Exercising Character Muscles CC#03

3 Video Clips of Coaches Exercising Muscles of Character

Coach Saban expending energy in a Football Clinic to define Character and Self-Discipline for players, parents and coaches in attendance. Players need to understand the importance of doing what they are supposed to do, when they are supposed to do it, the way they were taught to do it and that is not too much of an ask. Coach Saban setting the expectations.

Self-Discipline Character Muscle Gets Some Exercise

Truthfulness – Easy to Say, Hard to Do

The best thing a Coach can do for a player, tell them the truth. The best thing a Parent can do for their child, tell them the truth. The best thing a person/athlete can do is be honest with yourself, tell the truth. The truth matters, if you hide from the truth, you will never address the work that needs to happen to get better. So many people hide from the truth, and that’s the truth. You are not doing the person/athlete any favours by not being truthful.

Truthfulness Character Muscle Gets Some Exercise
Effort, Best Energy Effort Investment Character Muscle Gets Some Exercise

Best Effort – Energy Investment

Coaches should not have to coach your level of effort and energy at any time. In the clip the Coach is coaching the Best Effort Character Muscle even though he says “you wouldn’t be here if I had to coach that”. We are human and occasionally even the elite athletes may need their Best Effort Character Muscle exercised.

Building Character CC#02

Character Drives Performance

Building Character

Dr. Jim Loehr has studied the relationship between character and performance outcomes. There is a huge link between building character and performance outcomes. He explains, “Everyone of us know how to build a muscle, you place demands on the muscle by investing energy in it and consistent energy investment spawns growth and that metaphor of the muscle of the physical body is exactly how you build the muscle of character”. There must be an investment in energy expended to grow muscles of character, it’s no different than building a muscle in the body.


Have a listen to Dr. Loehr’s short video below, X’s & O’s OF BUILDING CHARACTER, he provides strategies to building character muscles with players.

You Don’t Need a PHD in Character to Coach Character

Strategies to Building Character X’s & O’s

  • Select a character muscle theme of the day or the week (Persistence, Positivity, Patience, Focus, Self-Discipline).
  • Have every player select a character muscle they are going to work on every day and write it down in their journal.
  • Integrate coaching character muscles into your daily coaching work with players on an individual & group basis.
  • Display articles and quotes to drive home a character muscle.
  • When character happens, highlight it.
  • Use an injury as an opportunity to exercise the resilience muscle.
  • Have former Athletes come talk to the team about how character has positively influenced their lives in and away from sports.
  • Be a Role Model for the character strengths you want your players to develop.
  • Have each player create a set of core character values they will use to guide the personal choices they make every day.
Character Muscles of High Performing People


You don’t need a PHD to coach character. The data overwhelmingly supports character drives performance on and off the playing surface. A player’s sport’s career is short, building performance character muscles will help a player’s performance development and position the player for success in life after sports.

A Values System CC#01

An Example of a Team’s Values System

A Team’s Values System – Purpose

A Coach’s Values System is the first step in Coaching Character with players. Character is about what you think, what you do and what is important to you. A set of core values are essential to the thought process and decision making.

A set of core values and beliefs for a team define the character of the Coach, Team and Organization. A set of core values informs and educates the team about the character of their leader, the coaching staff and the organization. The best way to coach character is by being a role model.

A good coach will always do what is best for the team, first and foremost, and that should guide players in making the right personal choices to remain an integral part of the team. Players would be wise to ensure their personal core values are aligned with the team’s and that should guide the personal choices they make.

There are a lot of good reasons for a Head Coach to create a Team’s Values System, such as, but not limited to the following:

  1. Define the Head Coach’s values and beliefs that will be used to make decisions on all matters related to the team.
  2. Share what is important for the team to be successful.
  3. Tool to inform and educate.
  4. Create the right culture and sets standards.
  5. Guide players to make the right personal choices in their development.
  6. Keep the group pulling in the same direction.
  7. Provide focus for daily work.
  8. Take a step in making Coaching Character the #1 priority.
  9. Share a common purpose.
  10. Build relationships with team members.
Every Team Member Must Be Pulling In The Same Direction


The evidence is overwhelming, character drives performance. A team’s set of core values and beliefs is a key action taken by a Head Coach to define what is important to the coach, players, team, and organization.

If you want to be part of a good team and organization you need to know their core values and beliefs and make sure your personal decision making aligns with the team’s values and beliefs.

Can You Coach Character? CC#00


Character Drives Performance

Dr. Jim Loehr has spent a working lifetime learning about how character makes us stronger and happier human beings. The data overwhelmingly supports character drives performance on and off the playing surface. The character strengths of high performing people are the same character strengths of high performing athletes. A short clip below from Dr. Loehr who shares what the top coaches have already figured out. The elite coaches running successful programs have made coaching Character their #1 priority because character drives performance.

