Why Every Hockey Team Should Include Small Area Games in Practice

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Hockey teams should never underestimate the importance of Small Area Games in their practice sessions. This type of activity allows players to practice specific situations and skills, which are essential for success during a hockey game. Small Area Games are designed to provide players with an intense and interactive practice session, as they are played on a smaller portion of the ice. This means that players can maximize their time on the ice and become more comfortable with the game. By incorporating Small Area Games into their practice regimen, hockey teams can benefit in many ways and improve their overall performance.

What are Small Area Games?

Small Area Games are an activity that has gained popularity in hockey training. As the name suggests, these games are played on a smaller portion of the ice, usually cross-ice or in a zone, and are designed to mimic particular situations that occur frequently in a full hockey game. The beauty of Small Area Games is that they cater to all skill and age levels, making them an excellent addition to any team’s practice plan.

The benefits of Small Area Games in hockey are numerous. First and foremost, they make practice fun, which can be a significant motivation for players. Small Area Games are highly engaging and promote teamwork, communication, and quick decision-making, all while increasing the number of pucks touches. They also automatically increase practice intensity, making them an ideal conditioning tool for teams.

Incorporating Small Area Games into practice helps players build fundamental hockey skills such as skating, stickhandling, and shooting. Goalies can also benefit from Small Area Games, where they get more action and practice making quick saves and reading play scenarios.

Another advantage of Small Area Games is that they save time. Unlike traditional conditioning drills, Small Area Games incorporate conditioning while simultaneously working on various hockey skills, making them an excellent choice for busy practices.

Overall, Small Area Games are a great way to create an enjoyable yet productive training session. Whether you’re a coach or a player, incorporating these games into your practice routine can help take your skills to the next level.

Benefits of Including Small Area Games in Practice

Small Area Games offer numerous benefits to hockey players of all skill and age levels. One of the main advantages is that they help to increase the number of puck touches for each player. This is because the playing area is smaller, so there are fewer players to compete with and more opportunities to handle the puck. In addition, Small Area Games help players to make quicker decisions, as they have less time and space to react. This is particularly beneficial for developing players who are still learning to read and react to the game.

Small Area Games are also highly beneficial for goalies. The smaller playing area means that they face more shots from different angles and positions. This helps them to develop their skills and improve their reaction time. Additionally, goalies are more likely to see a variety of different shots in Small Area Games, which can help them to prepare for different situations they may encounter in a full game.

Another benefit of Small Area Games is that they provide a fun and competitive environment for players. Unlike traditional conditioning drills, players are engaged and motivated to compete against each other. This can help to improve overall team morale and foster a positive team culture.

Finally, Small Area Games are a time-efficient way to practice. Unlike traditional drills, which may focus on conditioning or individual skills, Small Area Games allow players to practice multiple skills and game situations simultaneously. This means that coaches don’t have to waste valuable practice time on separate drills for each individual skill.

Overall, including Small Area Games in your team’s practice plan can have a significant impact on player development and team performance. Whether you’re looking to improve skills, build team morale, or simply make the most of your practice time, Small Area Games are a valuable tool for any hockey team.

Examples of Small Area Games for Specific Skills and Situations

Small area games can be customized to target specific skills and situations that are crucial for hockey players to master. Here are some examples of small area games that are effective in improving various aspects of the game:

1. One-Touch Passing Game – This game helps players practice quick decision making and increases puck touches. Divide players into two teams and set up a small area with cones. Players must pass the puck to their teammates using only one touch. If the puck hits a cone or goes out of bounds, the opposing team gets possession.

2. 3-on-2 Rush Game – This game simulates a fast break and works on offensive and defensive skills. Split players into two teams, with one team having three players and the other team having two. The three-player team must work to score while the two-player team defends. Once the play is over, the teams switch roles.

3. One-on-One Battle Game – This game focuses on improving individual offensive and defensive skills. Players pair up and play one-on-one in a small area. The player with the puck tries to get past the other player to score while the other player tries to prevent them from doing so.

All skill and age levels benefit from these small area games, as they help players develop specific skills in a fun and competitive environment. With these games, players can work on conditioning without having to waste time on tedious drills. 

By incorporating small area games into your team’s practice plan, you can ensure that your players are improving their skills in a way that is engaging and effective. With a little creativity, you can create custom small area games that address the specific needs of your team and lead them to success on the ice.

Tips for Running Small Area Games Effectively

1. Keep the game flowing: One of the biggest benefits of small area games is that they keep the pace of practice up, ensuring that players get a lot of touches on the puck. To make sure that games move quickly, keep a few pucks at the ready so that they can be quickly put into play if one gets knocked out of bounds.

2. Choose games that target specific skills: While many small area games can be used to work on multiple skills, it can be helpful to choose games that target specific areas that need improvement. This could be passing accuracy, positioning, or quick decision-making. When players know that the game is designed to improve a specific skill, they’ll be more focused and motivated to work on it.

3. Emphasize teamwork: Small area games require players to work together to achieve a common goal. Make sure that players understand the importance of passing and communicating, and encourage them to use teamwork to their advantage.

4. Don’t have to waste time on conditioning drills: Small area games are inherently conditioning drills in and of themselves, as they require players to move quickly and make a lot of rapid changes in direction. This means that coaches don’t have to spend as much time on traditional conditioning drills, and can instead use small area games to get their players in shape.

5. Keep things competitive: One of the best things about small area games is that they’re inherently competitive. This can be a great way to get players excited and motivated during practice. Consider keeping track of points or having a tournament-style setup to encourage players to play their best.

By following these tips, coaches can help ensure that their small area games are effective and engaging. Whether used to work on specific skills or simply to keep the pace of practice up, small area games are a great addition to any hockey team’s training regimen.

Incorporating Small Area Games into Your Team’s Practice Plan

Now that you understand the benefits and types of Small Area Games, it’s time to incorporate them into your team’s practice plan. The best way to do this is to integrate Small Area Games with other drills that you typically run. 

For example, instead of doing a conditioning skate, why not set up a cross-ice game with a focus on quick transitions? This way, you don’t have to waste time on conditioning drills and your players will still get the fitness benefits while also improving their hockey skills. 

Another way to incorporate Small Area Games is to plan them based on specific situations that your team has struggled with in games. For instance, if your team has had trouble with breakouts, set up a Small Area Game that simulates that scenario. This targeted practice will help your players improve in areas that they need to work on the most. 

Lastly, make sure to mix up the Small Area Games throughout the season. Change the types of games, the situations, and the skills being focused on to keep things fresh and challenging for your team. 

Incorporating Small Area Games into your practice plan not only helps your team improve their skills and situational awareness but also keeps practice exciting and engaging. Give it a try and see the benefits for yourself!

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