Gaining the (Hockey and Business) Skills

Just in case my current readers don’t know, I began this blog as sort of a supplement (or is it as a compliment) to my CoachChic.com website.

Why did I do that?  It’s because that other site — the love of my life — is mainly focused on sharing important training information for hockey players, their parents, and their coaches.  It’s hockey specific, and it tends to be geared more towards technical or how-to stuff.

Frankly, this old coach also needed an outlet — or a place to sometimes vent  :) — in areas that are only slightly related to hockey.  More I thought it a good idea to share with “outsiders” what the life of a hockey coach might be like, as well as share some thoughts on how our two worlds might actually be very much alike.

With that, let me talk a little here about having the skills to do our jobs well…

The spark for this entry really stems from some thinking I’ve been doing about my two hockey teams.

Each head coach in our Boston Bandits organization is given 10 summer practice sessions to ready his or her team for the start of the regular season (sometime shortly after the US’s Labor Day).  I’m not too worried about my littlest team of mainly 6-year olds — as I’ve said often in the past, they’re so mold-able it’ll be easy to ready them.  Where my worries do lie is with my older Bantam team (ugh).

In contrast to real young ones, it gets harder and harder and harder to change the playing abilities of older athletes, with the adult player’s die pretty much casted.  That’s not to say that my older kids — at around 12- to 14-years old — can’t be changed.  It’s just that changes take more time (than with little ones), and they’re not going to be as drastic (as they can be with my young Mites).

Anyway, I’d mentioned in my previous post about that older team struggling in a tournament, and I’d also said I’d taken a ton of notes from my in-game observations.  I believe I also shared with readers what I told my kids:  in that I can help them close the gap on some of the teams that thumped us, but it’s going to take a lot of work — and a true commitment — on every player’s part.

If the latter caused a problem in my previous plans, it’s that I had really hoped to show the kids some high level strategies to use against future opponents, but…  Ya, but…

In all my teaching and in all I’ve ever written to other coaches and hockey parents, the true secret to development is knowing where to begin the process.  In other words, a coach doesn’t start a first-time skater with hard “hockey stops”, but he should instead ease the youngster into things with something like an easy-to-do “snowplow stop”.

The same holds true with more advanced players, though…  I mean, if I want to get a player (or group of players) to Point L in a given skill, it is quite likely that I’ll have to go back to somewhere around Point D or E as a starting place.  Older players can usually lop-off the earlier progressions pretty quickly, so it’s probable that such a group could fast go through Points E, F, G, H and I, and then have to stay at that last point for awhile until it’s mastered.

The reason I went into that stuff is because my notes told me a story quite different from what I’d plan.  Ya, while I was hoping to teach them all those fancy X’s and O’s, what I realized was that my kids had to first be helped with some very basic skills.

And that brings to mind something else I’m always talking and writing about, in that we coaches can’t really look at those stupid letters or numbers as mere marks to be moved around on paper or on a greaseboard.  No, those X’s and O’s represent human beings (in this case young teens) who are being asked to perform some tricky on-ice tasks.  And, looking at things that way, I (and any other adult out there) should further realize that unbelievable skills will be required to execute those tricky tasks.

Yup, most of the notes I took during those tournament maulings had to do with my kids’ need for drastically improved skills.  And that brings me to something I cringe about, but nonetheless feel the need to address…

Whenever I observe a group (or individual) as I’ve just described, I can’t help blaming those who came before me.  I mean, many of my current kids have been let down through the years, being allowed to reach this level without having key skills in place.

Honest to God, I could write a book on this subject (or maybe I already have).  I mean, a lot of coaches run what I’ve heard described as “vanilla drills” (the kind that might look good but have almost no teaching value whatsoever), a lot of coaches take positions without accepting the corresponding responsibilities, and a lot of coaches feel their shortcomings in the teaching department will be taken care of by the kids’ next coaches.  (Ha — on that last point!  There’s a good chance the next coach and the next isn’t going to be any more effective or caring.)

While I’m on this rant, let me say that the kids’ coaches from just last year are not mainly to blame for their shortcomings.  Naw, the types of skill deficiencies I’m seeing stem from neglect when my players were beginners, Mites and Squirts (or during their earliest, formative years).

Oh, and the parents aren’t blameless here, because there had to be plenty of opportunities through those earliest years when they could have gotten their kids some outside help.

If some of my players or their parents (or other organization folks) happen to read this, have no fear…  I am NOT abandoning my plans for teaching the high level team play stuff.  What I do plan, however, is to go backwards for a brief time (to Point E?), so that the X’s and O’s will ultimately be easier for my kids to negotiate.  And, it is quite likely what I aim to help them with will serve each well as he strives for higher levels of the game.  (Darn, but someone has to do it; it just would have been better if someone did it a number of years ago!)

Hockey aside, I wonder how many of my faithful readers are responsible for other workers within their profession.  For, a lot of what I’ve said to this point applies within a work force, just as much as it does to a sport team.  A worker who struggles quite likely was let down previously — be it in school, or by other managers.  My thinking:  Stop the problem now (as I’m attempting to do), and start helping with some earlier progressions in the necessary skills.

Then, relating all the above on a personal level…  What’s the chance you find yourself short on something that’s affecting your work performance?  (And the same goes for me.)  Every job requires a number of background skills — be it as a goaltender, a defenseman, a mechanic or an IT exec.  Fundamentals are the key to proper execution, whether on the ice, in the office, or in the shop.

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