Had a chance to see most of the Devil’s and my new team have their first “non-official” skate together and through some expected summer rust there were some really good signs of things to come. While several of the players have not played together, many have, and those connections were readily obvious when they called to each other for a pass or instinctively new where the each other would or should be during a scrimmage. One of the things I’ve dreamed of seeing and more importantly hearing from younger-aged hockey teams is communication. Getting them to look up, call out each other names or simply call for a pass can be like pulling teeth when they’re eight years old. Here, with an older group, the importance of this critical component of the game has sunk in and surely seems natural. Of course, this will likely be true of every other team we face, so our team will also need to excel in other areas if we expect to compete with those squads.
Prior to taking the ice I decided to lay down some coach/team philosophy and look to get pre-season buy in from the group. What I perhaps grandiosely positioned as “The Guiding Principles”, jotted down on a bristol board (as I became accustomed to doing in my previous head coaching stint two years ago) and affixed to the dressing room wall for all to see were five simple tenets: Positive Attitude, Respect, Focus, Hard Work and Communication. Though they likely didn’t need much explaining, I took some time to review each in the context of “our” team and what “we” should expect of ourselves and each other. To solidify the importance of those expectations, hockey trainer/Momma had a great idea in suggesting each member of the team, players, coaches and trainers alike, sign the back of our mini sports Magna Carta. We stopped short of signing in blood, but I’m hopeful the messages left a mark and I’ll be re-affixing the document to walls before the next several practices and games for lasting effect. I said, and firmly believe, a team built around the top four principles and anchored by communication will succeed; regardless the finals scores or standings.
Having set some ground rules, I, the coaching staff and the team will start the real work this week beginning with a short practice followed by a minimum four and hopefully five-game tournament where we’ll get our first true glimpse of what we have to work with and on. Would I like a couple more practices before jumping into the fire? Sure. But we’ll go into this weekend with few preconceived notions and will hopefully be pleasantly surprised…or not. Either way, the real goal of this weekend is to start to build a team and culture based on the aforementioned principles with an eye towards success on and off the ice.