Skating Techniques for Hockey

My second teaching job was at a somewhat run-down and extremely understaffed middle school that was known for its hockey team and not much else. The year I arrived was, by a strange coincidence, the year their hockey coach left for better pay at a private school across town. As soon as the administration found out I had played hockey in college, they asked me if I’d like his job.

I had no experience coaching hockey-or anything else, for that matter-at the time, but I said yes anyway. The responsibility came with a small bonus, and I’d always enjoyed working with kids both inside and outside the classroom.

In my years of coaching hockey, I noticed many, many kids struggling with the same basic skill: transitioning between skating forwards and skating backwards (or the other way around). This is something that everyone needs to do pretty frequently over the course of a standard hockey game, but it’s particularly important for those playing defense.

The Beginners’ Method

The first step to being good at making this transition is to get comfortable doing it with both skates on the ice. Just be careful to maintain your balance as you bring one foot in front of you and the other behind, turning as you go.

The More Advanced Method

Most beginners fall their first couples times doing that, especially if they attempt to do it with any speed. Once it’s started to come naturally, though, players should switch to the more advanced method, in which the rotation is done by lifting the skate. This technique is preferred for a reason-when you keep both skates on the ice throughout the entire transition, it creates a lot of resistance that slows you down far more than you can afford in a game.

To go from forwards to backwards in the preferred manner, then, you lift one skate off the ice and turn it around as much as you can. Ideally, you should end up heel-to-heel, but many people, including me, just aren’t flexible enough for that. It isn’t a problem as long as you turn that skate as much as you can, put it down, and then lift the other skate as well.

This is a skill that takes practice, but it’s something anyone can master given time. Good luck!