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At the international conference in Montreal this summer it was shown how the fastest skaters take the longest time to do ten strides.
It is the contact with the ice that produces power. Many skaters leave out the gliding part of the stride and over work, producing the short choppy strides you describe. These are inefficient as well as tiring.
I read your question regarding your son who has good speed in practice and seems to take slow choppy strides in a game. I thought I would pass on some suggestions. At my pro camps, I will often have players who test in the top 3 in terms of speed at the camp and then when we put them in scrimmages they look slow. One factor is the shortening of the stride. Often this is simply a matter of players being anxious. They are so concerned about getting to the puck they cycle their legs much more rapidly at the expense of maintaining a full extension. Even in short distances, in fact, even while exploding from a quick start position, I encourage players to fully extend the leg. You can still move your legs quickly, even with a full extension. With the full extension, even over short distances, you get the most force out of each stride and you get additional force because you get the plantar flexion motion, or drive from the ankle as well. The best way to have your son accomplish this in game situations is to have him practice doing a lot of sprint work on the ice over short distances competing against other players ie under game like pressure. Before he competes have your son go slower just practicing, even from the take-off, driving his legs through a full extension and finishing with a drive off each toe to complete the stride. Do this several times, each time increasing the speed until he is sprinting, while maintaining full extension. Then have him sprint for pucks against other players, first longer distances, then shorten those distances, but always using a full extension.
There are several other factors, which cause this inconsistency in speed in game versus practice situations, but I'll just touch on one or two more. A lot of times players are slower because they can't read the ice and skate fast at the same time. When the puck hits their stick they should explode, but many players slow down or shorten their stride when they have the puck and when they have to make decisions. So you should watch to see if your son's slowness appears more evident when he is on or off the puck or both. There are many drills you can make up where players have to skate at top speed while reading the ice and making decisions with the puck. Another factor is reaction time, and this relates more to quickness than speed. In practice, players stop and go based on the sound of a whistle. In a game a player's quickness is always a response to what he sees, not what he hears. So even if a player wants to develop on ice quickness for game situations, he should practice quickness responding to what he sees rather than a whistle. For eg the sprint work I mentioned, should involve the player starting the moment the puck leaves the coach's stick , when the coach spots the puck, rather than by starting on a whistle. He should practice drills where he has to tight turn or cut in different directions based on quick stick directions given by the coach. Hope some of these ideas help.
Skating Coach/Philadelphia Flyers
To increase efficiency while you skate, remember to bend at your knees and not the waist. By focusing on the bend of your knees you are using the strength from your "glutes" and "quads" rather than damaging your lower back. Also, by keeping your back straight you facilitate the breathing process, increasing your stamina.
Go over the technique of keeping the kneew and ankles bent so they are about 110 degrees. Practice the technique with some cross ice skating with the coaches looking for good technique.
Play a game of half shaft hockey where the top hand is half way down the shaft and causes over exaggerated bending of the knees. Then play games where the key words are on bending the knees.
Not sure how to stop while on skates? This will most likely take a lot of practice and it is obviously not the easiest part of skating.
First: Try going slowly and as you approach the area where you wish to stop, quickly turn your feet sideways in a motion that allows you to slide along the ice while still digging into it.
Next: All weight must go on your outside leg.
Last: Just keep trying and always remember to keep your balance.
My daughter was watching Zoog Disney one day when I walked into the room and they were showing a game some of the kids had invented for roller blading. I mentally filed it away to use this season . . . you might want to give it a try.
Here's how it works:
Take some 1 liter bottles (5 or 6) and fill them with water. Take some of that velcro with the "sticky" tape on the backside. Cut some velcro strips and tape them to the top of the bottle (4 or 5). Cut the same amount of strips to tape on some wide ribbon (the kind for wrapping presents). Stick the ribbons onto the bottle. Put the bottles on line to form a slalom course that the skaters have to weave through.
The game is to skate down the line of bottles and grab a ribbon off of each bottle as they slalom through the course and race back to the start line for the next skater to go.
The team to finish first wins (grab all the ribbons off the bottles).
This should keep there knees bent and their butt down. Try it and let me know how it works.
Problems with the boots.
Usually problems with boots only comes if the boots are too large and don't fit properly. Boot bought second hand can be made to fit like new ones (unless they are completely broken down) by simply going to the sport shop and putting them into the oven (special oven please don't use the one in your kitchen) and lacing them tightly to the feet of the skater. They will mold and take the shape of the foot.
That is another possibility. Blades in hockey skates are simply mounted by machines and riveted into the center (more or less) of the sole. However we do not all have the same alignement and that can cause some problems. That problem can be fixed usually by moving the blade to the inside of the foot. Actually the skater should feel that the blade is between the large toe and the second toe. That is the ideal.
If this fails what else???
One of the reason the foot tends to fall to the inside is also the lack of plantar musculation ..otherwise known as flat feet. Flat feet will force you to have more weight on the inside of the foot, thus forcing the boot to bend more in that direction than it should.
If all these avenues have been investigated, there is still the issue of the strength of the skater's legs and the impact it has on the structure.
We tend to push too much in general in one direction and get our kids to specialize much too early. Develop the athlete first and then the skater, and finally the hockey player. The result will be better and more enjoyable for both. Involve your son in other activities that will enable him to improve his functional strength in the legs while having fun. The other added benefit of such situation is that he will also improve his coordination skills and all in all make him a better skater or better at anything he will undertake as a yong athlete.
The tread mill:
I am not a great fan of it for the technique. The best result I expect from the treadmill, is the conditioning. I disagree with the use of it for the technique because it does not allow you to do the proper stride since the gliding is extremely limited. It promotes too much a front to back motion, which is technically wrong.
I would simply check the skates and let your son develop while still working on his technique and when spring comes, let him play other sports. In the wonter you could do some skiing both alpine and cross-country would be awesome for him, if doing the cross-country you can practice the skating style and you get a better understanding of the "on ice skating stride" as well as strengthen the leg muscles while spending time together as a family. Not a bad way to spend time and teach the kids something at the same time.
I sincerely hope this helped and will help you finding a solution.
You said in the previous bit of information that you had a hard tiam to reach me via e-mail, I am surprised. You can send me a vieo of your son skating and I will send you a very detailed anylisis of his skating skills.
Take care and keep the fun!
John I think the kid's should be allowed to do both. Work on the skating technique without the puck and play tag games and pom pom, also use your edges and focus on body position.
You must also learn how to do the same things with a puck because if you can't do anything with that little black disk then you are not a good hockey player.
I go to this big outdoor rink during the winter (it is a canoeing area in the summer) and skate for about 60-90 minutes. No sticks are allowed. I make up skating exercises and do all sorts of variations of figure eights and change of pace etc. This helps the skating technique (an gives an old guy like me some fresh air and exercise)
i also go to an outdoor hockey rink and do the same thing with a puck, sometimes by myself before anyone else gets there and the ice is fresh or with someone else.
Everything we do with good technique helps and if we need someone to show us good technique then power skating instruction may be the thing to do. I just wish the instructors would get rid of allow the kid's to play a lot more games (inclusive and not elimination games).