Does stick wax help improve puck control?

Our friends at ProFormance Wax Company (www.proformancewax.com) definitely think so. And they were kind enough to send us some samples to see for ourselves.

According to the folks at ProFormance Wax not all wax is formulated for ice conditions. So they created the first line of stick wax specifically developed for ice hockey.

When we received the samples they sent for us to share with our team of Peewee AA team we noticed right away what makes ProFormance Wax different.

Their unique products and process involves applying two different layers of wax to your stick for maximum puck control.

The BASE layer application is designed to waterproof the stick tape and help prevent snow / ice build-up.   It’s quick and easy to apply by rubbing the base layer on your stick.

After the BASE layer is applied, you have the choice of using either PRO CONTROL or MAX CONTROL to create the exact feel and tackiness you want your stick to have.

They also offer a GOALIE GRIP formula for your stick handle to help improve top hand control.

Having used other stick wax products before, our players and coaches really liked the ProFormance Wax products. Here’s what a few of our Peewee AA players had to say:

“It’s a lot easier to pick up the puck and keep in on my blade.”

“I like how the puck sticks to my blade when I pull it back for a quick wrist shot.”

“It smells awesome! That’s really cool that they made it smell good.”

At first we thought it was pretty funny that the first thing the kids noticed was that the product smelled good.

Then we remembered that when you’re sitting around with a team of 12 year old boys, who reek of sweaty hockey gear, having something that provides a kind of air-freshener is really quite a good thing.

The folks at ProFormance Wax said that the scent was added to help make the product unique. They are also planning some new packaging that will allow their products to more literally serve as an air-freshener in player’s bags. Pretty cool if you ask us.

Our Peewee players have been using ProFormance Wax for the last week now and it’s safe to say it’s become part of their pre-game ritual.

While the product is not available in stores as of this writing, the company is expecting to be available at retail by year end.

If you or your young hockey player would like to try out ProFormance Wax for yourself, please visit their website www.proformancewax.com to order. A starter kit starts at $6.99 and full-size individual waxes start at $9.99.

Readers of Youth Hockey Review can receive a special 20% discount on their online orders. Just enter “GAMESERIOUS” as the discount code during checkout.

We want to say THANK YOU to ProFormance Wax for giving us a chance to try out their terrific new products.

Other than the samples provided, they have not (and are not) compensating us in any way for our review and recommendation.

We enjoy the chance to try out and review new products, and hope you our readers find the information we share helpful.

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This is a repeat of a guest blog post I wrote for LeagueAthletics.com, LLC.

As youth hockey season begins again, parents and young players tend to feel both anxious and excited. They’re excited by the hockey games to come and often anxious about tryouts and how they’re going to be evaluated, and developed, by the coaching staff.

Whether your child is in a learn to play hockey program, on an in-house team or playing competitive travel hockey there’s a few guidelines that both parents and coaches can follow to make the season an enjoyable and productive one.

Most hockey coaches should be familiar with the American Development Model (ADM) which provides age-appropriate guidelines and practice plans to hockey associations across America. The goal of the ADM model is to help more kids play, love and excel at hockey.

Based on ADM guidelines from USA Hockey practices should emphasize skills development more so than game tactics, especially at the younger ages. Coaches should be emphasizing and reinforcing the principles of Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD).

There are 8 stages to the LTAD process, each offering age-appropriate focus for young hockey players:

  1. Active Start (6 and under)
  2. FUNdamentals (Mites: 8 and under / 6 and under)
  3. Learning to Train (Peewees: 12 and under, Squirts: 10 and under)
  4. Training to Train (Midgets: 15-16 and under, Bantams: 13-14 and under)
  5. Learning to Compete (Midgets: 18 and under)
  6. Training to Complete (Junior and NCAA)
  7. Training to Win (Junior 19+, NCAA, NHL)
  8. Hockey for Life

USA Hockey has created a printable guide explaining these stages. Overall the emphasis should not be on games played or wins & losses. Rather the focus should be on creating fun and challenging practices that teach young players the fundamental skills needed to compete at the next level.

