Donnan Hockey April Newsletter
Donnan Hockey has implemented a “Small Area Games Component” to the program. Historically we have utilized small area games periodically. However, this year we have consciously tried to use it more often. I personally feel it is the best way to develop “Hockey Sense”. Below is an article I found that supports this premise.
Don Granato can still remember the first time he was exposed to small area games. It was in the basement of the family’s Downers Grove, Ill., home, where he and brothers Tony and Rob, along with baby sister Cammi, would wage heated hockey battles in confined spaces. “Sometimes it would get too rough and Cammi would start to cry,” he recalled. “We had to act quick to get her to quit crying or Mom would stop the game.” Years later, Granato can still appreciate the value of small area games in his role of U.S. National Development Coach at the National Team Development Program. And while the ice surface may be slightly larger than the family basement, it is still a fraction of the vast expanse of a full sheet of ice. “We work with high-end athletes, and we dedicate half to three-quarters of our practices to small area games,” Granato said. “You kill yourself with systems. Systems don’t win games. Skills win games.”
What makes small games both fun and beneficial is that every player is never far from the action. They replicate “gamelike” conditions, where players are under constant pressure to make a play with the puck in an environment that limits time and space. Sometimes the action can get heated, even among teammates, when players are constantly battling for the puck while having a lot of fun. “Players and teams tend to get tired of doing drills and the repetitiveness of it. You need to create something in a game setting, especially something where there’s competition.Players like that,” said Mark Johnson, who incorporated small area games into the 2010 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team practices leading up to Vancouver. “These kids are competitive and they want to win, so if you set something up like that you’re going to get a pretty good intensity.”
All facets of the game can be taught and emphasized through small area games. A young player can learn offensive or defensive concepts, technical or tactical skills. It is left to the coach to emphasize and implement various conditions to achieve the desired results. Like Granato, Danton Cole brought a wealth of playing and coaching experience to the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Ice Cube. After a long and distinguished playing career, Cole went on to coach at the college ranks before taking the position of U.S. National Development Coach. “Even though we’re working with a high talent level at the NTDP, what we see are real deficiencies in our players’ hockey sense,” Cole said. “We spend a lot of time trying to teach that, and the best way we’ve found is through small area games. “For teaching hockey sense and skill development there’s nothing better.” Whether it’s Johnson’s pre-Olympic practices or Rand Pecknold’s Quinnipiac Bobcats playing small area games the day before the NCAA title game, coaches at all levels use small area games throughout the season to work on individual skills and team tactics in a fun and competitive environment. “Almost everything we do we try to shrink the area to put our guys in tight, confined spaces and take away time and space,” Pecknold said. “Because that’s what really happens in games.”