The 2020-21 Season in Preview
I take great relief in knowing that others are often going through the same things I go through. For instance, the other day a friend of mine was complaining that their kids never load the dishwasher correctly. OH MY GOODNESS!!! WHAT? My kids aren’t the only ones who put everything in the wrong place in the dishwasher? I get true satisfaction to find out that I am not the only parent on the planet who has this issue.
Same kind of thing goes for hockey coaching. There are times when a conversation with another coach - about your power play woes, the coachability of your players, your parent group - just makes you feel like you are not the only one that is having the these issues and problems. It’s really comforting to know others share your frustrations.
Unfortunately, we are all sharing a worry about the 2020-21 season, and having the same worries don’t really make me feel any better. We have an exhibition game on September 19. As of today, I have no idea if we are going to be able to play that game or not. Nor the two games the next weekend, or the tournament the weekend after - or even the start of the regular season in mid-November. For some reason, I find this way more stressful than I should but I know, when I talk to my coaching colleagues, I am not alone with these thoughts.
I always consider myself a “glass half full” kind of guy. So, my approach to next season is to just plow ahead and plan as if we will be OK come September. “Surely we will be in a better position with this whole thing in 4 months!!”
Here are the things that I am focusing on at the moment - my controllables:
1) Making sure my players have a plan to keep in shape and do some skill development over the next few months. I am a big believer in playing other sports to be better hockey players. One of the really unfortunate parts of our current situation is that it is unlikely that any of my players will be able to play another sport through the summer. Something I am REALLY keen on when it comes to athlete development.
2) Once a week I am running a Zoom meeting with my returning players. For ten weeks we are watching some videos, reading some articles, and doing a worksheet or two to develop athletic leadership. Topics include character, commitment, visualization, focus, etc.
3) I will send a book to all my players for a summer read. There are many good choices. Now, I am leaning towards Legacy by James Kerr about the culture of the New Zealand national rugby team.
4) I continue to put the 2020-21 schedule together. Typically, I have to add about 30 games over and above our regular season. The only “modification” I am making is to try to avoid travel across the border to the U.S. for games before the new year (2021).
5) Designing and ordering new jerseys. Although most of our suppliers are currently not working, we will get the order in early so we will be ready to go in September.
6) Looking for the last couple of players to fill our roster.
7) Putting together a digital “playbook”. I am still not sure what form it’s going to take (videos? animations? Diagrams? Writing?) but by the end of the summer I would like to have something to give to my players to begin the season. My vision is that it is something that we could add to as the season goes on. (If anyone has a great idea of platform please let me know!)
8) Starting a list of all of our equipment and uniform needs and sourcing suppliers: water bottles, practice jerseys and socks, workout clothing, etc.
Does this take my mind off the stress of our current situation? A little.
I have also been amazed at how much new resource material is available online. One of the highlights for me has been the NHLCA (National Hockey League Coaches Association) Mentorship Program. The NHLCA has hosted a series of webinars that, for the most part, have been terrific. This is just one of many great programs that are now available online, and many of them free of charge. Have we ever had a better time to do some professional development?
Part of my athletic leadership session today is to have my players list “controllables” and “uncontrollables”. The idea is to have them find ways to not have the uncontrollables be performance suppressors. Why stress about things you can control? The current world order of self-isolation is a total uncontrollable for all of us, so I am doing my best to not let it get to me and focus on the things that are in my control.