A Guide For Parents
A Guide For Coaches
Too many think if you can skate a bit, draw some drills on a board and blow a whistle, you’re qualified to be a coach. This is so far from reality that it’s actually quite frightening.
This is a huge subject but I’m going to begin with some important essentials for coaches in minor hockey; however at this time, this is directed at parents to act as a guide to help parents to assess a coach. Much of this is also helpful in assessing the teaching quality of a hockey school.
If I were writing strictly as a guide for coaches, I would cover the important elements in a particular order. Since this is meant more as a guide for parents; the order is chosen with that in mind. Parents should look for coaches that demonstrate the following capabilities.
We’ve all pretty much forgotten what it’s like to be a child. Most daily communications are with other adults in the course work however young children don’t have the level of experience, communication skills and attention span of an adult.
I’m reminded of an interview with NHL coach Terry Crisp who won a Stanley Cup with Calgary Flames. In the interview Crisp talked about a great coach who mentored him in his early coaching career. I can’t recall who it was, but I believe it was Fred Shero (a 2 time Stanley Cup winner) when Crisp was an assistant with Philadelphia. Crisp said that one of the most important things he was told was: “be prepared to explain something to them a thousand times. And when they screw it up the thousandth time; be prepared to explain it to them the thousand and first time.” And these Stanley Cup winning coaches are talking about adult NHL hockey players, not bubble-brained little kids.
Young children have the attention span of a gnat and it’s very easy for a coach to become impatient and frustrated when they just don’t get it even though it’s been repeated several times. At the very young ages it not only requires great patience; it also requires: (a) some knowledge of how to have a command of discipline & orderliness and (b) some knowledge of how to teach. (or how people learn)
Discipline & Orderliness
Without some knowledge on how to maintain discipline & orderliness, you will end up with chaos during a team practice. A lot of coaches just get frustrated with the kids running around and out of control and resort to yelling at them. First, I don’t think today’s parents will tolerate this and secondly; it just doesn’t work. It may work for the first few times however after a while the kids will just tune it out. There are proven techniques that work to maintain order, but I’ll deal with them later in a blog directed at coaches.
Here are some signs the coach has a few things figured out: they will draw out a drill on the hockey board and have all of the players on one knee while the drill is being shown, they will always have a pylon at the staring point of a drill and they will not allow random shooting of pucks against the boards during drills.
How To Teach or Understanding How People Learn
When I started coaching it was mandatory to become certified by taking some coaching courses. Quite honestly, at the time, I didn’t think they were going to provide me with much that I didn’t already know. I ultimately found (not so much at these coaching courses) how little I knew about the full breadth and depth of knowledge needed to be a really good coach.
There was one very important thing that I did learn in one of my early coaching courses. The course instructors did a great demonstration on the learning process. They sent 3 aspiring coaches out of the room and then explained a little teaching/leaning exercise to the rest of the room. This exercise involved a fairly long series of fairly unusual body movement exercises the aspiring coaches would be asked to perform when they re-entered. When the first came in, the instructor simply explained the movements and then asked the person to perform those movements. This first performance broke down very quickly. With the second guinea pig, the movements were explained and then he allowed he allowed read the written description. The third guinea pig had the instructions explained, then he read them and finally one of the instructors demonstrated the the movements while explaining them. With each successive guinea pig the level of performance improved.
Watch to see if your coaching staff show, explain, and demonstrate.
Understanding How People Learn
Different people respond to instruction and learn in different ways. At the risk of offending; in my experience, I found that the young girls in the hockey school had a different nature of motivation and responded to a different sort of instruction. The girls wanted more detail whereas the boys responded more visually and instinctively. I found it interesting that the young girls looked as if they were progressing at a slower pace, however they were actually integrating the details of technique much better. From this experience it dawned on me that people respond and learn in different manners. If you’re not getting your point across; change your approach.
People think in pictures. When we describe something to someone pictures are flashing through their minds at a lightning pace bringing meaning to whatever is being described. If you’re not getting results; change the pictures.
There’s a lot more to come.
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