The right of passage for a young hockey player and his parents is the ability to survive a super cold rink with cold windy drafts and uncomfortable seats throughout, very easily on a Sunday morning. I used to go through this ritual with my father at the crack of dawn on the weekends, trudging out of bed at 5am reluctantly and when arriving at the location, waiting for the rink owner to open up the rink an 1/2 hour later. Once in, father and son would get ready for the game, reaching throouj the bag for skates, helmits and pads. This past weekend, I was “treated” to this once again – 35 years later!
My “mighty mites” of Amesbury played in the first game of the Fournier Tournament against rival Newburyport. My son and I ventured out at 6am heading over to the ice box we call the Graf Rink. It was cold inside like normal and most of the kids were sleep walking Thanks to the simple fact that they had games the previous 2 nights. We came out flat but the team fought back and we stormed back to a 7-5 score (after being down 7-0). It would not progress any further though as the Clippers put another 2 on the board and they never looked back!
While we lost this game and would not win another one during the week, but I learned a ton. How? Because my coaching ability sort of “turned on” once again. The last time I coached a meaningful game was several years ago while at Amesbury High School and since that time, I have been managing clinics and games for the most part that had little bearing on wins and losses. The Fournier Tournament was my first since that time, where strategy, line order and actual coaching of the players mattered and the act of winning, determined if we play an additional game on Sunday (which would have Been today) in the finals. Alas that did not happen but it was once heck of a week and this is what I learned from it as a coach.
Here is the latest 5 for Friday! Coaching lessons.
NUMBER ONE: Winning and Losing matters and does not. Teaching kids that wins and losses are part of one’s hockey life and matter is a challenge. On one hand teaching that everyone does not get a trophy is important. But with 6 and 7 year olds, the story is not so clear. They don’t fully grasp winning and losing on average so to those who it does matter, working with those so called “competitive ones,” needs to be a delicate process. Argue that we hope to win and if we don’t, how we “win,” when we lose (by what we learn).
NUMBER TWO: Motivation. How does one motivate this age group? By appealing to support their team. That is what worked for me several times this week from the moment my goalie was feeling “sad” to a moment that another got hurt on the ice. These kids thrive on supporting one another.
NUMBER THREE: Best to let them play. Coaching takes place in many locations but rarely on the field of the play. My motto has been to let players play and coach them on the practice field. Little can be done during the game of play but much can be done on the practice ice. That was what I practiced this week and I think for the most part it worked out well.
NUMBER FOUR: They Feed off the coach. This week was all about me (and the players or vice versa). When I was upbeat, the team was more energetic. When I was less than positive, the team responded in kind with a performance which lagged behind their normal one. If I responded with constant positive feedback, the kids responded with a stronger performance.
NUMBER FIVE: Pride does not matter. Appealing to this lot to “Play for Amesbury” is a useless cause. While playing for one another works well, playing for the town does not matter. The point where they begin to acknowledge the pride in town is not till high school and even then, I think the motivation is still not quite as strong.
It was truly a great week and one that I will not forget. Thanks for reading as always!