Teaching Body Contact and Checking

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1 AGES 16 / 18 AND UNDER Teaching Body Contact and Checking LESSON WORKBOOK KENNY RAUSCH

2 2 Body checking is a series of different skills which have to be learned, developed and trained. The goal of a body check is to separate the opponent from the puck. Body checking is used for fore checking, neutral zone defense and defensive zone coverage. It is one way to prevent the opponent from scoring and to regain puck control. The role of body checking is not used for the purpose of intimidation. This is not the role of body checking in youth hockey. In youth hockey, we are dealing with children. We are building their character by teaching them what is right and what is wrong, and we carry the ultimate responsibility for their safety. An effective body check requires concentration, agility and anticipation. The checker must focus on the puck carrier while maintaining peripheral vision of the puck. When a checker focuses solely on the puck, he is easy to beat with a quick move giving the opposing player time and space to create an offensive opportunity or odd-man situation. When a player focuses solely on the body, he may forget to keep his stick on the ice and in passing lanes. Keeping the stick on the ice is paramount so that when contact is initiated stick on puck is the first level of contact. There are key progressions when teaching the skills of body contact and checking just like skating, puck handling or shooting. The first step in the evolution of these skills is the development of positioning and angling skills. Skating skills play a major role in these skills and players must learn to control their bodies in order to establish position when approaching an opponent at an angle that maximizes the opportunity to depreciate time and space of the opponent. With the development of skating and angling skills, the player can effectively learn to use his or her stick for poke checking or lifting the opponent s stick.

3 3 Positioning and angling activities should be introduced early in a player s career. Players should learn to protect the puck using their bodies and to angle an opponent in confrontational situations. Players should learn to keep their bodies between the puck and an opponent during battles. Read and react activities along with small area games will help players to develop positioning and help players learn to be in the right place at the right time. Competitive activities such as one-on-one battles and races for the puck should be incorporated into every training session. Coaches should ensure that every player has the opportunity to develop body contact/checking skills in a functional progression, while allowing each player s biological maturity and emotional development to reach certain levels. The coach should always keep in mind that the degree of physical development varies from player to player. These differences in size and strength can lead to unbalanced competition, presenting scenarios the coach will have to manage. The progression for players this age should involve skating, angling, stick checks, contact confidence (being comfortable with incidental body contact contact that occurs when competing for a puck) and body checking. USA Hockey s checking progression model gradually introduces players to the skills associated with body contact and body checking. The first 3 steps (Positioning / Angling, Stick Checking, Body Contact) build the players base during the early years of hockey. Step 4 introduces body checking; these skills are eased in throughout the 12 & under level and now come into play in games at the 14U level. They continue to become a bigger part of the game at the 16/18U level. Body Contact Progression 1. Positioning and Angling The first step in teaching body contact / checking is to learn how to control skating and to establish position to approach the opponent from an angle that minimizes time and space for the opponent. - Basic fundamental to performing any type of body contact skill. - Angling is the 1st line of defense with body contact / body play. A player cannot perform basic angling skills unless he or she has strong skating fundamentals. - Main purpose is to force opponent in a certain direction. - To prevent the opponent from getting to open ice; to contain the opponent to the outside of the rink or down the wall. - Stick position is key and will help prevent against cutbacks. Common errors with angling - Gliding when you re at the side of your opponent. - Approaching your opponent head on. - Not accelerating once your opponent is in a contained area.

4 4 2. Stick Checking The second step is to effectively use the stick for poke checking, sweep checking, lifting or locking the opponent s stick. 3. Body Contact the third step is to use the body to block the opponent s way or take away his skating lanes. The correct stance and effective use of leg strength are important parts of these techniques. 4. Body Checking the fourth and final step is the actual body check. This step includes teaching techniques to give and receive a body check safely and within the rules. By the time players reach the 16 / 18 & under level, they should have had the opportunity to learn the essential body contact and checking skills that will allow them to play hockey without preventable risks for injury. Coaches should remember that even in these age groups, the degree of physical development varies significantly from player to player. These differences lead to unbalanced competition where variations in size, strength, and the body s capability to withstand injuries are dramatic. It is of the utmost importance that players, coaches and referees keep the tolerance level of the physical impact to a safe level for all participants.. Five Common Components of Body Play 1. Skating Ability Speed & Quickness Player must have it all four directions and be able to change directions quickly. Strength Strong legs and strong on skates. Player must know how to use edges. Balance & Agility Remain in hockey position to execute various types of body play. Practice the skills of turning, stopping, starting and pivoting. 2. Anticipation Read what the opposition is going to do and deliver the correct body play technique. Preparation Players should be aware of who they are on the ice against and know what an opponent s tendencies are. Observing When resting on the bench, watch your opponents tendencies. 3. Positional Play Angling Force the opponent to go a certain way or direction with an active stick, taking away passing lanes. 4. Head Up & On a Swivel Be aware of all of your options. See the entire ice and do not have tunnel vision while also communicating with teammates.