Character Drives Performance

What is Character?

Character is what you think, what you do and what is important to you. Knowledge is socially constructed so what you think, what you do and what is important to you can be influenced by good coaching. Nick Saban provides his definition of character in the short clip below. Nick tells players the truth in plain language and invests time and energy in setting expectations with players to strengthen their commitment to character building. Nick Saban is educating players about performance character strengths every day, it’s part of his daily coaching routine, he wants the kids on his team to make the right choices. He knows there aren’t a lot of personal choices in becoming a high performing person/athlete, it takes what it takes, but he wants his players to know what it takes and to make the right choices.


Coach Fitzgerald and Coach Shaw talk about the importance of coaching character to help student athletes make the right personal choices to be successful. Coach Shaw is right, not every player can be saved, but once a player is in his program he will make every effort to help him make good decisions to be successful as a student athlete and person.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald and Coach David Shaw Talk About Personal Choices


The data is overwhelming, character drives performance. Coaches, parents, teachers and leaders should want every person they work with to be successful in life. Every one of us is responsible for the personal choices we make in life. But not every one of us is positioned with the right information and knowledge necessary to make good personal choices.

As parents, coaches, teachers and leaders we have an opportunity to help those we interact with on a regular basis become knowledgeable about Performance Character Strengths and to influence their Values System to align with making good personal choices. Teams and organizations are only as good as their people so it makes sense to teach and coach character to create high performers on and off the playing surface.

TLPF Hockey we will share short posts on ways of coaching character because it is important to the development process of the person/athlete.

A Good Forechecking Team Has The Right Mindset

Forechecking Neutral Zone 1-2-2

It Takes the Right Mindset to Forecheck Effectively

The X’s and O’s of forechecking are shared in the video clips below. Forechecking is a defensive tactic deployed to take away time and space and create potential to force puck turnovers in all three zones of the rink.

The X’s and O’s of the game are important because players need to know their roles and how to execute but you need to have the right mindset to be a good forechecking team. You have to be a group that enjoys getting in the opponent’s face and being tough to play against. Good defensive teams have the right mindset and that makes the difference, it’s more than the X’s and O’s.

The NHL’s Dallas Stars developed their identity in the 2019/20 season. The group developed a reputation for being tough to play against and their identity took them to the NHL Stanley Cup finals. Take a listen to Coach Rick Bowness talk about the importance of the right mindset, the mindset of being in your face and wanting to be hard to play against both defensively and offensively. It takes a work ethic not every team is willing to consistently bring to the rink.

Forechecking Video Clips – The X’s and O’s of Forechecking

The 3 forechecking clips below are shared to provide you with an explanation of how forechecking structures (patterns) are designed to create pressure to eliminate time and space and create the potential to force puck turnovers.

Hockey Canada Presentation On Offensive and Neutral Zone Forechecking Fundamentals
Coach Mike Eaves Presentation – Offensive Zone Forechecking “L” Forecheck
Hockey Think Tank’s Topher Scott Breaks Down the New York Islanders Forecheck

Key Elements of Strong Forechecking Teams

The tweet below from @TLPF_Hockey provides an overview of some of the key elements which will be expanded upon in this post.

Key Elements of Forechecking
  1. Pressure The Puck – Applying pressure on the puck carrier is one of the keys to taking away a team’s time and space. The more time and space the puck carrier has to make a good play with the puck the more difficult he/she becomes to defend against.
  2. Take Away Offensive Puck Support – Every puck carrier should have a minimum of two passing options at all times and good offensive teams support the puck carrier to set quality passing lane options. A key element of a good forechecking team is to takeaway passing lane options and exit options with their forecheck pattern (structure) and tactics.
  3. Gap Control – Closing the gap on the puck and the puck carrier by F1 and defenders (F2, F3, D1 and D2) to block exits and take away passing options and the carry option. Playing the right gap as a group with the D supporting the F’s is key to a good forecheck result.
  4. Protecting Middle Ice (Between the Dots) – Forecheckers take away their opponent’s ability to carry or pass the puck through the middle of the ice surface by taking an inside out approach angle checking.
  5. Speed & Physicality – The forechecking unit use speed and physicality to defend. The ability to change speeds to take away their opponent’s ice with the puck is critical to forcing the opponent outside the dots and separating the puck carrier from the puck.
  6. Defending in Layers – As a forechecking unit you support the puck defensively at different levels in the zone. It’s important to not get caught below the puck as a forechecking unit. Always inside out control.
  7. Finishing the Check – No need for concussion checking, a good shoulder to shoulder check to create puck separation as part of your angling technique gets the job done. Playing body, stick, puck or stick, body, puck but not just the puck.
Absence of Forecheck Pressure on Face-off Loss by the Penguins – “Watching” Instead of Forechecking


The right mindset is more important than X’s and O’s and technical hockey skills. Every young player aspiring to reach the elite level should take pride in their defensive skills. Don’t let yourself be outworked and take pride in being hard to play against. Play a 200′ game, win your share of puck battles and be a good forechecker and checker in all three zones.

