Integrity and the Hockey Coach
Usually, the Sunday after writing my morning post brings me a feeling of dread. I think “what the heck will I write about next week?” Invariably though, something will happen in the course of the week that will twig some thought and materialize into about 750 words on Saturday morning.
This week, I had the pleasure of hearing Scott Fried speak at our school (www.scottfried.com). His truly motivational presentation mostly focused on teenagers being OK with who they are, and not having to be someone who they aren’t in order to “fit in” and find their peer group (their tribe). It was clear from his experience that teenagers truly struggle with fitting in and finding those who can be their truly best friends.
Scott made mention of one thing, all be it briefly, that caught my ear. He talked about integrity. I like the notion of integrity. I think it is a cornerstone to being an exceptional coach at any level.
By definition, integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” Although integrity is an important part of all of our dealing with other people, it is a particularly important trait of coaches who, by definition, are teachers, mentors, leaders, counsellors , advisors, role models and supporters of their players - at all ages.
Coaches with integrity tend to do the following:
1) They are always honest. Your mother always said “honesty is the best policy”. Well, it’s true. Being honest with your players, and by extension your team community, is paramount to fostering respect in you as a coach. Trust is crucial in any relationship and the lack of trust can be devastating to a coach as a leader.
2) Do what you say you are going to do. If you say you are going to bench someone for taking a stupid penalty, then you better bench ANYONE who takes a stupid penalty. If you don’t follow through with the things you say you are going to do then your players will soon learn that your words have become hollow. Heck, sometimes the last thing you want to do is follow through in a certain situation but, the consequences of not following through will always be more devastating to your team community.
3) Model the behavior you want to see in your players. Don’t expect your players to respect the referees if you don’t. If you yell from the bench, it’s pretty hard to stop your players from yelling from the bench. If you don’t respect the opposition, then your players won’t respect them either.
4) “You should be guided by what’s right. It doesn’t get more complicated than that” - Marc Crawford, former NHL coach. We live in a world of high stakes sports events, high salaried athletes and a “win at all costs” attitude. As a coach, your “moral compass” is a crucial part of who you are, making decisions and gaining respect of your team community. Always do what’s right. Having a good moral compass usually means not having to make tough ethical decisions - because they will be self-evident.
5) Take control of your team. Your team community is not a democracy. Although it may feel like it’s a good way to handle your group (and maybe an easier way), your players are looking for leadership with unfailing integrity. Be the boss! Insist on the things you know will make your team better. Find ways to get the best out of your players - on and off the ice. I saw a bantam game this week that ended in what was pretty close to a line brawl. There was no apparent reason for it - I would guess that players were just “chirping” each other. In short, coaches on both sides of the ice lost control of their players. On my teams, that would be totally unacceptable and there would be consequences for that behavior. As the leader of the group, I would find a way for the attitude to change drastically that would lead to those actions.
6) Be yourself! You can’t have integrity if you are not being yourself around your players. Young people can “smell” phoniness.
Ten years from now, your players will not remember what a terrific power play you ran, or how you won that mid-season game. They will remember how you treated them and how the season made them feel. Have integrity and be the coach you would want for your own kids.