They say practice makes perfect and to an extent, I believe it’s true. To the true extent of the saying, practice makes better and practice makes teams. You can go home and practice in your garage all you’d like, but that won’t improve your team play. A team practice is the most important type of practice.
Why? Simple, that’s where you learn your team. You can’t carry a team by yourself; I don’t care how good you are. That’s why we practice as a team and play as a team. Practicing as a team does so many great things for us. It shows everyone who has the best chemistry together, whose style of play goes best with who. It gives us all an opportunity to give tips to each other and try out new things. A team cannot win and cannot play if they do not play as one.
As cliché as it is, it’s true. We brush off all the clichés, but a cliché is what it is because it’s true.
Just like in a game, if one line mate doesn’t do their best, the entire line suffers. I’d say this is even worse in practice than it would be in a game. If one person slacks off and doesn’t give it their all, then the entire drill can be ruined and thus everyone on the ice pays the price. When I say “pays the price” I don’t mean they have to do suicides (though some teams may have to) I mean they don’t improve. One slacker can do that. When a drill doesn’t go game speed and people don’t try their best, they won’t improve. Their muscles aren’t being worked enough to get stronger, their reactions aren’t at their best and stamina won’t be tested.
For example, let’s say there’s a one on one drill and the person with the puck is coming in on the defender, but they aren’t coming in at full speed that means they aren’t working their hardest, meaning the defender likely won’t need to put in their full effort to keep up with the puck handler and therefor likely won’t even get a shot off. If they do get a shot off, there’s no reflex testing for the goalie and then even the goalie doesn’t get any good experience. Not to mention, anything under game speed for a goalie can be next to useless in a practice and can even really throw their style into a bit of a messy slur.
See though, that’s just one person, right? But what if it’s two people slacking off? What if it’s three or a whole team? Who is being helped then? No one and then it’s a mess of frustration. There is not a single team that can say that they would be fine without practicing and if you practice by just going through the motions then it may as well be the same thing as not practicing at all. If you want to be lazy and take a drill lightly then there is no body that you are helping. No player has the right to slack off because that is hurting everyone involved with the drill. No goalie, no forward, no defence.
We practice scenarios so we know where we all are. We practice with our lines and give each other the opportunity to learn how we all play and we talk about setting up new plans. With this we know for sure that we will always have a team mate there for our support in a game. Practices show us how we can play together and it shows coaches how to put their lines together. Sometimes it may decide who starts the next game. If we don’t practice the way we would play then how do we know we can trust each other to be where we are used to each other being? In reality, you can’t. You can’t even trust a player’s game consistency if they can’t even show that they can be there best in a practice. It’s all in the team play and it’s all reflected in the games you play later on.
You practice as a team, you learn as a team, you grow as a team because hockey is a team sport. When practice is done half-heartedly, that’s when you aren’t being a true team player. Practice hard, if not for yourself and your own development but for the improvement and dedication of your team.