Whether you’re stuck at home because of a pandemic, or you’re just trying to make the most of time away from the ice, practicing your shooting at home is a great way to maintain and improve your shooting skills on your own time. Getting started with basic shooting drills during dryland training is easy if you approach it with a plan. Here are a few tips to get you started.
All Shooting Practice Is Good Practice
Time spent practicing is time spent improving, as long as you’re continuing to develop good habits. When practicing shooting at home, remember that your setup doesn’t have to be perfect: Work with what you have. If you don’t have the space or tools mentioned below, adapt your setup to make it your own. Your work will improve your shot, not with or without a specific setup.
Choosing Your Space, Surface & Backboard
Finding the right space will be the biggest challenge. Hopefully, you have a hard, flat surface at home that’s at least 10’ x 20’ (a standard two-car garage is about 20’ x 20’). Bigger is better, but this will give you space to work on shots from different angles and effective distances. When working on shooting from the side, move your target/goal to the base of the long side, so you’ll have more room on the sides to practice from an angle. When you’re working on head-on slapshots, move the goal to the short side so you’ll have more shooting distance.
Use HockeyShot synthetic ice tiles or a plastic shooting board to create a shooting pad with an ice-like dryland surface. Whether you can create a full mini-rink with HockeyShot tiles, or just a small square to set up your shots, adding an ice-like surface to your home training space is well worth the effort. If you’re stuck with whatever surface your home comes with, the harder and smoother the better. Poured concrete (like a garage) is best, but blacktop or asphalt can work, or even hard-packed dirt, if that’s all you have. From there, you can improve your shooting surface with a DIY hockey shooting pad from any hard, smooth material found in your garage or at a home renovation store. Preferred DIY shooting pad materials include:
- High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) sheets
- Flooring tiles
- Linoleum sheets
- Roll-up plastic
- Whiteboard / markerboard
- Flattened cardboard boxes (in a pinch)
The ideal backstop is soft, so that you don’t get dangerous rebounds firing back at you, or flying off and hitting a window. It should also provide ample coverage to catch your missed shots (but you never miss). Even if you think you have thoroughly covered the area behind your target with a backstop, consider what would happen if your puck or ball is redirected: What could it damage? Then adjust and compensate.
What to Use for Backstops:
- Large netting like a golf net or fishing net
- Spare goals or goal netting
- An old mattress
- Garden fencing or chain fencing.
Bad Ideas for Backstops:
- Home siding
- Decorative fencing
- Garage doors
- Anything placed in front of, or near windows or vehicles
Practicing in a Small Space – Apartment/Dorm
A garage, driveway, or yard might not be available to you. So how do you practice shooting drills when you’re stuck in your apartment or maybe even a dorm room? While you might think of mini or knee hockey as just a game, breaking down basic shooting mechanics into focused drills can help develop your skills, instead of the free-for-all that describes most mini-hockey play. And mini hockey fits well in even a tiny shoebox dorm room (if your beds are pushed to the sides.)
While you may not be able to pull off a full slapper inside your small walk-up apartment, practicing wrist shot and snapshot mechanics is certainly possible. Make as much room as you can around your practice space, set up a small target (following the backstop guidance above) and work on the fundamentals of a wrist shot.
Set Up a Goal or Target
For the most effective shooting training at home, you’ll want to shoot at a regulation-sized goal. With a full 6’ x 4’ goal, you have nearly endless options for dryland shooting drills with an array of choices in magnetic targets and shooting screens that attach to the goal frame.
But not everyone has a regulation goal or the space for one, and in many cases, a mini-goal or skill net can be better for more focused training, especially in tight quarters. In a pinch, use what you have: An empty box, a bucket or storage bin, or get creative with indoor or lawn furniture flipped on its side.
Pucks & Balls for At-Home Shooting
Keeping with the theme of “use what you have,” use what you have most of, or even a combination of pucks and balls. If you have a hard, smooth shooting pad, like HockeyShot tiles, or even HDPE, a standard puck will work well. If you’re shooting from a rougher surface, a low bounce street hockey ball or an inline hockey puck is a better option.
Shooting Drills: High, Low, Left, Right
Unless you’re lucky enough to have skateable synthetic ice tiles at home, your shooting drills will be confined to accuracy drills from the standing position (not moving) on a shooting pad. If you have a larger goal, like a full-sized goal or even a mini-goal, add smaller targets to improve your accuracy. Combine your position relative to the goal with target placement to create a variety of shooting situations representing the holes a goalie may leave open in real play. Break down your space relative to the goal into zones in a half-circle around the goal:
- Left, Low Angle
- Left, High Angle
- Right, High Angle
- Right, Low Angle
Set up your shooting pad in each of these and shoot reps of 10 before moving to the next (or however many pucks and balls you have on hand before needing to retrieve them). If you have more space, add distance to each of these zones (near and far) for twice the number of shooting zones.
Move your targets each time you shoot from one of these zones. Do one set of all five or ten zones, shooting only at targets that are in (or represent the area of) the upper right (1 hole) corner. On the next set, shoot from each zone at the upper left (3 hole) corner, and so on.
Keep Track of Your Progress
If you do ten reps from each zone, targeting all five “holes”—that’s 250 shots! How will you know if you’re improving your accuracy unless you’re keeping track of your hits between each set? Each time you move to a new zone, write down, or mark in notes on your phone, how many accurate hits you had and tally them at the end.
How’s your dryland training going? Send us your photos of how you’re practicing while at home and we’ll share them with our fans.
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