So You Wanna Be a Hockey Coach

I decided, sort of at the last minute back in December, to throw my hat into the ring for the head coaching position on the Devil’s team next year. My interview was this past week. I had a couple of reasons for giving it a shot – 1. the Devil would be tickled pink to have Dad as her head coach and 2. several people have suggested this season that they would like to see me as a head coach. 

I do think I would bring a good balance of positive reinforcement and focus on individual technical skill. This next year will be a critical year for many players as they are getting older.  Other interests like school, jobs and boys will start to compete with hockey.  My primary goals would be to make sure all of my players improve as players, have fun as teammates and maintain, if not, grow their love of the game.

The first step in applying for a representative team coaching spot is to submit a detailed application, complete with hockey resume and references. Coaching hopefuls begin by indicating what level of team they wish to manage.  In order to do that each applicant needs to be realistic about what level his/her child is able to compete at. I submitted an application for a level above where the Devil is playing this year as she has played at that level before.  I am confident she would be a strong performer playing against stiffer competition.

In my other minor hockey role, as a rep boy’s hockey convenor and part of a coach selection committee, we actually take time to watch games to assess the capabilities of prospective coaches’ sons.  We can only consider giving a team to a coach if his son is a “lock” to make that team, because we are effectively guaranteeing that one spot without a formal tryout.

The rest of the process is not unlike a typical job application with a panel from the selection committee posing questions around previous experience, coaching philosophy and how you anticipate handling specific game, practice, player and parent situations.

Handling situations, with players and parents, is definitely a big part of the job description. Coaching is not simply a matter of teaching and guiding a group of young players. A team consists of players, staff and parents.  In my last two years of convening, I’ve see my fair share of issues, the majority of which start with parents’ concerns about ice-time, player favoritism or coach conduct. In most cases, the parents’ concerns are unfounded or there is simply some miscommunication, which needs to be addressed.  A good coach needs to be a great communicator.  I’m certain having to deal with hockey parent-related issues is a big reason why many people choose to not apply at all.

There is no shortage of applicants for the division I’ve selected this year with at least six others vying for a spot. That is a very good sign as volunteerism is key to the long-term success of minor hockey and particularly women’s hockey. I believe this is the third time I’ve applied for a head coaching position. I’m hopeful the old adage about it being a charm rings true.  And so does the Devil. 

Until we know, one way or the other, mum’s the word.  Coach selection for next year happens to be running at the same time as this year’s playoffs, which I’m not sure I agree with.  You could effectively have two coaches on the same bench competing for the same job next year, potentially adding an unnecessary level of tension within a team.  Make no mistake that for many, there is competition involved. For my own part, I am hopeful, but will by no means be severely disappointed should I not be selected.

If my bid for head coach is unsuccessful, I will simply let the chosen coach, for whatever team the Devil ends up on, know that I am willing and able to help out in whatever capacity he or she see fit. I’ve done this every year she has played the game.  I’ve helped out with the Boy’s team as well, though his coaching staffs have tended to be more pre-determined.  I do think it’s important to be involved and to support a coach who’s primary concern should be the development of the players.

All of this coaching talk aside, both the Devil and the Boy are still plugging away in playoffs.  He’s headed to one rink this afternoon and I’ll be taking her to play at the same time at another rink a little farther away.  Hockey mom will be trying to get out of a first-aid course to get to his game as soon as she can.  And she better be quick about it because I need my regular text updates of the score in his game. I hate missing either of them play. Sometimes it simply can’t be helped. For that matter, if I’m a head coach, on a bench next season, it will only get worse.


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