Respected hockey pundit and former star player Sergei Gimaev will be one of the guests at the IX Gazprom Neft Cup, and with the tournament on the horizon he shared his thoughts about the event and the state of children’s hockey in Russia.
What is special about children's hockey?
“They are so earnest! They don’t have much skill and their heads are not full of serious tactical plans, so they just go out and play. They really enjoy it and so do all those watching the games, whether they are parents, fans, or coaches. The way I see it: each training session is like a lesson and each game is like a test or an exam, depending on the importance of the tournament. The Gazprom Neft Cup is undoubtedly akin to the main exam of the school year.”
You worked at the CSKA sports academy for 20 years. Did you find it hard working with children and what qualities should such a coach have?
“They were very important years of my life, and I remember those times as fondly as when I look back on my career as a professional hockey player. The most important thing when you’re working with children is to love children. You must understand that they are just like you, only smaller. Adults should see themselves as the children’s senior colleagues, who are there to help them develop into good athletes and fine people. It is important to regard the children as your equals. You must never put pressure on them or shout at them; you should be able to explain things clearly to them and to help them.”
Which basic hockey qualities are acquired by 10-11-year-olds? What should their coaches focus on?
“At the age 10 or 11 years the task is to lay the foundations of the technical mastery for the future hockey player – skating, stick control etc. It is too early to work on the physical side, because their bodies are not yet ready to cope with such a serious workload. I also think it is too early to worry too much about tactics. On no account should the coach be set strict goals regarding the performances and achievements of the children’s teams. At this age, helping each individual child to progress is far more important than winning trophies, and they are at the age when you are giving them the framework around which they’ll build their future career. Lads of 10 or 11 are smart enough, but not mature enough. To win a game they will genuinely give their all, so sometimes they are too motivated and you need to instill some restraint, The adult players take a more pragmatic approach, so that’s another major difference with children's hockey.”
How do you assess the current level of development regarding children's hockey in Russia?
“It is improving at a remarkable pace. The growing number of little hockey rinks installed around the country has led to a corresponding increase in the number of children playing the game, especially in the smaller towns where in the old days the kids had nowhere to play. However, we need to do more than just get more children playing hockey – we need to ensure they can develop as sportsmen. Playing a mere two, three times a week is not enough. To lay all the foundations of technical mastery of the game at an early age, we need every hockey school to have at least two rinks so that all the children get enough ice time. This, of course, is my appeal to the leadership and management. My advice to the children is to train as often as they can and grab every opportunity that presents itself.”