All the players are on one knee as I go over the breakout on the board. “Ok, the wingers need to come back and post up. The centre swings low and slow supporting the puck as the dman wheels the net. The other dman must support his partner. Oh, and also the goalie needs to be communicating the whole time”.
I ask if everyone understands? This is one of my first experiences as a head coach of a AAA minor atom hockey team.
After a good ten seconds of silence I hear, “whats a post up? Then I hear “yeah, whats a post up?”. I look down at fourteen minor atom aged hockey players with a confused look on their faces.
I was very lucky to have an experienced parent assistant coach that was kind enough to gently nudge me in the right direction. Quickly I learned that I need to break things down into smaller parts and then build them back up.
So what did we do?
We started to chunk down the different parts of the breakout. Wingers needed to accept a pass on the wall. So we had the wingers come down the wall, stop and then get a pass from the coach. They did this over and over. Centres needed to come low and slow, able to accept a pass in the middle. So we had them come low and slow, then receive a pass from the coach in the middle. They did this over and over. Dman needed to sprint back to pucks, support each other, and make a break out pass.
You get the idea.
Who needs to practice breakouts?
For the rest of the season we rarely practiced full breakouts. Guess what magical thing happened in games? We were able to break out of our own end. We almost never practiced five player breakouts and we consistently broke out. It was a beautiful thing.
Chunk it down then build back up
Breaking down movements, skills, and yes break outs is a powerful way to simplify and identify who understands what they are supposed to do.
Take stickhandling for example. To make a backhand forehand move while transferring your weight from one leg to the other requires different skills and movements chunked together. To become a master at this move you need to become a master at the broken down parts. You need to:
Balance on one leg and stickhandle
Stickhandle on your forehand
Stickhandle on your backhand
Push from one leg to the other
Pull the puck from your backhand to your forehand
Roll your wrists
Slide your bottom hand
Put in the time and effort practicing the different parts of the move when no one else is watching. You balance on one leg and stickhandle hundreds of times so that
you do it so effortlessly that you become a master.
Once you put all the moving parts back together you will be more fluid. A spectator will just assume you have some type of talent no one else does around you. Little do they know you have spent hours becoming a master of the basics in your basement or out in the backyard.
You are never too advanced to continuously improve and master the basics. The basics are the foundation in which you build your skill. Fill your buckets.