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Deflections: Picking coaches: Part 4

Under only particular circumstances does my body quiver a bit, along with the hair follicles on my neck. Sometimes I also feel a corner of my upper lip shimmer and shake. Then the eyes roll a smidge. I become the classic look of someone about to launch into full sneer. No, it’s not from something I ate.

All it took was the pronoun “I” coupled with the transitive verb “won.” When a prospective coach repeatedly proclaims, announces, or states, “I won that title,” I know he’s not the person for a team.

I’ve seen a host of coaching applications over the years that list team championships, first place finishes, tournament titles and the like. What I haven’t seen much though are applications that indicate a knowledge of how to teach progressively, how to challenge even the weakest player, or statistically (for lack of any other gauge of perceived success) how much a team improved over a season, the finish notwithstanding.

A minor hockey coach whose teams win a lot can be an indicator of negative as well as positive coaching techniques. Did the teams win because of shortened benches? Were kids recruited? Did one goalie playing nearly all the games carry the team? Does the coach regularly only take teams with the potential to win? Was the focus on team tactics rather than skill development? Did he just happen to have strong groups in particular years?

Winning isn’t the enemy nor is it the opposite of development. It just should not be one of the critical factors in selecting a coach.

What we want for our kids are people interested in developing the kids, not the CV. If the teams win, bonus. If they compete, terrific. If they improve, learn and have fun, bingo!

How you find such coaches is only part of the question. The other part is that associations need to be prepared to develop them. The recipe isn’t so hard. Find someone who has the interest and enthusiasm. Toss in a willingness to develop coaching and teaching skills. Add dollops of passion for the game. Stir, sit back, and enjoy.

The soft skills required to be an effective coach are too often shunted to the back burner while interviewers and assessors carp about record, the ability to teach a power play, or whether or not a prospective coach has the right hockey “chops.” It’s backwards.

Show me someone with even a modicum of hockey playing ability, strong communication skills with kids, an understanding of what they’re about, teaching ability that’s ready to be honed, and I’ll show you a terrific minor hockey coach.

The rest is nearly immaterial. Worth remembering these spring days as coaches are selected for next fall.

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