Practice Guide

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Guide written by mplasse at the SI Forum.

This is not the end all and be all for practices but it is a nice place to start if you are new to controlling your practices.

Its really helped me develop my younger players and at the same time maintain my veterans.

Introduction

The two most important aspects of any EHM game are tactics and practice. Successful tactics can take many forms depending on the player’s preference for offense or defense. Practices however, require a much more linear approach. A team practice schedule is all about pushing players to their maximum potential (and insuring they stay there) while keeping them from becoming tired and injured. So, while there are numerous ways to set up your team tactics, there is only one effective way to set up team practices for maximum efficiency. This guide aims at providing all the necessary information towards understanding and effectively setting up a maximized team practice schedule.

Coaching the Practices

First step to setting up a practice schedule is assigning the coaches to the appropriate practice areas. It is important to analyze and break down every coach into their strengths and weaknesses. Before analyzing the coaching staff however, it is necessary to understand what certain coaching attributes do, along with how they relate to the practice schedule. There are seven practice areas, and the relevant attributes required for each are listed below;

Conditioning - Level Of Discipline, Motivating

Skating - Coaching Defensemen, Coaching Forwards

Shooting - Coaching Defensemen, Coaching Forwards

Off. Skill - Coaching Defensemen, Coaching Forwards

Def. Skill - Coaching Defensemen, Coaching Forwards

Tactics - Tactical Knowledge

Goaltending - Coaching Goalies

Aside from the list above there are a few more very important attributes that help flesh out a coach’s ability to train players, and these are listed below;

Determination: A coach’s level of determination will indicate how hard he will work to improve players. The higher the determination, the higher the improvement in player attributes. A coach weak in this attribute will cause player attributes to improve by a small amount or not at all.

Man Management: A coach’s level of man management will indicate how well he manages the players. The higher the man management, the faster player attributes will improve. A coach weak in this attribute will cause player attributes to improve slowly or not at all.

Working w/Youngsters: A coach’s level of working with youngsters will indicate how well he interacts with young players (players of age 22 or less). The higher the working with youngsters, the more likely it is for young players to reach their maximum potential. A coach weak in this attribute will cause young players to only reach a certain percentage of their maximum potential attribute values.

Naturally, if you have a strong coach and a weak coach in a practice area then the weak coach will drag the strong coach down and slow the progress of the players in that practice area. It should also be noted, that technique based coaches help players progress faster and should be hired whenever possible. Every practice area should have two coaches assigned and a coach should never be assigned to more then four practice areas at one time. This will insure maximum coaching effectiveness.

Taking all the above information into consideration should now simplify the process of selecting the appropriate coaches for each practice area. It is not uncommon to see certain coaches assigned to only one or two practice areas. Goalie coaches are a perfect example, as they commonly specialize as goalie coaches only. As long as every practice area has two coaches assigned and no coach is assigned more than four practice areas then maximum coaching effectiveness will be achieved.

Setting up the Practices

Second step to setting up a practice schedule is assigning the practice area intensities to the different practice drills. Before assigning the intensities however, it is necessary to understand what the different practice areas improve and how they relate to the various practice drills. The seven practice areas and the relevant attributes they improve are listed below;

Conditioning - Agility / Stamina / Strength

Skating - Acceleration / Balance / Speed

Tactics - Teamwork

Shooting - Deflections / Slapshot / Wristshot

Off. Skill - Deking / Passing / Stickhandling

Def. Skill - Checking / Hitting / Pokecheck / Positioning

Goaltending - Blocker / Glove / Positioning / Rebound Control

The difficult part of setting up a practice schedule lies in correctly identifying the intensity levels required for each practice area per practice drill. There are ten practice drills in total and the intensity levels for each practice area per drill, followed by a proper explanation are listed below;

Resting:

Conditioning - None

Skating - None

Tactics - None

Shooting - None

Off. Skill - None

Def. Skill - None

Goaltending - None

General:

Conditioning - Medium

Skating - Medium

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - Medium

Off. Skill - Medium

Def. Skill - Medium

Goaltending - None

Fitness:

Conditioning - Intensive

Skating - Intensive

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - Medium

Off. Skill - Medium

Def. Skill - Intensive

Goaltending - None

Skating:

Conditioning - Intensive

Skating - Intensive

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - Intensive

Off. Skill - Medium

Def. Skill - Medium

Goaltending - None

Shooting:

Conditioning - Medium

Skating - Intensive

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - Intensive

Off. Skill - Medium

Def. Skill - Intensive

Goaltending - None

Off. Skill:

