August 20, 2010, Newsletter Issue #169: Speed in games

Tip of the Week

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.
Dave Roy
Skating Coach/Philadelphia Flyers

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