In a scene that plays out at countless hockey rinks across the United States, adult hockey players scramble to get to their games on time, have a blast on the ice, maybe go out with teammates afterwards … and then return to reality.
Between families, careers and everything else life throws our way, it can be hard enough just making the weekly commitment to play once. Who has time to think about getting better?
If the desire is there, but the time isn’t, you’re not alone. Katie Holmgren, USA Hockey’s adult hockey manager, has tips for improving your game within the constraints of a busy life.
“Whether it’s just stickhandling or practicing your shot, you want to get better, even as an adult,” Holmgren said. “A lot of people do, so it’s important to be able to practice those skills when you can.”
Often, that means fitting it in when you can, and typically that doesn’t tend to involve doing things on the ice, where time is even more limited.
To that end, USA Hockey recently began adding skills videos on its website that focus on off-ice improvement.
“Everything we had been doing was on the ice, so we did some off-ice skill videos to complement that collection; things you can do in your garage, or in your driveway or even in your house,” Holmgren said. “We have quite a few different things, like stickhandling and passing, and it’s something we’re continuing to work on. We haven’t put out a new one in a couple of months. Some of that is because we’d like to know what people want to see.”
Attend a skills clinic
Again, though, the time crunch is a factor. Recognizing that, USA Hockey also made an adjustment to some of the more formal programs it offers, including its skills clinic.
“We do a skills clinic every year, and hope to run more, and it sells out in about a day. It’s so popular that half of it is new players and half are returning players who want to get better every year and find value in doing that,” Holmgren added. “But we used to do a three-day skills clinic. People don’t have that kind of time. So we now do a two-day thing – all day Saturday and then Sunday morning – because people are crunched for time.”
Off-ice work at home
During other less formal times, though, there are plenty of things you can still be doing. Holmgren recommends figure-8 stickhandling drills, passing off a wall or even just shooting a tennis ball at a target.
“It’s harder to replicate the skating skill off the ice, though there are some strength-training things you can do,” Holmgren said. “It’s up to you whether it’s more beneficial than cardio. If you’re already into fitness and that’s the route you want to go, that’s up to the individual player. But if you’re talking about building actual hockey skill, there are things to do. With stickhandling, you can work to get your head up while you’re doing it, something you probably wouldn’t practice during a league game, but you can do at home.”
Here are some dryland stickhandling videos from USA Hockey.
Holmgren knows from experience. As the adult hockey manager, she spends a lot of her weekend time watching other teams at various rinks and hoping for those free moments when she can get on the ice with her friends.
But when she can’t, well, she calls upon the aide of man’s best friend instead.
“I like to play keepaway from my dog,” Holmgren said with a laugh. “She likes to go after the tennis ball and my goal is to keep it away from her. It helps with my stickhandling.”
It might sound unorthodox, but in the quest to get better, sometimes you have to get creative. What happens in your living room or garage is your business.
“Nobody will even know,” Holmgren said.
Well, nobody but those who just read her confession – and the players she goes up against who watch her skills improve.