to define the role of a coach may well be the most difficult thing to do
in hockey. In all countries, National Coaching Certification Programs of
some kind are in place. These programs provide coaches with basic skills
and materials necessary to work with children at the minor hockey level in
local communities. There are several different levels through which a
coach may progress. The idea here is that the higher the level and the
more certificates a person has, the more skilled he or she will be as a
coach. That is about all I want to say about the training of coaches. If
you want to find out more about the technical qualifications of each
level, you should go to the appropriate web site of your national
a coach is very much like a teacher who is put in charge of educating a
group of young children. The curriculum is hockey. The program of studies
is pretty simple. Help the children learn to skate fast, shoot the puck,
pass the puck, stickhandle, play positions and show them the rules. Each
time the team plays a game is a test of how well the coach has been able
to combine the talents and skills of his players in comparison to the
other team. The objective is to improve the talent and skills of the
individual players at a faster rate than those of the teams against whom
you play during the season, so that you score more goals than your
opponent in the final game of the playoffs.
simple. According to this, anyone who passes the certification program
should be able to coach. Unfortunately, this is just the same as saying
anyone who graduates from Teachers’ College should be able to teach. We
all know people who are not very good teachers, but yet they are
‘certified’ and given responsibility for a classroom. I would also
imagine it is safe to say that we all know people who are not good
coaches, yet they are behind the bench.
what makes a good coach? What are the qualities you expect to find in a
ask this question wherever we go. The answers are always interesting. It
seems as if everyone can come up with some sort of definition and they can
also list a number of qualities that you can find in good coaches.
interesting thing we do when we are working with an individual team is
taking the parents aside and asking them to evaluate their coach as being
good or not so good. We only give them those two choices. We then ask each
parent to identify the qualities that the coach either has or is missing
to justify their answer.
then make an assumption that the coach thinks he is doing a good job and
we ask the coach to identify the qualities he possesses which make him a
comparison of the results is often very revealing. We do not normally
provide the coach or parents with the answers, but the results give us
insight into the problems that the team is experiencing and has a direct
impact on the summary report we provide to the team following the seminar.
is a very difficult position for anyone to attempt. In fact, I often
wonder why coaches volunteer their time. Imagine how difficult it would be
to be a classroom teacher if the parents of your students attended each
class and watched your every move. Imagine how nervous a teacher would be
knowing that parents were counting the minutes you spent helping their
child. Discipline is hard in the classroom now, but imagine if you had to
wonder if the parents approved of your methods, or if they thought you
were being too hard on their child. Imagine the phone calls at night after
class asking you to justify why you didn’t acknowledge the parent’s
child when he had his hand up to ask a question.
a hockey team is no different in terms of pressure. A coach is constantly
under a microscope, and he knows that others are watching and criticizing
his every move – not to his face, mind you, but they are being critical.
getting into some of the specifics about what it takes to be a good coach,
I want you to read a letter that one of our young readers sent to us to
post on our “After The Whistle” web site. You can go to the web site
name is K.L. I'm 11 years old and I'm living a dream I've always had.
the first time in since I've played hockey I made our rep team. We’re
called the Minor Pee Wee Bulldogs ''A''.
it ever fun going on the road to different cities and sometimes we get a
motel. To me this is just like being in the NHL. We travel, we eat
together, we practice a lot and we have fun together.
coach has to be the best coach in the world. When we play other teams I
see other coaches yelling at the players and sometimes I walk by a
dressing and hear coaches getting mad at their players. The rep team I'm
on has not won a league game in over 2 years. We did tie a team 2-2 the
other day - boy was that fun.
is the first year this coach has coached this team. His name is Coach
Paul. He will not win coach of the year, but he will always be coach of
the year to me.
has not only helped me improve my hockey skills, he teaches me life
skills. He has shown me that there is more to life than just hockey. Every
time we lose a game, he makes us feel good about ourselves. He never yells
at us. There is always laughter in the dressing after a game. Boy I'm
has told us to do good in school and school is more important than hockey.
