Walk Your Talk Coach

Most minor hockey coaches in Canada are volunteers; men and women who devote their time to developing young, aspiring hockey players to be better at the game and ideally, better at life.

Those of us close to the game understand and appreciate the incredible lessons and learning’s the game has to offer, both at and away from the rink, as these valuable life skills have likely affected us in the same way years earlier.

We decide to “give back” and use our knowledge, and our experience to shape the youth of today in the game.

All very important and honorable reasons for being involved…and exactly why I started coaching in my early 20’s and continued again in my 30’s when my son turned 5 and began his journey into the game. I was out to shape the lives of our future stars.

Something that stood out to me in the early rep years was the incredible amount of negativity that surrounded the rink. Not so much on my teams but certainly the teams we played against.
Coaches screaming at 7 and 8 year old kids, beating them down and literally bringing them to tears.

What the hell are you thinking? I recall going through my mind…how is that possibly helping that child? And how did you get that position to begin with?

I understand that coaching the game of hockey comes with a lot of pressure. The game itself gets tense and quick responses are needed. As a new coach, we are trained for a couple of 6 to 8 hour days about how to run drills, teach the stride, t-pushes and cross-over’s, how to teach players to get up, as well as the importance of focusing on skills at the younger ages, then strategy a couple years in.
All very important to understand, and essential to the game.

Unfortunately, we aren’t really taught how to behave ourselves. Or to understand the incredible impact we, as the coach have on these kids.
There is no handbook or instruction manual explaining how you as the coach need to act in order to ensure your kids do the same (until now:).
Which is why there are so many kids losing it on the ice, taking ridiculous penalties and even fighting in their first couple of years. They very often emulate the actions and antics of the coach.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that some of this behaviour stems from parenting as well. Lord knows every coach has had that parent who tells their child to do the very opposite of what the coach is teaching them. Drive-home coaching has been ramped in the game for years and isn’t going to change overnight.

What I am saying is that when you, as the coach take a look at your own actions first, almost as if you are constantly being videotaped, think about how you want to be seen and how you want to be heard.

Remember the high school basketball coach who was caught on camera head-butting the referee?
We all looked at that situation and were outraged, but how many things are you doing (that don’t necessarily fall into that category) that would embarrass you if put on TV?

Think about and focus upon what you be proud of and how your actions would benefit the kids? In doing this, you begin to create new habits that process situations quickly, before you act, ensuring a more positive response that will, in turn, teach the kids the same positive habits. When you do this, it becomes the norm for how they respond to stressful situations.

The best part of this approach is that not only do the kids respond more positively at the rink during both practice and game situations, but they have more fun, and begin to take this new approach home with them, to school and to every other aspect of their life as well.

Think about the impact you have when you come to the rink in a good mood yourself. If everything clicked for you during your day I guarantee the kids that night seemed to respond really well.
Conversely, I bet if you had a crappy day and brought a less than desirable attitude to practice or the game, the kids probably played terribly, or didn’t listen at all.
There’s no coincidence in this. You have that much impact on them.

True leaders walk their talk and lead by example.

As a coach, you’re a leader, and this position comes with huge responsibility. Your attitude dictates their actions.

To quote Billy Graham:
“A coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime”.

This philosophy starts with you, the coach.

So I say start to “Think Different” and makes sure you are walking your talk.

It’s time to “Get Your Head In The Game”.

Michael White
Mental Fitness Trainer/Success Coach
Author; Get Your Head In The Game – Mental Fitness Training for Hockey Coaches

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