The Senior Coaching Chronicles Part Three

The great philosopher Mr. Miyagi once said “no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher. Teacher say student do!”

No truer words were spoken.

How do you bridge a 50 year communication gap? How you deliver the message? How do they process the message? What is your reaction to failed communication that is so critical in moving your athletes forward? These are all questions that needed to be answered.

We have never seen a group so fragile and anxiety filled in all our years of coaching. This generation of young adults is already anxiety laden with the pressures of being young adults and they sure do not need it from their hockey coach. We had to repurpose our message and actions very carefully. The stakes were heightened for all the stakeholders. You think you are coming in and coaching a hockey team that needs a coach, but it was so much more.

Doing our questionnaire was one of our key moves that we did. It revealed so much and was the foundation for our coaching strategy. We were teaching athletes who did not sleep right, did not eat right, and as a result had little interest in school. They said needed mental training, and still wanted to be coached, which was a positive and gave us an insight into the group.

We shared our information with the parents and players. We sent out e-mails with YouTube videos attached on the benefits of proper nutrition and sleep. We believe the videos had an impact because players were talking about them the very next day. The coaching staff did address the team as well because taking care of your body and mind was part of being a good teammate. This was something that was never taught before.

A few years back I watched a lecture by Dr. Jim Loehr, who heads up the Human Performance Institute. I remember he asked the question does sport build character. My immediate thought was yes. However, as the lecture moved on he brought up an important point. Sport only teaches character when coaches make it the number one priority. Sports teaches character when coaches use it as a vehicle to teach and not merely pay lip service as so many do. Our survey showed us that there was character on this team, it was never tapped into. So, how do we tap in and not tap out on them.

For our team to progress we had to have a Coaching philosophy.  A Coaching philosophy is different from a coaching plan, which deals with X’s and O’s. A coaching philosophy incorporates aspects such as teaching style, communication, strategy, leadership style and managing the group dynamic. We decided to lean on a philosophy that was founded by sports psychologist Dr. Bhrett McCabe.

Success = Talent and Ability + Application Under Pressure+ Emotional Stability +/- Luck

Each player had this formula taped above their stall along with a couple of words that described what each one of them brought to the team that was non-hockey related. By doing this exercise we wanted to identify more than just the raw talent of group in front of us. Some of the words we found: Resilience, Discipline, and Work Ethic. We knew we had talent, but had yet to uncover the depth of the individuals in front of us. We found out that there was untapped character that just needed to be let loose.

This was not an easy exercise for the players to buy into. We had asked that it be posted for every practice and game. I would have to say that 50% of the players did it initially. I mentioned to them that this was unacceptable. It was coaching staff mandate and it was now part of our standards. The next time we had more buy in .Some players who had forgotten their sheet became creative by using tape and writing our message on it. We praised the creativity, but reiterated it was not the standard. On the third try we got 100% compliance and it continued thru to the end of the season. I believe that in some way the team was also testing our commitment to the process.

The evaluation and development plan for the team and the players that was put together was updated. . The plan that was not as detail as we liked, but it gave us a baseline from which to work from. After two weeks we noticed a 7% improvement in overall team performance in the five categories. Along the way we played some every good hockey and also played some bad hockey as well.

In a game that we spotted the first place team five goals in the first ten minutes, we then proceeded to win the next 45 minutes by a score of three to zero. No, they did not take their foot off the pedal. They are coached by a win at all costs coach who by the end of the game was berating officials and our players. We dominated them physically, matched their talent level or exceeded it and we outcoached that SOB. He had his team for two years and we had ours for two weeks!

Our biggest challenge was continuing the learning curve and how do we do that?

This brings me back to Mr. Miyagi “no such thing as a bad student, only a bad teacher. Teacher say student do!”

We just need to be better teachers and try not to be perfect. Just better everyday.

Until next time!

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