Should coaches participate in drills with kids? No.
Once upon a time, in my early days as a house league coach, I used to practice my formidable stickhandling skills by keeping the puck away from my players. It was only when a few ganged up on me that I lost the puck. That I could dangle through a bunch of 11-year-olds did wonders for my self-esteem. I even managed it with bantams.
We used to hold parent-player games where parents, including ones who could barely skate, and coaches played a “fun” game against the kids. We got pretty competitive and sometimes bodies flew. This ended when I was informed just how dangerous and silly it all was.
Today, that game would not happen. Aside from sensible reasons, insurance and litigation get in the way. Yet I still see coaches actively playing with or against kids in drills. Make no mistake: these are not demonstrations. There’s a world of difference between showing kids how to, say, receive a body check and being in a drill with them as either the checker or the “checkee.”
Even demonstrations need to be done at a speed and proximity where every child can catch the required movements and instruction. That’s just good teaching. If you watch a baseball pitcher deliver a pitch on TV, you notice little until the video is slowed to a crawl. It’s only then that you see his grip and the way the ball moves. Demos need to be sloooowww and clear.
When a coach participates with a player, he/she is no longer coaching. You can’t play and at the same moment observe, teach, and give feedback. More importantly, there is a massive risk of injury to both. Try to imagine your defence in a lawsuit by the family of a child accidentally hurt in a drill when you fell on him. Was it necessary for the child to learn the skill by being against an adult with greater weight and strength? Of course not.
Then, too, is the issue of what would compel an adult to want to participate in a drill of any sort. Show off his skills? Establish a power base, so to speak? Perhaps even a touch of subjugation of the kids?
I’ve heard coaches defend this by stating the kids enjoy it. Do they really? Do they also enjoy parents on scooters in the neighbourhood chasing them? Do they want Mom or Dad playing with their toys while the child is with a friend?
Hockey is supposed to be a fun participatory activity for the kids. Let your players do the drills with each other. If the coaches need to play, join a league.
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