What should I look for in a Coach?

When choosing a coach; you must first understand what qualities you want to look for in a coach, and what you should probably avoid.

Possessing the ability to inspire, physically demonstrate, separate their agenda, and not let their ego get in the way of what’s best for the team, is paramount. A good coach can relate the information in a way that each player, individually, can comprehend. Diverse methods are key… not every player responds to the same stimulation (screaming, coddling, ego building, etc.). Most importantly, the coach must offer expertise. The body and presentation of the lesson plan must be fruitful.

As a parent, a few red flags you should look out for when choosing a coach are: negativity, signing up for over saturated clinics and allowing your judgment to be clouded by a coaches playing career. Focus on finding a positive learning environment for your child. Unless your child is one of the core players for a exceptional team, it’s better to play for teams that offer real playing time and your child’s coaches attention. Paying the bills, while sitting on the bench, isn’t fun for anyone! Go where your child will learn, have fun, make friends and play.

Why isn’t organized hockey coaching ability consistent at every age group?

In one word… Money! First consider the fact that youth hockey organizations are nonprofit! Coaches get involved in youth sports for many reasons. Parent coaches are the most common. This is due to bartering, offering labor instead of player tuition, and the obvious attraction to coaching their child. Many professional youth coaches offer their services as skills coaches, rather than coach winter teams. Skills coaches make their money on the weekends, travel hockey requires traveling on the weekends… there in lies the conflict. Unfortunately, some coaches simply view youth hockey as a prelude to their professional coaching career. This leads to short term affiliation and parental dissatisfaction. The point is quality coaching is rare! If you’re lucky enough to have a good winter org. coach who is in it because he loves to coach and loves working with kids, try to consider the value before engaging in a conflict. Youth hockey coaches receive pay to cover out of pocket cost. This isn’t a “job” to them, it’s a passion! We need more quality coaches to STAY involved, if we want to maintain a positive learning experience for our children! It’s impossible to make everyone happy, give the coach a break if you can.

Why should I hire a skills coach to work with my child?

Take a look at the NHL 20 years ago, and look at it today. European influence over North American training methods is undeniable! If you want your child to improve, additional training is required. Just like in school, most kids need extra help and tutoring. Playing for a winter team, and playing pickup hockey with friends in the off season, is not enough in today’s youth sports world! How far you go is determined by how much work you put in. Talent only gets you so far. There is nothing wrong with being a recreational player, however a dedicated hockey player views hockey as a life style. They are willing to achieve their goals by any means necessary! This means a full time commitment to their training. This lifestyle is not for everyone, but is required to be successful!

Why should I, as a parent, educate myself about the game of hockey?

You must learn how to spot correct training, from incorrect training. Once you choose your coach for the season, fully commit and allow things to play out. This is important if you want a strong return on your investment. Use your knowledge of the game to support your child’s coach, so that your child absorbs all of the information and experience offered. Parents and coaches need to work together, to communicate one voice to a youth hockey player. Conflicting ideas of how the game should be played, will only serve to confuse a player! You will not agree with every decision made by your child’s coach. What’s important, is to maintain perspective. Your child will have a multitude of coaches over the course of their hockey career; the bad experiences are just as important as the good. Disagreeing with your child’s coach, arguing ice time and publicly displaying disapproval of coaching decisions made will only result in your child disrespecting their coach. Your child’s ability to absorb knowledge, follow a game plan and be a team player hangs in the balance. Like you, your child will not agree with every decision their coach makes. To be successful they must follow the coaches game plan regardless. If you aren’t, ask yourself what kind of example you’re setting for your child!

How much ice time should I expect?

At the Mite through Peewee levels, everyone should play. The focus should be learning each position, the skills required, and the strategies involved. Once a player reaches the Bantam level, they face the adversity of earning ice time. Players are bigger, stronger, and more aggressive. Injuries occur, and as a result a larger roster is required. Conversion matters, as winning games becomes more important. Special team’s privileges are earned, and those special teams are composed of players with a specific skill set and work ethic. That being said, no player should only see a few minutes of ice during a game. This is a waste of time and money! Everyone should see a regular shift, unless a player is being penalized for poor behavior or performance. At the Bantam level, players are also on the radar for Junior, Prep School, NCAA and Professional scouts. At this point, given a higher tier of league placement, the game becomes a lot more serious! As parents, you should not stand in the way of your child earning their ice time. When they are 18, they will have to fend for themselves. You are doing them a disservice by fighting their battles for them.

How do I, as a player, deal with the adversity I’m faced with?

How you deal with adversity, will serve to define you! To quote the great Vince Lombardi; “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up”. A player, and Coach, should be thankful for the adversity in their career. Bitterness will only work against you! It is important to learn from your mistakes, and not get stuck on them. To quote our father, certainly a great and courageous man for having to raise a pair of nutty twins like us, “The positive things that happen to you in your life serve to encourage you, but it’s the negative that sculpts you into who you will become”. How you view your past, will determine whether or not you have the character to move forward! Embrace the good and the bad, have the courage to move forward with a positive mind set.

How Realistic is it that my child will play professionally?

Out of every age group only a few play Division I and/or Professional Hockey. Rarely do they make it to the NHL! Most junior and college players travel to Europe to play in Elite Leagues, which is considered “Pro Hockey”. The reality is; Elite means the highest level in that region. Professional Hockey in North America and Europe are two very different things. There are some exceptional leagues in Europe, however due to the multitude of leagues and money they generate, not every team fits the profile. The experience however, is fantastic! We recommend that any player wanting to continue their career as adults, play in these leagues. They can be a big stepping stone in your professional hockey career as well! Don’t hang them up too soon…

The purpose of youth hockey, or any other sport, is to prepare your children for adulthood. Social skills, teamwork, leadership, character, professionalism, and hard work are just some of the skills they need to develop. Mainly, the point is to teach children that they need to work hard to earn their goals. This is a fragile stage of childhood that must be taken seriously. We are training them for real life, not just hockey!

These children are not professional athletes. It’s important, as parents and coaches, we maintain perspective!