Skill Development: The Basic Philosophy of HEP

HEP_Overview_PostHaving a solid foundation in basic hockey skills is essential for a player’s long-term enjoyment of hockey. Hockey is unique because to play hockey one must first be able to skate. After learning the basics of skating, other hockey skills such as puck handling, passing and receiving, shooting and body contact skills are added. However, the basic skating skills of going forward, backward, starting, stopping, turning and transitioning must continuously be improved.

Improvement comes through quality execution, proper technique and quality repetitions in a practice setting. If a player is to have fun, experience a sense of accomplishment and have long-term enjoyment he or she must be taught the basic skills and given the opportunity to continue to develop those skills.

A 1989 study of 25,000 kids participating in non-school sports by the Michigan State University Institute for the Study of Youth Sports found that boys participated in sports for the following reasons:

1. “To have fun.”
2. “To do something I’m good at.”
3. “To improve my skills.”

Girls participated for the following reasons:

1. “To have fun.”
2. “To stay in shape.”
3. “To get exercise.”
4. “To improve my skills.”

A successful program helps kids develop their skills while having fun. Practice is the only way to learn and master hockey skills AND practice can be FUN. Skating is fun. Puck handling is fun. Executing an escape move is fun. Shooting is fun. Going 1 on 0 with the goalie is fun. Relay races, small area games, and other entertaining games make practice fun. Being on the ice with your friends is fun. PRACTICE IS FUN.

Regulation games alone are not an effective means of teaching or developing hockey skills. Studies have measured the length of time players are on the ice and how long players are in possession of the puck during a game. Results show that even the best players only have the puck for about a minute a game. Less skilled players on the team have it much less, if at all. During a properly planned and executed practice players are on the ice the entire time and have many more opportunities to skate and handle the puck. Skills are learned and mastered in an environment of fun through instruction, drills, small area games, and competitive races. Instruction teaches players the correct technique, and drills allow players to master skills through quality repetitions.

Skills are introduced slowly to players using proper technique. Speed is added as the skill is mastered. Small area games help players develop creativity and “hockey sense.” Fun games such as Cops and Robbers, Red Light–Green Light and Sharks and competitive races help players further develop their skills while adding variety to practice. Under these settings practices are exciting, challenging, competitive and FUN.

Editor’s Note: For more information of the HEP Skill Development recommendations, please refer to the Minnesota Hockey Sports and Your Child booklet.

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