What a great question. Most people would hear this and chuckle to themselves. Seriously, who needs a shooting coach anyway, isn’t that a little much? The answer is that all players, from the youngest to the oldest, from a beginner to a pro can use a shooting coach. Quite simply, it is another tool in the toolbox to help get you to that next level. That next level may mean an Atom B player moving on to Atom AA the next year or a QMJHL player who goes undrafted to the NHL moving onto a pro career. Simply put, everyone can use a shooting coach.
Over the years we have witnessed this type of unique non-traditional training growing in popularity. From power skating to skills coaches to nutrition and strength coaches, these were all skill sets that were gradually introduced to the game of hockey to provide players who wanted the extra edge to get a foothold over their competition.
Case in point, I remember being at a rink in PEI five or six years ago and watching Dion Phaneuf working with a skating instructor at six in the morning. The two of them were working on the basics. Simple drills you would see Novice age kids doing. It was great for my son and his teammates to see while waiting to get on the ice. Here is a pro player working on the basics, on his own time, to get better for the next season, at 6 am!
Shooting is much the same way, you can always use a refresher as an elite player to get the fundamentals back in play, reintroduce yourself to your power leg and power hand. Focus on a quick, hard, accurate shot.
Teams now employ these coaches on a full-time basis. Skills coaches are booked solid over the summer months with pros looking to keep sharp and challenge themselves to improve in the off-season. Gone are the days where you just show up to a camp or tryout and expect to make a team. The competition is fierce and finding that niche training that will get you over the top is critical.
As a shooting and puck handling coach I justify my existence, so to speak, by providing players with the skill to create time and space through focused training in the art of shooting. My goal is to train players to make a goalie’s life miserable. These are the fundamentals which I teach in my programs, but I also focus on what I would call advanced shooting with an explosive release to go along with explosive foot speed! Students of the game learn how to change the angle of the release with lightning speed and catch defensemen and goaltenders flat footed for a brief second...enough to get the puck to hit the twine at the back of the net! Just watch Austin Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His release, his positioning is masterful, and deadly. His ability to pull a puck in close and used the D-man as a screen to get the shot on net with great velocity is not happening by accident. It is a learned puck skill that only happens through controlled repetition done as fast and as quick as possible without ever loosing perfect form and structure as a hockey player.
It is so gratifying and humbling when a coach of any sport can share skill development that makes a difference to the athlete, to the game.
The future of the game, with its ever-increasing quickness through foot speed, with its bobbing and weaving at alarming speed requires and demands that players possess the finest of detail with respect to puck handling, control and shooting velocity without ever losing perfect form and structure, the hockey stance!
Whoever strives to possess such a skill set could very well be the next great hockey player gracing the ice surfaces of the NHL!