Diane Ness

Learning how to stop

By Diane Ness

A couple weeks ago, I discussed the skills that young skaters can learn at the mini-Mite level. Stopping is one of the first skills young skaters should learn after they have gained enough balance to push and glide. Stopping is also a skill in which we need to get really creative in our drills in order to fully engage our young skaters. 

You will notice as young skaters learn how to stop they will tend to favor one side over the other. We want to develop both sides, and the sooner we can do it the better. I will give you some drills that can be done with younger skaters to help develop this skill.

For the first drill we will have the skaters spread out and find an open space. The coach should then go around to each skater and with a thick black magic marker (thick Sharpies work great), make one solid line on the ice in front of him or her. The skater will then turn their skate sideways in a stopping position. 

When the coach says go, each skater will “shave” the ice with his or her blade. As they shave the ice, the black marking will start to come off. As the skaters push and push, eventually the marking will completely come off the ice. Once this happens, the skater will quickly go down to one knee. This is something we can make a contest out of encouraging the kids to push hard and fast with the one-foot. We will then start again using the other foot.

The second drill that we will do for stopping will now involve the coach making a “garage” out of three sticks or cones (the skaters are the cars). The coach will make a box that will have an open end, which will be the opening of our garage. The coach will stand behind the last stick facing the skaters in line. 

When the coach says go, the skater will skate out with some speed. The coach will then shift either to the right or left side of the garage. The skater will have to adjust and stop facing the coach. 

This is a great drill because the skater does not initially know which way they will be stopping until the coach shifts from one side or the other. This will force the skater to have to react to the coach and stop quickly.

For the last drill, we will do a basic zig-zag from blue line to red line. The skaters will start on the blue line.  From there he/she will skate with some speed to the red line.

The coach has the option to have the skaters stop on one foot inside edge, one foot outside edge, two feet inside edges (hockey stop) or two feet inside outside edges (hockey stop). It is up to the coach what he/she wants each of the skaters to accomplish. I would suggest doing all four, making sure they can do all of the stops. Make sure the skaters are working their “hard side” as much, if not more than their “easy side.”

Remember, it may take some skaters an entire season to learn to stop so keep working hard.

Diane Ness has been a full-time professional skating coach for over 35 years. She has coached both figure skaters and hockey players alike and is a former U.S. gold medalist in figure skating. She is the Director for the Pro Edge Power hockey camps and the Learn to Skate program at Highland Park Arena. Ness is the skating coach for the New Jersey Devils, the University of Minnesota men’s and women’s hockey teams and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. She has trained players in the NHL, AHL, NCAA, USHL and NAHL.