In an autobiography I read recently about Bobby Knight, former basketball coach at the University of Indiana, he said that he "doesn't make team rules", which sounds a little strange if you know the reputation of Bobby Knight. He went on to say that the problem with team rules is that you have to deal with a broken rule the same way whether a good kid breaks it or a bad kid. So, I have always given my players a set of "Team Guidelines" rather than team rules.
So, here is my set of Team Guidelines. Some of the guidelines certainly apply to younger teams but I feel like discipline often starts with expectations at the start of the year. And, those expectations start off the ice as well as on. Typically, I give both players and parents a handout with the guidelines and we go over them in a meeting with everyone.
Here they are:
1, All adults at the rink are to be Mr. and Mrs. Coaches are Coach Smith, Mr. Smith, Coach or Sir. I am a firm believer in kids respecting adults in their lives. Calling adults at the rink by Mr. and Mrs. is a respectful thing to do and I absolutely think this is an appropriate rule for players up to the junior level.
2. We say “hello” to people at the rink, we make eye contact, hold doors for others and we say please and thank you. I don't like it when players walk by and not say hello. There is a respect that is given by acknowledging others. And, holding doors and saying please an thank you are just plain the polite things to do.
3. On ice, we don’t say ANYTHING to referees, players on the other team or anyone in the stands. I am going to write more about this in a later blog but, there is absolutely no reason for players to ever talk to anyone but their teammates and their coaches. Arguing with a referee or "chirping" the other team is frankly a waste of time and energy and is disrespectful to the game.
4. We use black tape on stick blades, white tape on handles and clear tape on socks. That's what they are made for.
5. All players will have a back-up stick. All sticks will have the player’s number on or near the handle. Always good to have a back-up - even if it is an old stick.
6. Players are responsible to take care of their own equipment. I want my younger players to start being accountable for missing equipment. It's not acceptable to have players blaming their parents about missing their mouthguard or skates when they get to the rink.
7. No neon laces. I think it's important that we look like a team and often, neon laces or tape, etc. stands out and the other team can easily identify certain players. We used to have a football player at the school that I work at wear red cleats. He was a star running back but I always thought the other team could easily key on him because his red shoes were so noticeable.
8. Inappropriate language will not be tolerated while at the rink – especially in the dressing room area or on the ice. This had been a tough one for me personally this year working with players 13 and 14 years old. It seems like it is very cool to be able to swear like a sailor.
9. Everyone involved in the game must be treated with respect at all times. This goes for how you treat your own teammates, coaches and parents as well. A no brainer - but sometimes teams need to be reminded.
10. The dressing room must be a “safe place” for all players. This is a huge part of young people enjoying playing sports. They absolutely have to feel comfortable and safe going to the rink every day, Adult supervision is important but you need to give players their own space here too. It is a tough balance.
11. Jerseys are not to be tucked into the front or back of pants. Only a one side “Wayne Gretzky” tuck is allowed if necessary. One of my pet peeves. Nothing I hate more than not being able to see a players jersey number because their jersey is tucked way down the back.
12. No one will EVER play “I touched you last” after the whistle. There seems to always be some kind of pushing and shoving after the whistle in front of the net. I tell my payers to stop playing when they hear the whistle. If you are near their goalie expect to get a little push - that happens. But as an old coach of mine used to say "It's not a personal affront to your manhood".
Enforcing these guidelines can be a handful and having consequences can be tricky. In a perfect world players will all also think these are important to team success - as will your parent group.
In the next two blog posts I want to talk more about "chirping" and how to "manage" referees. Look forward to these in the next week.