How many times have you heard someone say, “These players need to learn how to read and react”?
There is a lot wrong with that statement in the modern game, the most important aspect of which is that if you are reacting to the play then you aren’t controlling the play. You are just following along.
It should be obvious to everyone that there are moments where a player can’t manipulate the play, perhaps they have just jumped on for their shift and the puck is 100 feet away. But… those moments should be as few as possible.
Read and React implies that you are always being controlled by some action on the ice. When “A” happens you react and do “B”. Players who learn to play this way are perpetually one step (or more) behind players who can manipulate the play to benefit them. Players told to Read and React, do just that. They look at the play and after an event occurs they act. Then they do this repeatedly all over the ice, constantly a step or two behind making something beneficial happen. We have all seen and perhaps been these players. They are doing what they are taught. Their mindset is to react to what is happening and that is exactly what they do, like robots.
Read and Control puts the player in a whole new mindset. Their goal now is to read the pattern in front of them and manipulate it to their advantage. That might mean any number of things from taking away a passing lane to angling off a puck carrier to simply finding open space where the puck can “see” them.
Reacting is passive. Controlling is active.
Great players are active. Everyone else is predominantly passive.
“The puck seems to follow great players.”
This quote always makes me shake my head. The puck doesn’t follow great players. Great players control the game to the point where they force the puck to be where they want it to be. It really is that simple. They understand the patterns of the players on the ice, where they will be in 1, 3, 5 seconds and they control those patterns and their own position (on the ice, body position, stick position, toecap direction, etc.) to control the game. They are actively making choices that cause the game to be played the way that they want it unfold.
Much of this comes from the blending of Hardware (Skills) with Software (Brain), but that’s a discussion for another time.
From now on try to Read and Control instead of Read and React. You will notice an immediate improvement in your game.