Hockey culture has evolved to a point where there are a few practice types that are understood to have a different prominence in different parts of the calendar year. Systems walk throughs, flow practices, and special-teams practices are some common examples that are seen during the traditional hockey season. "Bag skates" may be done any time that a coach feels that more intense measures are needed to get a teams' attention.
Skills practices may be mixed in during the traditional hockey season, but a common view is that skill development is a task best done in the off-season. Regardless of the view of any individual coach or member of the hockey community, skills practices (including hockey clinics) are much more common in the off-season when considering the higher levels of the game (Bantams and older).
But, skills practices have been changing as creative people have come up with new ideas. The best of those new ideas have stuck around to form what we consider to be the best methods today. The rate of change of skills practices seems to have accelerated in recent years with the addition of more and more specialized devices to practice designs.
This brings us to one of the main themes of this blog, namely, slip under devices.
Consider being a coach and hauling your normal coaching equipment (skates, helmet, gloves, stick, pucks, diagram board, etc.) into the rink. Now add one or more trips out to the car and back into the rink to bring in some extra equipment.
Once you’ve done that (and know you’ll have to reverse the process to bring it all back out to the car at the end) are you going to want to just mix that extra equipment, such as slip under devices, in for just one drill?
To mitigate this burden, lots of rinks now keep some slip under devices on hand. This is great and really does help to foster mixing tools like that in here and there where they can really add to an otherwise more ordinary practice. But, can a coach always rely on those being there and in good condition?
So, we see coaches who are brining in a lot of devices from the truck really leaning into the use of those devices throughout a practice plan. This almost demands the creation of even more divergent styles of practices because, if you are going to go through the effort you may be tempted to make the whole practice feature slip under device work.
If a coach has other things to address in a given practice, they’ll avoid the hassle of incorporating extra tools and just leverage more traditional skill designs.
This can be a shame because, there are a lot of skill-type drills that could be made a bit better by adding a little extra challenge to the beginning or end of a drill. In particular, if a coach can “set it and forget it” so they can keep their focus on getting the main thrust of the drill right, this can be very much additive to a practice plan.
Players definitely get more out of working with slip under devices when the coaches can pay attention to the technique players are using and offer corrections. However, at the beginning (prior to jumping into the main path of the drill) or at the end (as an extra task in advance of setting up for the shot) of a drill, they can be effective without demanding any extra attention from the coach. Just by their design, they create some control over how players interact with them and as a result, they can be set-it-and-forget-it additive to the challenge of the drill.
Examples of the mobility of the FÉNIX are featured in this video.
With the FÉNIX, we have tried to meet this need by designing it with mobility in mind so coaches don’t have an excessive burden getting them in and out of the rink. We also want to meet this need with a lot of versatility in the FÉNIX configuration to flexibly adapt to what a coach envisions would be the right challenge level for the players. Might this unlock a new mode of slip under device incorporation into future practice plans? That’s our vision!