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Deflections: Eight year olds aren’t soldiers and hockey coaches aren’t generals


One of the nasty downsides of being in rinks so often is that I hear or see things that leave me shaking my head.

Usually it’s an on-ice approach or series of drills for kids best suited for the 1960s or players ten years older.

The latest one though, was a true puzzler...

Our junior team coaching staff was gathered in a dressing room about to discuss our game plan while the boys warmed up. There are four dressing rooms in the hallway. Adjacent to ours was one where a group of coaches was getting changed. Their team had just gotten off the ice from practice, some of which I watched. Sound carries in that hallway, especially when doors are ajar.

From down the hall, where the kids’ team was changing came the crystal clear rant. One coach, presumably the head guy, was tearing into them about effort in practice. He ripped them for not trying hard enough long enough, for fooling around in practice, for not representing the organization better because it was a privilege to play there...blah blah blah.

The junior staff uttered a collective “Wow!” I stepped into the hallway on the pretense of checking the ice, but really to see who this coach was. He stomped out of the dressing room, marched down the hall and joined his colleagues, making a remark about how “they” (his team) had to get the message early.

It was a team of eight year olds – though that point is only significant for perspective.

Had they been 12 or even 14, his rant would still have been unwarranted. One of my coaching colleagues commented about the abuse of power with little kids. In a general sense, he was right. Lording over eight year olds is a bit much.

I recall a Cub Scout leader my son had way back, a grown man whose own boy was in the pack. This fellow regularly pounded back and forth launching commands at the kids in the form of militaristic orders. My son wanted out after four months.

I wonder what parents might have said had they been around the dressing room when Coach X launched into his lecture. In fact, I wonder what the rest of the coaching staff was thinking because surely they would have heard it, too.

Maybe Coach X is said to be a good coach. I can’t say. One thing is certain: if the tirade I heard is in any way reflective of his communication skills with little kids, he’s the one who needs some mentoring.

Failing that, he ought to consider some other form of volunteerism.

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