5 5 5. Body Position Being in the hockey position. Resisting your opponents counter to body play. Understanding the position of your body when delivering and receiving a body check. Awareness and Orientation The more prepared a player is for body contact and checking, the better his or her chances for success will be. Although the game is not played solely with the puck, it has the ability to mesmerize players on the ice (regardless of their age). The player carrying the puck is one who often develops very narrow vision, preventing him or her from seeing the positions of teammates. Narrow vision also causes the puck carrier to be less aware of the location of the opposing checkers. Players need to develop the ability to simultaneously handle the puck and see what is going on around them. This will aid in the ability to both make plays and avoid checks. The following qualities should be developed in order to assist with awareness and orientation abilities. Split Vision This allows the puck carrier to see the puck under his or her control while being able to survey the ice. The puck carrier should be aware of everything the eyes catch, without focusing on one specific thing.

6 6 Scanning The player moves the eyes back and forth to increase awareness of everything that is going on. Head on a Swivel Turn the head frequently to see what is going on behind you. Shoulder Check Turn your head and look over your shoulder to make sure you know where the checkers are. Players should shoulder check before receiving a pass or picking up a loose puck. This simple habit allows players to know what they will do once they gain possession and if they are under pressure from the opponent. Communication The player should make it a habit to always inform teammates of what they see while also listening to teammates to take advantage of what they see. In some areas of the ice, you are more likely to get checked than in other areas. Once in these areas, you have to be aware of the fact that a body check might be imminent. The player should prepare to absorb it, regardless of when or from which direction it comes. These areas include: - The half boards in the defensive zone (where the opponent is likely to pinch) - Crossing the center line and the defensive blue line (where the opponent is likely to stand up) - In front of the net in the offensive zone (where the opponent is likely to play very aggressive) - In the offensive zone corners (where the defenders are also likely to play aggressive) Suggestions for Teaching Body Contact / Checking Drills Body contact and checking drills should be a part of every practice. During drills, make sure the players understand which particular skills they are working on. Make body contact / checking skills a priority for all players. Emphasize why checking is important. Use competitive drills that place players in the situation of winning the short races to the puck. Develop drills and small area games that occur in confined areas. Develop drills and games that simulate game situations and force players to make quick decisions and develop hockey sense. Develop off ice training drills and movements that incorporate body control, body contact, and checking into dryland sessions. Remember that you are dealing with young athletes going through many changes. Body contact, checking, playing along the boards and physical play may be something brand new to the players. Some players might experience great fear at the idea of being checked into the boards or hit in open ice. Allow players to realize success in a physical situation, allowing them to gain confidence. Questioning their courage or shaming a young player will do little more than damage their selfesteem and self-worth.

