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Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/14/16 11:31 a.m.

Hey guys,

Last season I was an assistant coach on my sons squirt C youth hockey team. This was his first full ice hockey as he was in a cross-ice learn to play program before this. It was a ton of fun, and I got to meet some really cool kids, and parents. Now this season my son is playing as a squirt again(ages 9-10), but moved up to the B2 team(not much of a jump in skill), and I've volunteered to be the head coach. I've never been a coach before, so this is all new. I play hockey, but it's pick up/beer league , and I'm not very good, but have a passion for the game. My son isn't particularly good either but he loves the game. I never played youth hockey, but have been playing hockey since high-school in pick up/beer league. I know the game, but have no formal training, or coaching ever in my life.

It's a big commitment on my part, and I'm nervous about my decision to sign up for it, but my son and wife are excited. How do I not let them, and the team down? Any tips/tricks you guys have to help me do this? I sat down, and went over a list of things I want to tell the parents, and players in a team meeting later this month. Among them are my most important things for the upcoming season. Sportsmanship is my number one. I will not put up with a team member or parent putting down another teammate or an opponent. Expectations, lets keep them within reason. This isn't the NHL. Little Johnny isn't the next Orr. I'm just looking for every kid to get better by the end of the season. I don't care about wins and losses. Safety is very important, play within the rules, and smart. Wear your equipment, and make sure you have all the required stuff or you won't be allowed on the ice. Attendance. Make sure you can make as many practices as possible. There is more, but I won't bore you guys.

Any words of wisdom you can give me moving forward? Any fun was to reward the kids for paying attention, and being good sports? Trivia, or homework sort of fun stuff, maybe? Am I crazy?

Thanks,

Chris

XLR99
XLR99 Dork
6/14/16 12:21 p.m.

No specific words of advice, but good on you for stepping up!

I just assistant coached my daughter's rec soccer team. It was a blast, but man is it challenging sometimes to keep them motivated and moving in the same direction. One day I was alone with them, it was about 90 and all the 5th graders were already tired from field day at school - I felt like I was herding cats.

I guess we did something right , though. I think most of them will be back in the fall.

Best of luck!

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/14/16 12:30 p.m.

I forgot to mention. Of the 12 or so kids 4 of them were on the team I was assistant coach for last year. That helps in that I know these kids and their parents already. What doesn't help is that the hockey program isn't in the town we live in, so most everyone else knows each other, but I'm mostly an outsider.

Robbie
Robbie GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/14/16 12:31 p.m.

I would suggest repetition. I assistant coached 7th-8th grade football teams for a few years. The attention spans are very short, and even things like standing in a line and not talking for 15 seconds are extremely hard.

Therefore, make repetitive warm-ups, super simple drills, and only talk about game theory (offense, defense, plays, etc) RIGHT after you have just done wind sprints. Every practice should be 90-95% the same. That way after a couple weeks, everyone can get into a rhythm and kinda get something done. Make it fun and make it so that few if any kids spend significant time standing and watching. They are there to play.

Last suggestion (even though it is super hard because everyone wants to win), reward attendance and good practice ethic with game time. You can be 100% up-front with your detailed plans for this in the first meeting including both parents and players.

OHSCrifle
OHSCrifle GRM+ Memberand Dork
6/14/16 12:38 p.m.

Tell them your #1 goal is for every player to want to play again next season - that you also want them to improve, to have fun, to learn how to be good winners and losers.

I never played. But I think hockey is awesome.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce UltimaDork
6/14/16 1:22 p.m.

Be.
On.
Time.
Nothing creates bad feelings faster than the coach being five or ten minutes late for practice or games.
You set the tone for all of the adults. If you are responsible and happy to be there then your parents are MUCH more likely to mimic that behavior. I'm putting emphasis on you and the parents because quite frankly, that's the hardest part. Kids who want to play are easy and fun. Pissed off parents ruin all of that in a heartbeat.
My wife has coached 13 youth soccer teams in the past few years, and it's ALWAYS the parents that make her want to quit.