Your best players have to play more with the puck than without the puck. That requires your best players to take pride in their forechecking and checking skills and defensive game to win the time of possession game. On an elite team, the best offensive players are also the best defensive players.

Torts Pregame Speech – It takes guts to play in traffic and to compete on the forecheck and be tough to play against. It’s good advice because being a good player is about the mindset you decide to play with, the right mindset is a difference maker and Tort’s knows this from years of coaching experience.

Changing Speed & Direction to Create Time & Space

McDavid’s Ability to Change Speed & Direction Make Him Difficult to Defend

This post was motivated by reading the tweet below from @CoachRevak. Take a listen to Dwayne Blais @NSDAhockey talk about how a player’s ability to change speed and direction with the puck, to create time and space, make him/her more difficult to defend than a player who just has speed. There are lots of players who are fast but not a lot of players who have different speeds and can change direction in an instant with control of their edges.

The ability to change speed and direction are skills necessary to execute almost every tactic in the game, such as, but not limited to the following:

  • Beating a defender in a One on One match up,
  • Cycling the puck down low below the hash marks in the Offensive Zone,
  • Supporting the puck on the Attack Rush,
  • Regrouping in the Neutral Zone,
  • Advancing the puck in the Offensive Zone at different levels,
  • Breaking out of the Defensive Zone.

Being able to skate fast is an asset to any player but there are lots of players who can skate fast and take away your time and space with the puck because of their ability to match speed.

Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon’s names came up in the podcast because they are both skilled in executing change of speed and direction and controlling the puck to create time and space and make plays. There is no player in the world more skilled than Connor McDavid in changing speed and direction and controlling the puck in tight spaces. Take a listen to him talk about his Top Five Plays in the video below and watch his execution in the clips to examine why speed and change of direction make him so difficult to defend.

Connor McDavid’s Change of Speed and Direction Make Him Almost Impossible to Defend

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate Practice is a concept important to developing skills. Watch the video below to examine the technique and proper fundamentals McDavid is working on with Carlo to improve his inside and outside edge control and ability to change speeds and direction while controlling the puck at different speeds and angles.

Deliberate practice is more important than the number of hours you practice. Repetitions matter but you need to be working on developing specific skills with the right technique and fundaments at the same time.

Puck Support Critical to DZ Exit Play

Forwards must come back to the puck in the DZ to support the D Pairing
Under Forecheck Pressure

The Strategic Dump-in Recovery Play – A Pressure Offensive Tactic

The strategic dump-in is a pressure offensive tactic designed to recover a loose puck or force a puck turnover to create scoring chances. The hard forecheck is used by the NHL’s Boston Bruins as part of their offensive game plan. They are adept at winning races to loose pucks and forcing turnovers on the forecheck to create scoring chances. It’s an offensive pressure tactic that is best defended with a defensive pressure tactic, one that requires forwards to come back deep into the zone to support puck recovery and to exit the zone as a group. The dump-in is a loose puck and should be a pressure trigger for both teams.


You bring 5 players back deep into the defensive zone for the following reasons:

  • ensure your team recovers the loose puck,
  • reduce the number of puck turnovers and giveaways,
  • outnumber on the puck recovery and on the exit play (5 against 3),
  • ensure puck possession and control against forecheck pressure,
  • trap your opponent on the exit play below the puck to create a counter attack with the player advantage,
  • playing a 200′ game is necessary to be an elite team.

Offensive Puck Support Requirements to Defeat Forecheck Pressure

  1. Structure – The defending team has to come back to the puck as a group (pressure up) into a structure that supports recovery of the puck & the ability to retain puck possession & control to advance the puck on the exit play.
  2. Read & React Skills – The defenders coming back to the puck must recognize the forecheck pressure pattern and get into spots or locations on the ice surface to set quality passing lane options for the player recovering the puck.
  3. Hustle Factor – The forecheckers are skating full speed into the zone to recover the loose puck or force a puck turnover so the defending team must hustle and match their opponent’s speed and intensity.
  4. Offensive Puck Support – Offensive players position themselves on the ice surface to receive the puck in clean passing lanes. A puck carrier requires a minimum of two passing options at all times. Offensive puck support is required to maintain puck possession and control and to advance the puck out of the zone.
  5. Stationary & Moving Outlets – Moving into spots on the ice in the defensive zone to post up as a stationary outlet to move the puck to a another stationary or moving outlet, is part of supporting the puck and advancing the puck with a purpose.
  6. Patience & Confidence – Puck recovery and exit play must be executed with confidence and patience. You need to have the attitude “we’ve got this” and the confidence and patience comes from hours of practice and preparation as a group.
  7. Technical Hockey Skills – DZ puck recovery and exit play requires the players on the ice to possess sound technical hockey skills, it’s a must to be able to execute under the pressure of a good forechecking team.
  8. Creativity – The group on the ice doesn’t need set plays, puck support is a function of reading and reacting to defensive pressure. The group on the ice is best left to being creative in finding open ice and setting quality passing lanes based on what the defensive group gives them.
  9. Communication – Verbal and non-verbal communication on the ice between players is helpful because of the speed of the game. The group that communicates and works effectively together will benefit in their execution.
  10. Timing – Puck recovery and exit play requires perfect timing of puck and player movements by the group. Timing is essential to having puck support, the support can be there and then not there in the matter of seconds, if the group doesn’t time their passes and exit of the zone. It is fine to move the puck backwards or laterally before moving forward to exit the zone. It’s not a race to exit the zone. You want to maintain puck possession and control.

