(The Role of the Coach in Player Development: Part 2 of a series of discussions on factors influencing player development)

Coaches also have the ability to significantly impact the development of their players in their chosen sport(s). As with parents, the role of the coach should be one of support and encouragement with the goal of creating a progressive (and enjoyable) learning environment that fosters continued growth and helps their athletes become better hockey players.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Hockey Coaches:

1. Be respectful: As a coach, you should lead by example. Respect your players, parents, other teams (coaches and players), officials, and most importantly, respect the game.  The coach must treat everyone with respect – and they will respect him in return. The game is much bigger than you, and its your honesty and integrity that will get you much farther in life than sacrificing them in order to win games.

2. Be fair and compassionate: Remember that the game is about the players, not about you. As a coach, it is your duty to coach every player on team, not just the better players.  Follow this simple rule and your players (and subsequently your team) will benefit greater in the long run.  Every player on the team is important to success of the team and they will contribute at some point, if given the opportunity.  Similarly, rules are rules and they should apply to everyone on the team.

3. Be patient and encouraging:  Effective coaches learn to continually project a positive and upbeat attitude. If not, your players will eventually catch on and begin to losing their joy for the game. Part of becoming patient involves your ability to show tolerance, understanding, perseverance and consistence. Good coaches truly care for their players and enjoy seeing their progress.

4. Be a student of the game: As a coach, you are an educator. To become an effective educator, you should be passionate about the game and strive to immerse yourself in the game. Coaches should be willing to learn, to experiment and to make mistakes (and learn from them). Every time you step on the ice, you should be willing and able to learn something new from your players.

5. Be flexible: Great coaches demonstrate flexibility and an openness to change. Flexibility can be regarded as the ability to remain strong in your convictions while yielding to some lesser issues or points.

6. Be a positive role model: Coaches should model the behavior they expect out of their athletes — “walk your talk”. Show your players how to be humble, respectful, honest, secure, passionate and confident.  You will be surprised at how well they will develop, not only as players, but as people if you create the appropriate environment for them to learn in.

7. Be a good communicator: In order to impart your knowledge and love for the game, you must be able to communicate effectively with your team. For this to happen, you need to understand that not all players will respond to criticism and praise in the same way, nor do all players learn in the same way. The development of an effective communication strategy begins with getting to know your players, understanding how each player learns, and then adapting your style/method of delivery to suit each player’s individual needs.

When you agree to become a hockey coach, you accept a responsibility to be true to the game and be true to the players you coach. It is your duty to create an environment that pushes every one of your players to strive to become the best that they can be.  Think back to your childhood and remember all of the coaches and teachers who had, both positive and negative, influences on your growth and development (as a hockey player and as an individual), and utilize those experiences to help you become a better person, a better educator and a better coach.

Stay tuned for the next post looking at the Players Role in His/Her Own Development.