As coaches we always are looking to make all of our players better. If you only want a couple players on your team to become better, please do not coach hockey (or any sport).
Players develop on many levels (I am sure I am missing some):
- Physically get stronger and grow taller.
- Mentally get sharper and increase hockey IQ.
- Hockey skills technically get better.
Let me tell you a story about summer hockey. Over the past 10 years I have played summer hockey (unlike my youth which was spent on the ball diamond and summer hockey was not an option in rural Saskatchewan). I play against players of all skill levels. Some are terrible, some are amazing. Take Tyler Bozak for instance, he truly deserves to play in the NHL and after playing against him a couple of years back, it was only a matter of time till he forced someone to recognize how good he really was. He definitely took the long route to the NHL, going from AAA midget, BCHL, college, minors and then the NHL. Along the way he must have gotten some great feedback that helped him develop into the player his is today. Is he the best player out in summer hockey? Pretty much, but there are others that are at his level. Do they play in the NHL??? Nope!
Why is that?
- Lack of hockey sense
- The list goes on and on........
Feedback is the answer and the eternal gap between coaches, players and others who are involved (managers, trainers........). Some of them just get cut without any feedback.
So lets take a scenario like Yannic Pearault who played a far bit in the NHL. Here is a guy who gets something like 180points in the qmjhl and is having trouble making the NHL and is told his skating sucks, then one year in the ahl all-star game he wins the fastest skater. Imagine how confused this guy is. So was skating what was holding him back??? I have not seen him play, but can tell you that incorrect feedback probably kept this guy from reaching his full potential.
He did make the NHL and even the NHL all-star game one year, but was not thought of as an all-star, just a great face-off man. So maybe his issue was turning, stopping or acceleration or maybe it was not skating at all. Maybe it was how quick he read and reacted to the play. The last one will always leave you a step behind. If you do it faster than everyone else, then you end up like Jordan Eberle and can perform with success at all levels.
So what does this mean for us as coaches?? It means that when we give feedback, make sure your players understand what you mean. Do not use generic terms like "you need to be better", "your skating needs work", or "its a numbers thing". You owe it to them and yourself to help them. Even if you are cutting them from your team, it is a small world and the respect you lose with players will gain you a well deserved reputation.
"I watched him skate and something seems wrong, not sure what it is!!"
If this is you, then you need some feedback too......others may see what the issue is and may help you correct it. Coaches should be developing and improving every year too!!
Moral of this post:
Give real feedback, with real information that a player can use to improve. You may have some kid that goes from average to amazing over the course of a couple of years. If you cannot describe or are not sure what they are doing wrong, get advice. Lots of great hockey people see the game differently and you should be able to take away something from all of them.