AHL Video Clip of the Springfield Thunderbirds and Providence Bruins

Springfield Thunderbirds Failure to Exit the DZ without Puck Support
Solution to the Hard Forecheck – Support the Puck


DZ Exit Play should be your bread and butter. Hockey is a Possession Game, you need to support the puck to advance the puck and retain puck possession and control, in all three zones. It’s hard work playing a 200′ game, and supporting the puck in all three zones offensively and defensively, but that’s how you win hockey games. The sooner young players develop good habits and the ability to play a 200′ game the closer they become to being able to play at the next level.

Was not surprised to see the Providence Bruins playing a hard forecheck in the Offensive Zone. The hard forecheck and defending up ice is part of the big team’s game, the AHL feeder development team is preparing players for the next level, smart.

Puck Management Entering the Offensive Zone

Use of the Width & Depth of the Zone

Hockey is a puck possession game. Every young player has to understand the importance of making good decisions with the puck to avoid turnovers. In the video clip below the Puck Carrier enters the offensive zone and has limited puck support so he moves the puck to the weak side corner for the weak side Winger to recover the puck. Under check pressure, the movement of the puck weak side created time and space to recover the puck and reset a structure to support the advancement of the puck on net with puck support in zone. The Puck Carrier avoided turning over the puck under check pressure when there was an absence of quality puck support.

The use of the width and depth of the zone (ice surface) is one of the keys to creating time and space to make plays, retain puck possession and control and advance the puck in zone.

As line mates you should talk about how you can work together to support the puck in different situations in different zones of the rink. Be creative and use your speed, skills and work ethic to support the puck as a group on every shift.

Back Checking Forwards – Defending the Attack Rush

Getting Defensive Position on Your Opponent

In the video clip below you see a goal scored by an offensive player going to the net for a rebound. The offensive player gets offensive position on the defenders by getting between his opponents and the net to score. This is an all too frequent scenario that happens on the Attack Rush when defenders fail to get into their coverage assignments. Defenders must get defensive position on their opponents when defending against the Attack Rush. Know your roles and how to execute them to become a complete player.

Roles & Responsibilities of Defenders – Blue Line IN

  • Forwards must pick up their individual player coverage assignment entering the defensive zone. Leave the puck carrier to the strong side D.
  • The weak side D moves into middle ice when their partner pressures the puck carrier to take the puck outside the dots.
  • Forwards entering the defensive zone get defensive position on opponents entering the zone, to support the D pairing.
  • Communicate player coverage assignments (verbal and/or non verbal).
  • Defensive position means getting on the opponent’s inside shoulder (shoulder to shoulder), boxing out the offensive player (protecting middle ice). The defensive player should be positioned to get their stick under the opponent’s at any time to tap up to take away a stick on puck opportunity.
  • Defensive players take their check assignment to the net. No offensive player should be allowed to skate past a defender uncovered into open ice in the net or slot zones.
  • If the offensive player stops, the defensive player stops, and gets defensive position on the offensive player. Head always on a swivel and be in a strong hockey position.
  • If a defending player is late catching up to an offensive player, don’t stop skating and at the very least get position from behind to get your stick under the opponent’s (tap up) to prevent stick on puck opportunities.
  • Once the Attack Rush threat is thwarted and there is a loose puck opportunity, defenders pressure up as a group on the loose puck to regain puck possession and control to exit the zone.

Creating Scoring Chances On The Power Play

Keys to creating quality scoring chances on the Power Play:

  1. Player and puck movement in the zone using the width & depth of the ice surface.
  2. Control of the puck on the perimeter to advance the puck into middle ice scoring positions.

Good Power Play Teams Feature The Following Abilities:

  1. Support of the puck tactically to create time & space,
  2. Skilled player & puck movement with timing of both to advance the puck,
  3. Players with strong technical hockey skills,
  4. Players who know their roles & how to execute.