The Problem with Shooting

Shooting is the hardest skill to learn. It is not hard to teach, but there is something about the skill that is difficult to master for women.

Shooting skill drillsHere is an example of the problem: I am a left handed shot. I am naturally right handed. I am 6’2 and weight over 200 pounds. I’ve probably shot a half million pucks and balls since I was a boy – forty some years of practice. Watch this and a 75 mph wrist shot flies bar down and in.  I know how to shoot. It is an old skill.

Now watch what happens when I grab a right handed stick and try it from the other side. I push or shovel the puck on the ice toward the goal just like any beginner. I understand the mechanics: pull the puck back (wind up), shift your weight, roll your wrists over and propel the puck (the release), and follow thru towards the target area. I’m just as strong, and I understand how, but I can’t shoot effectively from that side. I know the technique obviously.  I’ve experienced the sensation of a good shot (on the other side, at least), but there is so much timing, coordination and “je ne sais pas” that I am like a beginner. How can that be?

I’ve struggled with this. The Divas’ shooting skills are disproportionally poor compared to their skating, passing and team play. I look at the shooting skills of adult women players I’ve coached for five or six years, and I’m perplexed by their lack of ability. How can some women shoot well and some just can’t get a shot off in traffic (or even while all alone)? I want our points to be able to get shots on net 6 inches off the ice from the offensive blue line. Instead our shots usually end up being a pass to the other team.  How can a ten year old girl whip the puck off her stick to the top shelf where the peanut butter is kept? And many adult women look like they are shoveling rather than shooting the puck?

Here is what I’ve learned: There is no mystery. There is no magic. This is one of those skills that require quality repetitions to master.

There is not enough time on the ice to get enough shooting repetitions, because there are stationary and moving wrist shots, flex shots, snap shots and backhands to work on. We always do shooting drills, but we have too much else to work on, and if we are going to get any exercise we need to skate.

So here is the solution: players who want to be able to shoot competently need to work both on and off the ice on their shots. The most important thing to accept is if you want to learn to shoot you have to shoot pucks off ice. We have an off-ice shooting corner at our rink. We’ve given ice fee scholarships for Divas who have shot 1000 pucks. Players who have progressed the most are those who have made it a point to shoot at home. We have a Diva who had her stick by her bed and shot pucks all summer and came back with much improved skills. You might have to shoot until you have blisters, but being able to score is worth it!

The problem with shootingI challenged the Divas to shoot 50 pucks a day for 100 days through Give it 100. I’m encouraging Divas to watch a short video of off ice shooting technique before they shoot and then commit to spending 10 minutes a day for 100 days working on their skills. The payoff for this work is once you acquire this skill you will have it forever. If you have a good wrist shot already then you can work on a backhand, or a good quick release on a flex shot, or a forehand to back hand move and elevate the puck. I am taking the challenge myself to learn how to shoot right handed. I’m hoping a pick up some ideas about teaching shooting skills, but I know it is mostly about quality reps. I can feel my skills improving already after a hundred shots. Consider using a platform like 10,000 pucks.

Remember: If you can’t shoot you can’t score. And Success is improving on the previous day.

What I am describing is called the bowl of rice theory: one grain of preparation at a time. It builds until you have half the cup full. Do your tasks. Hone your craft. Like a bank account you can’t take out what you haven’t put in.
To get the best results you need to get on the edge of your abilities; struggle; practice deeply.

Let the skill sink into your body. Be willing to get in HEAVY.

What to Work On:

  • Types of shots. And things to think about.
  • Watch a video before you start so you are practicing proper technique.
  • Always look at your target before you shoot.
  • Wrist shot – roll your bottom wrist over. Wind up, release, follow thru. Transfer your weight towards the target.
  • Snap shot with your toes towards target. Feel how fast your hands need to move to propel the puck.
  • Stick flex shot and pass – have both your hands out in front of body. Use the flex of the stick as you push down to propel the puck.
  • Flip  shot to elevate the puck in close quarters– either skate over puck or pull it in towards your toes: open the blade of your stick and shoot off the toe of the stick; hands to the sky on the follow thru. For tight quarters over goalie or to move puck up boards – glass and out.
  • Backhand flip – place your top hand as low as your knee to ‘open’ back side of blade of stick to elevate.
  • Backhand – make sure you turn your head to see the target you are passing or shooting towards.