Battle Born Hockey School: Making Hockey Players Better
By Phillip Goodman
February 21, 2023
Reno Ice Raiders’ play-by-play broadcaster and team writer Phillip Goodman takes a deep dive into the Battle Born Hockey School in this six-part series. Part One is an interview with BBHS owners and coaches Simon Le Bleu, Adam Barba, and Jeff Jiron.
Simon Le Bleu: So we started with the pilot program in 2022 with one adult camp here in Reno. Now we're expanding the program to offer adults-only and power skating programs for 10-years and up, both here in Reno as well as Utah and California.
Adam Barba: I think it's great that we ended up going into different markets that we think need some instruction and that are wanting the instructions. We talked to Weston [Nash, co-owner of the Reno Ice Raiders and Utah resident] to head out to Utah. He had said that the adults there are not super advanced in their adult league but that they love hockey and they really want to learn hockey. A lot of the adults we found never had an actual practice. Most of the adult league players have never been on travel teams or have never practiced growing up. That's really the niche that we found to get these people involved in practices. Many of them didn't know that there's a whole other side of the game. They think the game is just playing but they don't know the mechanics of the game, how to play and how to do drills, why you do drills, and how it correlates to the game of hockey.
Jeff Jiron: I've been running an adult clinic in Vacaville for a few years. Like Barba was saying there's a little niche for it. There's a lot of adults out there that don't have the basic skills and they want to get better and advance in the men's league levels. They're really grateful for the opportunity to get out there and learn hockey and have some of us go out there and teach them what we know.
Phillip: If I'm a low-level adult-league hockey player, what can I expect to learn from Battle Born Hockey School?
Simon: You can expect to get one-on-one instruction starting with basic fundamental skills which include skating, passing, shooting, offensive skills, defensive skills and then other situational skills like faceoffs, power play, and penalty kill. We really cover the entire onslaught of necessary skills to make the complete player.
Adam: What they can expect is two ice sessions per day. In Reno we're going to do three a day. In the first one we're gonna do skills and drills - which obviously is a very fundamental portion of the program - a lot of turning, passing, shooting - how to do those things and the mechanics. Usually in the afternoon because they're pretty wiped out, we will bring in some strategy - how to actually play the game. The afternoon sessions won't be slower practices by any means. There will be more team stuff and more flow - this is why you do certain things and this is why you don't do certain things. Then in the coach's corner, we will do an hour-long chalk talk. We will cover the defensive zone in one session. We will cover offensive zone positioning in the next. Then the third one will be the players' choice, kind of a hodgepodge of whatever it is they want to cover with specific questions at the end. That way they get a plethora of information about how to play the game of hockey. How to support the breakout, lanes, back checking all that stuff.
Jeff: Even the higher-skilled adult league players might not know systems or breakouts so when you put them in situations where you're teaching them those things, they're like, "Oh yeah, you know what? I didn't know I was supposed to do that," or, "I didn't know I was supposed to be there." I think that they really appreciate that aspect of the camp as well.
Phillip: What separates Battle Born Hockey School from other camps that are available in Reno, Utah, and some of the California markets?
Simon: The concept and the notion of being able to focus on adult-level players is absent arguably all throughout the United States. This is an opportunity for adults to get better, to have fun, and to hone their skills to make the game more enjoyable in the aggregate.
Adam: I think what we offer too is a lot of one-on-one instruction. Not because we have 50 coaches on the ice but because we like to keep the groups small for now at 35 people. We like to have four to five coaches so that every single player in every drill gets something one-on-one from a coach. The feedback so far has been great in the amount of detail that we cover, like how to chip a puck, how to do this or that, and you can see their improvements. I think that one-on-one and attention to detail is what people really like and what makes Battle Born Hockey School unique. I have been to other hockey camps before and I don't think they necessarily cover it in that much detail. Other camps will jam 70 kids onto the ice with only six coaches and then just say, "Go! Go! Go!". And they'll only pick a couple of guys to single out for help. We will touch everybody all the time at every ice session.
Jeff: We have a lot of coaching background and experience among everyone that's involved. We have all been to a lot of hockey camps and we can pretty well pick them apart to see what we like or don't like. We've seen what generates the best results and now we have applied it to our own camp.