As we quickly head into a new season I think it’s always good for coaches and teams to remember that it is in fact a NEW season. It’s rare that you have the exact same team, and even more rare that you will be facing the exact players and teams you did the prior year. Last year and this year, however similar they may seem, will be different. A simple fact, but one that I recently realized, wasn’t sinking through my thick skull. I realized I had been trying to work with a team, using the same process I used with another one of my teams a season or two before. As coaches we know we aren’t recreating the wheel when it comes to our sport, but there is definitely a need to approach our new teams and seasons understanding that everything we have done before may not be the best fit for the new team.
I started thinking about this idea of approaching every team differently in the same manner that parents cannot parent all of their children exactly the same. In my family there are three kids. If my parents had dealt with us all the same it would have been a disaster, for two out of the three anyway. Though they raised us with the same core family values, they understood that we all had our own ways of dealing with stress, success, failure, friends, etc. We we’re fortunate to have parents who celebrated us individually, understanding that because our goals and dreams differed from each others, our paths and techniques of reaching success would not be the same.
As coaches we have to take on every new season with the same approach. We carry the same basic framework, core values of a team, basic hockey concepts and traditions that have existed years prior to our careers in the game, but with an open mind knowing that we still have things to learn. As individuals our players are all different, and as a group they will be different from our previous teams. We can’t assume that our old ways of doing things will always work. Yes, hockey hasn’t changed, two nets, two blue lines, sticks and a puck, but the way in which we relate to our teams and help them to understand team play and the basics of the hockey may need to be reassessed. I’m not saying throw away all the work you have done in figuring out how to build successful teams, acknowledge the work you’ve done, but don’t settle there. I’m simply encouraging you to have patience and not get frustrated if at times you find yourself and your coaching staff thinking, “What is wrong? This worked last year!” Newsflash, it’s only September, but it already isn’t “last year,” and it won’t be, at any point this season.
I surely don’t have all the answers, but I do have a tip, be open to change, always be willing to learn from your team, or maybe tweak your teaching point to help them reach the success you know they are capable of. Constantly trying to control every minute detail and create the same feel of a previous team or season is unrealistic. Let the new season and new team begin to define themselves. Don’t always try and direct the ship in the way that you think is best, there are many different paths to accomplishment, and at times that may require you to be a passenger. Listen, learn, and begin to work the natural flow that comes from the chemistry that has been created by your roster selection and enjoy that ride. Remember you assembled this team for a reason, and I highly doubt the thought process was, “I want this team to do exactly what last year’s team did.” You’re a coach for a reason, you see possibility, you see situations can always be better or have a better outcome; tactics can always be tweaked to create more and more success. Take on the new season with an open mind, be willing to word things differently, use different examples, and create NEW energy. The game of hockey hasn’t changed, but the type of players you are coaching, and the world they live in has… don’t get caught trying to recreate the past when there is so much potential in moving forward.