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Deflections: You can’t always get what you want


For the most part, coaches coach what they know. To expect more is perhaps a bit delusional.

Why? In this country, minor hockey coaching is largely a volunteer activity at all but the elite levels. Mostly, you get what you get and not often what you want. Sometimes associations have to cajole people into coaching. With more competitive teams, there’s the exercise of coach interviews and the like, but usually the list of candidates is relatively short.

So then someone chooses to coach (or apply to coach) a team bringing along a fairly minimal coaching resumé. The intentions are great, which is why Canada is the envy of the world in terms of volunteer involvement. But you need more than just good intentions to dance at this party. 

Like kids? Check. Love the game? Check. Want to be involved? Check. Belief in having something, whatever it is, to offer? Check.

Know how to run drills? Create drills? Communicate? Deal with parents? Run a bench? Manage a dressing room? Address technical issues? Correct a team flaw? Or an individual’s?

Have interesting, challenging and fun practices? Um, well, sort of, sometimes… depends…

It’s not a knock on our coaches. It’s the reality. The coach who comes with a strong playing background also drags along a narrow version of what worked (or maybe it didn’t) at that time in that situation for him/her. True, there are lots of cool drills that can be mined again. However, coaching is not and has never been about using cool drills. It’s about teaching. Drills are but one tool. Coaches from high level playing careers find this out pretty quickly. They’re just another volunteer trying to get the most out of a bunch of kids. No one cares anymore where they played, except for parents who love to hear the stories.

In some ways, coaches with minimal playing backgrounds don’t have much in the way of preconceived notions of how the game should be taught or played. They’re fresher and more open-minded. The ex-player has experienced a certain approach from former coaches; the not-so-much ex-player is limited that way but tends to want to try a more experiential approach to coaching, unencumbered by memory. Both know the game, though from differing points of view. Neither background is better than the other, yet both require guidance.

In last week’s blog, I cited three examples of actual coaches and their hockey backgrounds. Each has brought to their teams varied skill sets in communication and sport. More importantly though, each learned to build upon those inherent skills because they discovered pretty soon that they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

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