Have you ever watched an incredible play and wondered ‘how did that player just do that’? Of course you have. And it really is amazing how certain players are just able to make it happen. For example, whether a pass is on their forehand or backhand, behind them or in front of them, they are able to catch the pass and make a play with the puck.
When I think back to all of the really great hockey players that I’ve played with, the players who are just ridiculous with their skills are more times than not also those that have above average ability in other sports as well. They can pick up a baseball and throw a strike. They can pick up a tennis racket and compete. They can score on a golf course and have great foot skills with a soccer ball.
While today’s athletes are starting to specialize in a sport at earlier ages than ever before, I think it’s important to try other sports and activities. I once had a coach who firmly believed that the best hockey players are just flat out the best athletes. While you might want to skate every day of the week, and shoot pucks in the basement every night after you are done stickhandling, it’s important to develop as a well-rounded athlete.
There have been many goals scored in the NHL Playoffs this season where an errant pass wound up in a players skates, and at full stride in a fluid motion the player kicked the puck up to his stick and made a play.
I see many players who have great hockey skills including skating, stickhandling, and shooting, but when it comes to making a play that requires athleticism outside of traditional hockey training they struggle. There are many pre-game shows where they have the camera on players warming up for the game and they are throwing a football, playing with a Hacky Sack or soccer ball. If you pay attention to this you will notice that not only are they warming up in a great way, but they are extremely talented at dribbling a soccer ball.
My old coach is right in saying that the best hockey players are also the best athletes. They have the ability to turn on a dime, make great reactionary plays and have explosiveness to their movements. As one area of focus, next time you are training, try incorporating some foot skills into your stickhandling routine. This video below is a great example of a drill that will help your skate to stick transitions and once you master it, you too can look the like guys on TV who do it so seamlessly.
Take the time to get out and dribble the soccer ball, play catch with the baseball and throw a few passes with the football. Hand-eye coordination transfers well from sport to sport and once you have it mastered in once sport, you will be surprised how quickly you can pick it up in another sport. And before you know it, you too will be a well-rounded athlete with great athleticism.
Remember to work hard and dream bigger than everyone else!