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Deflections: Picking coaches: Part 1

 

Does playing experience equal competent coaching?

Way back, in my early coaching days in house league, there was a fellow about my age who couldn’t skate. He claimed he could walk/slither on skates, but not well and certainly not safely. Playing hockey was out of the question.

How Frank (not his real name) came to have a team was a mystery to me. Maybe there were no other candidates. I don’t really know.

He ran practices wearing winter boots. He shuffled about the ice, directed kids to do this and that, helped them with skills, and even pointed out and corrected skating issues. He had one of those deep strong voices, perfect for a cavernous rink. Frank also seemed to have a decent rapport with kids and his teams did fairly well, too.

Aside from hockey chit-chat, we didn’t talk much so I can’t say I knew him well. But just as an observer, I’d say Frank was an effective coach.

Another example. I knew a guy who’d been a mediocre player at the lowest level of competitive minor hockey. Judging by his comportment around the game, I suspect Gary was a tough customer. Not too skilled, but I wouldn’t have wanted to cross him on the ice. He was, however, one of the best technical coaches I’ve ever seen. Completely self-taught with an eye for the tiniest detail and a knack for how to fix problems, he was also a strong communicator and innovator with his minor teams. They had tremendous success at elite levels.

Gary successfully ran off-season programs and schools, partly because of his drive and partly his organization skills. Above all else, he considered himself a teacher of the game. Watching him play though made you wonder how on earth he could be such a competent coach.

A third example. This chap, Doug, is in my own age category. He never played hockey. Not a minute. Broomball? Yes. And he was a champion at it. But hockey? Nope. His skating was (is) laboured, his puckhandling erratic, his shooting out of sync.

But as a coach of elite minor and junior teams, he ranks high. A brilliant observer of players’ habits, strengths, and weaknesses, he is able to massage the best from his players, no matter the roadblocks in front of him. He respects the game and the people in it. Kids know it and respond. And if Doug were to read this, he’d shake his head in embarrassment.

Though he never played the game—and he readily shares this with his players—he tells them he is almost envious of their enormous gifts. Then he pushes them to use those same gifts to think, react, work, execute.

If Frank, Gary, and Doug had had to rely on playing resumes to get through coaching interviews, what do you think would have happened

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