For a lot of people, the thought of managing their own recreational ice hockey team is daunting. There are players to organize and fees to pay, not to mention some leadership required on the ice. However, as I have quickly learned in the past few weeks, although the managing process can be hectic, it is definitely worth it. As a first-time manager this year, I have already learned a lot about what is required to effectively run a recreational women’s hockey team, not just so that players and money are organized, but also so that everyone has a good time together both on and off the ice. Here are my five tips for managing a recreational women’s hockey team.
(1) Have a team social prior to the beginning of the season.
This is something that I wish I had done at the beginning of the summer season this year, especially since my team is new to our league and to each other, with most players having not played together before. Having a team social – it can be an informal/casual get-together – gives players a chance to get to know each other prior to playing together on the ice.
At the start of the season, it also did not cross my mind that as the manager, I was the only person who really knew who everyone was on the team, and I found that I was forgetting to introduce spare and part-time players when they came to play a game or two. Make sure to go through names during the first few games and introduce new players as they arrive.
(2) Delegate responsibilities.
Although you may be the manager of the team, this does not mean that you need to do everything. While in the pre-season planning stages you may prefer to control most of the planning yourself, once games start all the responsibilities can feel overwhelming. I found that there were so many things I had to pay attention to and be responsible for that I barely had any energy left to focus on my own play on the ice. Therefore, I found that delegating game time responsibilities (like making sure players sign the game sheet and taking it to the scorekeeper, locking the dressing room, etc.) extremely helpful.
(3) Encourage collaboration and contribution.
It is important for teams to have an identifiable leader and organizer, but it is also important for everyone on the team to feel comfortable collaborating and contributing both on the ice and during intermission and dressing room discussions. I have found this especially important in recreational hockey, where teams often do not have coaches and have a different hierarchical structure than minor hockey.
Although you may manage the team and make the line-ups before each game, ask other players what they think the team needs to be doing to improve, and encourage players to give their opinion on areas where the team is struggling on the ice. I have found that having a rec team where everyone contributes to discussions to be more effective and more fun than having a rec team where one player controls all the team discussions and decisions.
(4) Stay on top of pre-season managing in order to make the actual season enjoyable.
Staying organized prior to the actual season is crucial, as this is the time when you will finding players and collecting team fees. I highly suggest getting all of your team fees and logistics figured out a few weeks prior to the start of the season so that the actual season is enjoyable for you and other people involved in planning. The season will be more fun if you are able to focus on playing hockey rather than on collecting money from players.
As a manager, you have several people (usually 13-30) that you need to collect money and registrations from. To organize this, I created tables on Microsoft Word to record whether or not players have paid their registration fees, paid their jersey fees, registered for the league online, etc. Keeping all of that information in one central place will help you keep track it.
During the pre-season planning stages it is also likely that you will be sending lots of emails to your players. There are several things I do in order to make these emails clear and simple so that players know what they need to get to me and when. Firstly, I set team-specific deadlines. For example, if I want to know what jersey number players want, I would not just write, “Please email me your preferred jersey number,” I would write “Please email me your preferred jersey number by May 26th.” Having a deadline in place will encourage people to give you what you need from them in a timely fashion; I found that when I did not set deadlines, I ended up having to chase people down to get information from them. I also make sure to bold and/or italicize the most important parts of emails, such as deadlines, so that they stand out. Finally, the fewer emails, the better. Group as much information as possible into one email, otherwise there may be too many emails for players to keep track of and some things might be missed.
(5) Get to know your league’s rules.
Get familiar with the way that your league operates, especially if you are new to it. Do not be afraid to ask your league manager questions if you are unsure about a certain rule. Attend league meetings and know where the league office is located/how league managers can be contacted. As well, many recreational leagues like the ASHL actually physically bind each season’s league rules. I always keep a copy of this in my hockey bag, as there have been several situations where I have had to check league rules at the rink regarding things like jerseys and penalties.