05 June, 2018

The Off-Season for Hockey Coaches

The summer is a buzz in the hockey world. What camps did we sign up for? Who is offering the best exposure to college coaches and scouts? Which tournaments and high performance options can we still attend? This is what goes on with respect to players and parents. But what about coaches?

This article is for coaches to challenge us to forever grow, understand that we never know it all, and to encourage us to always improve. We expect our players to train in the off-season. We guide them with tips on how to better their weaknesses and how to further improve their strengths. But what about ourselves?

This is the off-season. Perhaps we are taking a break from coaching. Maybe we are coaching, but at a different level than what we do during the season. Camps may be where we find ourselves during the summer. No matter what we are doing, my challenge is this: are we growing and improving as we expect our players to do?

Learning as a coach can come in many forms.

Most obviously: X’s and O’s. The off-season is a great time to read up on systems and talk to other coaches about their philosophies. Different offensive zone entries, power plays and penalty kills, D zone prep, neutral zone coverage/forechecks, goalie coaching, etc. Are we open to learning and are we open to teaching? Just as healthy rivalry and serious competition are good for our teams, they are good for ourselves. As we get better, we make other coaches better and as they get better, they make us better. What don’t we know? What would we like to improve upon?

Following on that, what about drills? Are you using the same drills all of the time? Did you never use the same drill twice? The fallacies in both of these techniques are detriments to our teams. Use this time to enhance your library of drills.

Don’t limit yourself. While women’s hockey is growing at a pace that is both exciting and exponential, don’t limit yourself to only women’s hockey coaches or hockey coaches in general. Resources on coaching are vast and readily available. If you turn to football, Tony Dungy comes to mind, basketball has John Wooden and Pat Summit, even business authors have a wealth of knowledge. I personally liked You Win in the Locker Room First by Jon Gordon.  While I am challenging coaches to go outside of hockey, I’d be remiss to not mention the ample resources within the hockey world. There are multiple hockey drill books and suggestions for small area games. There are inspirational books, like Mike Babock’s Leave No Doubt. The USA Hockey website for coaches, as well as their coaching classes, plus many coaching apps are all options. This list is small and provided just to name a few options. So, don’t limit yourself. Explore, be inquisitive, and add to your coaching style and repertoire this summer.

Verbiage. How we talk to players is important and how we talk to female hockey players is important. If you don’t know the difference, I suggest you start here. I am a big fan of teaching our girls like hockey players—gender neutral, X’s and O’s and systems… but if you don’t realize that girls THRIVE on positive reinforcement, you are missing a whole aspect of your coaching.  Instead of saying don’t do this, say do that. Reinforce the positive. I’m not saying to ignore the negative—it is important any athlete understand the difference between what they did and what you want them to do so they improve. But know that girls thrive on the positive. 

What about how you approach the team? Do you say WE won this game, as you talk to them post-game and then change to YOU didn’t win the races to the puck, when we lose? Is it always “YOU” separating players and coaches, or is it “WE” because we are a part of this team? These are just two example of the verbiage we can use during the season but there are many more ways to change your words to influence your team in a positive way. You’ll gain much more out of your female athletes if you understand their psyche and how they work. And it may not always be the same for each player. Be aware of your verbiage, for it will influence your team. Make a plan to be aware of it and practice different techniques this summer.

These are just a few examples of how we can challenge ourselves as coaches in the off-season. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination. Take your own temperature and make a list of what you want to improve upon between now and next season. We expect our players to do so, it is time for us to do so as well.

The game is growing, the talent expanding, and with it, we need coaches who are growing, expanding, unafraid to fail, and who are inspired to empower our next generation of female athletes. So, what is your plan for the off-season?

Live Your Dreams,

Coach Kim


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