Time for a debrief into the mirror. What did you learn from this season?
You can choose to criticize the parental groups or bemoan the fact your players couldn’t turn both ways. You can also choose to sneer at the lack of association support when problems arose or a schedule that roasted your kids in November because they were so tired.
Indeed, you can choose to do all those things and more. But you’d find yourself getting angry and flustered and questioning why you even bother. A better approach would be to sit down and reflect – seriously reflect – on the season, and leave nothing out. The purpose is not to beat yourself up about what should or shouldn’t have been done. Good coaches, even great coaches, use a virtual mirror to identify areas of improvement. For them, how the team finished is almost immaterial.
One year in junior, the team I was with won the championship. It was a pretty solid group. The night we won it, while at the owner’s restaurant after the game, one fellow, 21 and graduating, gave me a congratulatory hug with thanks for helping them reach their goal. “I could never quite figure you out,” he said. “You kept me guessing all the time as to what you wanted. Now I know.”
It was meant to be a compliment, which, on the surface, it seems to have been. Days later, I started thinking about his comment. At 21, he wasn’t a kid. He was old enough not to take things at face value and perhaps read too much into what coaches asked. What did he mean, I wondered? Was I vague or obtuse in my communication with these guys? Did I keep myself aloof for some untold reason? I wouldn’t say it bothered me, but it did force me to ask myself many questions about my coaching approach, despite the team’s tremendous success.
I spent about a month reevaluating how I ran drills, the types of drills, how I communicated specialty team set-ups, what I said in the room… in fact, nothing was left off my virtual mirror’s checklist. I usually do some form of this exercise anyway, but it was my player’s remark that spurred me to more inward facing than normal.
To some, the danger is to become too reflective, to question everything we do with our teams. I don’t believe it’s dangerous; in fact, I believe it’s a necessary part of the coaching process and one of the essential tools to becoming a better coach. We may question what we’ve done and, if sincere, it’s likely we’ll often conclude that much of our work in a season was more than acceptable. But that’s really a function of one’s standards, isn’t it?
So then, mirror mirror on the wall…
1) Prospect Profiles: Alexander Alexeyev, Hunter Holmes & Xavier Bouchard
2) Ask a Coach: University of Vermont Associate Coach Kyle Wallach: Academics, Recruiting & Preparation
3) 2018 HockeyNow Minor Hockey Player of the Year: November Shortlists
4) Cornered Coach: The Peanut Gallery
5) The Search Begins for the 2018 HockeyNow Minor Hockey Players of the Year