Are some drills inherently dangerous? What makes them so? In fact, how do you define danger in a sport rife with contact?
Do you remember the gut-buster drill, aka wallies? Sprint across the rink, touch the boards with your stick, repeat till either your thighs explode you upchuck last night’s dinner into a garbage pail the coach conveniently left at the bench. What’s done with adults or junior age players is hardly ever appropriate for children. Aside from the inane belief this drill developed some bizarre fitness component, it’s inherently dangerous. Children don’t stop efficiently. Even if able to maintain some semblance of speed going into the second or third rep, they can fall feet first into the boards. There are far safer and more effective drills to accomplish the same objectives, however obtuse those might have been.
Dangerous drills can pose both physical and psychological dangers. Two kids racing at each other, versus with each other, for a puck is meant to find out who’s faster – and tougher. Who’ll flinch? It must be a scary thought for a kid to see someone coming right at him, head down. It’s a commonly used drill yet there are so many better ways to seek the competitive edge in kids other than a sort of death race.
A drill is dangerous when it forces players to try to do something whose risks outweigh the rewards. It goes beyond what is inherently expected in the sport. Sometimes the drill itself isn’t dangerous but how it’s positioned on the ice may be. For instance, drills where kids on opposite sides of the centre line, who are racing toward the line, might be dangerous for younger ones who don’t have the stopping skills and could collide with each other. This applies as well to drills where kids need to stop or turn suddenly at the boards when their skill level is not yet up to par.
Here’s another one, using a small area game. The coach sets up a 4 v 4 game across the rink, but to make it more vigorous and intense, he throws in two pucks. So the kids go at it full bore, bouncing from chasing one puck to the other. The puck carriers are trying to evade checks in a small space but suddenly it seems there are two teams coming at them. There’s no real need to have a two-puck scrimmage. If the objective is increased intensity and competitiveness, that’s more easily and safely accomplished in small space with fewer kids – and one puck.
And naturally, any drill where the coaches actively participate is also dangerous. Aside from a demo, there’s no need for coaches to do a drill with players. It’s an unsafe situation with an accident waiting to happen.
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