Category: Articles

Shooting Progression Lesson for Hockey Players

Are you getting the most out of your shot? I don’t mean “can you shoot the puck?”. What I mean is do you know every specific motion that is involved with a good shot, and can you can fully utilize each area to get the most power?

Being able to lift the puck is good, but if you want to be dangerous every time you get close to the net you need to have a consistently hard and accurate shot.

In this lesson we have a 5 video series on improving your shot. Each video breaks down a specific part of the shot that you can focus on to get more power.

The Building Blocks of a Good Shot

Using the wrists

The wrists are the last joint used in your shot, but don’t forget to activate them. With a good wrist snap you can increase power and accuracy.

Getting “Snap” in your shot

When coaches talk about a snap in your shot, this is what they mean. I like to call it finishing your shot, using the push-pull motion, plus your wrists to get a good boost of speed at the end of your shot

Drawing the Puck back

You don’t always have time to use this method for power, but adding it to your arsenal will add more power. Watch the video to find out why.

Start every shot with the legs

Your legs are the most powerful muscles in your body, if you aren’t using them properly you will be limiting the amount of power you can generate in each shot, and also reducing the effectiveness of your weight transfer. Watch the video below to learn about using your legs to generate power in your shot

Using the hockey stick to generate power

The last piece of the puzzle for a complete shot is the hockey stick. The stick is actually a very big contributor to the amount of power you can generate on your shot. By flexing the stick you load it with potential energy, just waiting to be released into your shot. Find out more in the last video in our series on having a complete shot.

Christian Cook’s Questions About Lacrosse

Q: Dear Mr. Cook,
I was just wondering how you balanced your lacrosse career as well as school at a top notch school like Princeton University. I was also wondering what the rewards of playing college lacrosse are.
A: Thanks for the question Peter. You have astutely asked a question that should be addressed far more often. The rewards of being a student-athlete stay with a person for the rest of their lives. I have found that balancing lacrosse at the highest level and working on my studies at a great institution taught me far more than I expected. It is difficult to dedicate yourself to a sport and to also tackle a rigorous academic course load.

There is far too much emphasis in this day and age on pure athletics. Athletics are only part of the package one brings to the table in life. I coach many clinics around the country and the world and try to instill in young players the importance of being a good person and developing a well rounded experience. While there will always be athletes, the student-athlete is a rare breed.

Playing lacrosse in college is a great deal of fun, although it requires dedication and discipline. You cannot forget that college is about academics. Playing on a top-notch lacrosse team, or competing in another sport while in college is an added benefit and privilege that can be revoked if your studies are not up to par.

Many student-athletes manage their time more effectively during season because they are naturally more focused during that time of the year. I was far more efficient in season than I was in the fall. However, it requires year-round dedication. While it is difficult – it is extremely rewarding to dedicate oneself fully to two noble pursuits, academics and athletics.

Q: Dear Christian,
I was just wondering what sort of weight training you do, I know you can’t outline your whole program, but if you could just give me a few exercises I could do. Mainly, to increase my shot velocity.
A: A lot of younger players ask me for specific weight training advice. To be honest with you, I know what exercises work for me, but I feel uncomfortable suggesting exercises to people with whom I have not worked directly in fear of pointing you in the wrong direction. The best thing you can do to increase your shot velocity is to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. It will also clearly help with your accuracy.

Unfortunately there are no short cuts towards improving your shot – just lots of hard work. With that in mind, our coaches often promoted the incline bench press as a way to increase your functional strength (as an addition to our weight program, not in lieu of other exercises). However, with this in mind you can’t forget about your back strength. I would ask your lacrosse coach or the football coach at your school for a workout program – they can direct you in a specific direction given your personal needs. Best of luck to you and keep working hard.

Q: Dear Christian,
What type of personality makes up a field player vs. a indoor player?
A: That is a very interesting question Ralph. Clearly the indoor and outdoor games are quite different and have attracted different types of players. However, there are many characteristic common to both indoor and outdoor players: competitiveness, determined grit, love of the game, aggressiveness, leadership, etc. While all great players exhibit these personality traits, I don’t believe I can make any general statements about indoor vs. outdoor players.

I do know that the indoor game promotes a different type of aggressiveness than seen in the outdoor game and frankly that comes from the different styles of play needed to be successful at the different games. While they are both lacrosse, indoor players have a distinctly different style and I find are VERY good stick handlers and excellent at defense. At the same time, I don’t think they’re able to spread the field out as well as some outdoor players. Outdoor/Field players will use the expansive nature of the field to their advantage whereas indoor there is only a certain amount of ground and you can’t cede any if you’re going to be competitive.

