Private hockey lessons can be a valuable tool for some hockey players, and not for others. Are they right for you?
By Matt Schoepflin
Have you ever thought about getting private hockey lessons for you or your child? As a player growing up, I never really thought much about private lessons. And with the exception of some skating lessons when I was really young, I never took private hockey lessons.
I decided to write about this subject because it’s a question that I get a lot as a coach. And as with everything I write, I strive to be as honest and transparent as possible. In reality, while private lessons can be an extremely valuable tool for some hockey players, they may not be necessary for others.
The Power of One-on-One Instruction
The first obvious benefit to getting private hockey lessons is the one-on-one time you get with a coach. They offer the ability to really break down your strengths and weaknesses on an-in depth level, and then allow you to work on them. A chance to really fine tune those individual skills that don’t always get the focus needed in practice.
The reality is that practices are team oriented first and individual oriented second. Private lessons allow us to reverse this priority and focus on those little details that often don’t get the time required in a team practice.
For example, if you struggle with handling rebounds on your backhand in front of the net, it’s not possible to spend a lot of time in a team practice focusing on this detail. Of course you will possibly get a few opportunities in practice, or even a few minutes at the beginning or end, but that’s simply not enough to really get in the work that you need. It’s just not realistic to have 19 other players standing around while you focus on one small detail.
Things like this are what private lessons are made for: To focus on those details that are so important to success, but don’t fit into a team practice plan.
Confidence is Key
The next reason that I feel private hockey lessons are so valuable is because they focus on accountability. In a private lesson there’s no place to hide or blend in. All eyes are on you, the player.
I think this is important because it will become pretty obvious pretty quickly who is there for the right reasons. And when I say the right reasons, I mean who is there to genuinely work hard and improve. Believe it or not, there are plenty of players who take private hockey lessons but don’t have the right mindset to really maximize their time.
Plain and simple, your boundaries are pushed (or should be getting pushed) and you should feel challenged each and every time you take a lesson.
The last reason I think private lessons are so valuable, in my opinion, is that it comes down to one simple word: confidence. It always seems to be the forgotten idea when it comes to why private hockey lessons are so valuable; but for me, it’s the most important reason behind getting them.
If you or your child plays hockey and you’ve been following this blog, then you know how important I think confidence is, and how it’s something that should be worked on every day. The reality is that great hockey players are confident. And on the flip side, players that are struggling lack confidence.
To some that may sound like a very generalized statement, but in actuality I think it’s true in every situation. I’ve never met a player that is struggling that is genuinely confident. I’ve come across a few that have tried to put up a confident front, but once you start to dig a bit the real truth comes out.
One of the biggest components of being confident is building off of small successes. And that’s precisely what private hockey lessons are all about. Each drill you do or area of your game you focus on, is really ingraining that success in your brain, and in the process making you more confident.
In other words, the repetition and focus of private lessons is not only building that individual element to your game; more importantly, it’s also building your confidence in the process.
From a coaching perspective, I think that aspect is the most rewarding part of giving private lessons: To see a player’s confidence continue to grow week after week is simply amazing.
The Dollars and Sense of Private Hockey Lessons
At this point you may gather that I am a strong proponent of the value of private hockey lessons, and why I believe in them so much. However, I also acknowledge that they aren’t for everyone.
First and foremost, I’m a big believer that lessons are only a good idea if the player is actually interested in them. Way too often, parents want their kids to get better more than their son or daughter really wants to. In these situations, the sad fact is that money is being wasted and the player isn’t getting a whole lot better.
It’s like anything in life. If you want to be good at something YOU have to want to work for it. That’s what I love about hard work; it can’t be faked. So my advice is that if your kid really isn’t that interested, don’t waste your time or money.
Speaking of money, it’s only fair that I bring up the elephant in the room: the cost. Plain and simple, private hockey lessons are a financial commitment. And while I firmly believe it’s worth it if you can afford them, I also understand that everyone’s financial situation is different. And if you can’t afford it, that doesn’t mean that you, or your son or daughter, can’t have a successful hockey career. Lessons are simply an alternative to working on individual skills.
My last point touches once more on the subject of finances. If you think that one or two lessons is going to make a difference, you’re also wasting your time and money. The truth is, private lessons are effective because they allow the smaller, minor skills to be worked on and developed. These skills don’t improve in an hour; they improve over the course of weeks and months of repeatedly focusing on the same habits. So if you really think that spending money on one or two lessons for a quick “pick me up” is worth it, I completely disagree. Save your money.
Again, as a coach and instructor I am biased toward lessons because they are a big part of my life. However, I also wouldn’t endorse them as much as I do if I didn’t believe in them and the results they can offer.
Private hockey lessons are a way to build your confidence and elevate your game to another level. This is achieved by concentrating on the little details in an environment where your work ethic and focus is put on the spot every time. That’s when private lessons are something I highly recommend.
Matt Schoepflin is a frequent contributor to CrossIceHockey.com. He is passionate about coaching and giving back to the game that has given him so much.