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What Is Hockey Development (How To Add Rocket Boosters To Your Career Development)

Listen to the full podcast version HERE

Maximizing your chance of playing D1 or pro hockey is dependent on how much you develop and how fast.

Seems so simple and obvious right?

I'd agree!

The problem is simple & clear... Finding an effective solution, however, is the tough part.

So how do you make leaps in your development faster?

The short answer is boring... but timeless.

You need to build an effective strategy.

See here’s the difference between elite players and average players:

Elite Players:

  1. Almost always have a strategy for their development

  2. Go all out on this strategy (eg, focus their time & energy along with working with development coaches).

Normal Players:

  1. Rarely have a detailed strategy

  2. Hope they ‘worked hard enough’ to get to their goals (try random stuff and hope it works out).

Which category do you think you fit more into? Be honest!

So what will you get out of this article?

If you’re an elite player already, this article will help you improve your development strategy so you get the most in-game benefits from your training.

If you’re not an elite player. Then this article is going to put you on the path to becoming one.

Sound good? Let's start

Why Strategy Matters

It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”

(This gave me chills watching it)

You see, your training strategy is more than just reps and sets.

It's not just the execution of 10,000 hours of training.

But also the careful planning on how to spend those hours.

That's the dark. The private victories you stack up alone.

On the other hand.

The highlight reel goals.

Wearing gold medals and holding silver trophies.

Signing college commitments and pro contracts.

That's the light. It's what the world sees.

You can’t have one without the other.

Therefore, behind every great athlete, is a deep, well-thought-out strategy for greatness (and of course a ton of hard work).

A strategy can have many editors & engineers. The athlete, a coach, or a team of coaches and experts.

Think of Lebron who supposedly invests over 1,000,000 in his performance each year.

Strategy means we look into the future and say: “This is how I am going to make decisions in the future”

Strategy is a high-level plan designed to achieve one or more long-term goals. Importantly, a strategy involves considering conditions of uncertainty (the things we can't control).

The reason strategy matters is that we have limited time, energy, and resources.

We all only have 24 hours in a day.

We all have limited time to reach our potential.

We all only have so much energy to spend.

Without a strategy. You are by definition... lost & confused.

Every day you do not have a strategy in mind, you are hoping things will work out like going to the casino to get rich instead of investing in yourself and working to earn the money you want.

It should be clear by now that relying on pure luck is not the ideal way to succeed in anything.

How do you avoid relying on luck?

By having a good strategy.

Having a good strategy does 4 main things:

  1. Increase your rate of development

  2. Increases your chances of playing better

  3. Increase your chances of playing more

  4. Increase your chances of playing at the next level

This is how you stack the deck in your favour when it comes to hockey success.

The Right Time For Everything

Development is about timing.

You want to learn the right things at the right time.

In the future, I will show more drills and detailed how-tos for your skills.

Right now, I want you to be moving in the right general direction in your hockey game.

This article is building a foundation to help you understand how to design your entire skills training strategy.

This is not ‘more important’ than doing the actual work.

It is the first step to doing QUALITY work and gaining more leverage for your time.

This is how you are going to get to the next level with your skills.

I define hockey skills development as:

The sequence of actions that one executes to increase their hockey abilities.

As I mentioned only have 24 hours in a day, so we all have the same day to work with.

So what is there to do?

The key is to get more value out of each unit of time you spend working on something.

This is called leverage.

I define leverage as: the amount of value you get back for what you put in.

Higher leverage means you get more for what you put in.

For example if you practice and get 1% better and another person gets 5% better in that same practice, they leveraged their time more effectively (5x more leverage).

Its about getting the most value out of your time.

So if you want to get better at finding leverage, you need to think about the sequence of actions. Meaning precisely what training you will do now and later, to improve in the areas holding you back.

This will allow you to build skills effectively.

Think of development like driving a car to a new destination.

Normal players just start driving and hope they get to there.

Elite players look at everything that’s in front of them and come up with an adaptable plan.

