Small area games that emphasize transitions are an important element in training to help your players understand the urgency when the play transitions from offense to defense and defense to offense.
Below are two games that can help your players learn the concepts of transitional play by creating practice conditions that teach the physical and mental skills associated with quick transitions, and help them learn the importance of offensive and defensive body position.
Editor’s Note: The following small area games are part of a progression that is designed to improve a team’s transition skills. The first two drills in this sequence appeared in the January 2013 issue.
Five Puck Transition Drill
SET UP: The game is played 5-on-5 between the tops of the circles. The coach has five pucks in his hands to start.
PLAY: The coach tosses one of his pucks to any player to start the drill, allowing the offensive and defensive situation to play out for as long as necessary. On the whistle, the coach tosses a new puck to a player, or to an area to create a transition in play. Players immediately leave the puck they were playing and begin to play the new puck. The coach allows the players to play the last puck until a goal is scored or the shift is over.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS: The coach controls the tempo and situational play by the timing of when he blows the whistle to play new puck. All elements of transitional play are in effect and the emphasis is on quick counter attacks and defensive awareness.
VARIATIONS: This drill can also be done 3-on-3 cross-ice, 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 half-ice, and 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 between the blue lines.
The Greatest Drill Ever (aka 3-On-3 Mid-Zone Game)
SET UP: Position players in diagonal corners of the playing surface outside the blue line. A coach for each team stands on the defending goal line (opposite corner).
PLAY: Start with a face-off, loose puck or a coach passing to one of his players. Assistant coaches keep the game moving by passing the puck (offensive transition) to a player on their team anytime a goal is scored, the puck goes beyond their defending goal line or the goalie stops play. The play consists of 30 to 45 second shifts on whistle, puck is left and players change on the fly.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS: All elements of a regulation game are contained in a small area: transition to offense, attack, transition to defense, defensive play, offensive and defensive body position, puck protection, support, etc. The head coach is involved in directing the play, teaching and encouraging players to compete and play at a desired tempo and focus on the desired results within their concepts and systems.
VARIATIONS: Players can only use one-touch passes and one-time shots. Extra players can be lined up along the sides and can be used as outlets or to make give & go passes. Alternate games can be played by changing number of players, allowing teams to have odd-man numbers, playing with one player who is always on offensive, etc. There is little limit to this drill except one’s own imagination. Note: This drill can be done in any zone depending on your ice availability.
Small area games are not only a great way to teach different concepts of hockey at all ages, but will also help raise the level of competitiveness and the speed in which your team performs in games.
Coaches must remember to stay engaged with the players when practicing in a small area game format. While it is important to allow the game to do the bulk of the teaching, coaches must take more than just an observatory role.
We must be involved enough to help players understand the concepts without telling them where to be, what to do and how to do it. Like a great teacher, we must provide the environment that encourages our pupils to find the answers on their own.