Wxdude10
Wxdude10 Reader
6/14/16 1:24 p.m.

Mazdax605,

I know exactly how you feel, just with travel soccer. Here is what I said to all of my boys that I coached:

"My goals for this season are to help you learn about the game, about sportsmanship and respect, give the best effort you can, and most important, have a good time. We do that every game, then we've done our job. If we win any games after all that, it is just a bonus."

Let me tell you, we had more ties than anything else during the last season I coached. Everyone had a blast.

Make it fun. Try to include them when it comes to talking about the games. They will start to pick up on what went wrong and what went right. It gives them a constructive way to get their opinions/frustrations/observations out. It really helps with team building.

Be fair. The boys will respect you for being fair. Don't penalize them with punishments for small/inconsequential/petty things (like running laps for being late to practice/not passing at the right time). But if someone if not taking the game/practice seriously, then address it. I've pulled kids off the field for fooling around during a game. Only takes sitting them for a few minutes to get them refocused. Its a balance, but get it right and it works for everyone.

Experience wise, you have a huge leg up because you know the game, play it, and love it. That will be a huge resource for you and the boys you are coaching. Having been on both sides of the field, if you can get a coach with any experience or clue, its a tremendous asset. There should also be a ton of resources on the internet for coaching. Practice plans, drills, etc. Use the resources.

Congrats on stepping up. These programs would never work without parents stepping up.

And most of all, have fun.

jstand
jstand HalfDork
6/14/16 1:32 p.m.

I admire you for volunteering. It takes courage to step up and take the lead role, especially in a sport that has a season that runs from August to March.

Having coached my son's in street hockey, I can say that its rewarding, but also a challenge.

My oldest son is going to be a Bantam this year and played 2 years as a peewee. My youngest is going to be a cross ice mite this season. I've been an observer since I don't skate well enough to do much more than act as a human cone, plus the organization has a good number of volunteer that can skate and have hockey experience.

Here's my advice after observing ice hockey from the sidelines:

1) Don't worry about whether or not you're doing a good enough job. Do your best and treat the players fairly. As long as you do that, there is nothing for the parents to complain about. Remember, you had the courage to volunteer and get out on the ice, anyone complaining from the bleachers should have volunteered if they thought they could do a better job. Since they didn't volunteer they should sit quietly and take notes so they can try it next season.

2) You probably already know this, but just in case, USA hockey has a lot of information on their website, and also has drill and practice plans you can reference.

3) Like you said, these kids are out there for fun. Do your best to make it fun, small ice games can be good for this, including soccer and ring hockey.

4) Try to keep playing time even. Its hard enough to try to get everyone close to the same amount of ice time, so don't stress over it, but change lines frequently to minimize differences.

5) Attendance - Chances are the kids don't have much control over missing practice, and shouldn't be punished for it. If attendance becomes a problem speak to the parents and explain that their player needs to attend so they can practice with their teammates.

6) I'm sure you know this but skating is the most difficult skill and is typically the focus. I didn't realize it until one of my sons coaches pointed out that they would have the kids work on skating for the first half of practice (20-25 minutes), and that time was close to the max ice time they could see during a game (12 minute periods, minimum of 2 lines). The skating time also worked for conditioning them for the amount of skating they might see during a game.

7) More stations for drills with shorter lines, or drills with multiple players involved. The less time they spend waiting their turn the less time you'll spend trying to get them to pay attention.

8) One of the things I loved about my sons teams is that no matter how the game went they were always joking around and friendly in the locker room. Whether it was a big win, close game, tie, or crushing defeat they would come off the ice and once the helmets same off in the locker room the joking, ice tossing, and water spraying would begin. They always left the rink smiling and looking forward to the next ice time.

9) Make yourself available at the end of practice for questions. My son can be shy, especially if he thinks the rest of his team mates already know something and he doesn't. He used to wait until the locker room would be almost empty and then it still took some prodding to get him to ask the coach about a drill or something that was said that he didn't understand. Try to provide a few minutes after you get off the ice where you are outside the locker room so players or parents can ask questions out of range of the other players. It may also allow you to head off any personality conflicts early rather than waiting for it to boil over and come to light.

