Looking for early success is sometimes a shaky start to LTPD – or “In praise of orange buckets”

Posted: September 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

Everyone wants a player to be successful as soon as possible. Early success adds to confidence and confidence often dictates how willingly a player will engage in a new activity. As the old saying goes “Nothing achieves like success”. There is a hidden danger in this approach. Hockey Canada’s Long Term Player Development model is based on developing foundational skills in a sequence and adding new skills when the player is ready.

Everyone understands that earning most physical skills requires a good foundation to build on. This is especially true when it comes to teaching skating skills. The trick is to teach skills like they are layers of brick applied on top of each other. There is no point in teaching something “wrong” just because it results in early success. At some point the lower layers of the wall will have to be rebuilt in order for the wall to be solid. You need a foundation to build on. IP focuses on these “foundational skills”.

One classic example:
Initial skaters are often taught in Learn to Skate programs to extend their arms and waddle with the emphasis on not falling. Some parents even put bob skates with two blades on their boots. This is good because it gets them involved and on ice but does nothing to help a player learn to skate. In actual fact it impedes their development.
The problem with that start is that skating is not about maintaining a vertical balance point – it is about constantly recovering from being out of balance at some angle. In skating you are always “falling” either forwards backwards or to one side or the other and recovering. That is why so many of the activities we do in practice involve players turning or changing direction or pushing or pulling against a force.
If you teach a player that vertical balance is important then almost everything is different from what you want a player to ultimately achieve:
1.Stance is vertical with straight legs – not tilted forward (or backwards) with bent legs
2.Feet are oriented in a straight line not turned for edges to dig in
3.Limited ability to turn or stop and the stride is inefficient and has limited power
4.Head is not held up etc…

A better starting point is to use orange buckets which force players to bend their knees, dig their blades in and lift their heads. While orange buckets are helping maintain balance their real function is to force players into a position where they move forwards with more power. They are a reminder for the muscles and the skate edges of what the legs should be doing. This is the reason we will use orange buckets even with skaters who skate well in both IP1 and IP2. Another reason is that they are really fun if you push them to the limit. In the old days coaches told players that if they were skating the correct way their backs should be sore at the end of a game or practice. This is still true – and is a common comment after a hard practice…


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