Camper’s Thoughts: Silas Rogers, 15
Everyone always told me to keep my head up on the ice to look our for a pass but then they told me put my head down and work harder in practice… What gives?
After every game or practice my mom would always talk to me about my game:
“You had a great chance on that powerplay, the puck just jumped up, unlucky.”
“You need to keep moving your feet when you carry the puck through the offensive zone.”
“You smoked that kid, good job!”
You know, the usual hockey mom stuff.
I loved having mom at my games even though she was embarrassingly loud. She made up for it by buying me those small bags of Peanut M&M’s after every game. Man, those things are awesome. Although I loved her being there I always found it to be incredibly frustrating when she talked about my games on those car rides home. No, no, no not because I didn’t want her opinion. Just the opposite, really, I probably trusted her more than anyone.
The frustrating part was that no matter how hard I tried, or how clearly she explained I couldn’t visualize what she was telling me (which was super frustrating for her since she was a junior high teacher, maybe I was just a crappy student, nah, had to be her.)
I was going into my first year of midget hockey, a crucial time for any budding high-level hockey player. This was my major junior draft year. I had heard a few rumours going around that there had been a few scouts at a couple of our bantam tournaments. Obviously your mind starts racing when you hear that kind of news: did I impress? What are they looking for? Were they there for me? Are they going to come around again this year? Oh my god, did I have a good game? Was it the one when I got benched for that brutal pizza pass up the gut?
I’m never getting drafted.
You know, the usual important things for a 15-year-old teenage boy (besides girls, they were my backup if hockey didn’t work out.)
Alright, back to the story.
So, it’s a big year and I still can’t visualize the holes in my game. Big problem.
* * * * *
I remember my mom coming into my room some morning in early July with her iPad. She had a site pulled up that showed a bunch if cameras, iPads, green screens and hockey gear. I honestly thought it was an ad for a poorly made hockey video game, but I was wrong.
Tech and hockey, eh?
Two of my favourite things, sweet.
* * * * *
I have to be honest with you, was pretty reluctant to take part in the one-on-one video tutorial clinic. It’s one thing having your mom, someone you love and respect *and who often softens the blow,) tell you lovingly that you could maybe tweak one or two things in your game. It’s completely different when two strangers with video cameras are closely monitoring you. That said, I took the ice with nervous and excited. I felt like I was at tryouts, but instead of competing against others, I was competing against myself.
The two instructors, Ben and Justin, placed yellow dots on parts of my arms, legs, head, skates and stick. These we’re some of the trigger points they were going to monitor while I went through some simple hockey skills. I was a little skeptical to be honest. I kept wondering if these yellow stickers would impede my normal movement. They were the size of the bottoms of pop cans and just as stiff. I kept my mouth shut and let them do their thing. Once I was all set up I was expecting to get right down to business, but the instructors threw me a puck and told me to go for a skate.
I slowly skated to the far side of the ice and started doing small circles, throwing the puck off the boards and chasing it down, trying to snipe bar down, the usual. Soon the two instructors came down to join. We shot the puck around, attempted to sauce the puck back and forth as high as we could; honestly, we just relaxed and had some fun. I completely forgot I had those ridiculous, school bus coloured, pop cans on my joints.
After about a half hour Ben and Justin motioned to me to get back to the other end of the ice and into the camera.
That day we we’re going to work on my shot. I was a big boy back then, 6’2’’ and just shy of 210 pounds, not bad for a 15 year old kid. That said, even though I was built like a truck I shot the puck like I had pool noodles for arms. Pretty freakin’ embarrassing…
The instructors started slow by feeding me soft passes and then asking me to shoot. We did that probably a dozen times and we slowly upped the intensity. Hard passes with harder shots, passes on my forehand, backhand, in my feet, off the boards, slap shots, snap shots, wrist shots, quick releases, the whole gamut.
Time flew by and I felt completely at ease. The boys kept me relaxed and laughing the entire practice even during a spell of 11 consecutive shots missing the mark.
After our session the guys took me into one of the dressing room and handed me an iPad loaded with all of my video highlights. They told me to watch them and left the room for a few minutes. I was actually shocked at how inconsistent I was on film. My body weight was shifting all over the place; my feet were never set; my head was looking all over the place; I thought I was just an overall mess. When they instructors came back in they asked me my thoughts and I told them exactly that: I was simply wild and inconsistent.
“Do you think that’s a bad thing?” Asked Justin.
“Well, it can’t be good. I look ridiculous!” I exclaimed back.
“Listen, hockey is all about adjusting. Nothing’s every going to be perfect. See, what your doing is over adjusting the wrong parts of your body. Sure, you’re going to be dipping your shoulders, or opening your hips to make up for a bad pass but I want you to watch the video again and tell me how you can minimize adjusting your whole body by concentrating your efforts on something your meant to move all of the time.”
“Umm, my feet?” I replied unsurely.
“Well, that’s a good start. When you’re on the ice what do you have the most control over?” Justin asked calmly.
Let’s watch the video again together and you tell me what you see your stick doing. We watched and something became glaringly obvious. It turns out I didn’t adjust to the pass. My hands would stay in the same position whether the pass was behind, ahead or right in my wheelhouse. All those stone hand comments were starting to make sense.
“You’re legally required to control your stick at all times on the ice, why not use that to your advantage.” Justin said.
We went through another shooting and video session but this time the coaches offered their verbal feedback throughout. All they were doing was reminding me of all of the points I picked out in the video. They were just facilitators, I was in charge of my own learning.
The technology made me accountable for my own learning. It allowed me to clearly see what I was doing wrong, but more importantly, all the things I was still doing right. The technology gave me confidence that even though I had to improve in a few areas, maybe I was being a bit too hard on myself. Maybe if I relaxed a bit more I’d feel more comfortable playing a game I loved.
The best part about the experience is that the instructors allowed me to relax and get comfortable with the new technology before letting me jump in headfirst. The gradual build up from soft passes back and forth, to soft passes to shots, to hard passes back and forth to hard passes to shots and onto mixed passes and mixed shots was a perfect way to ensure I was in charge of my own learning.
The draft is in two weeks; will I be selected? Honestly, I don’t know.
Cross your fingers for me.
I’ll let you know.