10) Nicknames: Some kids may respond well to a nickname that matches their playing style. My son is small, but was aggressive when on D going after the puck in the corners and getting position in front of the net. The coach nicknamed him "Bulldog", and it stuck. The nickname reinforced the desired behavior, and even parents would use the nicknames to cheer the kids on.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
6/14/16 1:33 p.m.

Hi, I'm Mike. I've been a referee for the past 9 hockey seasons for everything from mite-house to Midget AAA, Club college, and "juniors". I did play youth hockey, and my dad was the head coach 2 or 3 times, assistant coach 3 or 4 times, and my uncle was my coach for a few years as well.

First thing: Send a letter to the parents of the team. Tell them your goals for the players, the team, and yourself. Make it clear in the letter that no one there is Sydney or Jonathon Toews. The scouts are not in the stands.

Next, practices. You probably won’t get many of them, but when you do, practice the fundamentals. At least 10 minutes a practice of inside/outside edges, crossovers, backwards crossovers, and stops and starts. Teach them the hockey position—squat like you’re taking a dump. Spend time teaching them a wrist shot and a backhand. And (this is controversial) have them have a puck on their stick for all drills. Spend a lot of time doing passing drills and positioning drills. Do a cycle drill. At that age, the teams that can cycle the puck and regroup are the ones that win. Make them practice keeping their head up and looking for the next pass. I’ve got some drills that I’ll describe later for all of this—really, there are about 4 drills in hockey that really work. Don’t over complicate it, especially at this age. And for maybe the last 10 minutes, you should have a scrimmage (full or half ice), and for the last 5 minutes, a game—try to get through the neutral zone without coach hitting you with his glove, or something like that. Keep it fun for the kids.

For games, equal ice time. THE GAME DOESN’T MATTER. Give the kids equal ice time. If you’re tied with 30 seconds to go? Maybe then you can double shift the stud. But not until then. Get kids experience at every position—center, wing, and defense. Keep them on the same side (L or R), when you need to have kids play an off-wing, have it be the kid who will get it.

Lastly, the refs for your games are likely kids themselves. And they’re going to mess up. And even if they’re adults, they’re likely not great ref’s at this level—it is a good lesson for the kids—get over it if there is a bad call. The kids will learn from your behavior. Don’t yell at the kids, don’t yell at the refs, and tell your team parents to do the same. It is a game. Ask the refs to explain something, but be polite and non-combative. And if you disagree with the reasoning? Shut-up. You’re not going to change the refs mind, and if it is a young kid, you’ll likely shake his confidence and make him nervous to make the next call, right or wrong.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
6/14/16 1:36 p.m.

Oh, one more thing--get a rule book and read it. Because you don't know the rules. Trust me, you don't. Even that Level 1 14 year old ref knows the rules better than you. And they change every 3 years.

Once again, get a rule book, and read the damn book. It is available in digital format for free.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/14/16 4:16 p.m.

Last season we had no kids as refs. All adults, and yes they know the rules better than me. What the head coach and I were confused by last season was the inconsistencies in where the ref would have the face offs. Some had them all at the different face off dots, but others would have them in random places (not at a dot at all).

Thanks for all the replies so far.

Chris

mtn
mtn MegaDork
6/14/16 4:28 p.m.
Mazdax605 wrote: Last season we had no kids as refs. All adults, and yes they know the rules better than me. What the head coach and I were confused by last season was the inconsistencies in where the ref would have the face offs. Some had them all at the different face off dots, but others would have them in random places (not at a dot at all). Thanks for all the replies so far. Chris

You can have a faceoff anywhere on the imaginary line connecting the end zone face off dots running lengthwise down the rink, between the end-zone faceoff dots. A deflection that goes out of the zone would happen from the nearest point along one of those lines, providing it isn't below the end zone faceoff dot. Similarly, if a puck is shot offsides, the faceoff should be at the nearest point from which the puck was shot along said imaginary lines.