7 7 Shoulder Check The shoulder check is most typically used by a defenseman when taking out an on-rushing attacker. The defenseman must anticipate where he intends to make contact with the attacking player, then time his backward skating so that contact is made at the appropriate time. The defensive player should attempt to aim his shoulder at the offensive player s chest, then make contact with the shoulder and side of the body. Skates must be shoulder width apart with the knees bent to provide a strong foundation. Leg power is used to drive the shoulder into the opponent s chest. Players may find it helpful to keep only the top hand on the stick with the free hand up, both for protection and also to push the offensive player. Remember, players are allowed only two steps before hitting the opponent. There is often a tendency to use the elbows in shoulder checking. Do not let your players develop this bad habit. Key Elements Skates shoulder width apart Knees bent with the weight on the inside edges of the blade Head up at all times Shoulder contact with the opponent s chest Stick and elbows down Two or fewer steps before hitting the opponent Common Errors Skating too slow (allows attacker to skate around him) Legs are straight (resulting in poor balance and insufficient power to make a good check) Raising of the arms (resulting in elbowing penalties) Watching the puck, not the player Checking Along the Boards The ability to check properly along the boards will enable a team to regain possession of the puck without receiving a penalty. The defender must concentrate on the puck carrier, not the puck, using timing to angle the attacker towards the boards. As he approaches the puck carrier from an angle, the checker reduces the amount of space between himself, the puck carrier and the boards. The checker must have two hands on the stick with the blade on or near the ice. Coaches must emphasize that the stick must be kept down. The checker should aim to hit a point on the boards in front of the puck carrier. Typically, the defender should not attempt to retrieve the puck himself, as this is usually done by a teammate. To successfully check an opponent along the boards, the checker must angle the puck carrier into the boards under controlled speed. He gives the puck carrier only one option. He forces the puck carrier in the direction he wants him to go, squeezing the opponent on the boards using his arms and body. Push, with your inside arm, down and across your opponents chest, then move your body in front of the attacker, blocking his path. After contact, be sure to keep your body low and well-balanced.

8 8 Key Elements angling your opponent controlled speed at the point of contact Use the inside arm to pinch your opponent into the boards. Keep your body low with legs spread for balance. Common Errors approaching the puck carrier straight on, not at an angle banging your opponent rather than pinching him into the boards failing to maintain good body balance Protecting Yourself Along the Boards Players must learn how to protect themselves along the boards. When being checked, try to distribute the force of the check over as wide a surface as possible. Get your stick and gloves up to spread out the area of impact. Your arms act like shock absorbers. Place the forearm and upper thigh (hip area) against the boards and keep the feet well apart. Keep the knees bent with a low center of gravity. After impact, recoil by pushing upward and outward with the forearms and inside leg. Never fully extend your arms towards the boards when cushioning a check; serious injury could occur. Avoid hitting the boards with the point of your shoulder because you could separate the shoulder. Lift the shoulder and take the blow on the flat of the biceps and shoulder area. Accept checks when playing the puck along the boards. Keep the head up, get a good, stable position, feet apart, knees bent, body in a low position, and forearm and hands on the boards for protection. When going into the corner for the puck, try to use some deception (fakes) with your body, stick and skates. When you are in a position to pick up the puck, move the skates quickly so that they are parallel to the boards rather than pointing towards the boards where the opponent may ram you head-first into the barrier. Protect the puck with your body, skates and stick and try to move out of the area quickly and with control of the puck.

9 9 Principles of Body Checking 1. Velocity. When intending to check in a one-on-one situation, the velocity of the offensive and defensive players should be the same. This will prevent the attacking player from skating around the defensive player. To play defense, speed in skating backwards is a key requirement. 2. Rhythm. The defensive player should be taught to watch the offensive player to catch the rhythm and movement of the puck carrier in order to anticipate his movement. Defensemen should be taught to watch the chest of the opposing player, because it is the most difficult part of the human body to shift quickly. For instance, a player s legs can maneuver quickly around another player, as can the stick. A good head fake can stymie and outmaneuver a player quite easily. It is imperative that the defensive player play the body of the puck carrier, not the puck. 3. Anticipation of fakes. A player must learn to anticipate the primary and secondary movements in every fake. 4. Ability to Rotate. The defensive player must learn to turn quickly both left and right effectively in order to keep pace. For example, a younger player cannot skate backward as rapidly as a player skating forward. Therefore, in order to defend against a fast forward skater, the defender may have to start in forward motion, pick up speed, and then rotate into the backward position. 5. Selection of Position. The primary task of the defender is to cut off the main direction of the opposing player to the net by watching the center movement of the player. When against the boards, the defender should angle his body a half-turn toward the boards and use the boards to his advantage. A defender may push the player off the puck, separate the puck from the player by employing a hip check or pin the player along the boards with a solid body check. The most important aspect in selecting a checking position is to always make the player move towards the boards by skating at the player from an angle. This cuts off the central ice area. 6. Compulsory Leg Work. When the body check is taking place, most players stop using their legs. This is a drawback because it cuts down the speed along with the momentum of the check. A defender should keep his legs moving at all times. 7. Quickness. The defender must learn to cut down the puck carrier s reasoning time by attacking suddenly. This comes through timing and instinct. For maximum results, a player must use his stick, shoulder and full body when checking.

10 10 NOTEPAD:

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