Conditioning - Medium

Skating - Intensive

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - Intensive

Off. Skill - Intensive

Def. Skill - Medium

Goaltending - None

Def. Skill:

Conditioning - Medium

Skating - Intensive

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - Medium

Off. Skill - Intensive

Def. Skill - Intensive

Goaltending - None

Tactics:

Conditioning - Intensive

Skating - Medium

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - Intensive

Off. Skill - Medium

Def. Skill - Intensive

Goaltending - None

Goalies:

Conditioning - Intensive

Skating - Intensive

Tactics - Medium

Shooting - None

Off. Skill - Medium

Def. Skill - Medium

Goaltending - Intensive

Unused:

Conditioning - Intensive

Skating - Intensive

Tactics - Intensive

Shooting - Intensive

Off. Skill - Intensive

Def. Skill - Intensive

Goaltending - None

Examining the setup above will bring about a realization. Almost all the practice drills include three ‘intensive’, three ‘medium’ and one ‘none’ with regards to practice area intensities. The three drills excluded from this setup are the resting, general and unused drills. These three particular drills each serve a unique purpose and a brief explanation of each follows.

The resting practice drill is not a real practice drill per say but it does serve two purposes. First, any injured player will automatically be placed under this drill until the player is able to play once again. Secondly, this drill is where any fatigued player should be placed until properly rested. Before each game, the player’s condition rate should be checked and any player whose condition rate falls below 90% should be taken off their current practice drill and placed on the rest practice drill for a day or more if necessary. The general practice drill is fairly generic and of very little use. Typically, players called up from a farm team (who are only expected to fill in for a short time period) are placed on this particular drill. The unused practice drill is actually… well, used. A team will typically have a few players (spares) who are on the roster but only play under certain circumstances (injuries and fatigue being the usual reason). These players, regardless of lack of ice time, need to be game ready at all times and so are placed under the unused practice drill.

As for the practice area intensities, setting them up as above has proven to be the most efficient way at maximizing a player’s increase in attributes versus their fatigue/injury proneness.

Using the Practices

Next step to setting up a practice schedule is assigning players to the different practice drills. Before assigning players however, it is necessary to understand the relationship between players and the various practice drills. Each drill has its purpose and in the run of a season, all ten drills will be in use at one time or another. A full explanation regarding the use of practice drills during a season follows below.

For the purpose of this guide the date of August 15th will be recognized as the beginning of a new season. Reason for this, is two-fold. First, a start date to a new season is required so a general time-line can be established and followed. Second, August 15th (give or take a day or two) is the date players will begin to raise their condition levels in preparation of the upcoming season.

The number one priority for a team at the beginning of every season is getting the players back into game shape. From the season start (August 15th), all players should be placed on the general practice drill. If players are placed on the other drills, you will see attribute improvement quite quickly but at the cost of extreme fatigue (likely leading to injury) due to the players low condition rating. Players need to work at becoming game ready. They cannot be thrown into intensive practice drills and expect to come out unharmed. A team will want to keep its players on the general practice drill for approximately a month.

After a month of the above practice schedule, players conditioning ratings should be up to par to commence the real practice drills. At this point the goal still lies in getting the players back into game shape. It is time to step up the physical aspect of training and get the players sweating! The fitness and skating drills are considered the physical practice drills and the players will be placed on these two drills. Defensemen will be placed on the fitness drill while forwards will be placed on the skating drill. Placing all the players on these two physical practice drills will improve the agility, stamina, strength, acceleration, balance and speed of every player. Players should be kept on these two practice drills for approximately a month (or two if necessary). This will insure they are in shape for the upcoming year!

Following the month (or two) of physical training mentioned above, it will become time to again make adjustments to the players practice schedules. From this point on, the focus switches from physical training to technical training and players will be placed under the practice drills which will maximize their individual potential levels. It is very important that players do not become stereotyped into certain roles such as centers, wingers, defensemen etc… Stereotyping players can and will lead a team to incorrect assumptions and players will not reach their full potential. Do not for example, place wingers under the shooting drill, centers under the off. skill drill and defensemen under the def. skill drill. Following this method of thought may see player improvement but will not see maximum player improvement which is the ultimate goal of this guide. A more detailed explanation follows below:

For the purpose of this example, Alexander Svitov will be the player examined. Svitov is a 2001 first round draft pick who is currently playing in the AHL but is ready to make a break into the NHL.

