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Deflections: Benched! Part 2.


Sit him! Ride the pine 'til you get it!

There was a time when that approach was not only acceptable but also the norm. As a purely punitive measure, it certainly sent a message. Whether or not it worked is another matter.

Ask adults now about the effect of being benched and you’re not likely to hear many positive comments. Today’s coaches are loathe to resort to benching, yet still do it mostly because they know of no other approach to take. Denial of ice time is a simple solution, whether during a game or benching for an entire one. But I have to wonder what preventive measures existed before it even got to that point. What communication approaches were used with parents and players?

I was recently told of a competitive pee wee team comprised of first and second year pee wees on which one boy won a tournament MVP award. Allegedly, in the room afterwards, second year players derided the award winner, a first year player, commenting that he didn’t deserve it, others did, etc. Some years later, that youngster vividly recalls the hurt. How did it ever come to that point in the room?

There isn’t a coach I know who hasn’t had a difficult team or one with a few challenging individuals. The trick, one could say, is in knowing how to corral the difficult ones and redirect their negative energy into a positive one. This doesn’t solely happen on the ice. That’s but one component of what constitutes proper team management. And, let’s face it, sometimes no matter what you do, it just doesn’t hit the mark. Coaches often forget they’re merely coaches. They can’t parent the players, a role best left to, well, the parents. If the parents don’t support a coach’s efforts, then the coach is really in trouble.

It all has to start though with establishing the right foundation from the outset. A respectful environment is created through words and actions; by the coach; by the parents; by the players; on the ice; in the room; on the bench; even in the arena foyer and stands. Once it’s clear what is deemed acceptable, then the so-called “out-of-line” comments or events become true and clear anomalies. Parents are a lot more willing to be supportive when they recognize that their child’s poor behaviour, whatever form it takes, is truly inconsistent with what the team has had. There’s even a little subtle peer pressure among parents and kids to address things which are just not acceptable. Sometimes the coach can succeed at dealing with issues by merely pointing them out and letting parents mull over their own solutions. They are, after all, the parents.

The whole idea of course is to head off the suspendable problems before they get to the stage where the coach is about to issue a threat. By then, there aren’t many options left. I’ll look at those next week.

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