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Deflections - Interviews: Be Ready!


Some years ago, I assisted in the creation of a document to outline the selection process for elite coaches in a minor hockey district. A major part of that process involved the interviews. Our thinking was that interviews needed to be more detailed than what an association might have in place for recreational or lower level competitive coaches.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? The typical AAA coach, especially at the bantam and midget levels, deals with so much more than anyone else in the system. Interview questions should therefore reflect it.

Except for one problem: if someone were to ask every question on the list, as well as related questions elicited from answers, the interview would seem more like a six-hour police interrogation. So we had to pare it down – a lot. In fact, to make it manageable, the interview was trimmed to the point where I wondered about its worth.

Look at it this way. You’re coaching a team and applying for another at a different and/or higher level. You’ll have maybe 45 minutes to explain your philosophy and teaching approach without launching into anything about what already sits on your résumé. If the interview committee has only skimmed it – and hopefully that’s at worst – you’ll need to discuss some experiences and why they enriched you as a coach. If the committee tosses in a few questions, especially ones asking to lay out a progression for some tactic or skill, that 45 minutes dissolves quickly.

Job interviews are stressful enough. But at least there, the candidate is familiar with the field and probably has some expertise. In minor hockey, expertise is in the eyes of the interview committee of which sometimes few have much coaching experience, let alone at an elite level.

I saw that first hand with one group. A couple of the committee members tossed coaches questions that were plucked out of the air and hadn’t been thought out. What do you think of our fair ice time policy? (Wise_ss answer: It’s patently dumb) What’s the most important part of a breakout? (Wise_ss answer: For these eight year olds, it‘s retrieving the puck without going headfirst into the boards.) Nothing was gained from the interviews. Zero. A waste of everyone’s time.

One association I know of conducts interviews in three stages: Stage 1 is a brief (about 10 mins) overview of philosophy; Stage 2 is more technical; Stage 3 is more of a combo platter.

To prepare, a coach has to be able to provide something unique about the approach, complete with a rationale and support. For instance, if you’re not really going to teach a formal power play to lower level competitive pee wees, that’s fine, but what exactly will you teach them and why?

If you want the team, be ready.

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