Here’s a video put together by USA Hockey that shows how ADM practices should be run:

When following the ADM model youth hockey practice plans will focus on 5 strategies to maximize player activity level and engagement:

  1. Run cross-ice practices (and games) for Mites 8 and under
  2. Create stations on the ice that emphasize specific skills to be developed. E.g. skating, puck control, passing, shooting, body contact, position play, etc.)
  3. Place players into small groups at each station. Run each drill quickly and ensure that players are continuously working hard for a minute or so, then resting a minute, then active again. This mimics game shifts and helps develop player stamina while teaching skills
  4. Allow for small area games and scrimmage time. Small area games are important to teaching young players how to make quick, and good, decisions while working as a team.
  5. Freeze plays during scrimmages. Blowing the whistle to stop action creates opportunities to reinforce key teaching points. It’s surprising how easily young players will forget the very skills they spent all of practice working on when you drop a puck and let them play. Young players need help transferring skill development to game play situations.

As parents of young hockey players we have an important role to play too. That’s why I’ve created a list of the 5 Lessons Every Hockey Parent Should Follow for a Great Season:

  1. Hockey is a team game. Teach your kids the importance of working together.
  2. Let the Coach – Coach.  Don’t yell from the stands. Don’t coach in the car ride home. Know what your coach is trying to teach and reinforce it in as positive a way as you can.
  3. Be on time. Set a good example for teamwork by making sure your child is on time and both you and him or her view practices as more important than games.
  4. Kill the negativity. Try to provide constructive and helpful input. Don’t be a complainer.
  5. Create a success journal. Write down your child’s goals for the season, your goals for him or her and the coach’s goals for your child too. Keep track of how your son or daughter is progressing over the course of the season, including both the good areas and those for improvement.

As coaches and parents of youth hockey players it’s our responsibility to make sure our kids have fun, learn to love the game and take-away a few life lessons – such as the value of hard work, teamwork and personal development – along the way.

I hope these guidelines and tips help make this a great hockey season for you and your family.

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For most of us hockey parents summer is a time for hockey camps and clinics. Which one(s) you pick often depends on a lot of factors: location, costs, coaching staff, focus of the camp or clinic and it’s daily schedule.

This summer (2012) we decided to try our first away from home travel hockey camp. In doing a little homework I was pleased to find that my old alma matter, Michigan State University (MSU) offered a great summer hockey camp program. As an MSU Alumni I admit I’m a bit biased here about my feelings toward their hockey program, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how exceptional their summer hockey camp is run.

My son Jack attended MSU Summer Hockey Camp session V which ran from July 22-26th 2012. It was his first overnight camp and I admit I was a bit anxious about sending an 11 year old away for 5 days.

But my anxiety was quickly eased when I looked into the details around the MSU Hockey Camp program. The camp structure was very well organized. And in my opinion, offered a great value for the $585 cost.

Coach Tom Anastos and Assistant Coach Tom Newton, along with the MSU Hockey staff, offered a simple and practical philosophy for their hockey camp – try to get a little better every day and every time you’re on the ice.

To help the young hockey players attending their camp achieve this goal, each day was jam-packed with great instruction. Here’s what the daily schedule looked like:

  • 7:00 – 8:00 am:       Breakfast
  • 8:15 am:                     Meet & walk over to rink (Munn Ice Arena)
  • 8:30 – 9:30 am:        Off ice instruction
  • 10:00 – 11:00 am:   On ice
  • 11:30 – 12:00 am:    Lunch
  • 12:00 pm:                   Meet & walk over to rink
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm:        On ice
  • 2:30 – 3:30 pm:        Video / classroom
  • 4:00 – 5:00 pm:        On ice
  • 5:30 – 6:00 pm:        Dinner
  • 6:00 – 7:00 pm:       Rest time (supervised)
  • 7:00 pm:                     Meet & walk over to rink
  • 8:00 – 9:00 pm:       Scrimmage
  • 10:00 pm:                  Curfew and bed check

The kids were given lockers at Munn Ice Arena to keep their hockey equipment so they didn’t have to carry it back and forth from the dorm. My son thought this was particularly “awesome.”

Jack and two of his friends stayed together in Wilson, a dorm that is just a short walk away from the rink. The dorm itself hasn’t seemed to change much in the more than 20 years since I attended school at MSU. In fact, the room, desks, dressers and bathrooms all looked as if they were the same ones from my college days there.

