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Sergei Gimaev: "Gazprom Neft Cup is like an exam!"

9 April 2015 | Interview

Famous ice hockey player and one of the best hockey experts in Russia, Sergei Gimaev will be one of the guests at the 9th Gazprom Neft Cup. In the run-up to the tournament, he answered a few questions about the Russian children’s ice hockey.

Sergei Gimaev. Courtesy of Championat.com

— Sergei Nailevich, what are the main distinguishing features of children’s ice hockey?

— The main distinctive feature of the children’s ice hockey is sincerity! The young players are not highly skilled yet, they are not familiar with the serious tactical schemes, they just Play! Yes, with a capital “P”. And what they do in the ice rink is a great pleasure not only for the players themselves, but also for anyone who comes to watch their games — parents, fans, coaches... I would put it this way: at each training session they study, and every game for them is an exam or a test, depending on how important the tournament is. The Gazprom Neft Cup is undoubtedly an important exam!

— You have worked in the CSKA sports school for 20 years... Is it hard to work with children and what personal qualities should a children’s coach possess?

— Those were very important years of my life. I recall them with no less pleasure than the time of my professional career as a hockey player. The most important thing in working with children is to love them! To understand that they are persons, like you are, only little ones. And we as adults should be their “big brothers” to help them become good athletes and good people. It is important to see that children are equal to you, to never put pressure on them, not to shout, but to be able to explain and help.

Sergei Gimaev during the face-off in a game between CSKA and Dynamo during the regular KHL championship, Moscow, January 05, 2015. The picture is courtesy of the KHL press service.

— What purely “hockey qualities” are brought up at the age of 10–11? What should coaches work on while training players of that age?

— At the age of 10–11, the foundation of technical skills of a future hockey player is laid: skating, stick skills, etc. And physical development itself at this age is not a priority at all, since the kid’s organism is not ready for high-impact exercises. And tactics, in my opinion, is also secondary in that age. Besides that, under no circumstances the coach should be set purely result-oriented tasks, as it is more important now to ensure that each child develops with his or her individual needs taken into account rather than to win tournaments. At this age, it is the base underlying their future career is laid. The 10—11-year-olds, on the one hand, are smart enough, and on the other — are still children, they’re not grown-ups. And they are ready to do anything to score a goal and to win. During their workouts and practice, they do their best indeed. That is why a coach sometimes has to hold them back rather than to encourage. Adults have a more rational approach to the game which is another very important difference between the grown-ups’ and children’s hockey.

Sergei Gimaev at the Legends Cup match, dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Russian hockey, Moscow, October 11, 2011. The picture is courtesy of the KHL press service.

— Could you please judge the current level of development of children’s hockey in our country?

— It is growing at a visible pace. The number of hockey rinks is increasing, which means that the number of young hockey players is growing, too. Especially in small towns, where children have had no opportunity to play hockey before. However, it is not enough to just attract a child to hockey. In the future, it is necessary to provide him or her with an opportunity to develop. And it is impossible to do it with 2–3 hours of practice a week. In order to lay a comprehensive base for future development of all technical skills at an early age it is necessary to practice more, which means that each school sports should have at least two rinks. However, this is, of course, what I wish managers and officials could do. And my advice to children is to practice and use the opportunities they face.


Sergei Nailevich Gimaev

Multiple USSR champion in hockey as a player of CSKA.
Multiple winner of the European Championship Cup.
After his sports career, he worked at the CSKA Sports School (including 14 years as its head).
He is currently working on television and is one of the most popular and respected hockey experts and commentators in Russia.