Q: Hello Coach Cook,
I play goalie for a California club team, I have just come on as the new goalie and I wanted to implement zone defense instead of man to man, which is what they had last year. The man to man did not work so well for them last year. I wanted to know if there were any major factors you could point out that most lacrosse veterans like myself tend to forget while working a zone D. Specially with a team that’s used to going man to man.
Brigattoni, Anaheim, CA
A: Thank you for your question. I would suggest thinking twice about your decision to solely implement a zone defense. Zone defenses are good, but only in certain situations and against certain teams. I don’t know how your club team plays or your strengths and weaknesses as a team, but those should factor in to your decision. I remember playing in the national championship in 1996 against Virginia and we had to play a zone defense for the majority of the game to combat the vaunted Virginia offense that scored 10 goals in the first half in our first encounter earlier in the year.

The zone defense was perfect in that situation – playing against Whitely, Watson, Knight and a very deep, athletic midfield (including my current New Jersey Pride teammate Drew Melchionni). However, zones can easily be beaten by over-loading a side of the field and drawing slides more quickly than the defense can react. With that in mind it is important to have other defensive sets at your disposal.

A couple of the most important things to remember when playing zone defense are: communication; rotation; and resetting the defense. In addition, do not forget how important it is for the crease man to always play ball-side, especially when picking up cutters through the crease. If your team is excellent at communication and each player understands their individual responsibility, a zone defense can be very effective – but only as a supplement to a more robust man to man system. I wish you the best of luck.

Q: Hello,
I have been playing lacrosse for one season and it is the most fun I have ever I had. They put me at defense and I wasn’t the fastest defender on the field. I would like to improve this and I’m wondering if you have any tips or drills to help improve the quickness of my feet so I am able to be in position to stop whoever thinks they are going to score.
A: Thanks for your question. I would suggest you look at some of my past columns about drills and other things you can do to improve your quickness and overall athleticism. Furthermore, focus on your game sense. Being a great defenseman means being a smart defenseman and that comes with experience and serious study of the game. Good luck.

Q: Hey Christian,
First of all I’m a very big fan of you and your style of play. I’ve been playing for about four years now at a high level. I really enjoy the game and spend at least 2 hours a day working on my stick skills or watching game tape. My other two sports are soccer and basketball. I know that I can still get better with my positioning because everyone can, but the main thing that I’m concerned with is my height.

I’m 14 and I’m big for my grade (8th) at about 5’8 and a half. I weight 150lbs, and both my parents are shorter than I am. I’m only predicted to be about 5’10 at the most but I don’t even know I’m if gonna make it there. I really enjoy defense and id like to stick with through college and hopefully the MLL but I’m afraid my lack of size will hinder me. People say that size doesn’t really matter but do you really think I could succeed in high school at only 5’9? Any help would be appreciated.

A: Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, there is not that much you can do about your height, but know that it isn’t a requirement for being a good lacrosse player. There are plenty of great players who were not that tall or big. If you work on your overall athleticism, strength, game sense, stick skills and progress as a player, no coach will keep you off the field if you are the whole package. I absolutely think you can have success in high school and even at the highest levels in college at 5’ 9”. Go through some of the rosters of great teams and you’ll see there are plenty of small players. Understand that while you can succeed, it will take a great deal of work to put yourself in a position to succeed. Keep working hard. Best of luck to you.

Q: Christian,
You mentioned you need to always work on your basic skills, but does that mean working on the wall? I think it’s hard to work the wall with a defense stick and seems pointless. I can see why an attackman or middie would want to work on their quick sticks but not a defensemen. Also I watched the NCAA lacrosse championships this year and I never saw a defensemen play weak hand; it just seems like I shouldn’t be practicing my weak hand either. One last question: what do you think is a good drill to improve foot speed besides jumping rope and playing basketball?

A: Thanks for the question David. Working on the wall is a large part of working on your skills. Working on the wall with a long stick is NOT worthless. If you find it difficult, you can use a short stick. Some attackman handle a longstick better than many defenseman – case in point, Jesse Hubbard has the best short and longstick handling ability I’ve ever seen.

Work the wall with a short stick and it will help your skills. Furthermore, you may not have seen any defensemen play with their weak hands in the championship game, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. You need to have that ability at the highest level and if you neglect to work your weak hand it will show and you will hurt yourself in the long run. YOU NEED TO WORK BOTH HANDS. It is naïve and lazy to think that you can progress to the next without that ability. Frankly, if you want to be the best, you have to work harder than everyone else. Good luck.

Wrko Interview – April 10, 2010

Joe: Jason, you certainly had a great first game of the season, for you, with the two homeruns, catching a great game, and it was just like you drew it up.

Tek: Thank you.

Joe: What about the long balls with Greinke? He’s a guy that was so stingy, last year, the toughest man to take deep in the league, last year. He gave up only 11 homers in 229 innings, and you and Hermida got him on consecutive pitches. How’d that happen?

