Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The solution is more education, more time, not less

When my older son, Luke, first started playing ice hockey, I couldn’t bear to watch his practices. The basic procedure was to take about 20 kids and put them in a group for a skating drill. I would watch as Luke waited his turn in line, then skated out to do crossovers around the circles. He would do them wrong, and because one coach was trying to keep 20 kids in line, no one ever showed him how to do it right. He would go through the drill maybe twice if he was lucky, then they’d move on to the next drill, stick handling, then passing then backwards skating. And so it went for 60 minutes, drill after drill without ever mastering a skill. Even worse, they would move onto a more advanced skill, such as passing while skating, before mastering the original basic skill, passing while standing still.
This year, though, they’re doing things more efficiently. Instead of 20 kids, there are now 30 or more kids. But now they’re divided into five groups, so that each group is about six kids, each with their own coach in each station. Each station lasts about 10 minutes, so that the kids are doing crossovers over and over and over again for 10 minutes until they get it right. And because there are only six kids per coach, the coach has time to pull out a kid and show him how to do the drill correctly.
And because they’re able to get more kids out on the ice at one session, each kid gets more sessions — 50 percent more sessions, or an extra practice every other week. Needless to say, the results are noticeable. Luke is finally skating on his outside edge, doing crossovers and stickhandling properly.
The reason I mention this is because I feel the same way about his education. I fear we are simply cramming skill after skill too quickly, moving from one concept to the next too quickly in too short of a time period without properly learning the concepts. And when it comes time to layer on another concept, the original concept hadn’t been properly learned to begin with.

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