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Deflections - To Seminar or Not

 

A coach asked me recently about whether or not it was worth attending a certain coaching seminar. While I’d attended the same one not long ago, I could understand why a young coach would consider going.

There’s the “Wow” factor: see an NHL or major junior coach, in the flesh, lecturing on what they do in the big leagues. “Here’s our 5 on 3 PP,” said then Bruins assistant Geoff Ward at a seminar the year after Boston won the Cup. Then came the punchline. His last slide showed the secret to winning in the playoffs: GAGG - Get A Great Goalie. (Tim Thomas had led the way that year).

At another a couple of years back, one of the Montreal assistants did a presentation on the stats he kept and how they were used. I later asked a pee wee coach what he thought of it. He said it was “pretty cool” but he couldn’t see any of it being useful at his level.

Most pro coaches I’ve met have been marvelous at sharing, chatting and even guiding. But I’ve not yet met one who could relate to the issues a pee wee or bantam amateur coach faces. In fact, many state straight away that their approaches probably shouldn’t be attempted with children. This shouldn’t dissuade someone from going so long as one keeps perspective in mind. And cost. Seminars aren’t cheap because bringing in these coaches costs a few bucks.

What’s the objective? Learning and personal development are wonderful. Does one need to attend a lecture from an astro-physicist to learn about space travel, or would a viewing of the film Apollo 13 suffice? An obvious problem about seminars is the gap between minor hockey’s reality and pro or junior sport.

However, there is a great deal to be said for just plain learning; for seeing how the game has changed (or not); for noticing that pro coaches have many of the same challenges as minor coaches; for understanding the importance of detail and being able to break down a skill or tactic to its base forms; and for realizing there is so much more to coaching than can be found in any clinic or book.

As I shared with that coach, experience plays a role, too. I’ve been to a great many seminars with a wide array of speakers. Most were very good and a few were duds. Having now heard a dozen different approaches to defensive team play or attack methods or goal-setting, I personally feel a bit burned out, not to mention the volumes of handouts I’ve read a few times.

But for him and most others, as a new and exciting coaching development experience, it may be well worth the time and money.

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