Behind the bench, he’s really cool. Points out our mistakes when we come
off the ice and then gives us a pat on the back. I never knew losing could
be this much fun.
hoping we can improve the 2nd half of the season and show my coach that we
appreciate the time he gives us. It’s not easy for a coach to coach a
team that loses all the time. Most coaches wouldn't even consider coaching
our team, but our coach did.
Coach Paul you will always be coach of the year to me.
reading the letter from KL, you should have a better understanding of what
it takes to be a good coach. Coach Paul seems to be having trouble winning
hockey games, but he is certainly doing wonders for his players. And it
appears as if he has accomplished the one thing that good teachers and
good coaches strive for at all times. He has instilled a love of learning
in his players. The players love working for him and want to do their best
to show them how much they appreciate what he is doing for them.
let’s see what Coach Paul is doing that makes him a good coach:
of all Coach Paul is a true leader and he uses this leadership to teach
the players on his team the skills, team-work, participation,
communication and they have fun.
Coach Paul ensures that the exposure every player received to the game of
hockey is an enjoyable experience, allowing the children to have fun
regardless of the number of wins and losses. In Coach Paul’s case, this
is being achieved without ever winning a game. This ability to make the
game enjoyable even when the team is losing is something that elevates a
coach to a higher level than most.
Coach Paul has earned the respect of his players and they turn to him for
guidance and motivation. In fact, they can identify that he is teaching
them life skills as well as playing skills. They want to do well for the
coach to show their appreciation.
Coach Paul demonstrates a very professional approach to the game. He
doesn’t shout or lose his temper. He helps the players when they make a
mistake without destroying their self-confidence.
Coach Paul has a good knowledge of technical hockey skills. His players
feel that they are improving their hockey skills. In other words, the
players feel good about the learning that is taking place on the ice. He
obviously knows what to do in difficult situations that occur during games
because he is constantly providing his players with direction and
instructions on how to correct their mistakes.
Coach Paul obviously has excellent control over his players. He must
enforce rules and regulations over the players and expect them to take
responsibility for their actions. Players will only respect a coach who
respects them and who treats them all fairly.
since the letter indicates that the young player is having the time of his
life and feels as if he is in the NHL. In order for this level of
enjoyment to exist, Coach Paul must have an excellent communication with
the parents who have learned to respect the coach’s judgment, policies
and procedures. When the coach and parent are both approachable and
open-minded there will never be a communication barrier. This will allow
the coach to suggest areas on which the player needs to work. For
instance, maybe the player’s conditioning is not satisfactory for that
player to be safe on the ice. If
the parent is open to what the coach is telling the parent then together
they can work on a method to fix the problem.
A solution could be to have the player spend an extra hour doing
active work (ie. walking the dog) instead of sitting in front of a
Coach Paul seems like the kind of person who would accept his
responsibility for providing a safe environment for all participants under
his/her watch. An unsafe
environment fails to provide a proper place to have an enjoyable hockey
experience, and in this case, Coach Paul excels.
are many other qualities that one could list which apply to good coaches.
Most are similar to those qualities we would expect to find in good
“people”. So, in the end, a good coach is simply a good person who
happens to be running a hockey team.
am now going to let you read another letter that was sent by this same boy
near the end of the hockey season. The boy is 12 years old now and is at
the age when players are thinking of dropping out of the sport. The letter
will also let you see why the sport of hockey has developed a negative
image in recent years.
name is K.L. and you put an article on your web site I wrote about my
Coach Paul. This week was one of the saddest weeks I've ever had.
dad told me that the people running the hockey league in our city are not
letting Coach Paul coach the team next year. We didn't end up winning a
game and so they let him go. 4 years 4 different coaches.
was a good coach who taught me a lot. I guess every year they will get a
new coach, why? We try to win and he teaches us to have fun.
taught me to do good in school. My last 2 report cards were the best marks
I have ever had in 6 years of school. I get along better with my teachers.
