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Deflections: Time for some high performance coaching

Across Canada this summer, various Hockey Canada branches will host High Performance 1 coaching seminars. Those of us who’ve taught the national coaching program for a few years have mixed feelings about these particular clinics.

It’s not because they’re not worthwhile. They are. Very much so. Coaches are exposed to a variety of expert speakers and, while working in groups, share ideas on a range of coaching topics. The five-day (or so) clinic is exhausting and an immersion in the game at a level well above what most attendees have ever experienced. They are challenged both during the seminar and after in the written assignment and field evaluations to see how much there is to coaching high performance athletes.

First some background. Hockey Canada, in conjunction with the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC), instituted new rules in 2013 for the training and certification of coaches at every level and age group of amateur hockey. Those who are head coaches of AAA minor teams or tier 2 junior A clubs must hold High Performance 1 certification. Hence the veritable flood of clinics this summer since minor AAA coaches have to be certified by the 2015-16 season and junior A coaches the year after.

There are two issues surrounding the seminars. I’ve taught at many of these, chaired a few, and am about to chair the one in Ottawa. We will face many of the same problems we’ve always faced in these specialized clinics with the exception that, unlike bygone days, only those coaching elite teams are admitted.

First, the content remains very much a one-size-fits-all approach. Clinic presentations and group work sessions are outlined by Hockey Canada and the CAC. This serves as the one common denominator that coaches across the country will see. So in that regard, at least we’ll be able to say that whether you’re in Nova Scotia or Saskatchewan, your HP 1 is pretty much the same. However, there will be pee wee and bantam AAA coaches in the same room as junior A coaches. In fact, at most seminars, there’s usually a smattering of major junior, CIS or European coaches as well.

This means, too, that amateur coaches spending 10 to 15 hours per week with 12- to 14-year olds are receiving similar content as those whose full-time jobs are to coach young adults. It’s tantamount to saying we’ll offer the same English curriculum guidelines to those teaching grade 9s as second year university students. It doesn’t make much sense. The challenge then for those organizing these seminars is to try to get speakers to tailor their talks to the audience. Not so easy when speakers are experienced professionals with little connection any more (or ever) with minor hockey.

As to the second issue, I’ll share it with you next week.

(HEO’s HP 1 seminar runs June 20-22 and July 4-6)

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