John Russo

The 2-on-1

By John Russo
Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

As I have coached most of the levels of hockey (Mite to college) over the years, the 2-on-1 has always been a key prediction of whether my team would be successful or not. When I start with any team at any level, I always run 2-on-1 drills to see how many players understand the concept – and how to take advantage once they have it (the advantage of 2-on-1). Most don’t know how – at all levels.

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Support, support, support

By John Russo
Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

Support as a concept in hockey is one of the weakest areas handled by coaches. That is likely because it is an activity that happens without the puck.

If you were to ask an NHL or college scout what they watch for in a player, they would tell you skating skills, puckhandling, etc.; but one of the first three or four items would be how the player supports. They would say how a player plays without the puck will make or break them to move up.

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Bits and Pieces

By John Russo

Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

I keep a “miscellaneous” file where I throw sheets with ideas, information and thoughts. This usually makes for one or two columns a year and one “Bits and Pieces” column every two or three years.

How are we doing in the Upper Midwest?

My primary measure of “how are we doing” is to look at the number of players at Division I colleges. A few years ago, we generally had about the same number as Massachusetts, New York/Pennsylvania or Michigan/Illinois. The 2010-11 stats from the “Stops and Starts” newsletter from the American Hockey Coaches Association (college hockey coaches) shows the following:

Men’s Division I

• Upper Midwest - 238: MN (182), WI (45), ND (9), SD (2)

• Michigan/Illinois - 193: MI (131), IL (62)

• New England - 199: MA (115), NH (13), CONN (30), NJ (23), RI (8), VT (10).

New York/Pennsylvania - 156: NY(100), PENN (56)

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Planning good practices

By John Russo

Let's Play Hockey Columnist

I haven’t visited this subject lately. I was reviewing columns from 1995 (if you can believe it) and ran into a column that discussed why written plans are important. I’ve used written plans my whole coaching career – and still have most of them. I go back to review them sometimes, for ideas and drills that I need for specific circumstances.

One of the things that still always amazes me is the frequency with which I run into coaches that don’t do written practice plans. The lack of written practice plans pretty much also guarantees the lack of overall progressive season plans and goals. I have felt for many years that it is impossible to do the best job of coaching without this important activity. Are there coaches that don’t pre-plan in written form and still do a pretty good job? I am certain the answer is yes. However, I am also certain that they could do a much better job.

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An Open Letter to Parents

By John Russo

Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

We are at that time of year when the youth hockey season hits its stride, when coaches are establishing the rules and relationships with players and parents.

To assist coaches with the very important and sometimes difficult task of dealing honestly and sincerely with parents, but at the same time trying to keep them “at arms length” from the team process, I have composed a “letter to parents” that coaches may want to use. It first appeared in Let’s Play Hockey nearly 20 years ago.

Dear Parents:

Another exciting season of youth hockey is upon us for your youngster and for you. We are looking forward to a very successful season in all of the proper respects. Surely, we want to win games, but not at the expense of the enjoyment, fun and development of your child. We also do not want to win at the expense of sportsmanship, fairness and a sense of working as a team. Actually, if we can create all of those (enjoyment, sportsmanship, etc.) along with good basic skill development and team systems, we will win our share of games.

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