a row, but they may come back to it after.

Typically, you will want to set a time limit for this; about 2-3 minutes per pair should be sufficient. If you want to make it harder and more efficient, you can have two pairs playing at once.

Best Goalie Drills

While many of the drills we mentioned above focus on the player, some can allow the goalie to practice their goaltending skills. Additionally, some drills that involve passing or stopping the puck with their stick are great to have the goalie do as well, as this is required of them during a game.

Although this may not always be the case, it is necessary to have some specific drills that focus on helping the goalie improve their skills.

T-Push Drill

This is a simple movement you can get the goalie to do that requires them to practice T-pushes. They will start at the post, T-push to the top of the crease, then to the other post and repeat this for a couple of minutes. You can watch it in action in this video, as well as see some other basic goalie drills:

Glove Save Drill

This drill can be done with the help of the whole team. You will want to get the entire team lined up to each take one shot in net, to a space that the goalie can catch it with their glove (this will most likely be in the upper right or left corner.

Then the goalie will begin in the butterfly style position and catch every shot with their glove. This helps the goalie improve hand-eye coordination and be more confident in catching the puck instead of just blocking it.

Off-Ice Practice

To help the youth players improve their skills off the ice, we have developed a stickhandling training tool that allows them to practice stickhandling at home with their real sticks and a real puck or ball.

The player uses a mobile phone or USB camera to track the puck or ball on the floor, and the software translates the movement to a virtual puck in a game running on a desktop or laptop computer in front of them.

The games will have different targets to hit and cones to avoid, allowing them to practice their puck handling skills. Another benefit is that it teaches them to stickhandle while keeping their head up.

This will translate into safer play on ice as they will be more aware of their surroundings while controlling the puck on ice after training with Stickhandling PRO.

Conclusion

The best coaching drills for youth hockey will help them develop skating, passing, and shooting while also keeping them engaged and having a good time. In some cases, you may even want most of the practice to focus on one skill if the team is having trouble with it, such as shooting a puck past the goalie into the net.

Incorporating various drills we mentioned above and switching it up, every practice can make sure that the players are ready for games and moving up to higher hockey levels.

Also, be sure to read our guide on how to be a good youth hockey coach as these players will look up to a great coach to help better their hockey career.

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