He taught me to respect my teachers and my parents. He had me enjoying
getting dress pants, shirt and tie on for hockey. When I would feel
bad about a play I would make on the ice, he would tell me what to do the
next time and say don't worry about it.
house league my dad was always waking me up for practice. Now I'm waking
my dad up because I don't want to be late . I'm a better hockey
player and person since the beginning of the season, due to great coaching
from Coach Paul.
don't feel good inside right now. He wasn't only my coach, he was my
friend. I don't even know if I want to try out for Rep next season. My dad
tells me that Coach Paul would want me to try out and he would want me to
city is looking for a great Rep coach for 12 year olds next season, we
have the best one in the world and I would come to your city to play.
We would make it fun.
dad says that if Coach Paul was let go for losing then my dad doesn't
mind being called a loser and so do I.
Paul, no one can take away the fun you gave me, the laughs we had, the
hockey skills you taught me and most of all the friendship we had for each
other will last in my heart forever.
would like to say more but its 10 o'clock and dad says its time for bed.
hard to imagine what goes on in the minds of the Board administrators when
they make their decisions to appoint coaches. Obviously, KL thought the
world of Coach Paul and was willing to express his feelings publicly.
There were many responses sent in to our web site after KL’s second
letter was published. The following one came from a parent who also had a
son playing on the same team.
let me reiterate the words and thoughts of the 11 year old hockey player
K.L., who wrote in to tell us why his coach should be coach of the
year. My son also plays on this team and is coached by Coach Paul and
his staff. He (my son ) is not a first year player like K.L. but this is
the first year he has truly enjoyed playing.
Paul is in his first year coaching the team , so why is he not
returning next year? Is it because he is not interested? To quote him
"he is here for the long hall, win or lose or until they fire me.
he made progress? Every player is better than he was at the start of
the season. They have come to benefit from this coach's experience
and knowledge of the game.
the players enjoy playing for this coach? If asked, every single
player would tell you that he thinks of this coach as a friend, mentor
and, to some, as a surrogate father.
the parents want this coach back? Ask them and you will find that
this is the first time in four years the parents would want the
coach back. And the hardest question to ask. Is the coach's son a
strong enough player to play at the rep level? He was voted by his
teammates to be an assistant captain and he is one of the top players on
the team. So I ask you again, why is he not returning?
We as parents have been told he is being replaced by someone who is
better qualified. Something quite hard to do, when this coach scores
an a+ from all the players and parents. This team has had five
coaches in four years and now according to the powers above we will be on
number six next year. I have always thought that consistency grows
success. I guess I have
a different agenda than the brain child in the big new offices of
the league executive.
is obvious to myself and everyone involved that the association
would rather have a coach they can control like a puppet, rather
than someone who was totally devoted to the young men he is
Paul is one of the most caring and dedicated individuals I have ever
met. Not only is he at the rink with this team at least four days a
week, he seldom misses his teenage daughter who plays goal for another
team in the city. He runs a contracting business, working for a hazardous
material company who also sponsors the team. He also volunteers countless
hours for the City Fire Department. What a role model.
only good that can come out of this is if the dictatorship of the
league executive comes to their senses and asks the best thing that ever
happened to the team and possibly the organization to come back.
who wrote the above letter did not provide us with his name. He was afraid
that if he did, his son would not be given a fair chance to make the team
next year. The letter points out something that is currently going in many
other hockey associations in the country. The coaching selection process
is admittedly a difficult one for league executives. There are so many
"qualified" people who want to offer their services.