Being end of July the temperature was quite hot. In fact, the first few days of camp temperatures were over 100 degrees. Which made us grateful they were in an ice rink most of the day. But also made it challenging for the boys to sleep at night in what was a very hot dorm room – even with 3 fans going.

I was pleased to get a “bed check” call from the dorm staff during his stay which re-assured me that the boys were being well supervised when they weren’t at the rink.

Overall the camp provided (4) hours of on ice time and (1) hour of off ice skills development each day. Considering that the $585 cost also included room and board, food and full-time supervision of the players I feel it was a great value.

At the end of camp the kids played in an all star scrimmage and seemed to have a lot of fun. Every player received a written evaluation report and mental skills training packet to help reinforce what they learned over the week.

Kudos to coaches Tom Anastos and Tom Newton for running such a great camp. If you’re thinking of sending your young player to a well run overnight hockey camp, I’d certainly recommend MSU Summer Hockey Camp.

If you or your child have had an experience with MSU Hockey Camp, or another program, tell us about it.

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Here’s some information about the USA Hockey American Development Model (ADM) that I found helpful. If you’re a parent that believes there’s a difference between developing hockey players and simply playing club hockey, I encourage you to learn more about ADM and support its implementation in your hockey organization.

View the ADM PowerPoint Presentation from Bob Mancini, ADM Regional Manager, that was shared with MAHA (Michigan Amateur Hockey Association). Watch the video on Long-Term Athlete Development from Dr. Stephen Norris, Director of Sport Physiology & Strategic Planning for Canadian Sport Centre Calgary. Or read the USA Hockey letter explaining the LTAD (Long-Term Athlete Development) philosophy and principles.

Thanks to MAHA and the Orchard Lake Pirate Hockey Association for sharing these resources.

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I’d like to thank Carl Dipaolo for sending along information about the first annual International Goaltending Competition.

Regional competition will be held in 6 cities in 2012: Toronto (March), Chicago (April), Detroit (April), Minneapolis – St. Paul (May), Boston (May), and Philadelphia (May).

Gold, silver and bronze medal winners from each age group/division will advance to the International Championships in Orlando, Florida from July 28 – 29, 2012. Registration is open to kids ages Mites to Midgets.

The event was created by Ed Walsh, owner of Ed Walsh Hockey Schools, who has specialized in training goaltenders for the past 28 years.

Goaltenders will be tested in eight (8) skill areas. Five (5) shooting: breakaways, puck shooting machine, pass from corner, walk the line and four puck. And three (3) agility: up-downs, speed skating and obstacle course.

For more information about the event visit www.igcompetition.com/. We’d love to hear from anyone who participates in this event, so be sure to email us a note and tell us about your experience.

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As another youth hockey season begins I’d like to provide parents with a brief guide to help make this a great year.

These suggestions are intended to help us keep one key point in mind – youth hockey should be fun.

In our love for our kids, and desire to see them develop, many of us (myself included at times) forget that there are more important lessons at stake here than simply learning how to skate, pass and shoot.

Hockey is a fun game for many reasons. But the fun can quickly be lost when parents loose perspective, and common sense, about what the game is really about – teamwork.

So here are 5 common sense lessons that every hockey parent should keep in mind to make this, and every, hockey season more rewarding.

1.    Hockey is a team game. Every team will have some players who are better than others, but team success depends on everyone learning to work together – in practices and in games. No individual, no matter how skilled, has lasting success in a team sport without learning to work as part of a team.

As parents, you’re part of the team too. It’s your role and responsibility to work together – with the coaches, the other parents and the club. If you focus your attention solely on your child and his or her individual needs, you won’t be setting a good example – and your child probably won’t learn the full value of teamwork.

2.   Let the Coach – Coach. Stop yelling instructions down from the stands or boards. Most of the time the kids can’t hear you anyway. You may not always agree with the coach, but you should respect their responsibility for leading the team. Sometimes their decisions will seem hard to understand – or in fact could be a mistake. Coaches make mistakes too. But when your child is always looking to you to make sure they’re doing the things you want them too – they’re not listening to the coach.

If you don’t feel comfortable with your coach’s approach to practices and games, sit down and talk. Most coaches will welcome suggestions and input at the right time. But when you teach your child that he or she should focus and do what you say – because you’re the parent – you’re teaching him or her to disrespect the coach and that individual needs are more important than teamwork.

