End-of-drill Shots:  Just For Fun?

End-of-drill Shots: Just For Fun?

One of the biggest problems I see in hockey practices is with the purpose of the shot at the end of drills. Is this shot a reward? Often times yes. Players just like to shoot, possibly because people just like to throw things and in hockey, shooting is the analog of throwing.

 Who Throws a Shoe?

Some people even enjoy throwing shoes.


If its a reward, then the player should get to do it how they want to do it. Right? The way players usually want to do it is with as hard of a shot as possible. And most of the time, the time and space available for them to set up their shot is plentiful, so they take advantage of it. That is all well and good until you think about how unrealistic that is for shooting in a game situation.

On the other hand, if we make it so that the shot actually is good preparation for use in game conditions, we will be taking away the player's ability to be impressive (in the way that kids usually think a shot is impressive) with their shot. We may ask for agility into the shot. We may ask for a quick release. We may demand a certain type of shot. In each case, we are trying to help the player get more out of that rep than they otherwise would. However, we are demanding the shot be done "our way" and that shot at the end of the drill becomes less of a reward as a result. It becomes less of a thing to look forward to.

I acknowledge that there is value in rewarding the hard work of a drill. But a hockey practice is basically always a compromise between fun and productive development work. If we didn't care about development, we could just scrimmage or do sharks and minnows the whole time. Or better, just take the team to Sky Zone or Whirlyball and focus 100% on fun.

 Sky Zone Fun

If fun was the only point, we could skip the hassle of buying icetime.


Instead, we want the team to prepare for their future in hockey. This is the reason we do drills at all. Can we achieve that purpose in a hockey practice and still ensure there is some fun mixed in? Absolutely. However, my claim is that leaving the shot at the end of the drill up to the skater as a reward is sacrificing too much development at the altar of fun.

One way to ensure that specific challenges (ones that ensure a quicker, more compact release under dynamic conditions) are included in that shot at the end of a drill is to add a slip under just before the shot. This forces several factors that can make the shot itself more game-realistic.

First, the player has to manage the puck to a certain position so that it can be slid under the device.
Second, during the slip under they disengage with the puck and then reengage on the other side.
Finally, properly done, a slip under includes some lateral movement so the player's body mirrors how the puck moves from one side of the stick to the other.

Coming out of this, the player then must manage their lateral movement as they reengage with the puck all while preparing to shoot. Simply demand a quick shot out of the slip under and you have a much more game-realistic shot at the end of the drill.


This video features a few examples of a slip under into a shot at the end of a drill.


Oh, and by the way, I may have sandbagged a bit in claiming that this constitutes a reduction in fun. While players lose their opportunity to show off their "best" shot (which would amount to a reduction in fun), for many players this is made up for by player's enjoyment resulting from interacting with slip-under obstacles. Maybe not for all players, but a slip under added right before a shot may actually add that lost fun back in!

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