Once in a while it’s important
that the leadership of junior hockey (owners, managers, coaches, parents) get a
reminder of what the primary responsibility really is.
In reality, very few
of the young men under our direction will get the opportunity to play for a
Stanley Cup; the numbers certainly deliver a harsh dose of reality. So what is
the real purpose for the level of play? Is it simply about on-ice development
for the next level of play or is there more?
There is a tremendous amount
of similarities between being a father and a good hockey coach. In this day of
political correctness, I find myself not allowing traditional influences to negatively
impact the character of my children. Discussions that were considered taboo
just ten years ago is now little more than a common school yard activity.
I made a choice to
take my children down a different path and encourage coaches to take a similar
approach to the management of their own teams.
Junior players are
significantly more informed today than what they were just fifteen years ago. Just
as the game itself has morphed into a sport that requires a year-round
commitment, coaches need to find a way to connect to this generation of
The days of filling a
roster simply by stapling a poster to the local rinks’ bulletin board are far
behind us. With few exceptions, it takes a year-round recruiting effort to
build a solid team year-after-year.
There is a high value
placed on each player and that’s exactly why teams and coaches need to make
sure that every selection is a good fit for the organization.
Coaches have to gauge
more than just a player’s on ice ability, it’s even more important to get guys
that will help maintain the balance in the locker room.
Once those players are
assembled and dialed into a solid team, it’s also important that the coach
knows how to manage the character of the group. Like individuals, the reaction
from the players may differ from year-to-year.
What worked for one
team may be completely ineffective for another. Coaches have to have the
flexibility to understand and acknowledge the individual pieces that make up
The coach’s use of
intimidation is a tool of the past and completely ineffective.
A tier II team made a mid-season coaching change a few years back. The players were laughing at new head coach’s
attempt to establish his dominance with a barrage of intimidation and threats
of trades to Tier 3.
Hey coach, wake up and
smell 2018. There is nothing like a new coach being clueless when it comes to the
junior hockey landscape. Free to play hockey in New England or Texas sure
beats the snot out of paying to play in Montana or Wisconsin.
The opportunity to step
up and be a leader of men was quickly lost within 15 minutes of the new coach’s
introduction to the team. While the players looked for some type of positive
reinforcement after months of bitterness, that new coach displayed a complete lack of
respect for the guys on the ice.
The coach could have
taken a much different approach. A guy like Wenatchee Wild Head Coach Bliss Littler could take the exact team that he beat a week before and beat his own team a month later. How is that? Because Littler gets it, he knows how to get to the heart of the player, and he gets to know what makes each player tick.
Yes coaches, we only get one chance to make a great first impression. Sometimes all it takes is one good leader to help shape the individual characters of team of young men.
Let's turn this season into one where the the best coaching efforts have a lasting impact on the rest of each player's life.
* Disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Stephen Heisler, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.