3.   Be an example. Teamwork starts by being on time. Yes we’re all busy. You have other kids to care for and other places to be. But the time before your child steps on the ice is important. It provides valuable time to bond with other players, and the coaching staff.

When your child is consistently the last one to practice, or gets to games just in time – but misses the coaches talk or warm ups – you’re sending the message that you and your family’s individual issues matter more than the team. That’s simply not fair to everyone else. Life happens, so when you can’t be on time, for whatever reason, at least shoot the coaches an email, phone call or text. By being a good example, and demonstrating you value your commitments to others, your son or daughter will learn to keep in mind how his or her actions affect others.

4.   Kill the negativity. Your child may not always get equal ice time. Sometimes shifts run long. Young players don’t always listen to the coaches when they call for a change. Other times the coach may mix of lines or short-shift a line to try and capitalize on an opportunity. Maybe your child is playing a great game, when all of the sudden the coach sits him or her down to play another player who isn’t as skilled. The team might lose a game it should have won.

As soon as you begin creating your list of “that’s not fair” you’re poisoning the water and showing disrespect for the coach, the team, and ultimately yourself. If you have a fair and good point about something you’ve seen that concerns you – raise it at the appropriate time and take it up directly with the coach. But don’t expect him to agree with you or your point of view (or else).

It’s not constructive, or fun, to have a negative voice constantly raising concerns or frustrations. While most parent intentions are to help, many times their actions are in fact unhelpful. So the next time something hockey related gets you upset, think before you act. Try reframing the conversation and taking a more positive approach. You’ll be a better role model for teaching your child how to deal with challenges and adversity when they see you acting in a more positive manner.

5.   Create a success journal. Talk to your child about the season to understand his or her goals. What’s really important to him or her from their perspective? Write it down. Then add a few key points and lessons that you as a parent feel are important. When finished, discuss your goals and expectations with the coach.

Watch the action in games and practices – not just your child, but the overall teamwork and development as a group. In school your child follows a lesson plan, gets homework, and is periodically reviewed. A hockey journal is a terrific and simple way to apply the same kind of practical, systematic and constructive feedback to help you, your child and even the coaches make the season as fun as possible while developing and improving every step of the way.

Travel hockey is a big commitment – we invest a lot of time, money, energy and resources in the belief that it’s good for your kids. So let’s make sure it is good for our kids. Let’s remember our responsibility as parents to teach them the lesson of teamwork – whether we’re on the ice or off it. It’s a critically important factor for success in hockey – and in life.

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It’s that time of year again – tryouts for youth hockey teams.

For parents tryouts are often a stressful time. It’s hard to know what the coaches are looking for and how they’re evaluating the kids.

You see your son or daughter working hard and competing, but you wonder – what’s the reason my child made, or didn’t make, a particular team?

Whatever level of youth hockey your child plays – A, AA or AAA – here are 9 helpful tips to better understand what the coaches are evaluating.

Fundamentals

1.    Skating. How well does your child skate? Forward? Backward? Crossovers? Quick starts & stops? Balance and edges? Do they get from point A to B quickly? Do they tire easily when skating? Or are they in shape?

2.   Stickhandling. Can he or she carry the puck with their head up and not looking down? Is your young player able to stickhandle and deke without losing the puck? Are they able to protect the puck against defenders and create time and space to make smart plays?

3.   Passing. Do they pass crisply on both a forehand and backhand? Do they look where they’re passing? Is he or she able to lead the receiver and deliver a “tape-to-tape” pass that allows your teammate to skate with the puck without having to slow down, stop or chase an errant pass? Does your player catch the puck well on both forehand and backhand? Do they show “soft hands” (cradling the puck when receiving a pass so that it doesn’t bounce off the stick blade)? When catching a pass are they in a good position to shoot, pass or make a play?

4.   Shooting. Does your child have an accurate forehand, and backhand, wrist shot? Can they shoot with their head up and with their body in proper position facing the target (goal)? Do they follow their shot and stop in front of the net (rebounds)?

Can your child catch and shoot quickly? Are they able to look at how the goalie is positioned and then take an accurate shot that hits a specific part of the net? Far too many young players either miss the net or put their shot straight into the goalie.

