Coaches talk too much. I doubt there are many who really truly believe their words hold great import for teams. If I ask a coach how much time is spent on the ice showing a drill or teaching, they nearly always say something akin to, “As little as possible.” Time frame, coach? “Oh, maybe 30 seconds or less.”
Correct. Then why on earth talk so much before games, between periods, or after games?
One of the more interesting and challenging aspects of minor hockey, especially at the elite levels, occurs when the ice is flooded after the first or second period. It’s more common in tournaments, but is a regular season feature of AAA. Essentially we’re asking our kids to push a reset button in the room and try to exit with the same or better mind frame as for the beginning of the game. But this applies to the coaches, too.
Experienced coaches who are rooted in the learning styles of their players understand not only “the law of diminishing returns” (more talk = less impact) but also the art of knowing exactly what to say and to whom. I’ve seen coaches race into the room after a period and start talking or interacting with the kids almost before they’re seated. Players need a break from the coaches. And coaches need to take some time to script exactly what should be said and why.
Will you really solve the team’s forecheck issue by diagramming it for the fifth time? Or would it be more productive to address this with the handful of kids who aren’t executing as designed? Should the coach be task-focused between periods? Is it better to say nothing? Why?
Understanding the age group is, of course, essential. Younger kids just hear blah blah. Teens may tune in but only for a short while. Then they think, “Right, yeah, I know, we didn’t capitalize on the chances. How do I fix that, coach?”
I recall assisting on a junior team where the head coach, a terrific individual, always called on me to say something between periods. Mostly, I said nothing. I saved it for the bench for when the period was about to start. He’d already addressed a couple of key points and I figured that was enough. Occasionally, I handled the between periods chat, but even then, it was on perhaps one point.
Coaches have to take a breath, or four. Think about what you want to discuss, and more importantly, why. As well, which coach needs – really needs – to say something? Just because there are three coaches and the head coach is a magnanimous person about sharing the load doesn’t mean all three have to yak. It doesn’t even mean the head coach has to. In fact, no one has to.
There are innumerable ways to try keep a team on track or improve performance. All require communication. But what kind? When? To whom? And why?
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