Tek: I think we were fortunate. We got a pitch up in the zone, and we were both able to capitalize on it in that situation. He’s got probably the best stuff you in the league from a right-hander, as far as the full repertoire, power, everything. We were fortunate to lay some good swings on him.

Dave: Tek, can you talk for a moment about this adjustment for you, and we know you’ve handled it with all the class in the world, but it’s an unusual set of circumstances for you catching every day, every day for twelve or thirteen years, and this was your first start tonight.

Tek: Yeah, I was a nervous wreck! [laughs] You know, it’s a constant work in progress right now, just trying to figure out how to stay sharp, what’s too much, what’s not enough, and we’re going to constantly continue to try and do that.

Joe: Well this has been a great home run park for you. You had the three home run game here, we recalled from ’01. I believe all three were left-handed. This is a park where it doesn’t carry very well, and it’s got deep dimensions

Tek: Oh, I think the ball carried well today, to be honest with you. It’s a big park, but at different times depending on the weather it can carry well.

Dave: Tek, we’ll let you go in just a moment, but 38 years old tomorrow, we’ll say a happy early birthday to you. (Tek: [laughs] Thank you!) You certainly didn’t swing the bat or look like a 38 year old here today, but how are you going to celebrate? You have the kids with you?

Tek: I have my daughters with me. I’m just tickled pink that they were able to be here. They’ve been wondering if I’m ever going to play, and they were just excited. They’re excited to be here. And like I said, I’m just so fortunate to have them here with me.

Dave: Their daddy did just fine tonight. That’s for sure.

Tek: [laughs] Thank you.

Joe: We saw them on the plane – they looked like they were having the time of their lives!

Tek: They’re some good girls.

Dave: Alright, Tek. Congrats, man. Thank you very much.

Tek: Thanks, guys.

WRKO Radio | Interview conducted by Joe Castiglione and Dave O’Brien | Transcribed by Anna H

Red Sox Vets Return From Classic

Red Sox manager Terry Francona couldn’t hide it. While he may be happy that his players had a chance to represent their countries and play in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, he’s glad to have them back.

Catcher and team captain Jason Varitek and relief pitcher Mike Timlin returned on Saturday, after Team USA was eliminated by Mexico, 2-1 on Thursday night. Designated hitter David Ortiz and pitcher Julian Tavarez were the last Red Sox players left in the Classic, but the Dominican Republic bowed out to Cuba on Saturday, 3-1.

“Yeah, and they look excited to be back,” Francona said of Timlin and Varitek. “I think they both wanted to win, but I think they looked real happy to be back. It was fun watching [Varitek] out there just being with the guys.”

For the players, it was somewhat of a relief to be back.

“Yeah, to be with my team, there definitely is,” Varitek said. “It was an awesome, awesome experience. I think the U.S. learned a lot from it and [will] be even better prepared the next go-round.”

“It was probably one of the funnest things I’ve ever done,” Timlin said. “It ranks right up there with playing in the World Series. When we were coming into the game with Mexico and Korea, I was more nervous than I’ve ever been in my life, and that’s just prior to the game.

“I enjoyed the experience. It’s a different atmosphere, playing for your country, playing with guys that you haven’t played with before, the experience of being on the team with those guys and putting the red, white and blue on is awesome. But I’m glad to be back in camp.”

Timlin, who pitched 2 1/3 innings over three games, compiling a record of 1-0 (3.86 ERA), was not available for the United States’ game against Mexico on Thursday night after the trainers shut him down with a tired arm.

“It’s just like a tired arm, that’s all,” said Timlin, who threw a bullpen session Saturday morning at City of Palms Park and felt no ill effects. “With anything, the trainers there, you get a hangnail and they’re like, ‘OK, let’s make sure you’re clubs OK with it.’ It’s just precaution.”

Francona plans to remain cautious with Timlin’s arm.

“We planned on that anyway,” he said. “He threw on the side [Saturday] and did pretty well. We’re going to let him go down and face [Minor League] hitters Monday on the off-day and then we’ll kind of gauge where to go from there.”

Both Timlin and Varitek said while they would welcome the opportunity to compete in the Classic again, they would like to see some changes instituted.

“Get guys together a little sooner, make some adjustments, get guys some more at-bats earlier,” said Varitek. “I think we got caught so our hitters were a little overmatched timing-wise.

“I think it would be good to play some games — intrasquad, exhibition games, whatever — just get some more games under your belt.”

“[The loss is] disappointing for the fact that the talent we had, we lost,” said Timlin. “But the talent that we had at the time of the year, our timing was just off. That’s all there is to it. Our hitters didn’t have enough at-bats to have their hands right where they want.

“Pitchers were off a little bit. There were spurts where you threw the ball exactly where you want it, struck guys out, got the right ground ball, hitters have great day. But it just wasn’t enough.”

Both players suggested better places in the baseball calendar to hold the tournament.

