Updated by 200×85 to be applicable to Hockey from the original article by Chuck Struhar.
Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director, May/June 2001, Vol. 70. No. 10, pp. 28-29.
I know, I know…you played the sport in high school junior or college, took the USAH CEP course, attended a clinic, and you are now ready to launch your career as a coach. Well, there are always a few things that no one ever taught you and that are vital to your coaching success.
Here are the 10 things that someone ought to have taught you:
1. Not everyone will like you.
No matter how many games you win, not everyone is going to consider you the greatest coach who ever lived! Particularly the players you don’t in certain situations, the parents of the player you had to discipline, or the opposing coach. When criticism is voiced, ignore it. Do what you think is right…chances are it will be. If you intend to stay in the profession, you will have to learn to live with criticism. And as you achieve more and more success, you can expect to receive more and more criticism. The whole world doesn’t love a winner.
2. Try to play everyone.
You have to develop everyone! Put yourself in the position of the one player who didn’t get into the game. (Do you remember when you were that age?) Isn’t he or she going to think that since you picked them for the team, you surely must have seen something in him that led you to believe he was a player. Sit down with the player before the next game and let them know that you are going to give them playing time. Have an assistant remind you of it at the appropriate time.
3. Never run up the score.
I have been on both sides of the fence, and this is not what sports are about. Do not use the excuse that “there was nothing I could do.” Wrong! There are many things that you could have done. Find a way to keep the score respectable.
4. Be on time…everywhere.
That goes for practices, games, meetings, and very scheduled team event. It will set the tone for your entire program. Always be the first one to show up and your team will pick up on it. It will be difficult to criticize a player for being late when you yourself are paying no attention to the rule. That kind of thing will detract from your professionalism.
5. Make sure you and your team look good.
Before each game, make sure your team is dressed appropriately and that they are wearing uniforms as they were designed to be worn. And, make sure that you are dressed to coach. Wear a shirt/jacket with your team logo. Be proud of your program. An old coach I admired used to call it “dressing out” for practice and games. Check the opposing team and coach. Do you look as good as they do? Believe me, people notice how you and your team look. Even old uniforms can look classy when worn correctly.
6. Improve yourself.
Make a sincere effort to read books about your sport, attend a clinic, write an article, speak to a youth group, hold a clinic, talk with another coach about your sport, watch a college practice, etc. Give something back to the sport. You and your team will benefit greatly.
7. When bad things happen, go back to fundamentals.
When you hit a losing streak – and you will – put the trick plays back in the playbook and get back to fundamentals. Spend time watching the superior teams in any sport and you will notice that they all have one thing in common: They are fundamentally sound. Go back and do the most basic drills, and good things will start happening.
8. Minimize your pep talks.
The longer you coach, the firmer this rule should become. When you have to talk to your team, do so. But, after 20 “when I was your age…” talks, kids will stop listening. Spend more time talking to individual athletes. One of the best things you can do is set five minutes aside each day to talk with one of your players about his/her value to the team. This practice will work wonders
9. Never criticize the officials in public.
In 30 years of coaching I have encountered incompetent and downright bad officials, but never a biased one. Do not criticize them in front of your team. It will merely give your team an excuse for losing. If you have a problem, take it to the supervisor of the officials and you will accomplish a lot more. Do it privately, and with respect, and you will get the issues addressed.
10. Spend time with the average players.
Make all your players feel important and they will improve by leaps and bounds. Your assistants will enjoy this practice, and your average players will appreciate the attention. I hope these 10 rules will help your program. The X’s and O’s are certainly important, but paying attention to even one of the “top ten” might help you win a game or get your program rolling again.
Did I leave anything out? Well, another bit of wisdom given to me by an old coach might serve as #11. Always sit at the back of the bus when traveling. It will enable you to see and hear everything.