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How to ‘Force’ Uncooperative Young Teammates to Get Along

10/16/2015, 6:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

You don’t. 

Alright I’m done for the day. 

[Watches cat videos for an hour]

Not good enough? 

Ok then. For you old school types, fights in practice used to be common place. Thankfully we don’t see that any more at the minor hockey level, but that doesn’t mean disagreements and issues aren’t bubbling under the surface, threatening the sanctity of your team’s practice.  

Here’s how you drown out the pesky reality of hockey teammates who simply refuse to get with the program. 

1. Remove the Distraction

Take action the moment players start detracting from a practice. This can mean many things: a simple argument, or it could also be two players who’d rather lay on the ice looking at the ceiling. Either way it’s a distraction for the other players as well as the coach. Put the players on the bench and deal with it when opportunity presents itself. 

2. Be Patient

Sometimes players are still fired up when they’re escorted to the bench, and sometimes they’re just confused. “Why am I here, I didn’t do anything!” And maybe that’s the problem, right? If the players keep arguing or talking back, just remove yourself from the situation. As long as they’re not physically attacking each other, it’s like my old ’93 Mercury Topaz: eventually they’ll just stop running on their own.  

3. Listen to the Problem 

I don’t care how old the player is, it’s always beneficial to hear both sides of the story even if you saw what happened. One player is usually the catalyst, but embarrassing that player isn’t the right course of action just yet. Young players deserve the opportunity to be listened to. Often the only person who’s listened to them in their lives at that point is a parent or a teacher, so maybe they’ll learn something from a new voice.

4. Explore the Logic of the Argument

There’s always a deeper issue, and as a psychologist coach it’s important to explore what lies beneath. Read between the lines and find out what’s really going on. Maybe one of the players simply has no interest in hockey and therefore doesn’t see the value in trying new things. This often leads to distraction of others, and those players can grow frustrated pretty darn quick.

5. Downplay the Issue

Passion runs hot in the game of hockey. Boys and girls, men and women - we all love the game and we want to achieve levels of status we’ve never before experienced. Kids often don’t realize what’s at stake, so it’s up to the coach to minimize the impact of the confrontation while extracting possible learning opportunities. 

6. Build a Game Plan Together

Here’s a quick example of a situation that nullifies this entire post. 

One time, while working at a hockey academy in Edmonton nearly ten years ago, a goaltender in a practice became frustrated with the amount of goals being scored. No, he didn’t use the frustration as motivation to stop more pucks. Sure as a dry twig snapping over your knee, a goal scored with traffic in front of the net and one of the greatest goaltender blow-ups I’ve ever seen was on! Like a boomerang went his stick, hurled in the direction of the goal-scorer. The goalie then proceeded to chase the player around the ice as the rest of the group, including its coach, stared on in slack-jawed amazement. This lasted for several minutes before he finally got tired and removed himself from the ice. 

The goalie was eight years old at the time. 

The game plan after this incident? This player was removed from the program. 

Incidents that don’t require police charges? Usually there’s something to be learned and a future course of action plotted out. Disagreements will happen, motivation will dip and energy will wane. 

It’s what you do moving forward that counts. 

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