“There’s better times in the middle of the season when everybody’s in top shape,” said Timlin. “There’s a better time after the season, after the World Series, when people are in top shape.

“Play it after the World Series, put the team together, let them practice together for a couple of weeks. Before you do something like that, they’ll already be in game shape. It won’t take guys too long to get back where they should be.”

Varitek, who appeared in three games and started two, went 2-for-7 (.286), including a grand slam March 8 in USA’s 8-6 loss to Canada, said his preparation is not behind schedule in spite of his limited playing time.

“I got a lot of work in. I just don’t have the at-bats yet,” he said. “I’ve already caught eight innings, eight intense innings. But it’s hitting us on both sides. There’s things that will benefit well, and there’s things that won’t be as well. It’ll be good to get some consistency playing.”

After playing in six playoff-caliber games, both players said their mental preparedness is ahead of their physical — for now.

“Mentally, I’m probably ahead of where I should be in my game mode,” Timlin said. “Physically, I feel like I’m a little bit behind. But it won’t take long. My timing’s just off, that’s all.”

Varitek will get a chance to catch up, starting in Sunday’s game with Bronson Arroyo pitching. | By Maureen Mullen

Young Catcher Testing Major League Draft Rules

If Jason Varitek and his agent are correct, the young catcher’s name could take a place in baseball history next to those of Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. Those two former pitchers presented the case that created free agency for major league players. Varitek took a step yesterday that could lead to free agency for drafted amateur players.

Varitek, the Seattle Mariners’ first-round selection in last June’s amateur draft, signed yesterday with the St. Paul Saints of the Northern League, a league that is not affiliated with major league baseball or the National Association of minor leagues.

Bill Murray, executive director of baseball operations in the commissioner’s office, said he was unaware of any drafted player ever signing with an independent team. But Murray also said Varitek, a three-year all-America catcher from Georgia Tech, would continue to be subject to rights the Mariners hold until a week before the next June draft. Furthermore, Murray said, if Varitek does not sign with the Mariners by then, he would go back into the draft.

But Varitek and his agent, Scott Boras, disagree, contending that by signing a professional contract Varitek is no longer subject to the Mariners’ rights or the next draft.

In other words, the case is probably headed to an arbitrator or judge.

It was an arbitrator’s decision in 1975 that made Messersmith and McNally free agents. It was not clear yesterday if a dispute between Varitek and the major leagues could be heard through baseball’s grievance procedure or would have to go to court. Judge or arbitrator, if that person were to rule in Varitek’s favor, it would create a way for high school and amateur players to circumvent the draft.

Baseball, in its argument, would rely on the draft rule that says any player who has not signed a contract with a major league club or a minor league team affiliated with a major league club is subject to the draft. But Boras countered that argument.

“In the book, it’s called the Rule 4 Amateur Free-Agent Draft,” Boras said by telephone from California. “I don’t know how they can expand it to include professional players. If they intended this, why did they use the word amateur? Why not just Rule 4 Draft? Nobody but an amateur has ever been drafted in that draft.”

Marvin Goldklang, owner of the St. Paul team, said yesterday that he did not sign Varitek with the thought that it could help to undermine the draft. “We’ve made clear that his draft status has to be worked out between Jason and major league baseball,” Goldklang said.

“It’s extraordinary,” he added, acknowledging the unusual nature of the signing, “but this is our business, giving kids a chance who have been rejected, overlooked or hardballed by the system — whether you’re dealing with released players, college players or a Jason Varitek. Here’s a kid who didn’t play ball last year because of circumstances.”

Varitek was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the 1993 draft after his junior year but was unable to reach agreement with the Twins and remained at Georgia Tech. He became the Mariners’ first-round pick after batting .426, hitting 17 home runs and driving in 86 runs in 67 games last spring.

Varitek, in a statement, said the Mariners had offered him half of the $850,000 he sought and he decided to pursue a different route.

“I am committed to obtaining my fair market value for reasons unrelated to money,” he said. “Talented baseball players should not be penalized by a major league baseball team if they choose to complete their senior year of college.”

The Mariners’ bargaining position was that as a college senior, Varitek had less bargaining leverage than a junior or a high school player.

Varitek, who last year received the college baseball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy and was labeled by Baseball America as college baseball’s greatest catcher ever, will earn $1,200 a month with St. Paul. If he should reach agreement with the Mariners, he would be free to join their organization.

Major league clubs occasionally purchase the contracts of players on independent teams. Mike Lansing, the Montreal Expos’ second baseman, played for an independent team Goldklang owned in Miami. Goldklang, who is also a limited partner of the Yankees, said he accepts token payment for players, then divides it 50-50 with the player.

“We’re not trafficking in player contracts,” he said. “We’re giving players a platform to demonstrate their abilities.”

In Varitek’s case, the owner added, the team also needed a good catcher.