Give or take, we are about six weeks from Labour Day (September 4). Traditionally, I have always considered that to be the start of hockey season (although I know many teams will begin in mid to late August to get a jump on things). That means, as coaches, we have just over a month to be better at what we do. In other words, find ways that we might do things differently, add to what we already do or simply look at things in a different light. At the core of growing as a coach, we need to be “lifelong learners”. We need to be flexible, open to new ideas, trusting of those around us and conscious of when important ideas are in front of us.
Personally, I have been working to learn how to do some advanced video editing with Adobe Premier and After Effects. It’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube! Two things I wanted to be better at was adding in slow motion effects in highlight videos and creating some nifty hockey related graphics for video intros. It has been a great week learning about these things and I know I will be taking some new skills to camp with me in August.
That said, what are you doing to be better when the season starts? I write quite a bit about professional development - going to conferences, getting certifications - but these are “big ticket” items that often take planning and more time than most of us will have in the next six weeks. But here are some ideas that are feasible before the season starts that will make a difference, whether it be personal growth or season planning:
1) Find half a day when you can sit down with your entire staff and share with them your vision of how you want your team to be coached this season. Make sure everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction. We often feel this will just happen on its own come the start of the season but often, there are mixed messages and occasionally confusion. Be clear with your staff what to expect and it will signal to your team that there has been preparation done before the season has started.
2) Read a book! It doesn’t have to be a book on hockey, but read it with “hockey coaching glasses” on. It might be a book on business leadership, coaching basketball, running a marathon, World War 2, a biography, Generation Z’ers, or…maybe just a good hockey book. Undoubtedly you will get something out of it. I always keep a pencil to underline things that I read that really resonate with me and dog-ear the corner of the page.
3) Book two experts to come in and work with your team in September. It might be someone to speak about nutrition, sleep, off-ice training or mental skills. Maybe book a coach to come in and run a practice for you. Give them something specific to work on and let them go with it. It will be tempting to bring in someone who teaches skills - skating, shooting - but, players will find it much more interesting if you bring in someone who teaches something more advanced in the scope of individual or team tactics. Make it an exciting event for the team to have a guest come and work with them.
4) Plan three practices that can be used at any time during the season when you just don’t have time to plan practice on a given day. The practices can be skill based, high tempo, with small area games, a goalie specific drill and some aerobic work. If you have one of those crazy days where there is simply no time to even think hockey, don’t’ just wing it, these practices are in your back pocket.
5) Schedule one fun thing to do each month through to Christmas time. Here are a few suggestions:
going to a pro game
special team dinner
board game tournament
climb a small mountain (geography dependent)
axe throwing (age dependent)
You get the idea. Put these events right on the team calendar and make sure all players know these are not optional.
6) Invite someone who knows more about hockey than you to coffee or lunch. Pick their brains. Ask what they think of your ideas. Ask them questions about how they overcame the obstacles that you are looking at for the upcoming season.
Six more weeks! Find ways to be a better coach in that time and things that will improve your team - both on the ice and off.