“It’s not about me; it’s about we.”
We're well into a new hockey season and hopefully by now all your new players, new coaches, and new parents have come together to form one cohesive unit.
Each team has a dynamic set of relationships within it. Player/Coach, Player/Player, Coach/Coach, Coach/Parent, just to name a few. Each of these sets need to buy into the program and be willing to work together to be successful.
In order to have a successful season, it is imperative for teams to work together as a tight knit group. This can be both difficult and frustrating for coaches.
So how do we get teams to that golden place of comfort and familiarity?
Set and Uphold Clear Expectations
The first rule of thumb is to set clear expectations. From coaches, to parents, to players, everyone wants to know what to expect and their role to play. This means communication needs to be at the forefront of all objectives. Having meetings early in the season and continously throughout the year is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page and receiving the same messaging. Clearly understanding team objectives from all perspectives is crucial for success.
Hosting an in-person parent meeting helps parents to understand the team expectations, coaching philosophy, and best ways to discuss any potential issues that may arise. Having this initial parent meeting is an important part of minor hockey and should never be overlooked. Try to involve the parents as much as possible throughout the season and be understanding of various family needs. Everyone’s voice needs to be heard and considered.
In-person meetings are also an important strategy for bench staff. Teams need their bench staff to all be striving for the same goals and looking for the same outcomes. Ensure bench staff understand their roles for practices, games, and other team events. Head coaches should always be open to new ideas from their coaching team. Respect the knowledge your bench staff has to offer. After all, utilizing everyone’s strengths and expertise is what creates successful teams.
Finally, set expectations for your players. Clearly outline each player’s role within the team and check back on how they are doing in that role throughout the year. Have player meetings to discuss their position, linemates, and strengths to draw from. A player will give you their best when they know what is expected of them.
Team Building Exercises
Another strategy to develop positive relationships early on (and maintain them throughout the season) is to make time for team building activities. This could look different based on your players, age, and interests. A few great ideas include late summer cottage days, team bowling or mini golf, participating in a charity event, or a classic scavenger hunt. Having your players get to know each other outside of the rink and find commonalities other than hockey is super important. A lot of teams focus on this early in the season, then forget about it in-season. We encourage you to have various team building exercises throughout the year to maintain and strengthen your team's bond.
Team building games, such as Landmines, encourage players to communicate with each other and develop strategies to complete a specific goal. Learning to trust each other is an important part of team building games. Teaching your players the value of teamwork (showing up for each other and working together) will be an integral part of the team’s success.
Again, be sure to check-in with your team throughout the season. This means that one parent meeting or one team building day is not sufficient. Building relationships is ongoing and always evolving. Have multiple check-ins at different points of the season. Ensure communication is always open and easily accessible for all. Having multiple points of contact - TeamSnap, email, text - will enable effective communication.
Having a strong foundation built on trust and respect sets the tone for the entire season and puts your team on the path to success. Be sure to put quality time into this process; your team will thank you for it!
I have over 15 years of experience coaching various youth sports, specializing in hockey. Not only do I emphasize skill development; I also strive to improve confidence, leadership, work ethic, and team skills. Helping athletes better understand the power of sport and how it can help them become a more complete person is one of my targeted goals.
Aside from my coaching experience, I have also gained insightful knowledge working as a member of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario. This unique knowledge greatly contributes to my performance as an effective coach and helps me to reach the individual needs of my athletes.
My coaching philosophy is built upon all athletes having the right to learn and develop, and each athlete being treated with respect and individuality to be successful in their sport. I use differentiated instruction, as well as modified and accommodated drills and skills in order to individualize programming for my athletes. Building relationships is vital to my success as a coach and I will always look for ways to ensure positive relationships are developed within my team.