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The No. 1 weakest skill in girls’ hockey players

07/18/2018, 12:15pm CDT
By Kim McCullough, M.Sc, YCS

Giving and receiving passes effectively is a skill that should be practiced by players during the summer.

Photo: Christine Wisch

If you had to guess what the No. 1 weakest skill is of girls’ hockey players, what would it be?

Last summer, I was sitting in a classroom alongside elite level coaches from all over Canada, listening to a presentation given by a national expert in skill development of female players. One of the coaches asked the presenter what he thought was the single biggest skill deficiency in female players. And I thought to myself, it’s got to be shooting, or the mental game, or the ability to see and use open ice. But that’s not what he said. Without hesitation, he said “giving and receiving passes.”

And when I really thought about it, it totally made sense. I can picture myself out on the ice telling my players to “pass it like they mean it.” I also remember going to my first national team tryout and being blown away at how quick, hard and accurately the best players in the country passed the puck. As I run eight weeks of skills camps this summer, I will pay extra attention to the passing skills of the incoming players. I’ll make it a primary focus of the week to teach them how to give and receive passes effectively. Most players can pass, but very very few of them are able to make and receive effective passes on both their forehand and backhand while moving. They can get the puck in the general vicinity of their target, but they don’t move the puck with authority. 

Quite often, girls try to push the puck and place it on their teammates stick, instead of sweeping it and snapping their passes. One of the main reasons for this is that when they start the passing motion, the puck is already in front of them. This causes them to “flick” the puck and push it towards the receiver. 

Girls must get comfortable starting the passing motion from behind their body. The challenge is that when the puck is behind you, you can’t see it. Players who don’t have high level stickhandling and passing skills will be very uncomfortable having the puck outside their field of view while it’s on their stick. This is a skill that can be practiced off the ice and must be constantly reinforced on the ice. 

Similarly, girls tend to stop the puck out in front of them when they receive a pass. This usually leads to the puck bouncing off their stick, instead of being cushioned and caught to the side of the body. When players receive the puck out in front of them, they have no choice but to push a weak pass to the next receiver, or to have to stickhandle the puck to get it into a proper passing position – which is ineffective because it wastes time. 

When players cushion and catch the puck out to the side of their body, and allow the puck to move outside their field of view, they can immediately sweep and snap the puck again for a quick and hard pass. Again, this is a skill that must be taught explicitly and practiced constantly. 

With the start of the season still a few months away for most teams, these passing and receiving skills will have to be practiced by players on an individual basis for the rest of the summer. This can be done very simply out on the driveway with a stick and stickhandling ball. Remember: All the little details count and any extra time you devote to developing your individual skills this summer will pay off once the season starts in September.


To take your stickhandling and shooting skills to the next level in time for the start of training camp, check out our Total Female Hockey Elite Shooting and Stickhandling Video Series. It’s a 16-video series that you can follow along with to make sure your puck skills are ready for the start of the season. You can find all the information here.  Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS, is the Founder & Director of Total Female Hockey and is an expert in the development of aspiring young hockey players. Kim’s player development websites give coaches and parents of young players access to programs, articles and advice on how to help their players take their game to the next level safely and effectively.

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Tag(s): State Of Hockey  News  Kim McCullough