5. Body Contact. Among mite and squirt age children (6-12) checking isn’t allowed or part of the game. Nor should it be. However, angling and body positioning are quite important. Is your child able to take a good pursuit angle to the puck? Can he or she “squeeze out” the player with the puck? Do they control their gaps when playing defense and back checking? Are they strong on their skates? Or does the slightest contact knock them off balance, off the puck and out of the play?

6.   Position Play. Does your child understand his or her position? If put on left wing, do they play the left side? Or are they a “puck chaser” who follows the puck everywhere getting out of position? If put on defense, does he or she stand at the blue line watching the play in the offensive zone? Or is he or she actively moving without the puck to help out and create better opportunities to score? Every player has a job to do, and if you’re young player wants to stand out, he or she needs to understand that role and make smart plays from their position.

Intangibles

7. Attitude. Does your young player come to practice to learn? Does he or she try hard every play, every drill? Are they a selfish player, or an unselfish one who helps his or her teammates? Do they take criticism constructively? Or do they get upset when the coach calls them out for making a mistake – especially one that shows he or she is simply not concentrating or thinking about how they’re playing and what they’re doing?

8.    Effort. Does your young player skate hard without the puck? Or do they only try hard when they have it? Do they skate as hard as they can in every drill? Or if the coach isn’t watching do they take it easy? How well do they listen to the coaches, both on the ice and in the locker room? Strong effort is both physical and mental. And the young players who demonstrate a willingness to work hard in both these areas usually stand out from those who don’t.

9. Sportsmanship. Is your young player a competitor? Do they enjoy battling and competing? Do they play the game hard, but fairly? Or do they get angry and frustrated when something doesn’t go their way? Do they give up and shut down when they’re being beat? Can they support their teammates on the ice, even if they’re on the bench for an extra shift or two?

Putting together a competitive travel hockey team, like any other sport, requires coaches to look at both fundamentals and intangibles to get the right mix of talent, skill and teamwork.

Coaches don’t always get it right. Sometimes teams with tons of talent don’t do well.  Other times the teams, and kids, you thought weren’t that skilled, surprise you and improve far beyond your initial expectations.

Travel hockey is first and foremost a team sport. And sometimes in our desire to help our kids improve their individual skills, we parents fail to teach our young players the full value of being a good team player.

It’s my hope that by better understanding what coaches are looking for at tryouts – and during everyday practice – you can help your child prepare to do his or her best.

Wishing all of you a fun filled 2011-2012 youth hockey season.

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Delay of Game is a minor penalty that can be called for a variety of reasons. The common reasons that Delay of Game is called include:

  • A player or goalkeeper deliberately shoots the puck out of play.
  • Deliberately knocking the goal off its posts. If this occurs in a way that deprives the attacking team of an immediate and reasonable scoring opportunity, the referee may award a penalty shot. It intended to prevent an obvious and imminent goal, the referee may award the goal in lieu of a penalty shot.
  • If a team fails to place the correct number of players on the ice, and has been warned by the referee, a Delay of Game penalty may be called.
  • A player or goalkeeper who holds the puck against the boards, goal or ice with his stick, skate, foot or any other part of his body may (without trying to gain control of the puck) be called for Delay of Game.
  • A player who fails to maintain proper position during face-off will be warned by the referee. If after warning he is caught out of position again before the face-off occurs, a Delay of Game penalty may be called.

The signal for Delay of Game is when the referee places the non-whistle hand, palm open, across the chest and fully extended directly in front of the body.

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One of the biggest skills that separates young hockey players at different levels (AAA, AA, A, and house leagues) is their ability to pass and catch passes well.

Passing is one of the core skills (skating, shooting, passing, stickhandling and later body contact) that every young hockey player needs to master.

Many young kids hate to pass the puck. And they give little thought and attention to learning to do it well.

Having the puck is exciting. It’s a chance to skate, deeke, shoot and even score a goal. For most young kids this is the “fun” in hockey.

Which is why passing the puck is something many young players are reluctant to do and don’t really try to excel at.

As young players progress in both ability level and age, passing and moving without the puck become more and more important.

If you’re a parent looking to help your child make the next level, or even better – make his or her team a better team – then I encourage you to help your son or daughter work on passing. It’s something that can easily be worked on at home and away from the ice.

