A couple years ago I had a friend whom I coached with before, take over a team in mid-season due to a number of hockey and parental issues. The team had a winning record and were leading there division. There was no doubt they had the most talent of any team, but with talent comes a set of variables that coaches need to deal with. I watched this team closely in practice and a number of issues became quite evident. The team had very substandard practice habits and these were being transferred into the game. Without going into detail a large number of issues were dealt with and practice became more focused and purposeful. This group suffered from performance goals versus learning goals. Performance goals are about winning positive judgments for your performance and avoiding negative ones. Learning goals are ones that are about increasing your competence.
It reflects a desire to learn new skills, master new tasks, or understand new things.
This team could score goals because they had more talent at that age group. This could be due to the fact that they had more early birthdates. What they lacked was learning. They were never taken out of their comfort zone hockey wise or emotionally. On the emotional side they were stretched to find out that practice was not public skating and an opportunity to continue dressing room chatter. They had to show up focused and ready to work. On the hockey side the coaches challenged them with multiple learning opportunities, which included a much different and challenging power play and penalty killing philosophy. They learned to keep shifts shorter and more intense. Poor body language and selfish acts are not part of the team DNA. The power play created multiple scoring opportunities because at this level no team has ever run a system that advanced. Opposing coaches were not equipped with the knowledge to stop it, because they were stuck in performance mode (winning) rather than learning. This team became competent in number areas without realizing it. The amusing part of this was the parents. They did not know how to handle me. The parents knew that I was a good friend of the coach, but they thought I was feeding him hockey information. The opposite was true. I giving him information based on the ability of this team to learn. Good coaches have the ability to take teams beyond their boundaries because they teach them how and more importantly why!
This team won the league, finished third in province and was one shot away from the finals.
They and the eventual provincial winners were the only two teams to win medals on that day. I saw this team the following year. It was handled by a different coach with a much different philosophy of practice and play. I shook my head as I saw regression and not progression. I saw a team that stuck in neutral and did not learn as the Coach berated players. He did not understand that he is now part of the opposition and not even on his own team. After watching his antics I became tired of his voice after one hour. I left. Enough said.
Told my friend that this was the best coaching job he ever did and he looked surprised. It was about the learning, not the scoreboard I told him. You taught them so much in such a short period of time, stuff that teams’ two levels higher are learning. He told me tell it to parents. They are upset because we lost. I told him only on the scoreboard, and scoreboards are for parents!
Sad but true.