Tonight was week one of the weekly women’s skills sessions I’ve signed up for at the Walpole Iorio Arena, offered through Rob Bartlett Hockey. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I got there, so I’m not sure why I was surprised at what did happen.
See, the session is called “Women’s Total Skills.” Imagine my confusion upon arriving and wandering into both of the posted locker rooms only to see U14 girls. And one adult. Finally dropped my bag in one of the rooms and headed up to check the locker room assignments again. Hmmm… it seemed I was in the right place. Fortunately upon coming down the stairs I ran into a couple of players I knew from other contexts (one is on the team the Black Ice shares practice ice with, and the other is a friend of a friend and has skated on at least one tournament team I’ve been on.) And yes, I was in the right place and yes, there were lots of U14 girls at this session.
Once the ice was resurfaced we headed out. Laura (the second woman in the previous paragraph) told me that I should forget bringing my water bottle in, as there wouldn’t be time to get to it. !!! Then she gave me the scoop on what normally happened. Three to four stations, groups split up so that the U14s got their own groups and the adults and girls over 14 got a group. Whew!
What we did, so I remember:
Full-ice skating – counterclockwise with sprints between whistles and sprints between blue lines. Then we grabbed pucks and skated clockwise with them until the whistle. At the first whistle, we skated full-out, and at the second whistle we made a power turn towards the boards, took three quick steps, and started skating counterclockwise. Needless to say, with 45 people on the ice, it was a bit of a mess!
Then we split into 3 stations – shooting, puck-handling, and conditioning (gack).
At the shooting station we came from the low corner up and around the circle and took a wrist shot on net. Second set of shooting – same thing except that we skated backwards up the circle, opened up, and drove towards the net and took a wrister. Third set of shooting was the same as the second, only we received a pass at the top of the circle rather than carrying the puck ourselves.
Puck-handling involved little orange cones, weaving in and around, etc. etc. This weaving drill had me dizzy, which tells me that I’m skating with my head down. (I know I do this and damn it’s a hard habit to break!) We did a few other puck-handling drills and then moved to (gack) conditioning.
Conditioning involved sprints; sprints and stops; sprints and stops and skating backwards and stops and sprints; and sprints and stops and quick steps to the side and skating backwards and sprints and stops and quick steps and skating forward. Then we did several relay races. My group came in second twice and first once. Losers had to do one or two sprints depending on second or last place. Did I mention gack?
Then we were done. I’m pleased with the session and really look forward to next week.
Now, a note on my skill development this year just for posterity.
I now have one of the best wrist shots on the team (so said the coach the other night). Last season no one would have even looked at my shot other than to cringe a little bit. This year’s improvement coincided some with the gift of a new stick from Amy in mid-November, and some with all of our defenders’ decisions to score a goal this year. Shooting feels different now – I was trying to explain to someone on the team last season that I need to feel the movement of shooting; that spoken direction really wasn’t going to help me; that I was a kinesthetic learner in this regard. This summer we did the shooting challenge and that definitely helped me feel the motion, although it was off-ice. Then a couple of months ago on the ice I let loose a shot that was strong, hard, and several inches off the ice. And then another. And then I made a bunch of wimpy shots, and then another few good ones. Slowly, every time I’m on the ice, the number of good shots gets higher and the wimpy ones decrease, and I can feel the difference between the two. Last year I wouldn’t have been able to feel the difference at all – it was all awkward then. Being able to feel this is awesome! Of course, I need to couple that with learning how to a.) avoid the goalie’s pads and b.) skate and shoot at the same time. In time, in time!
Other skills that I notice getting better include:
– Being stronger on the ice. In some of my game write-ups I’ve mentioned standing opponents up as they were trying to go past me. I feel physically stronger than many other players on the other teams we play, and have gotten better at stopping their forward progress.
– Not panicking when I get the puck. Yeah, sometimes I still play whack-a-mole. Who doesn’t? But this year in more than a few games I’ve actually been able to gain possession of the puck in the defensive zone and make wise decisions about what to do with it. (In a few I’ve done completely BONEHEADED things too. Sue me. It’s my third season playing.) I can often find the weak side winger and get the puck to her. If I can’t find her, I am getting better at making room for myself and skating the puck out of the zone. This is HUGE for me – not simply freaking and throwing the puck all the time, but thinking-without-thinking about what to do with the puck.
Some things that I still need to work on vigorously:
– Stop freaking icing the puck during those times when I *do* panic with the puck. Argh. Argh. Argh.
– Be more confident in D-to-D passing when we’re regrouping and heading back into the offensive zone.
– Better passing and pass receiving. As one of the few lefties on the team, I often get to receive passes that come to the right side of my body since almost everyone else is a righty. Sometimes I’m okay with it, but more often than not I bobble the puck a bit. I also need to keep diligently working on my passing.
– Puck-handling skills. ‘Nuff said.
Time to pull all my gear out of the bag to let it dry, and then to take this poor, tired body to bed.