Here are my 8 tips to help your child master forehand passing. Most of the techniques apply to backhand passing as well.

1.      Ensure proper grip. hand placement and posture. Top hand should be at the butt-end of the stick, hands should be a forearm length apart. Shoulders up (not leaning onto stick), butt down and knees bent.

2.    Face 90° to the Target. Feet and chest should be facing perpendicular to the target. The shoulder of your top hand arm should be pointing at the target, or receiver, of your pass.

3.    Start the puck behind the back foot. The puck position should start behind the players back leg with the puck positioned at the heel of the stick. Stick blade should be “cupping” the puck, which is achieved by the player rolling his or her wrists.

4.    Sweep the puck and shift your weight. To execute the pass, the player needs to begin with their weight mainly on their bag leg and then push from the back leg to the front leg.

It’s helpful to think of this like a baseball swing, where a batter steps from his back leg to his front leg in order to hit the ball. Weight shift is a critical aspect to accurate and swift passing.

By sweeping the hands – rather than trying to shoot the puck – players should focus on keeping the stick blade low to the ice. This will ensure the puck spins across the ice low and flat. Airborne and bouncing passes are much harder to receive and catch.

5.     Guide the pass with the palm of your bottom hand. The palm of a player’s bottom hand is what guides where the pass goes. As he or she sweeps the puck, teach them to point the palm of their bottom hand where they want the pass to go. Bottom hand follow through is a big key to accuracy.

6.    Turn the wrists over. This teaches the player to finish the pass by pointing the toe of their stick toward the intended target. Rolling the wrists also helps spin the puck from heel to toe of the stick, keeping the pass flat and smooth on the ice.

7.     Receive the pass with soft hands. This means catching the puck with the stick positioned toward the front foot, and as the puck reaches you moving your hands slightly backward. Doing so softens the impact on the stick and allows the receiver to quickly cup the puck (again rolling his or her wrists) and be in a position to return pass – or shoot – quickly.

8.    Eyes on Target. As young players work on coordinating these many small techniques into one coordinate motion they have a tendency to watch the puck.

Make sure that as your young player practices forehand passing that he or she learns to look at where their passing – eyes on target is very important.

In fact, when players are skating, the target will be in front of a moving player. So make sure to practice leading the pass. I.e. passing to where the player will (should) be based on how fast he or she is skating.

Have a video clip of your son or daughter making a great pass? Send it to us and we’ll post it alongside this article.  We welcome your comments and input, so let us know if this article is helpful.

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Most young hockey players don’t have a good backhand wrist shot simply because they seldom practice it.

This article aims to correct that by providing you with some simple and effective techniques to help your young player develop a strong and accurate backhand wrist shot.

There are three (3) fundamental elements to master when it comes to developing a strong backhand wrist shot:

1.    Puck Position – The puck should start from behind the players back leg, on the heel of the stick, and move from back-to-front in a sweeping motion.

2.   Weight Transfer – Like the forehand wrist shot, the key to power is shifting your weight from back leg to front leg. Weight shift is the most critical element to master. It’s also the hardest to perform, especially at full skating speed.

3.   Roll and Snap Wrists – As the puck moves from back leg to front leg it’s important to keep the blade cupped over the puck. Rolling the wrists is the key. At the moment of release (when the puck reaches the knee of the front leg) a quick open-close of the wrists along with a snap – the top hand pushes and the bottom hand pulls – will help generate maximum power. As the shot is released point the toe of the stick toward the target. Follow through until your palm (bottom hand) is pointing up. The higher the follow through, the higher the puck will rise.

As your son or daughter practices the backhand wrist shot make sure to watch out for “pitching hay” motion.

Many young players focus on trying to lift the puck by tilting the blade away from the puck (to get underneath it). This results in a “flicking” motion, rather than a sweeping movement.

A sure sign your child has developed the bad habit of flicking rather than sweeping is if their backhand shot resembles a field goal – i.e. the puck flips end-over-end and sails right over the top of the goal.

As one of my favorite coaches from Puckmasters likes to say, “practice doesn’t make perfect if you’re practicing the wrong technique.”

So keep an eye on your young players and help them master the little details that can turn a weak backhand into a powerful scoring shot.

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