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  • Writer's pictureRick Traugott

10 Tips on Choosing and Developing your Coaching Staff

As a head coach, it is critical for you to surround yourself with good people - both on ice staff and off ice. For many teams, it’s difficult to find volunteers outside of the team community to give their time to helping out and ultimately, we must often rely on our parent group to round out our staff. Here are 10 tips to think about as you start piecing the puzzle together to support your team.

1) At a minimum you will need two assistant coaches, a trainer and a manager. If you have more volunteers then consider a “goalie” coach, someone to record statistics in the stands, someone to take care of finances, and possibly someone to take care of all communications.

2) Find assistant coaches that will be supportive of what you are trying to accomplish with the team. This seems to be self-evident but often we look to the person who knows the most about hockey but because of that, they push back on decisions you make as a coach and can undermine what you are trying to accomplish.

3) Don’t assume your assistant coaches know a lot about coaching. This is a great opportunity for you as the head coach to help your assistants learn more about the game and learn more about how to be a good coach.

4) Give your assistant coaches pre-season learning projects. Preparing for a season in advance can pay great dividends during the season. Some examples: have your assistants find 15 drills to support a certain skill (e.g. 15 passing drills), assemble five different warm up routines to use before practices and games, put together a list of essential skills for penalty killers, or (if it’s age and level appropriate) diagram three forechecking systems to use in various situations.

5) Give your assistant coaches specific responsibilities. For instance, put one in charge of power play and one in charge of penalty killing. Let them do some research on what they would like to accomplish and then have them do all the teaching of that system in practice time during the season. Make sure they are reporting back to you with what they would like to see in their area and then provide them with feedback.

6) During practices keep your assistant coaches busy directly coaching the team. Make sure they aren’t just pushing pucks and pylons for you. If you have some time in practice for skill work, split the team into groups and have your assistants teach or work on specific skills. You can have three rotating skill stations with all three coaches running one station each. In full team drills, give your assistants “reminder” jobs. For example, if you want players to start skating from the front of a line before passing then have an assistant standing there reminding them. If you want players doing something specific in a certain drill, have a coach reminding them when they get to the back of a line if they didn’t do something correctly.

7) Make sure your staff have specific responsibilities on game days. One coach can be in charge of pre-game warm up. Another coach can be responsible for filling out the game sheet. All staff should also have specific responsibilities on the bench - calling the defence pairings, helping forwards when they come off the ice, or doing a quick scout of the opposition in the first 10 minutes of the game.

8) It’s important to have someone running both doors on the bench. This can be the job of a trainer or even an assistant coach. I enjoy talking to players when I am opening the door. It tends to be an eye to eye conversation and there are a lot of little playing tips that can be passed on casually in conversation at the door.

9) Get a goalie coach! Although you might not have someone who knows a lot about goaltending, it’s good to have someone in charge of taking care of the goalies - an “advocate” for them in practice to make sure they are being coached as well and not just stuck in the net as a target.

10) Other support staff are crucial to a team’s success. Give them all job descriptions with responsibilities and check in with them on a regular basis.

In my experience, volunteers are happy to help in any way if they feel like they are genuinely contributing to a team’s success. Help those volunteers be the best they can be at their roles and invariably the season will be a success.

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