Time to hit the reset button.
After a number of years working with junior and elite minor teams, I’ve chosen to sort of go back to my roots. This season, I’ll be coaching a community-level competitive bantam team. It’s an age group I’ve not coached in 20 years and a level I haven’t done since my Montreal coaching days of the 70s. That’s a long time. I wonder how much rust has decayed my brain since then.
Like many of us who teach the national coaching program or act as mentors, I’ve done my share of advising. I stand before groups of coaches (and association boards) fairly frequently and provide assistance or guidance on an array of coaching topics. The audiences are nearly always non-elite coaches. But even when I’ve worked with elite clubs or teams, I had the credibility chops, so to speak, since I myself had done a fair amount of elite level coaching.
But it always bothered me that my experiences in elite hockey could be translated easily by those not coaching at the higher levels. Do as I say, seemed to be the mantra. You should be able to handle this or that in practice, teach these skills or tactics, all with a few basic principles in mind. This from a fellow who for decades had been coaching players with strong fundamental skills and, mostly, a hunger to improve and win.
When I reflect on my earliest coaching years, it wasn’t that way at all. Those kids didn’t have a lot of skills in their tool box; they had difficulty applying tactical concepts; and practice time was minimal to cover it all. Plus, expectations were entirely different. None of those youngsters were going to play at any appreciable level (though a few somehow did).
The group I’m taking this season has no history of success, if one measure of success is team record. For instance, not a single player feeding into this team managed a point per game scoring rate last season. The leading scorer was more like a point per game and a half. Offensively challenged, it would seem.
However, I care about neither and perhaps (rightly or wrongly) that will set me apart from coaches they’ve either had or seen. Having had a few great titles over the years and seen players develop to high levels, my objectives are different. I want this group to be able to say at the end of the year that they had a blast and learned a lot. Period.
A few colleagues at elite levels have furrowed their brows when I mention the team I’ll coach. It’s a natural reaction. I tell them I was losing perspective both as a coaching instructor and a leader in the game. It was time for me to look at things through a different lens.
So here I go...
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