The elite player who wants to get to his destination (goal/target) looks at:

  1. The car they have (body/skills)

  2. The map (what they need to do, where they need to go, when they need to do it)

  3. The traffic (what other players are running into)

  4. The weather conditions (obstacles that will likely occur that are outside their control)

  5. Then they move with confidence (but remain humble enough to always learn)

My goal with my content is to help you work through all of these things so that you can become an elite player too.

Development Is Personal

Now naturally you are wanting me to give you the secret sauce that will 10x your development in 10 weeks.

I have to break it to you - there is not one secret sauce once you get to the higher levels that will solve all of your skill development problems.

Of course, if you have never worked with a skill coach you may see some massive gains from a cookie-cutter program. I will assume anyone reading this is at least an AA player and is past that point by now.

If you have gotten to that base level you must realize that a one-size-fits-all all program for skills development will not give you the most leverage.

The way to get the most leverage is to realize you need a personal plan.

“Development is Personal” - Darryl Belfry (Top NHL Development Coach)

How Do We Make It Personal?

Here is the mistake people make when it comes to teaching skills to hokey players: they assume that everyone needs the same thing.

So they try to craft every player into a similar mould.

Hockey players are not all built the same, they have different strengths and weaknesses.

So why would you train them the same?

What's the solution?

The solution is to follow principles and then apply them uniquely to each player.

When it comes to working on your own development, you must learn some of the core principles I teach all of my clients.


Instead of trying 10 things at once, I believe in prioritizing what will give you the most value for your time.

To do this you first want to understand your Identity. You can learn more about that here.

Then you want to understand your current role within the team. You can learn more about that at the bottom of the Identity article mentioned above.

Now that you understand what you are aiming for currently and also long term.

You now want to ask yourself: What skills are currently holding me back?

This is where I typically will look at my client's game film and look to understand what skills they may be lacking.

I then work with them to Identify the top 1-3 skills that are holding them back from making the plays they want to make or NEED to make.

Then we look at what is working.

We ask ourselves: What can I double down on to get even more results?

Now we want to be careful here that we don’t put too much emphasis on this because reliance on strengths can lead to weaknesses.

For example, if a player relies on his size for his young years, and then suddenly loses this advantage, he will now be behind.

If instead that player learned to develop other skill assets, he would be equal to or ahead of these other players.

Now that we know our strengths and weaknesses, it’s about developing a plan of attack.

What works best for my guys is having them look at the whole year and ask themselves where they want to be by the end of the year.

This doesn’t just mean how many goals assists, or wins.

It means what skills do they want to have developed based on their current strengths and weaknesses and where they want to go (Next Level for them).

They may want to move up lines, they may want to earn a new role on the team, they may want to get called up to the next level, they may want to move up next year and sign with a better team.

Each of these requires a different approach.

Now that we understand the target, we can focus on the actions to get us there.

This is where we lay out our monthly, and weekly general strategies, then lay out daily plans to take us one quality step forward each day.

These do not need to be done on strict 30-day and 7-day schedules, but it is much easier to do it this way.

I have found it most helpful to complete the weekly check-ins on Sunday evenings after all of your games are done.

Then it is very efficient to complete monthly Overviews on the last Sunday of each month.

  1. Monthly Overview

  2. Weekly General Plan

  3. Daily Plan

Design your 3 hour work day

  1. Actual Session Plans

  2. Practice Plans

  3. Work on your biggest strength

  4. Have 3-5 drills to progress through

  5. Work on the biggest current weakness

  6. Before/After Practice Mini Plans

Building this stuff requires a lot of upfront work, but it will be worth it.

You can also steal all of these plans that I have built for my clients by joining one of our programs.

Study Your KPIs

KPIs are your key performance indicators.

Each player has differnt KPIs.

Your KPIs are based on your role.

If you are an offensive forward, your KPIs might be shots on the net and goals.

If you're a shutdown defenseman, your KPIs might be hits, takeaways, and forced dumps.

The two key things to pay attention to once you have established your KPIs in your game are frequency and success rate.

Frequency - means the amount of times something happens in a game.

Success Rate - the amount of times you generate your desired outcome.

This can be broken up into a 3 part (more, better, new).

I stole this from a business book by Alex Hormozi).

1. More

First, you want to increase the frequency with the things that you already have evidence of working.