It is a rule that I'll adhere to especially in the upper ages, but at squirts a lot of the times the players don't get it and so it is easier to move it to the faceoff dot. I don't like the rule anyways--Every year, the ref's get a survey and ask if we have any suggestions for changes to the rules. Every year, I put in 9 faceoff points. Hasn't happened yet. And if it is within a foot or two of the faceoff dot, I'll just use the faceoff dot.

EDIT: A penalty will be similar, the faceoff should occur nearest to where the offending team gained possesion and control. Deflections out of the rink work that way, as do off-sides passes. Those are the main times that you'll see that. Frozen puck, goals, icing, an offsides that was skated in, etc. are all on a dot.

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
6/14/16 5:21 p.m.

I've coached youth sports for about 20 years- baseball and soccer. Don't know crap about hockey (and probably don't know much about baseball and soccer either). Started just like you- assistant who just stepped up. Eventually got to a state championship.

No matter what you do, K.I.S.S. Every year I coach my list of stuff I want to talk about at the first meeting gets shorter. Because, its a process. You simply won't be able to tell them much that sticks in that first meeting. They are not really listening, but they will learn over time. (I mean the parents, of course).

No more than 3 points. I usually try to start off with an intro for the kids. I tell them they can call me Coach, Mr. Fenner, or Coach Fenner. They may not call me by my first name. It sounds kind of controlling and self-serving, but you are looking at a bench of adrenaline, ADD, and hormones. They will appreciate some simple boundaries, and need to know who is in charge (even if you don't feel like it). Give them SIMPLE rules and instructions, and be DECISIVE with your instructions and coaching. Don't ask for too many opinions- tell them "this is what we are doing". They will have no idea that you are clueless.

The parents are tougher. There will definitely be several who know the rules better than you, and who are loudmouths and critical of your coaching. Embrace it. Those people did not volunteer- you did. I usually tell them something about how much I appreciate their input because I know some of them are knowledgeable, but ask that they would be supportive of me as a coach and the team publically- don't undermine me. The kids need this. (I have had umpires remove my own parents from the game). I also tell them the time is now to step up as assistant coaches.

Then fun. The kids want to have fun. So do the parents. So do I. If it ain't fun, it's not worth it.

That's about it. Then I ask for questions. Save the rest for later. They will learn the game, the rules, sportsmanship, etc. etc. as you go through the season.

End with a "hands in" cheer (or maybe "sticks in"). It will feel completely stupid, but don't end any meeting or practice without it. The kids will come to expect it, and feel part of a team.

The best coaches care very littel about impressing people, winning, or their own pride. Lead, teach, encourage, and learn how to do each of those things better next time.

Iusedtobefast
Iusedtobefast Reader
6/14/16 5:58 p.m.

Man, nothing to really add as these guys have you covered, but one thing I've learned in 8 years coaching baseball and 10 years in boys and girls basketball, make sure YOU are having fun. If you don't the kids can read that and it drags them down too. Remember you are the leader and they follow your example.

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
6/14/16 7:07 p.m.

So, if this is your first year as a Head Coach, it may also be your first year at the draft. Brace yourself.

I remember my first baseball draft. Got near the end of the list, and there were 5 girls. Out of nearly 200 kids playing, only 5 were girls, and they were all still unpicked. I couldn't believe how stupid some of the comments were. Finally, I stepped in and said, "I'll take the girls. ALL of them." Everybody laughed at me.

I think there were 15 teams that year, and mine was the ONLY one with any girls on it. 5 girls, 8 boys.

I learned something really interesting that year. 12 year old boys are NOT capable of pitching to girls. They are scared to death. They always pitch outside (afraid they will hit them).

To capitalize on our psychological advantage, I bought the girls pink batter's helmets, with holes in the back so their pony tails could hang out.

So, we learned patience. I taught the girls to wait on the pitch. Every pitch. We were almost guaranteed 5 walks in every rotation, because the boys couldn't put 3 across the plate. One poor boy walked off the mound and never came back after hitting a girl with a pitch. And 12 year old girls are JUST as fast (if not faster) than 12 year old boys.

