|Ian Clark lecturing during 2011-12 training camp|
I have to get back into the importance of Spring Football.
You see, there is a well known phenomenon in the sports world. It turns out that if an athlete learns a new technique, its often far from automatic. Often, the athlete has to think about it, to remind themselves to use this technique. Once the season is over and there is a down time, when the athlete comes back the next year, if taught the technique again, it will become automatic. This is the whole theory behind kinesthetic cues. The body takes over from the mind after that pattern of learning, time off, re-learning.
This is precisely why college football teams have spring practice. The techniques learned in the spring will often become automatic in the fall. The introduction of spring practices gives you 4 more learning cycles in the football player's college career (thereabouts). This moves the player along faster than they would if football was only practiced in the fall.
So, what does this have to do with Steve Mason? Well, this is Ian Clark's second summer as the goal tending coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. What this means, is that many of the things that Clark taught Mason last year, will become automatic for him this year. In other words, the stuff he had to think about last year will be automatic this year. Since hockey at the NHL level does not typically provide more than split seconds for pondering your approach, this will be very helpful to the young goal tender. As a result, there is a foundation for the thought that he might improve this year, after several years of woeful results and a totally unsettled goal tender coaching situation.
So let's look at a hypothetical situation of how this might work.
Mason: But Ian, my butt looks better in the tight shorts!
Clark: But you can't move Steve. You need to wear the loose shorts I picked out for you.
Mason: <thinks hard> OK, I guess that makes sense.
Now this year, Mason will only need Clark to remind him once to wear the loose shorts, and that's what he'll reach for automatically for the rest of the year.
This will also work well for important goal tending things, like how deep to play, how to play the puck behind the net, etc. These are things that require split second thought, and now that Clark is in his second year, there is a certain body of evidence that Mason ought to be expected to improve his performance.