The biggest challenge when it comes to steady improvement in skills and realizing potential is improving the skills that really translate to the next level. That does not mean a set list of skills that are useful, it is more about the individual and what they can bring to the game at the next level.
Each individual will have some skills, be that skating, shooting, general hockey sense, speed of awareness and movement, that they can really step up, whist also have some habits and skills that do not translate to that next transition quite so well. Identifying the abilities that any individual has that truly translate to higher level play is key to ensuring that the transition is successful. Playing to one’s own strengths is a vital component of any successful athlete, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, it is the ability to play the game in a way which accentuates the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses that separate the great athletes from the good ones.
Our job as coaches is to help each player identify these skills, and not run a cookie cutter system that is for the masses.
This does not just apply to primary skills either, the higher level you play, the higher level of the opponent, and there will be occasions where the primary skills are simply neutralized by such skilled opponents, what happens then? Being able to solve that problem, finding a way to succeed, is where great players excel.
Being able to recognize those translate-able skills is essential for development and progression. Skating skills are of course an essential component of any player, but that extra ability to skate under pressure in tight areas, to anticipate an opening using or agility that others do not, is a skill that will translate well. This allows a player to progress and thrive at any level as well as continually dictate.
Similarly, that innate hockey sense is a translatable skill, to see the game unfolding before others, find the right positions and make the right plays that others cannot see, that is a skill that shines at all levels, that differentiates the truly special players, and one that translates readily to the next level of the game.
It is these skills, the ability to go beyond the base level expected that translate to the next level, accurate shooting even under extreme pressure, speed of thought and awareness of the game at all times, these are the things that really lift a player beyond the norm, and it is these skills that will translate into the next level and enable that individual to adjust and progress at the new level.
Having the ability to adapt to the environment and make the most of the translatable skills at their disposal is the sign of a successful player who will make continual progress within the sport. Understanding the abilities that really make that individual capable of playing at the next level is the key to successful progression. One of the more vital components of training that anyone who is hopeful of rising to the highest levels should both recognize and study with their coaches, and fully grasp the skills and abilities they possess that are translate-able for the best possible chance of success.