For example, if a certain zone entry works, then you will want to do more of that first.

2. Better

Then you want to increase the success rate of that play meaning you do it better.

3. New

Then finally, you can look at new things.

The biggest mistake players make is focusing too much on new things instead of doing more of what works and then getting better at it.

Slowing It Down and Speeding It Up

To master anything we want to first slow it down to get the mechanics, then speed it up to use it in games.

The mistake I made when going deep on mechanics while working with Train 2.0 was that I tried to always go slow and move perfectly.

I wanted every rep to be perfect.

But the problem with this is you end up skilled, but only at slower speeds.

This is great for learning the beginning of your movements, but you will soon learn that the elite players do everything well at speed - that’s why they are so good.

Look at this goal from Nate Mackinnon.

Many players could probably make these moves fast around Pylons but with crappy mechanics.

Some players could probably make these moves in slow motion and with good mechanics.

But what makes someone world-class at a skill is their ability to execute it with speed and good mechanics, and at the right time.

Now, we can’t all move as fast as Nate, but we can probably learn something from the way he trains.

The Rule Of Thirds From Nate Mackinnon

Here are some clips of Nate Mackinnon training in the summer:

Notice how he’s messing up pretty often?

This could be because he’s a little rusty, but I venture to say this is because he is actually pushing himself to make challenging moves AT SPEED.

When you push yourself hard enough, you enter something I call, the development zone.

This is a place where you are making mistakes 1/3 of the time.

You are making mistakes because you are on the edge of what you can handle.

When you spend enough time here, you force your brain and body to adapt.

Then when you get into games, you can dial things back about 10% and the game feels easier.

This means you must become comfortable being uncomfortable.

You must also make it okay to mess up once and a while, especially in practice.

Give yourself a failure allowance of 3/10 on average.

If you start to dip below, then you should probably slow things down and figure out what is mechanically not working or what decision needs to be tweaked.

Then once you enter a game situation, you will find that you can take 5-10% off of your speed and execute in that ideal success range of 8/10 success/failure or 80% success rate.

Notice how even in games I’m giving you room to mess up?

Have a Failure Allowance

This is the key to having more success in games - allowing yourself permission to mess up.

This doesn't mean you go and turn over the puck on the blueline every shift and give up breakaways.

But it does mean it’s ok if you make a move and lose the battle, or if you take a shot and miss the net.

It’s expected that you are going to mess up once and a while and that’s okay.

All you want to do it pay attention to how often you do.

If it starts to get higher than 20% in games for any situation, then it’s time to consider getting better at it, or reducing the amount of times you do it.

For example, if you keep trying a toe drag and you turn it over 50% of the time, it might be time to consider you either get way better at the move, or consider not using the move much more until you have levelled it up in practice.

But remember, practice is where you expand on these things and learn how to do them.

So in practice, you can be in that 30% failure rate without question - that’s how you develop (in the development zone baby!!)

Study The Best (And What Works)

Now this leads me into a note about the future of my work.

My mission is to make high level hockey training available to everyone so they can unlock their potential.

I now understand that to do that, I must be better.

So I will be implementing a study method of looking at what the best players are doing on the ice and finding patterns.

I call this Pattern of the Pros.

Success Leaves Clues.

So I will look deeply at what the best are doing and how players are moving up levels to bring you higher quality actionable information.

I encourage you to do that same.

Learn from others mistakes.

Learn from others success.

You it doesn't always have to be your own actions that teach you, let others teach you too.

I hope this helps you master your skills and take your skills training system to a whole new level!

Let's be clear here, this is not a comprehensive review of what it takes to build a great skills system.

This article was designed to give you a foundational understanding first.

In the future, we will get more detailed and look at what the best in the game have done to get there and see what we can learn from it.


If you are a U15+ AAA, junior, college, or pro player looking to move up levels apply here to have us help you unlock the next level in your game with either personal or group coaching using our Identity Shift Method that has helped or clients consistently move up levels, move up lineups, and have fun playing the game again!

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Who is Corson Searles?

I am a former player & mental/performance advisor for AAA, junior, college, and pro hockey players. I am obsessed with dissecting atheletic performance potential, lifestyle design, and hockey development.


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