Q: Joseph Ruggiero (Coach) Pelham Manor, NY - I currently coach at the special hockey level of USA hockey, with special needs athletes. My question is can you suggest any specific drills to help teach/reinforce offensive/defensive "lane" assignments to my wings and centers. All too often games turn into kindergarten soccer style affairs. Wherever the puck is, 10 players surround it!
A: One of the biggest challenges we face with young athletes is providing them with too much structure. To minimize the swarm around the puck and provide kids with the environment and skills to read and react to plays, focus on drills involving small area games. These will help kids develop puck pursuit and puck support skills that result in quicker decision making and better on-ice positioning.