Many times when we speak about a triangle in hockey, we are speaking about formation on the ice that are utilized by players. This triangle formation helps produce options for effective play in all three zones. What I want to do is view the triangle from a different angle as it pertains to coaches.
When we are in the business of developing, as well as well as producing players to take it to the next level, we also need to be able to have the tools. I like to think of the coaches having three key points that they need to hit on every time they hit the ice with their players.
Educate – Evolve – Encourage
In order to educate our players, we must be able to educate ourselves! We see a lot of coaches that sift thru YouTube, Blogs, FaceBook, etc finding drills that others do, and then go out and perform it with their kids. The problem that we have is that they don’t know what steps were taken in order to get to that point (the product you saw on a social network). The steps leading up to the drill are the keys as they always create the development foundation for future expansion of skills and tactic.
This is why we as coaches need to not just educate the players, but most importantly we need to educate ourselves. What we learn, analyze and preach are directly shown in our players that we lead. If we fail to educate ourselves, then we will fail and be a disservice to all players that come in contact with us. So become a sponge, listen, ask questions, and be involved in the educational process, so that you can pass it on to your players.
Once we have educated ourselves, and continue to educate ourselves daily, is the time where we need to evolve. You hear all too often (it makes me sick) “When I played this is what we did!” The main problem with this statement, is that the game keeps changing, but you are stuck in the past. You are teaching kids a brand of hockey that has diminished, which gives them little if anything useful as it pertains to the game today.
We need to be able to evolve, so that we can continue producing the next generation of players. This means finding your own unique solutions for problem areas in player development on the ice. Finding your own unique solutions also gives your players a feeling that you are there for them, and have their best interest at heart. Once we have the educational foundation, we can also become a little more creative in ways that we can play the game and be effective.
Being able to encourage players is probably the most underrated aspect in today’s society. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking about being the RAH-RAH coach about everything all the time. I’m speaking about being able to genuinely give praise. Like I mentioned, in today’s society, too many coaches believe that the more they win, the higher their stock gets, and they will climb thru the ranks. So a lot of coaches focus on the bigger picture, then only appropriate praise or encouragement when winning or to a small group of players on the team.
When we deal with players, we have to understand that whatever we want them to learn is foreign to them. Coaches change each year, kids move up in age levels, they switch teams, whatever the reason, we need to keep that in mind that our way of education is foreign to the players we have. So when we are able to show a player some form of encouragement, whether it be a tap on shins, a put on the back, rubbing their helmet, or a few positive words, they see that you care about them, and respond in a positive way. It also means that they are on the right road, as well as their work is paying off.
Remember, we always say there are foundational skills that players must have before they expand, it’s the same for us as coaches. We are trusted in the development of players by their parents, the organizations we work for, and the federations that we were educated from. So be active in your own education, evolve to make your work exciting and challenging, then go out their and be a positive form of encouragement for your players.