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Cornered Coach: Honesty is the Best Puck Policy



"I love a coach who tells it like it is." 

It's a common claim from NHL players when assessing their bench bosses. 

But do they really mean it? 

In the game of love, both sexes often express a similar request; "Just be honest with me, honey."  

What happens, however, when one of the parties delivers a heart-breaking message? 

"I honestly don't want to be with you any more." 

"Gee... That's too honest," comes the inevitable reply, accompanied by a frying pan directed at the head of the messenger. 

Still, despite the threat of bodily harm, honesty is always the best policy when it comes to life and hockey.

At the end of every game involving the East York Atom Avalanche, the Toronto house league team I coach, we go around the room praising each player for their performance—win, lose or draw. You'd think, especially after a loss, it would be tough to come up with a positive scouting report without blowing a bunch of smoke up the young lads' hockey pants. But even in defeat, each and every player, regardless of their skill level, can pull off something good during a game.

"Wonger! Great job using those long strides to back check on that guy!" 

"Did you see Mad Max get down low on that big fella? That's how you get leverage to steal the puck, boys!" 

"Q-Ball! Way to stand up at the blue line. You're like a wall out there, man!" 

All recent examples of our postgame breakdown, and all accurate assessments of what these guys brought to the table. There's no question young athletes respond to positive feedback, and if they know a coach is being sincere in their praise, it's amazing what these little guys can accomplish. 

And while we're on the "honesty" subject, here's another honest observation: adults respond to positive praise in exactly the same way. 

Think about it. 

How many of us have worked for bad bosses who constantly nitpick at your faults without ever sprinkling a little sugar along the way?

The old saying is true. You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. (Although, it must be said, fly-catching is vastly overrated in the modern world.)

Sure, like those tough-talking NHL coaches a lot of players claim they respect, you sometimes have to get into the negative stuff—especially if a player is misbehaving or making the same mistake over and over again. 

"Guys! We have to quit shooting the puck at OUR goalie!" 

But for the most part, as long as you're being a straight shooter, an honest, positive outlook will definitely help your young players shoot straight on the ice.



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