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Deflections: Too many “men” on the ice



I’m in a rink watching a competitive team practice. The practice content and how it was presented will be in another blog. The rink is a small one and I’m told by a spectator that normally this team practices elsewhere on a “proper” larger surface. But a tournament is happening there and the team was shifted to this one. The parent adds that this surface is “way too small” for these elite kids. (Note: they’re ten years old.)

I don’t answer. The reason it seems “way too small”, I say to myself, is because in addition to the 17 kids on the team, there is a goalie coach, two teenage helpers, a head coach and four - four! - assistants.

For much of the practice, the goalie coach is given an entire zone to work with his protégés. Having 15 ten year olds using two-thirds of the ice isn’t the problem. That’s more than enough space to run decent drills. But what are all those coaches doing? Not much actually.

Let’s start with the two teenagers who are probably there to assist with something. It’s not apparent what because for the entire time, they practice their own marvellous puck handling moves while occasionally rifling pucks off the glass to impress spectators. This happens during drills, during teaching stoppages, and during the time the head coach has brought in the kids to describe a drill. Not once does either talk to a child. However, by the end of the practice I do notice both boys’ moves have improved appreciably.

The head coach runs the drills. His four assistants watch. They watch when the coach demonstrates; they watch when he teaches; they watch when he stops the drill to offer more feedback; they even watch the teenagers practice their dangles and top shelf shots.

They look like nice, well-meaning dads who just want to be around the team and possibly help, though they don’t. The result is that the player:coach ratio for non-goalies could have been 3:1. Instead it’s 15:1.

More so-called coaches on the ice doesn’t make a better practice or teaching environment. It doesn’t even look good when you see four men and two teenagers not engaging with the kids at all. The practice plan wasn’t particularly stellar anyway. It might have been acceptable though if coaches were coaching.

Whose fault is it? I say it’s the head coach’s. Granted, maybe he has no faith in the assistants’ skills or knowledge. Perhaps they’re all new to this. Maybe, too, the teenagers were foisted on him.

Doesn’t matter. He should be briefing the staff on their roles and expectations, where to stand, when and where to give feedback and on what. The teens can assist with herding the kids or demonstrating, but must not play or shoot pucks at any time. Otherwise, leave.

This was a clear case of too many men on the ice.

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