Coaching basic hockey skills with simple hockey drills
When coaching youth players in the developmental stage, it's important to remember to keep things simple in practice; particularly the hockey skills on which you work and the hockey drills that you utilize to enhance these skills. In speaking to kids, or demonstrating your thoughts to them, you have to keep things extremely simple and sometimes excruciatingly clear. Patience will be your best friend, and impatience detrimental to both your ability to coach, and the players' ability to learn. Remember, when kids are young, you aren't just their coach; you're their friend, mentor, guide, guardian, and sometimes their babysitter.
So, how to we keep things easy for youth players? Well, we can start by working on the fundamentals. By fundamentals, I mean the mundane hockey skills, or skating, stick-handling, and passing. Now, shooting is also a fundamental; but with younger kids, it's often a better use of time to work on these other skills. (For a good portion of the kids, their shot may be nothing more than a strong pass, which is fine at this age.)
As far as the hockey drills are concerned, make sure that they are simple and beneficial. For instance, when describing a specific skating technique, go into great detail, and most of all - be patient! Some kids will take longer than others to grasp what exactly you're talking about. Try to empathize with the fact that their frame of reference is completely different than yours. Think about how you would guide a baby as he or she learned to walk, or a kid as they learned to ride their bike. Take things step by step. And, if one thing doesn't work, you can certainly move on to something else.
Essentially, at the developmental level, we want to make sure that we're working on skills on which the players can build. Remember, they don't have the base yet for the sport - it's our job to help them build it. The first practice is usually the most rough. Whether you're new to the kids or you have an ornery group, it takes a little while to construct familiarity with which you can work. Keep at it, though, and eventually you will gain their trust. This will make things exponentially smoother. Work on basic skills with simple drills, and you will soon see development in the players that you're coaching.