Contest Entries: Top Skating Tips
Rhyme & Reason
When skating backwards kids have a real tendency to look down at the ice. This inevitably leads to a loss of balance and the player falling. To remind kids to keep their heads up, I’ve learned this little saying that works well:
“Look at your toes, land on your nose!”
The kids recite it and it seems to work.
The ‘Model’ Skate
To emphasize heads-up skating and a proper skating stance with bent knees, along with isolating the legs and thighs for power, I have the kids line up at the goalie line and skate the length of the ice with one of their gloves on their heads! This is very tough to do, but the kids love the challenge and at the same time it is teaching them to keep their head up, knees bent and skate using their lower body. The first person to skate end to end without losing the glove on his or her head wins a pizza! I learned this drill at Heartland Hockey camp from an instructor we call “Hollywood.”
Give skaters immediate feedback on the quality of their knee bend while striding. As we all know, developing skaters will occasionally go through spells of skating with their legs far to straight or an exaggerated waist bend. To help correct poor skating posture in a timely manner, coaches and parents can use visual clues for the skater rather than having to stop or slow the skater to a conventional speed.
- A hand placed on the head will remind a skater to keep her head level while skating.
- Patting the top of the head will clue in the skater that he’s too tall and needs more knee bend.
- A hand to the chest will communicate to the skater that he needs to keep a big chest while skating backwards rather than an exaggerated bend at the waist.
Visual clues give immediate feedback to the skater while minimizing down time. There is no stigma attached (like when coaches pull players out of a drill for not doing it correctly) and allows the skater to develop a feel for the correct skating posture as compared to a poor one.
I asked my Grandpa, Chuck Grillo, for his best skating advice. The tip is: Ultimately off-ice training is the difference maker. Professional mentors and scouts have known this for years. Once the technique fits your body physiologically, your goal should be to get bigger, quicker, stronger and faster. Technique should be repeated in warm up drills.
This is a simple, but not easy process. Jump, sprint, lift and skate on the same day and you have four different muscle groups, with four different ranges of motion, working and growing together. The end result is a bigger, quicker, stronger, faster skater capable of acquiring all of the agility and mobility skills incorporated in to the drills required for success. This also gives you a psychological advantage on your opponent in life knowing you paid a bigger price to succeed. Injuries sustained during competition heal quicker.
–Monique, Player, Age 11
The Walk-and-Chew-Gum Concept
My son learned early that the most important thing about power skating and hockey is this: To be able to skate with your bottom half and, at the same time, using your upper body to control what happens on the ice. Basically, the walk-and-chew gum concept of hockey. We had to train his bottom half to work differently from his top half. So I had him work with a skating instructor to help him work on this. I see so many hockey players that stop skating when they have the puck, so being able to skate while having the puck increases players enjoyment plus increases goals.
You Can’t Score If You’re Not on the Ice
I think the most important tip that I learned was that you have to fight through the exhaustion in a game. I learned this from my dad and used this advice in a tournament. There were only two minutes left in the championship game and we were down by one point. We beat the same team the day before, but this day they came back stronger. My line was on the ice. Everyone was exhausted. My team had the puck and was going up the ice. I thought about going to the bench, but then I remembered my dad telling me that even if you’re tired you should fight through the pain. So I skated up the ice with my teammates. One of my teammates passed me the puck, and without having time to think, I scored! The game was tied and we went into overtime. Now, the whole team had energy! A few minutes later, another one of my teammates scored and we won the game! I’m really glad I didn’t take myself out of the game!
Go For It!
I learned from my mom and dad to skate hard and extend my stride. It has helped me a lot this year mom, and made me faster and helps when I am trying to outskate someone with the puck and score my team a goal. I told the other kids to try it, too, and it helped us all score lots of goals for the team.
–Wyatt, Age 8
The No. 1 skating tip I learned and taught to my two boys over the years was in Brett Hull’s acceptance speech into the Hockey Hall of Fame: “Have fun playing the game or it isn’t a game anymore. And it doesn’t matter how many goals you score on the ice, it is what you do off the ice that counts.”
–Trent and Tammy, Parents of a PeeWee and Bantam
A ‘Holy Cow’ Moment
I had a “holy cow that’s simple” moment when I was helping with an early bird session for Mites and Squirts. A coach was telling the kids how to do a power turn. He told them to just bend the knee on the side they wanted to turn to and straighten the other leg. It worked for all of them, the first time.
Teach them to do the limbo on ice! Instead of bending over backwards to go under the bar, use the proper stride stance to go under the bar (a pretend bar will do). Then mark it out where they need to do it in a certain number of strides, not too many not too few.
My older sister told me that the first three steps make a huge difference in your stop-to-start speed. Those three quick steps can change your game.
–Jenny, Player, Age 13
Keep your blades flat on the ice when performing turns to give better control and maintain your speed. I learned that from Shjon Podein.
Catch an Edge
Analyze and visualize how to get the best use of your edges.
Editor's Note: Winners will be notified via email and will receive instructions for how to redeem their free clinic registration. Thanks to all the readers who shared their tips!