A player such as Alexander Svitov is very unpredictable. Svitov can become a very good two-way player (3rd line), a defensive specialist (4th line) or even a reliable 25-30 goal scorer (2nd line) and this is all dependant on his development through the practice schedule. Examining Svitov’s attributes will clarify a few things of note. First, it is very apparent that he is a hard working and determined individual. Secondly, his technical and physical attributes are average. Based on his attributes it is not readily apparent what role Svitov would play on a team. As mentioned above he could play many different roles dependant on his progression as a hockey player through the next few years.

If a team were to use the ‘stereotype’ approach then Svitov, being a center, would be placed on the off. skill practice drill. Sure enough, Svitov would see improvement using this practice schedule but Svitov’s maximum potential would never be reached, thus significantly lowering the usefulness of this first round draft pick. Here is the reason why; under the off. skill practice drill Svitov will improve his attributes in the relevant areas (skating, shooting, off. skill) but that is the only place he will see improvement. His other attributes, mainly his defensive attributes will become stagnant or in some circumstances, even begin decreasing! Continuing on with this practice schedule for Svitov will result in a player who will eventually fill one of the roles mentioned above but he will never come to realize his full potential.

The key (and this is very important) to avoiding players from not reaching their full potential is in knowing each and every player. It cannot be stressed enough, how important it is that each player be treated as a separate individual and not simply placed in any stereotypical group. This is easier said then done but with time it becomes easier. A team can closely observe how a player progresses through the practice area and as the months and years go by it will become apparent what a player is good at naturally and what they need practice on. Again, let’s continue the example with Svitov:

Since Svitov’s defensive attributes seem to stagnate (sometimes even decreasing) it would make sense to try placing him on the def. skill practice drill. Reason being, is that the only difference between the off. skill and def. skill practice drill lays with the shooting and def. skill practice areas. On closer inspection, it will be noticed that switching Svitov from one drill to the other will cause him to practice shooting on medium (originally intensive) while practice def. skill on intensive (previously medium). This will hopefully keep his attributes that were already improving, to continue improving (or at the least stagnate and not begin lowering) while beginning to increase his defensive attributes. Sure enough, after a month or two, it will become evident that Svitov is improving drastically. His offensive attributes are still increasing (even after placing his shooting practice area from intensive to medium!) while his defensive attributes are finally increasing also! Svitov will have almost every attribute increasing! Now he is beginning to reach his maximum potential and can play any of the three roles mentioned above dependant on the teams needs! Now that is a first round draft choice who reaches maximum potential!

Understanding a player on an individual level comes through examining the player during their training over the months and years (as Svitov’s example above). Switching Svitov from the original off. skill to def. skill practice drill made a huge difference in his improvement levels. Svitov was able to switch his shooting practice area from intensive to medium and yet still improve his shooting attributes. This in turn gave room for Svitov to practice his def. skill attributes on intensive hence increasing his defensive attributes where previously on medium they were stagnant or even lowering.

That is the KEY,

Specifically, what practice area on medium will still increase a player’s attributes so that the attributes that are stagnant or lowering can be practiced on intensive and hence increased?

A team that answers the above question for every player will see an increase in almost every attribute for that player.

Continuing on with placing players from the fitness and skating physical drills to the more technical practice drills, you will want to use the above philosophy to place players in the correct practice drills. As an aside, a team may find some players are best suited for the fitness and skating practice drills even after the first month (or two). Some younger and older players usually can be found in this category. Younger players need to continue developing their physical attributes to get up to NHL standards while the older players find it harder to stay in top physical shape and need the continued physical training just to stay competitive.

Once players have been placed on their proper practice schedule they can remain on said schedule until the end of the hockey season including play-offs. It should be mentioned, that some teams and players may notice an increase of injuries during the play-offs. If this happens to be the case then it is recommended during this time to shift all players from their current practice drills to the general practice drill. This should insure that most attributes will remain the same or lower very little while the practices will be of lighter intensity, hence keeping player’s injury free for the rugged and more injury prone play-off games.

When the play-offs are finished for a team or if a team does not make the play-offs then all players should immediately be placed from their current practice drills to the resting practice drill until the beginning of the next season (August 15th give or take a day or two). From there, the cycle commences anew with the added addition of knowing your players for a year longer!

Conclusion

Taking everything mentioned above into consideration might be a daunting task and more so, it is important to realize that not everything is 100% guaranteed or foolproof. There are a lot of factors that dictate what kind of player a player will be along with how well or much a player’s ability will improve. Using the philosophies from this guide however, will hopefully create a drastic improvement in everyone’s ability to understand and improve their team through their players and their training.