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  • Writer's pictureRick Traugott

The Electronics Free Team

Although I have not had time to post for the past two Saturdays, it’s been a busy time on the hockey front. Moving backwards, last weekend was spent on the UPEI campus at the Andrews Hockey Growth 2018 Atlantic Hockey Showcase. I am guessing this might have been the 10th time I have attended the Showcase to recruit student-athletes to come to Trinity College School. There was particular buzz at the camp this year with more players than I can remember and more prep schools, hockey academies, major junior teams and universities - players trying to find their next teams and coaches trying to find their next athletes. It can be a “jungle out there” but what energizes me is the level of play, love of the game, and smiles on the participant’s faces. The Andrews’ staff puts together a great program and it is a pleasure to be able to attend each year.

Earlier last week I spent a day presenting at Glen Bernard Camp. One of my regular presentation topics is “Creating a Culture of Confidence”, and although the presentation is built around coaching and sports, it was a perfect metaphor for summer camp and being a counsellor working with young people. The five things I like to talk about with regards to confidence are: fostering trust in the coach, positive communication, creating community, managing expectations and creating meaningful rituals. These are also the five sections of my book of the same title and although I always apologize for the majority of stories and examples being hockey related, the presentation and the book are really geared to coaching any sport - or being a camp counsellor! I did some lecturing and we did some “team building” activities. In particular, we did a blind obstacle course to develop trust and a great puzzle activity to investigate shared and natural leadership within the group. It was a terrific day and a wonderful group to work with.

Moving back another week, I was very honoured to be asked to speak at the High Performance 1 coaching certification clinics this year in Ontario - the first one in Toronto a few weeks ago. I was asked specifically to speak about the Torpedo System which I have presented on and written about in the past. I look back at doing my HP1 certification in 2006 and it was the single most impactful professional development experience I have had. The clinic I attended was in St. John’s, Newfoundland and included 18 separate presentations about coaching from a wide range of coaches and coach developers, on ice sessions with the Newfoundland U17 team, and lots of discussion between coaches in our downtime. To be able to present this year means a lot to me and I relish being the first presentation of the weekend with a thought provoking talk on an “outside of the box” system that gets everyone’s imagination going right off the bat. We will be in Barrie, Ontario for the second of two clinics this upcoming week.

One of the things that struck me at all three events was that everyone seemed to have put away their smartphones. Electronics seemed to have disappeared completely and people were engaged in personal, one on one connections. It was truly refreshing. What was most noteworthy was at Glen Bernard Camp where I had a group of university students, from 9:30am until 3:00pm, with a lunch break, and I don’t think I saw a phone out once all day.

Now, those that have to hear me rant about my pet peeves on a regular basis know that I truly believe that the single biggest problem we are facing with young people today is the constant “plugged in” nature of our society. And to add a little fuel to the fire, this article “With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit” from November 14, 2017 on website. It‘s a short but interesting read. Two things to keep in mind about the article. One, the author simply connects statistics but I think in a meaningful way and two, as coaches, we aren’t necessarily dealing as often with at risk teens when it comes to self-harm - but it’s not unheard of.

The culprit? Electronics and smartphones.

To my mind, this is THE single, biggest enemy in young people’s lives. I am not even talking about addictive behavior, which is another issue. I am talking about the distraction from being in the now, being personally connected with fellow humans, being focused on the task at hand rather than what someone has texted to us a minute ago.

So here’s the thing. As coaches, we need to do everything in our power to get electronics out of the hands of our athletes as much as possible. Here are some of the things I will be implementing next season for my high school aged team:

1) Electronics drop off (with a coach) an hour before curfew when the team is on the road. Pick up just before breakfast.

2) Electronics drop off when we get to the rink (gym, video session, presentation) and pick up when we leave. Really, anytime we are together as a team.

3) A “no smartphone” rule at all team meals.

4) Smartphone drop off for supervised study time. Computers are clearly a must for academic work but not smartphones.

5) Team “assignments” on bus trips to encourage one on one and team engagement - even if that’s watching a movie on the bus screens all together.

6) Regular dialogue about smartphone and electronics use. This could include outside presentations, articles to read, strategies for unplugging and encouraging book reading at bedtime.

I am fired up about this issue! And I am going to be somewhat militant in my goal to create a team community that is based on non-electronic communication and team bonding. I look forward to sharing my progress with you as the season unfolds.

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