Chalk Talk: Get on same page from get-go
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It’s hard to believe another hockey season is here.
The question is: Are you ready for it?
Whether you’re a coach, player or parent, there’s a lot to do in preparation for a new campaign.
Let’s start with the coach. Selecting the team and coaching staff are the first orders of business, and both are equally important.
Making sure your coaching staff is qualified and on the same page with your philosophies is critical and will go a long ways towards determining a number of elements that’ll ultimately, hopefully, help the team have a successful season, both on and off the ice.
If the coaching staff isn’t in harmony and agreement relative to how to lead the team in every aspect – from game strategy to the practice routine to player discipline – it’ll be a long and less-than-likely successful season.
As head coach of a team – Mites through Midgets – don’t just accept a coach to work with you because the club made him or her available; make sure it’s a good fit. It’s a long season that’ll only be longer with the wrong assistant coaches on your staff.
If you’re a player preparing for the new season, there’s also a lot of work to be done. Of course, it starts before tryouts preparing to make the team, but once the year begins, it’s important to embrace solid practice habits and team-building activities – and that applies to every age and skill level.
Properly stretching before and after every skate is a great way to stay healthy and avoid muscle and ligament strains, and giving 100 percent and paying attention to your coaches during practice creates a better learning environment and certainly a better opportunity to improve as a player; it also influences your teammates to do the same.
If everyone gets off on the right foot, the coaches have a much better chance of developing their players and, ultimately, the team will improve over the course of the season. If the coaching staff is able to garner the respect of its players early on, everything else has a much better chance of falling into place.
Parents are the wildcard when it comes to a player’s and the team’s success. If you have a great group of parents, you have a greater chance of reaching your goals; if you have a few knuckleheads in the mix, it could make for a tough season, both for their child and the entire team.
Selecting a solid team manager is as important as choosing the right players. A strong, efficient manager can make the difference between a great and a not-so-great season on many levels.
The manager is the link between the coach and team’s parents. They’re also the informational and organizational component that has their finger on the pulse of the team’s needs.
If the manager is truly on the ball, they’ll be able to identify those parents who might need more “managing.” I’ve always believed it’s best to involve the high-maintenance parents by giving them responsibilities; they can become scorekeepers or statisticians or something along those lines, and making them part of the solution will make them feel more like a part of the team.
That doesn’t mean all parental helpers should be labeled as potential problems; it just gives those higher-maintenance parents an opportunity to be constructive and, hopefully, helps shift their focus onto what will ultimately drive the entire team to a healthy, enjoyable, successful season.
When it’s time to pick your team manager, the head coach needs to take that responsibility very seriously because it can make or break a season.
As I reflect back on my years of coaching, I can remember so many teams, players, parents and, of course, team managers that encompassed so many different personalities and agendas – some good, some bad.
Every team has its own set of challenges, and there were many tough seasons but also many successes that didn’t even relate to winning hockey games.
What your players will go on to become after the season and in the years ahead is really what coaching is all about. Getting this season off to a positive start will pave the way for what should lead to plenty of developmental success for your kids and their families, both on and off the ice.
Larry Bruyere is the coach-in-chief of USA Hockey’s Pacific District.