Coaches, coaches, coaches..............
Kinda like parents, anyone can be one, but not everyone should. We have all heard about the stories of crazy coaches, and any of us that have played minor hockey probably have a couple stories that would seem like, well............... like this guy on the left:
Now don't get me wrong, I do not know enough about Mr. Knight or Basketball to truly evaluate his coaching ability, so my point is more about minor hockey and how coaches can make or break our kids passion for hockey and life in general.
So lets look at some indicators of a bad coach:
1. Poor knowledge of the game.
-This person usually has the excuse that the players are not trying hard enough. The confuse tactics and where they should be used (eg: dumb and chase on a penalty kill or power-play). They also are unwilling to take any accountability for the results of the game. They also consider conditioning to be the key to success with statements like " We are gonna skate the other team into the ground" and your practices include a lot of lines and some sort of humiliation to motivate you.
2. Mr. know it all
-This coach has an answer for everything and no suggestion is given any sort of consideration. This usually comes in the form of a former good hockey player who played junior or even pro. They figure their resume speaks for itself and they know all the right ways.
These coaches can be hell if they are teaching bad habits or techniques and can become outdated in a hurry. The other problem is that they skew the experiences of the past and replay them in the wrong context. "I ran stairs every day and that's how I learned to skate fast enough for junior hockey" would be an example of something that they would like but when you look at it critically then you realize that there is no way that could be more than a small contributing factor.
3. Wins mean everything
-This coach loves winning. Systems, powerplays and short shifting players are hallmark trademarks of this coach. In the lower levels they find two kinds of success which seems to make them think they are doing a great job. The first way is if they inherit a team of well developed players, and then it works good even if those players do not really improve during the year. The second way is that they win early on in the season and then by the end the other teams beat them with skill from improving all year. This usually leads to blaming the kids for not trying hard enough since "they won before against this team."
4. Carefree, do whatever
-This coach just wants to be out with the kids. Teaching them is secondary to having fun. Their idea of fun is to just let the kids do whatever. This quickly gets out of control and the kids get bored. We all know what happens when kids get bored.
5. Good heart, poor vision
- These coach have some knowledge of the game, but they are unable to recognize what is wrong and how to fix it. The fixes put in place are often worse than the initial problem. Tends to blame effort and not dumping the puck in as reasons for losing the game.
6. Tells you what you are doing wrong
-This coach should stay in the stands. Kids are confused enough. What usually happens is that this coach will point out all your weaknesses, but will not tell you anything to fix them. A common statement would be "You are a slow skater, practice more!". The statements come in all shapes and sizes but the message is the same "You have a weakness, now figure out how to fix it yourself". Poor kids...........some improve despite their coaches.
Now lets look at some good coaching traits:
1.Relates to the kids, speaks at their level of understanding.
This coaches talks to the kids at their level in languages they can understand. Gives them an environment to learn that they feel comfortable in. Being uncomfortable leads to thinking and worrying too much. That is best left to parents.
2. Does not treat players all the same
What about fairness??? In a group of kids with skill levels and personalities at all ends of the spectrum??? Of course not!!! These coaches deal with each kid as an individual and helps them accordingly. Some kids need structure, some need to be encouraged, some need discipline, and some need all three. Every kids is different, so treating them the same is unfair to all of them.
This one is essential. A coach that creates an environment that kids are not afraid to fail will enjoy success unlimited. Kids are always wanting to improve, but are usually scared to fail for fear of embarrassment. Image how long it would take a baby to walk if they felt embarrassed every time they fell. Same applies here....heck everywhere. I always learn way more when I fail than when I succeed.
4.Identifies weaknesses, and understands how to fix them.
This coach can make the difference between growing bad habits and fixing them. These coaches explain what they are doing wrong, how to do it right and why the right way is better. This ability is invaluable at all levels. If the kids can buy into the logic of correct methods, then they will be off to the races in no time.
5.Has passion for the game
This coach loves the game. Loves to talk about it, loves to learn new things. You can see the sincerity and how their eyes light up when talking hockey. Coaching is seen as their contribution to the game and their success is seen by them in the success of the kids, not in personal fame or wins. They see hockey as a life tool for the kids. Teamwork, dedication, following your dreams and learning are just a few of the life lessons that this coach will try to instill in you child.
6.Doesn't have coaching secrets
Knowledge is power, but only if you share it. Those who keep secrets/knowledge do this put themselves ahead of the players and their development. The players should come first.
Ask this coach what his greatest accomplishments in coaching and he will talk about others or when he does talk of personal success he spreads the credit around.
Moral of the post
Coaches are a dime a dozen and many people have their heart in the right place, but there efforts are often misguided. Nature of the beast for a volunteer position.
Great coaches are few and far between. I do not think I am currently a great coach, but I truly believe that one day I will be. I do however recognize a good coach when I see one and they have great passion for the game, great desire and humility to learn and put the players development first. They take the time to help players improve when others write them off. Every great player has a story of a great coach that brought them to the next level.........hopefully everyone in life gets at least one great coach.