Answering a Member’s Hockey Question

A Special Note to My Hockey Friends:

I am currently getting flooded with Spam — like 115 so far this morning (ooooops, make that 117).

That’s not so much my concern, but my fear is that I’ll delete some customer’s or close friend’s emails along with all the junk (one’s eyes can start to blur when wading through hundreds of Subject lines, etc).

So, please hang-in there with me, and even email me again if I don’t answer you in my usually prompt fashion.

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Okay, under most circumstances I answer CoachChic.com member questions over on that site.  However, part of the reason I created my “Hockey Diary” was so that I could deal with the non-hockey questions, or with ones that are more a matter of opinion than about working on a given hockey skill or tactic.

So, what got me going on this entry was a Facebook Message from my long-time friend, Kathy C.

In a nutshell, she wrote to say that, “A couple of kids from the HS football team vandalized a house in the neighborhood.” I guess they’d been to a team party on a recent night, and they’d done some very stupid things to the home of their hosts.

As Kathy tells it, the real problem — or should I say “the compounding problem” — arose when the parents of the suspected offenders defended their boys as the party hosts paid them a visit.  Making matters worse yet, Kathy’s car was vandalized — again in a stupid way, because she had also confronted those parents.  Then, without going into much more detail, Kathy does say that there are a number of things that point to these boys being the offenders, including one of them being bounced from the football team the previous year for breaking the school athletic code’s alcohol policy.

With all that, Kathy’s dad suggested she ask my opinion on all this.  Should the boys be suspended from the team?  Should they be punished at practice by their coach?

Hmmmmmm…

I think I have to begin with the thought that this is a very different age than I grew-up in, and Kathy also points to having what I’ll refer to as a pretty firm upbringing (mine was in an old fashioned Italian household — oh, boy).  In other words, we’d have both likely gotten our bottoms whipped the first time we stepped out of line.

As I said, though, this IS a very different world we live in now (or at least some folks live a lot differently than the way Kathy and I were raised).  And what I’m getting at is that there are a lot of parents who will protect their kids, even if they know the kids are in the wrong.  (Just between you, me and the lamp post, I suspect this is how some parents compensate for their own shortcomings.)

Things today are also very different when it comes to society dealing such.  In other words, it isn’t good enough to know someone seriously erred; no, you have to KNOW he or she did.  Oh, I’m sure that’s a good thing in many ways.  However, I’d have been shaking in my boots had any grown-up suggested to my dad that I’d gone even an inch off course.

All that said, Kathy and her dad are really asking how I’d deal with this stuff as a coach.  And I’d have to say that I’d be forced to comply with the current day laws.  Don’t think for a moment that such laws would override how I’d feel about what Kathy has described; I’m just saying that I and most other coaches WOULD comply with the “innocent before proven guilty” line of thinking.  It seems to me we have no choice in that matter.

Now, before going any further, I think it’s appropriate for me to relate a very similar story told to me by another great Twitter and Facebook friend.  I’ll omit his name for now, just because there were also a number of innocent people involved in this incident.

Anyway, as I recall, one of the goaltenders on a Midget level team ultimately flew off the proverbial handle following the last game of the team’s season.  He was cussing in a selfish way, and he also aimed that garbage at a few adults within ear-shot.  Of course, this was the last game of the year, so maybe there wasn’t much that could be done about the boy’s tirade.  But, where this story somewhat parallels Kathy’s is that the wayward goaltender’s father stuck-up for his son’s poor behavior as he’d always done in the past.

There’s another reason I inserted that story, though…  For, you see, I suspect that both the football coach and the goalie’s hockey coach probably should have nipped things in the bud long before they became major issues.

I can’t say that I’ve always had a standard way of dealing with potential problem players.  And, while it sounds good that we coaches should treat everyone alike, we hardly ever do (or ever really can).  Sure, everyone must obey the same rules,  etc.  However, some guys might need to be pushed and prodded more than others, some guys need to be coddled, and so forth.

And that brings me to the likes of that smart mouthed goaler and the two potential football problems.  For, I’d have only needed to see their acts once before I put a tight rein on each of them.  And they would know from that first time that I was just looking for a chance to deal with them severely.

In the case of that goaltender, cutting him or not playing him probably wouldn’t be an option, since his parents were paying the freight as happens in most youth hockey organizations.  I surely would find a way to fix him, though, and I’d likely have him worrying more about me than I was going to worry about him.

The football players would be a different story, because a high school coach isn’t compelled to play everyone.  In other words, I could very easily let them bust their buns all week long at our practices, and then forget their names once the weekend games rolled around.

Then, one other story, just to let my faithful readers know that not all problem players are alike…

You see, I had a high school player a lot of years ago who had plenty of personal problems.  Yet, I spoke-up for him when his grades put him on the borderline between being eligible for our team or not.  The exact opposite of the above three boys, this young guy really didn’t have anyone at home supporting him.

So I was pretty frank with his guidance counselor when I suggested she help him make the team.  I told her he wouldn’t be anything better than about a fourth string goalie.  As a matter of fact, I told her that we didn’t need him nearly as much as he needed to be with us.  Yes, I thought he needed the discipline of keeping our practice and game schedule, and he also needed to hang with the good kids that would be his hockey teammates.  (Don’t you know that egghead snob counselor didn’t want to hear any of that, and the boy missed being eligible by about a point?  Geeeeeeeze…)

So, while I might go out on a limb for a kid I feel is deserving, my star player can take a hike if he’s not willing to truly act like a decent teammate and a decent citizen.

Now, before finishing I want to suggest a few more things…

I’m willing to bet that all three of the earlier noted players are in for rough lives.  And, while I might question their coaches some — for not solving things right at the start, I suspect their doting parents are hugely to blame for the boys’ lack of personal discipline.  (I’ll further suggest that those parents are also likely to suffer as long as their kids do.)  There’s a right and a wrong way to behave, and I don’t think any reader will disagree with me when I say that the punishments become more severe as one moves from the teenage years to adulthood.

Unfortunately, I guess, Kathy (and her dad), have to remember that it’s a tricky thing to — at least outwardly — accuse one of our players of anything until it can be proven.  Hey, if we don’t obey rules as coaches we’re going to lose our jobs and not get the chance to do a lot of good.  At the same time, I surely can hold a player’s feet to the fire, and make dawgoned sure he acts in a way befitting membership on my team.

Okay, although Kathy inspired tonight’s post, I think there should be some helpful messages in here — for a lot of people.

If you think about it, it’s actually possible for a wrongdoer to get away with lots of things.  Loudness towards those who question a wrongdoing can sometimes  take the immediate heat off.  So can lying.  So can a weak coach (or whomever else might be affected).  Seriously, though, who really wins in the end?  Does getting away with bad behavior really help the offender?  I think not.  He or she knows deep down inside something was wrong, and that just keeps chipping away and chipping away at the offender’s self-esteem.  And, the more that offender is let off the hook, the more likely he or she is to repeat that behavior.

Oh, did I say earlier that this format allows me to share my opinions?  Ha…  That’s how I honestly feel about this subject (and I guess it’s ironic that I chose that word, “honestly”, huh?).

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Late update:  The guy who told me about the foul mouthed goalie just read the above, and he informed me that the boy’s new coach just cut his fanny.  :)  Yes, there IS a hockey God!!

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Have you seen my new website — the one that let’s you know about a lot of hard-to-find help for your game?  Check it out; it’s called Hockey Tips and Tricks.

Explore posts in the same categories: Winter - 2010

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