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Deflections: The play-by-play colour coach


The coach is to be stoic, emotionally controlled, and perhaps somewhat stone-faced. If we’re to follow the examples we see on TV, that’s true. Then again, they’re dealing with professionals who are adults, or at the very least, older, experienced adolescents. It was pretty much my approach with any non-minor team I’d coached. Things are different now with my minor/major bantams.

For the first part of this season, I was prone to saying little on the bench other than congratulatory remarks for good plays, announcing line changes, and offering the occasional gentle verbal butt-kick, softened by the sandwich approach: Something good - something not so good - then something good again. There’s been, admittedly, the odd “junior-level” brain fart when I’ve fallen into silence, forgetting the age I was now dealing with. But of late, I’ve chosen to alter my approach. We’re stuck in a brutally stupid schedule so mental and physical fatigue gets to these young’uns more quickly. As a result, I’ve needed to keep my verbal thumb on the pulse.

What’s life without risk? Verbal thumb on pulse really means yakking on the bench using a mix of play-by-play along with colour commentary. I’ve never actually done play-by-play but I have done plenty of colour stuff for AAA and whatnot. It’s basically analyzing and to some extent simplifying what the viewer already sees. I began to recognize around November that that’s more what my bantams needed.

For one thing, they don’t much watch the game when on the bench. They see it, but don’t observe, aside from the obvious plays. It’s a lousy seat anyway. Even from the coach’s vantage point of standing on the bench, a lot slips by. So whatever I catch needs to be important and shared. There’s nothing gained from jabbering a river of commentary about everything. You need to pick your spots.

Changing my bench approach has been a challenge. I’ve always been very careful about over-coaching during a game. The real preparation is done in practice or in off-ice chats with players. If a kid was consistently out of position in a game because he just wouldn’t apply himself mentally to doing it right, it’s darned tough to get him to change that habit in the middle of a game. At least that was what I found to be true with older elite players.

However, lower level competitive bantam is where those bad habits originate. With the packed schedule and minimal practice time, it’s pretty tough to coach the boys into the right habits. Hence my having to resort to in-game teaching. Hardly the ideal approach but it’s all I’ve got. So that’s where I am right now and need to be.

Next week, I’ll offer up some detail on what I say, when, and why. Does it even work? That’s the better question.

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