The hockey season may have ended sadly and abruptly, but can you take steps at home right now to substantially improve your shot for next year?
“Definitely,” Minnesota Whitecaps forward and youth skills coach Brooke White-Lancette said. “Anytime you can do anything outside of just being on the ice, it’s going to help improve strength, stability, skill and things like that. There’s certain things you can do off-ice, whether you have a net or something to shoot at or not.”
White-Lancette knows a thing or two about shooting — and scoring. She played four seasons at Northeastern University, tallying 117 points in 133 games, before suiting up for the U.S. Women’s National Team. She is Minnesota Hockey’s Girls Development Coordinator and a coach in the CCM High Performance programs.
“With the time people have now at home, I think it’s a great time to start training if you haven’t already.”
Here are White-Lancette’s keys to strengthening and improving your shot for next season.
Remember to stay low and maintain proper knee bend through all shooting drills and exercises.
“That’s truly important because that’s where your power comes from,” White-Lancette said. “What I see the most is when kids are standing up, their hands tend to get closer together and pull up on the stick. If they’re able to focus on the proper knee bend, that translates into their hands being in the proper position, and once those hands are in proper position, they’re able to utilize the flex in their stick."
Distributing Body Weight
Shooting is not just about wrists and forearms.
“Another big thing is distributing body weight,” White-Lancette said. “At the younger ages, being able to use every single thing you have. Utilizing your legs and your torso and core, and then coming up through your hands and distributing your weight following through to the net is really important.”
If you’re not following through, you’re limiting velocity.
“As you’re following through, you’re distributing your weight from the back foot to the front foot. Now they’re getting the mechanics of actually using their torso, using their trunk to try to follow through. And again, the stronger the core, the stronger the shot.”
Get a longer exercise band. Put one end around something sturdy and the other around the end of your stick. Use that for resistance training while mimicking your shot.
“Now you’re engaging those core muscles,” White-Lancette said. “You’re working your back, your legs, your torso — everything that you would do in a regular shot, but you don’t need pucks or a net to do it.”
If you have access to a pool, hop in with your stick.
“You’ll realize quickly that when you go through the shooting motion in the water, back and forth, you’re strengthening your core — it’s really hard. The resistance of doing that back and forth, back and forth, you hop out of the pool and now you do it and it becomes that much easier. Or you hop out and you shoot 10 pucks.
“Your pucks will just zing.”
One easy way to add resistance is by taping a puck to the blade of your stick. Now you have a weighted blade. Go through the proper shooting motions.
Now go back to your regular stick without the puck taped to the blade and you’ll notice a big difference.
“Anything you can do to add resistance to help strengthen your core will give you that much more power behind your shot,” White-Lancette said.
Stick your arm out completely straight with your top hand on top of the stick (where it normally is). Use your wrist to make the stick go up and then back down and stop parallel to the ground. Then you can move it laterally to the left, stop in the middle, go to the right, and back to the middle.
“I have a 7- and a 9-year-old. It’s hard for younger kids to keep that arm out completely straight. For stronger kids, maybe use the weighted stick with the puck taped on it and try to do it that way.”
Shooting with a Purpose
If you do have a net or something to shoot at, don’t just shoot pucks mindlessly into the net. You’ll develop bad habits.
“If you’re shooting 500 pucks and only shooting off the back leg or you’re not utilizing your entire body through that, then you’re not doing it properly — and that’s the biggest thing. If you can work on your mechanics and then work on your reps, then that would obviously be huge.”
Once you have mastered your mechanics, ask a family member to pass the puck or if you have a wall to pass the puck back, you can work on one-timers, a quick catch and release, pulling to the backhand, etc. Add in a stickhandling maneuver or move to evade an opponent and change the shooting angle. Having a plan and a purpose increases how much your effort will transfer into scoring more on the ice.
Work on Weaknesses
Now’s the time to work on things you’re not good at.
“Everyone likes taking slap shots, but let’s work on the wrist shot, the snap shot, the backhand,” White-Lancette said. “Working on the things you’re not good at will give you that much more confidence on the ice.”
Using film can be a useful tool.
“It helps to see what you’re doing because sometimes you can explain it to a kid and they really don’t understand or know that they’re doing something wrong,” White-Lancette said. “Visually this can be very helpful for kids to see what they’re actually doing so they can correct it a little bit easier.”
Keeping Kids Motivated
How can you keep kids motivated and engaged at home?
“Make a board that says there’s this many shots: let’s do 10 of these, 10 of these, 20 of these different shots, and have a goal for them,” White-Lancette said. “I think setting goals and making it a contest or something like that, they’ll be more engaged. There has to be some fun or incentive, something to get them motivated to go out and do it.”