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Deflections: Same thing, only different?


Do our coaches coach as they themselves were coached?

For the most part, yes, and this isn't necessarily a good thing. Let's look at three examples.

Coach Gary was an elite player who went from minor to college hockey and finally a stint in minor pro hockey. We forget that the vast majority of so-called elite kids go this route. They never even come close to "the show." Not that having your education paid for and experiencing the world of pro sports isn't healthy or enriching. It's both in a multitude of ways. His first coaching job, with no training at all, was with elite midget age kids.

His clearest recollections of drills and approaches are from his junior and college days. One coach was ordinary, a couple of others barely that. He got somewhere sort of in spite of them. Now as a coach, he finds he needs to really think about his own approach so as not to resort to what was done with him, which was mostly uninspiring. But without role models or mentors, he admits using many of the same drills and teaching techniques he saw. For instance, he starts every rep of every drill with the whistle, an old style technique that limits player decision-making and makes the coach focus on a drill's start rather than what the players do in it.

There's Coach Paul who played a little competitive hockey as a kid then intramural in university. He has a good eye for teaching the game and relates well to kids. He's a pretty good coach by any measure—creative, investigative, innovative. But without higher level playing chops, he's not regarded as a serious contender for elite teams because he didn't experience the level himself. Yet his teams have always done quite well. He searches for newer and better ways to deal with players, challenging them to work towards a level he himself couldn't attain. He works hard at coaching because he knows he has no alternative. To draw the best from his players means exploring every avenue open to him, and some that aren't. 

Coach Al got roped into the position because no one would take the team. He played a little as a youngster but not much. His skills are poor. He watches team practices at various levels then steals drills which look fine when others do them but are horrible when his team tries them. He has no means of comparison and no standards to aim for, let alone no help. In a way he envies people like Coach Gary who at least had something to draw from. On the other hand, he’s thankful not to be influenced by how it was done in a bygone era. But where to get guidance on all this?

Next week, I’ll look at the pros and cons of coaching in these scenarios.

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