A New Era
In today’s age of sport, technology is playing a major role in how quickly athletes are able to grow in their personal development. There is so much available data and video coverage of sports which is powerful for coaches and athletes if they choose to interact with these resources.
As a young athlete growing up in the ’90s, I only had ESPN highlights to watch the stars of sport shine from the previous night. This meant I had to absorb as much information as possible from the things I saw in those 3–5 minute segments to help me hone my craft as an Ice Hockey player.
Contrast that to today’s age, a player can do something special in a game and that video can go online and viral within minutes. We’ll all be carrying videos of that moment around in our pockets, on our phones and social media platforms.
I had to watch ESPN highlights in the morning, go to school for 7 hours, and only then have a chance to go out on the ice and try to recreate the moves or shots I saw to try and perfect them. Not to go on and on about back in my day, but the point of the story is about the speed and access to video and information in our increasingly connected world.
Pictures Paint A Thousand Words
Now to transition the conversation to the Power of Picture.
In today’s era, game film and video analysis is now widely accessible for developing athletes and youth sports. This can be an instrumental learning tool for coaches and players if it is used effectively.
I often talk about picture memory with the athletes I work with, as that forms part of my philosophy for teaching with game film. The simple process of pausing a video provides the opportunity to discuss the detail of any given scenario from a game shift or practice session. This process helps to build up a library of mental pictures for the players I work with. The aim here is for them to be able to recognise these situations when they are on the ice.
In Ice Hockey, the types of details we look for when we’re analysing film (in offense) for example are, where is a defenders stick, which way are their skates facing, and what area of the ice is this player very concerned about covering. All valuable pieces of information for the modern player to process in order to capitalise in rapidly evolving, dynamic situations.
Personally, from here I would then hit the ice armed with that information to try and recreate the situations observed from the video in my mind. I’d work on the techniques that I thought I could manipulate a defender’s stick to move the way I wanted it to or ones that could force a defenders skates to turn the way that I wanted, to give me an advantage. This is exactly the approach I take when I’m coaching and working with players on their games.
This is an example of the Power of Picture and using game film as a tool for individual growth. This method is not proprietary by any means, but what it will do is help give you detailed information about game situations and what it takes to execute each one. It goes without saying though, that just having the information isn’t enough, you have to dedicate time to taking that information and putting it into practice.
During my career starting at 16 years old, game film was used as a tool to provide feedback on team structures such as forechecks, breakouts, or missed assignments on the systems in place. These processes are still highly utilised today and an important mechanism for coaches to help their players understand and visualise the messages delivered to them. Developing team recognition and a shared understanding amongst teammates is made so much easier with video to emphasise a point. Players can build these mental pictures of where to be on the ice and the knock on effects of effective or ineffective understanding. Using the information derived from video provides everyone the opportunity to learn together.
Having an impact on athletic development and hockey IQ by using video as a learning tool is clearly beneficial. However, being able to effectively communicate and teach with it is a skill and one that can be hugely underpinned by lived experience. By sharing information and tacit knowledge that took years and years of studying, visualizing, practicing, attempting, failing and then hitting repeat is a very powerful thing. That is why 44 Vision Hockey was created.
When the teaching and information come from people that have actually experienced the situations and lived in these moments, it can be incredibly impactful to the connection between mentor and mentee. There is an increased appreciation for the source of the information and a higher level of trust because it is coming from someone who has walked that path. Then add the value of using video to build your mental picture library and the layering of knowledge that comes with it and this is where growth in a players development can be accelerated.
What I find to be crucial in the teaching process is the ability to see the ice in a way where you are identifying opportunities or observing patterns when watching your own video. When a player can begin to identify these patterns or understand where time and space present themselves, you can intentionally focus your practice and start the process of mastering the components on the ice that offer the best return.
I personally think this is the most effective way to break the game down, piece by piece. When you isolate specific scenarios or components this way, it helps provide an understanding as to what went wrong in a failed attempt during a game, immediately. Crucially, it also helps you understand why things went well which holds incredible value on a developmental journey.
Understanding the details helps to remove the guessing from situations and make as many actions as possible purposeful. Reducing the guesswork doesn’t mean creating robotic players who play without instinct. It means that with the right preparation and insight, the tools in a players armory can be drawn on when the time comes.
When you play a game as fast as Hockey, it is critical to be able to process information incredibly fast, make a decision and execute instantaneously, so breaking down the layers of the game to develop understanding is an important process.
44 Vision Hockey is an extensive collection of knowledge and experience. By sharing information and expertise that can only be accrued from thousands of practice hours and countless years, our purpose is to elevate hockey players at any stage of their journey by peeling back the layers of their game and helping them evolve with the Power of Picture.