With all the turmoil in the NHL coaching ranks we are coming to the end of an era. Today’s players are different from 15 years ago. They have technology at their disposal that they can summon answers instantly. They believe that the information given to them by their inner circle is the truth. The inner circle wants so badly for them to experience success that they minimize struggle, thinking they are helping. Instead nothing could be further than the truth.
The head coaching role is also evolving from the x’s and o’s guy to more relationship building with players. This does not mean being soft on players. I believe it is the opposite. It means that a coach needs to have a strong relationship with the player so he can deliver the hard messages when needed. Years ago the coaches’ words and actions were gospel. Never to be questioned. The ice surface or field was his or hers. It was hallowed ground; it was a privilege for you to be on it.
Now players have an expectation going to a team of how they are going to be coached. It is formulated in their mind reinforced by their inner circle, but once they get there and it does not meet their expectations and all sorts of stuff happens. This is where a good relationship between a player and a coach can start. A good coach can build a build a player’s belief and not crush it.
We have all witnessed the struggles of a toddler learning to walk. They step, they fall. Pick them self-up and try again. The process goes on. Eventually they learn to walk. The toddler met the struggle. Athletes no matter their level skill have struggled. It is how they have been taught to deal with the struggle. It is a coaching technique that needs to be taught and good coaches find a way. Coaching is education, and it is the job of the coach and the athlete to make educating themselves a job of a lifetime. First seek to understand, and then seek to be understood. Great advice that was passed onto me and I highly recommend it to any coach at any level.
Today’s athletes may feel like they are empowered to do great things, but is empowerment control? The player coach relationship is about understanding who has control over what. I see it as join venture. The coach and player must come to a decision as to where the athlete wants to go. They then need to figure out where they are now and more importantly how they got there. From that point they decide on where the athlete is physically, psychologically, intellectually, and tactically. Once established, what is the development plan to get the athlete and the team the desired result. If you told a professional hockey coach from 15 years ago that he would be coaching the whole person rather than just a hockey player you would have been laughed out of the rink. Coaches coming into the league are doing exactly that. Coaching the whole person. As mentioned earlier it is not soft coaching, what it is getting the player to be accountable for their performance rather than playing childish head games and leave him guessing and searching for answers.
The NHL has had a 16% turnover in coaching positions since the start of the season with more to come.
Until next time.
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