In coaching any sport there are going to be some challenges. As a coach you will be directed as the leader, the mentor, and the instructor. You will be an ambassador for your sport and frankly you will have a major impact on not only sport careers, but life lessons.
As you progress as a coach, whether you are just beginning or are a seasoned veteran, there are some basic expectations of what is required of you. These expectations vary based on skill level and age of the players involved. A travel coach has a completely different team than a house league coach. A Junior coach does not have to deal with the parental aspect of coaching as much as a Squirt coach.
Though there are varying degrees of styles, expectations and the like, there are also some traits that coaches of any skill and age level should work on, cultivate and always should place as the utmost of importance.
These traits are respect, honesty, dignity, sacrifice and commitment. Though it sounds cliché, a coach is a significant person in society. A coach is a specific sort of teacher; one that has the ability to use fun and entertainment (sport) to teach life lessons. Presenting yourself with respect, honesty, dignity sacrifice and commitment will resonate through your players, parents and the hockey world. This will spread throughout the hockey community and create a happier and healthier society.
As a coach, you need to respect the people around you. This is a key fundamental lesson of building a great society and great members of society. Respect begins when you self-reflect and respect yourself. If you are unable to do this, you will not understand how to properly respect your players, coaches, parents and opponents. Without respect for one another all morals and values are thrown out the window. Treat every person in your life with respect and it will be reciprocated.
You have to be honest with yourself about the expectations of the team you have. You need to be honest with your players about their ability and what they need to do in order to improve their game. You need to be honest with the parents in the expectations of the team and individual goals as well as how their player is performing. You need to be honest with your coaching staff and make sure they are aware of what is required of them. Without honesty, the expectations can be misconstrued and taken out of context. Once this happens, the team mentality can quickly be reverted to an ‘I’ or ‘me’ mentality.
Dignity is all about how you choose to carry yourself; how you garner respect from those around you. Do you ask your players to be at the rink one hour before the game then show up 10 minutes before? Do you come to practice with a written plan and ready to get to work? Do you conduct yourself with proper manners and sportsmanship? Are you a leader or a follower? Every move you make and every decision you choose, whether behind the bench, in the locker room or out in public has a direct affect on people’s perception of you. Remember this and carry yourself according to how you want the world to see you.
The time away from friends and family, the early Thanksgiving and late Christmas’ are all part of the sacrifice of a hockey coach. When you think about the time spent, do not forget that you are not alone. Your players, parents, coaches and family are also making the sacrifice with you. You should not expect to receive accolades for your sacrifice as this is a team sport and a team effort.
Commitment and sacrifice go hand-in-hand. Your commitment doesn’t stop at providing the aforementioned traits. You need to be committed to improving yourself as a person and as a coach. If this means learning more about a specific aspect of the game, reading a book on leadership or teaching a life lesson to a player, be committed to being the best person you can possibly be. The more committed you are to bettering yourself as a whole, the more respect, dignity and integrity you will have.
I challenge you as a coach or any individual in general to take a moment and evaluate yourself given these traits. Be honest and make it a point to improve the areas that may be lacking. If you do this, not only will you improve your coaching, you will improve as a person.