Nevertheless, as hockey consultants, we try to advise league
administrators to be aware of "perceptions" which will result
from their decisions. A coach with the caring attitude like Coach Paul is
not necessarily rare in hockey today, but it is rare to find someone like
Coach Paul who also develops a positive relationship with both his players
and parents. We know that it isn't healthy to allow one coach to stay with
a team for much more than two or three years. You want to give the
children a variety of teaching styles and experiences. But when things
blend so well in one year, there is usually no reason why the person can't
be given at least one more year to continue the development process. n
this case, it would appear as if a "qualified" replacement has
been found, but it will be a difficult fit for the new coach to step in
and deal with the comparisons that will undoubtedly crop up in September
and October. I want to share one other letter which was sent to us from
is pretty sad to see that hockey organizations are teaching our kids that
if you don't win, you will not be with our team. The fun is gone out of
hockey for organizations like this city, who it sounds like as if they
want a winning team if their going on their 4th coach in 4 years.
like Coach Paul was great leader to the kids. All we read about is kids
getting assaulted, sexually abused, verbally abused hockey. It was so nice
to hear about a coach who respected the players and made losing fun. I
coached house league for a few years and nothing was harder than keeping
the kids happy when we keep losing. I have 2 boys who play hockey and I
only wish we had a Coach Paul here.
hope that K.L. will continue to play hockey.
He sounds like a good kid, who loves the game and had fun playing
think sometimes these organizations think they’re running NHL teams. Let
the kids have fun. Why get rid of a coach the kids respect and enjoy
playing hockey for.
to K.L.’s letter, I see hockey in a different light. Losing can be as
much fun as winning if you have a good coach.
down the road you ( After The Whistle) can get Coach Paul to write and
tell us the secret to good coaching how he feels about hockey in general.
Good luck to K.L. Maybe one
day I'll hear your name in the hockey circles. I can't wait to hear how
next year goes for you Coach Paul. I hope you continue coaching somewhere.
We more people like you coaching hockey.
There is no
doubt that a hockey coach can have a great deal of influence on the
character development of a young boy or girl.
there are many challenges facing minor hockey today. For some of those
challenges, solutions seem to be readily available, while others have
hockey people scratching their heads. Nevertheless, no solution will be
possible until we have a proper collective frame of mind that will accept
some of the radical ideas that will be necessary.
this may not be a popular position to take, it is my point of view that
coaches are the cause of many of the problems with minor hockey today.
That being said, it is also my point of view that coaches are also in a
position to be most influential in solving the vast majority of problems
in minor hockey today. Let us examine one of the challenges I think will
go a long way to cleaning up a lot of the problems.
MUST BE MADE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE ACTIONS OF THEIR PLAYERS
we are going to address some of the problems in minor hockey today, we
must make coaches more accountable for the actions of their players. All
too often I have witnessed a hockey game going badly with respect to
players losing control on the ice and taking needless, senseless
penalties. When this happens, the fans get upset; the parents get upset;
the players who are missing ice time because of penalty killing get upset;
and the game becomes a joke.
one person who has the ability to regain control of the game is the coach.
It is not the referee, like many people may think, but rather the coach
who can get his players back under control. In spite of this, many coaches
not only refuse to take positive action, they actually encourage their
players to continue with their negative behaviour by complaining when the
referee calls yet another deserving penalty. The main complaint is that
since the referee has already called three penalties in a row against his
team, the next penalty should automatically go to the opposing club. I
have personally seen games where one team is given four penalties in a row
during a single power play before the players get the message that just
because they are a man short, they cannot ignore the rules.
way to make coaches accountable for the actions of their players is to
establish a specific number of penalties during any one game that will be
permitted before the coach is ejected from the contest. For example, once
a team takes a total of nine (9) penalties in the game, the coach will be
ejected on the tenth penalty and each penalty after the ninth will result
in an automatic game misconduct penalty for the player. This will
accomplish two things. It will ensure that the coach will be after his
players for taking penalties early in the game since he will definitely
want to “save” some penalties for later in the game when it may be
necessary to take a “good penalty” to prevent a goal. It will also
force teams to be less aggressive in the offensive and/or neutral zone.
Finally, if a coach doesn’t exercise this control, he will face ejection
after the 9th penalty is taken.
are many more challenges with respect to coaching, and we have tried to
address some of them on the web site at www.afterthewhistle.com.
When you have some time, you may wish to visit the site and offer your
comments for others to read.