For the past couple weeks I’ve been digging deeper into the relationship between the art and the science of coaching hockey. In the past few months I’ve coached kids in midget hockey, peewee hockey, and 25 year-olds playing university hockey.
Confidence is one of the most valuable tools in a player’s belt no matter how old they are.
Actually, that theory extends into all aspects of our lives, doesn’t it? If you’re comfortable and confident at your job then your work will go quicker and the end result will be pure and natural. When you’re confident with your other job (being a parent), you deal with issues and answer questions without hesitating and the message is crystal clear all around.
Coaching hockey is a lot like being a parent. The more confident you are, the stronger the message and the more confident your players are.
That’s a winning recipe right there!
So how do we build that confidence?
Derek Dun is a goaltender with the UBC Thunderbirds, and he says confidence is mostly a product of the coach’s trust in you.
“For sure,” Dun told me. “When the coach shows trust in you it’s like the pressure melts away and you gain a huge confidence boost. It’s still your own abilities that matter, nothing really changes there, but if the coach believes in you then it’s a lot easier to believe in yourself.”
Derek is a goaltender so there’s a bit of black and white when it comes to the situations in which he’s involved.
“Doesn’t matter,” Dun says. “Trust is demonstrated just in how you interact with your coaches.” For hockey players of any age, this means it doesn’t help when coaches - adults who are usually much older - get down on them or focus exclusively on their faults.
It doesn’t matter if you’re five or 25, having the opportunity to redeem yourself after a mistake or a tough shift is one of hockey’s (and life’s) ultimate confidence boosters.
Alright, now I’m really going to throw a wrench in this series. Another key to building trust and confidence in hockey players is to demonstrate knowledge of the technical and tactical aside of the game.
In other words, demonstrating a firm grasp on the science of the game while using the art of coaching as your voice is the quickest way to achieve buy-in from your players.
This is accomplished through:
Players want to play the game without thinking and coaches want them to do just the opposite. In the end, both the player and the coach are on the same side, pulling for the same result.
But it’s that process that counts. We play so much hockey in Canada that we’re going to have a thousand different results that can’t be planned for. I really believe that it’s that relationship between the player and the coach that’s the most important element when you’re focused on healthy development.
It’s an art form, coaching is. But if you can infuse just the right amount of science, then your chances of maximizing that art will go through the roof.
Top shelf, to be exact.