How do you know when it’s the right time to aspire to coach at a higher level?
First, consider the definition of higher level. In the minds of some, a higher level simply means older players. In the European club model system, the best technical coaches work with the younger children. This doesn’t happen in Canada, which perhaps helps explain why our technical development isn’t where it could be. Our coaches all seem to see themselves as tacticians ready to spring the latest and greatest forecheck systems on opponents. Focused as we are on the product rather than the process, we don’t recognize the vital role of those teaching the six- to 10-year-olds in preparing them to be able to execute those forechecks.
With that, we’re back to your ‘higher level’ dreams. There’s nothing inherently wrong about wanting to coach older, better players. To some degree, there’s a certain attraction to working with the best athletes. What people don’t often realize until they’re well into it is that this brings its own challenges: greater expectations to win, more demanding parents, a tremendous increase in time on the ice (requiring more preparation), working with more staff – and with it all the coach’s intrinsic need to achieve.
Qualifications merely unlock the door. If you need a certain level of certification, go get it. All that does is put a stamp of minimal competence on your skills. It was never meant to be more than that. As to needing to climb the ladder, I’m not so sure that’s required either, though it certainly enhances coaching skills and builds a solid résumé.
I suppose a good gauge of when to know it’s time for a new challenge is when your current and recent past coaching gigs have become sort of boring. Been there, done that, time to move on. The tougher question becomes, should you just coach a higher calibre of the same age group? Some coaches have a type of comfort zone where they feel most at home, such as working with 10 to 12-year-olds. While they’re experienced and competent at the pee wee AAA or AA levels, going to bantam presents challenges they just don’t want to face.
This is even truer going from, say, bantam to midget or junior. Those worlds are vastly different. For instance, you go from counting on parents to push their kids or drive them to the rink to the players driving themselves and having distractions you’ve probably forgotten you, too, once had.
From what I’ve witnessed, jumping to older age groups isn’t often the right move. It’s a difficult decision to wrestle with: Do you really need to do it? - vs - How can kids benefit from your expertise?
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