Becoming an Expert in Home-Hockey Development

By Andy Blaylock

In the last half of the first decade of the two thousands, a few books came out that drew upon lessons from the research of Anders Ericsson. The most famous of these was Outliers by Maclom Gladwell. The broad takeaway was that development of real expertise takes 10000 hours of deliberate practice.

But, what is expertise? That depends on the number of people in the rest of the world who are also pursuing the discipline in question. For example, not long ago there was one world-leading expert in the discipline of kiteboarding (or kitesurfing). Kiteboarding is a pursuit where one uses a kite to pull them across the surface of water on something like a regular surfboard. This expert was the guy who invented it. Was he any good 5 minutes after he invented it and first gave it a try? Not by today’s standard. But he was the best in the world at the time.

In youth sports, you'll need passion and you'll need a desire to do more than just what your teams offer in terms of development time and coaching expertise. To give yourself the best chance to create something extraordinary out of your journey in the sport you’ll need to resourcefully seek extra opportunities to improve.

If you can do it, the best place to put in extra skill development time is literally where you live. Time spent traveling to a place to practice is time you could be practicing.

Most hockey players live in a home that has a space that could be outfitted for just that purpose. If the home has an unfinished or at least not-often-occupied space and the parents can agree, a youth hockey player can have a place under their control to pursue their own development. If they love the game, they can’t ask for much more than that.

The next step is to consider the how-to behind practicing at home. This breaks down as follows:

  1. What to do
  2. Where to do it
  3. What items to get to set up the space
  4. Should we go with a DIY approach for any of it?
  5. Or should we “do it right” with products designed for the purpose?

What should players spend their time practicing? For starters, a player can simply mimic the movement as it is used in a game and they can learn what to mimic by simply watching game footage. One could describe this as doing a “drill”. But, for attacking a certain skill, the hockey culture may already have a standard set of drills that have proven useful over time.  It's better to use those if you can.

One resource is This is a service that solves this problem and packages drills into sequences which build on each other creating extra value. And as far as the drills go, not only does build on the wisdom of drills that have proven useful over time, but it also innovates to extend the value from traditional drills with new ideas at the leading edge. Once a player has decided what they want to work on, it may be worth seeing if can support their improvement in that area.

Outfitting an area for self-directed hockey development has three main categories. Those are surface, puck containment, and devices.

If a player wants to work on puckhandling and if they have a smooth surface like concrete or an area of hardwood floor that you can sacrifice to the hockey gods, all that is needed is a golf ball and one can get to work. A concrete surface can work for shooting if some old sticks are handy and it's okay to have their bottoms wear away under the intense abrasion created when generating flex while sliding the stick across the concrete. Sniper’s Edge Hockey makes some incredibly durable and long-lasting flooring options to help protect your stick, and enhance your game.

Most of us would prefer to have something to shoot at that won’t be ruined and won’t cause the puck to ricochet randomly.The iconic Sniper’s Edge Shooting tarp works well to soften sound and decrease ricochets, while also giving you something to shoot at. If one can hang some heavy blankets (think moving blankets) in front of a wall, this works well. Not only does this protect the wall, but it takes the energy out of the puck so it doesn’t bounce and hit some other part of the home. 

Next, there are some fun devices one can use to facilitate additional training in this space. For example, simulation of working the puck under the stick of a defender is good training and fun to add.

Low bridges are a great tool as well and this involves having some sort of stick-like part, maybe two to ten feet long resting horizontally across two or more riser blocks that are each around two to three inches in height. Then players can work the puck under the bridge in a variety of ways or work the puck over top of the bridge with a little chip or a saucer pass.

Ways to pass without a partner are a lot of fun as well. Basically this means bouncing a puck back to the passer. One common way this is done is with an oversized and strong rubber band stretched across two risers that are rigidly and structurally held apart (typically with a strong horizontal member similar to the horizontal pieces on the top of low bridges described above). Another way to get a good rebound is to find a chunk soft rubber around a couple of feet long, a couple inches high, and three quarters of an inch thick (the exact dimensions aren’t critical) that has a good elasticity for a strong bounce back (most materials don’t interact with the vulcanized rubber of the puck to produce a good bounce back) and fasten it to a hard vertical surface. With either the rubber band, or rubber bumper approach, this device needs to be very heavy to avoid having it take most of the momentum into its own motion as opposed to generating rebound for the puck.

November 16, 2022 — Andrew Blaylock

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