We won the Championship that year.

SVreX
SVreX MegaDork
6/14/16 7:12 p.m.

...my batting order had my 3 fastest and most aggressive base runner girls in the lead off positions, then 2 power hitters, then 2 more girls, then my highest average batter.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy PowerDork
6/14/16 7:14 p.m.

My basketball coach in 5th grade liked beer a lot and would yell at us with super strong beer breath. Wait until later to drink beer.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/14/16 8:10 p.m.

I'm not in charge of drafting players. The team is already set. A few things may change with a player or two being called up to the B team, but otherwise I know the team roster and it wasn't my choice. We have one girl on the team, and I hear she is really good.

I don't drink.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/15/16 9:01 a.m.

I've given some thought to having a trophy or award for the player of the game. On one of the mens league teams I played with a couple of years ago the captain of the team bought a cheap trophy of a hockey playing Hulk like figure with popping veins, and tearing uniform, and would pass it out to the "monster" of the game player. It wasn't always the player with the most goals or points, but someone that just played like an animal or what not. It was cheesy for a bunch of adults, but the guys enjoyed it. You were allowed to hold the trophy for the whole week, and were encouraged to take pictures with it during your time. Again pure cheese, but I think something like this would be good for the kids. My thought would be to make sure every kid get it during the season, and use it as motivation. Not sure what the "trophy" or award will be yet, but you get the idea. I know NHL teams use things like this(team hard hat, fire helmet, ugly 80's jacket,etc), so it can't be a terrible idea, right?

Thoughts?

mtn
mtn MegaDork
6/15/16 9:29 a.m.
Mazdax605 wrote: I've given some thought to having a trophy or award for the player of the game. On one of the mens league teams I played with a couple of years ago the captain of the team bought a cheap trophy of a hockey playing Hulk like figure with popping veins, and tearing uniform, and would pass it out to the "monster" of the game player. It wasn't always the player with the most goals or points, but someone that just played like an animal or what not. It was cheesy for a bunch of adults, but the guys enjoyed it. You were allowed to hold the trophy for the whole week, and were encouraged to take pictures with it during your time. Again pure cheese, but I think something like this would be good for the kids. My thought would be to make sure every kid get it during the season, and use it as motivation. Not sure what the "trophy" or award will be yet, but you get the idea. I know NHL teams use things like this(team hard hat, fire helmet, ugly 80's jacket,etc), so it can't be a terrible idea, right? Thoughts?

I like the idea.

Copy the Blackhawks and have a wrestling belt. Or a figurine of you, their hero and fearless leader.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/15/16 9:32 a.m.

I will never copy anything the 'Hawks do! Boo!! I still haven't watched the third period of game 6 2013.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
6/15/16 9:51 a.m.
Mazdax605 wrote: I will never copy anything the 'Hawks do! Boo!! I still haven't watched the third period of game 6 2013.

Some fine hockey played in that period.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/15/16 9:53 a.m.
mtn wrote:
Mazdax605 wrote: I will never copy anything the 'Hawks do! Boo!! I still haven't watched the third period of game 6 2013.
Some fine hockey played in that period.

By one of the teams.

jstand
jstand HalfDork
6/15/16 10:32 a.m.

You could use a game puck as the award. Wrap it with tape and write the date and players name on it.

For a little more impact you could combine the puck with some other small "trophy".

The puck is theirs to keep, but the trophy gets returned after the week so it can go to the next player.

That way they have something to keep and show family and friends.

Mazdax605
Mazdax605 UltraDork
6/15/16 10:41 a.m.

I like that idea. Speaking of which last year my son mostly played defense all season. He didn't hate it, and didn't excel at it, but didn't complain much either. A few games he was played at right wing, and loved it. He played really well at that position too. Finally he scored a goal, and me being the assistant coach I was in charge of the water bottles and pucks for warm up and game (if we were the home team). I was able to take the puck he scored the goal with and put some white tape around it. With some sharpie I wrote the date and opponent and added Alex's first goal. It may sound cheesy, but I think he'll appreciate it when he's older.

Chris

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