There’s two scenarios here for hockey coaches: either you know your team inside out and have been lucky enough to take over as coach, or this is a brand new team to you and you’re going in, if not exactly cold, but perhaps not as familiar with your set of players as you’d like to be.
Changing a team member is an upheaval for everyone as each player needs to get used to the new individual and how they play – but changing coach has the potential to be even more disorienting.
It is a coach’s job, as leader of the ‘pack’, to communicate with the players, guide their development as both individual players and as a team and to motivate and inspire them to strive towards their goal, whatever that may be.
A good coach both communicates and listens – and values the feedback he gets from the players. They are the ones out on the field and may have opinions about what could help their game. Encourage the players to talk to each other and not to harbor grudges. If there’s an issue between players, it’s better out in the open than festering in silence, causing bad feelings and eventually a team rift. This is especially important if you are the new coach; this can be a clean start for everyone. Make that clear, and problems which have been present but unspoken for some time may come out – and that’s better for everyone.
As hockey coach, you need to have the respect of your team, but as the newbie, that will need to be earned. Show dedication to the team and don’t hide that you love hockey, but a good coach will also bring new ideas and keep up to date with current issues, rules and news within the sport.
Discipline is vital as team leader and hockey coach. Lead by example and always play fair and by the rules – and if there is an infringement there must be consequences. In a contact sport where the potential for aggression and violence is high, you will be respected for leading with a strong hand.
Some people say that it’s a good idea to start from scratch and assume your players know nothing. I’d say that that is a fairly extreme approach, but as the hockey coach, and bearing in mind the roles of a coach, as above, you need to assess both their play and their skills as a team. They may be great players, as individuals, but do they work as a team? Do they need more drills to work on their game, or do they need to work on interacting with each other?
Information can be gleaned from their game results and from watching them practice at home. Get to know your players and ask them what they think their strengths and weaknesses are. Your opinions may differ – share them and back them up with examples. If you can identify problem areas and give succinct, effective solutions, your team with value you for it.
With two-way respect, hard work and commitment, you can be the hockey coach that you want to be – and the coach your team wants you to be.
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