Coach Russell played four years of Division I women's hockey, so she has a lot of experience. I really like how she runs hard, uptempo practices filled with lots of drills. It's mentally challenging and stimulating. This style reminds me of the way Coach Jensen ran the Heartland Hockey Camp practices. Russell is very open-minded and approachable. Since she played with most of the women during the summer co-ed league, she knows everyone which is handy because she knows everyone's name!
With a new coach, my teammates seem more engaged. Everyone has lots of questions and suggestions. I'm a bit worried that Coach Russell's familiarity with the players might compromise her authority. But so far, she's done a great job at balancing being fun and relaxed with being demanding.
Russell asked us to arrive at practice 30 minutes early for some chalkboard discussion. Here are my notes on the meeting:
- Put in your best effort at practice. Practice hard so you can do better at games. Everyone will play, no one is going to be benched. But everyone has to work hard at practice. Falling is good.
- Communication is key. Yell at your teammates. Examples: "I got high [slot]" or "One [man] on" Communication helps win games. Talking is great.
- We haven't had an opportunity to discuss our forecheck scheme. For now, we will setup a 2-1-2 forecheck, for a more aggressive, offensive posture. That means 2 forwards in. If the 2-1-2 doesn't work, we'll go with a 1-2-2 forecheck which means 1 forward in.
- We will learn several different ways of breaking out. For now, we will work out the basic breakout that the team had already been practicing with Rai. Typically, the defenseman breaking out will have three options: the wing on the boards, the center who will curl down low, and the defensive partner on the other side of the ice.
- When playing defensive hockey, develop the habit of lifting the stick with a quick hard upward slash and then taking the puck away.
- If you want to pokecheck, push your stick blade forward. That way the puck will go behind the opponent and break up the play. No lazy pokechecking where you swing the stick from side to side.
- Under the "new" USA Hockey rules, you cannot do anything that will impede your opponent's motion. If you hit your opponent's stick, keep it around the blade. When you go higher, you risk a penalty. However, you can lift the stick as much as you want. You can tap the opponent with your stick and annoy them if you want, as long as the opponent's movement is not restricted.
- Playing defense when an opposing player is in the crease. You can't get in the way of the player until the puck comes near you. Again, any impedement of the opponent's movement is a penalty under the new USA Hockey rules. If you want to be sneaky though, you can get behind the player and push your stick down on the player's pants to direct the person where to go. This is called the "washboard" technique.
- If you're a wing breaking out and positioning yourself on the boards, don't turn your back to the incoming defense. That makes you blind to the incoming defense and also restricts your possibilities of movement. Instead, stand with your body perpendicular to the boards. Then you have many options: going forward, sideways, etc.
- Always throw hard passes. It's better to see someone miss a hard pass than to cough up the puck because of a soft pass.
- We will be running uptempo (translation: hard) practices. You should be really tired (translation: exhausted) after practice. To keep the pace up, everyone should do a hard lap around the rink between every drill.