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Alex Plante and Nikolai Khabibulin of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League

What’s Really Happening When You Coach From The Crowd

01/23/2015, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Don't worry, we've all been guilty of it. But still: stop it.


We’ve all seen it happen.

Heck, raise your hand if you’re guilty of standing in the crowd making hand motions with the hope your son or daughter will catch your meaning and drastically improve their play instantly to the point the coach is forced to put them on the ice over and over again. 

I’m sorry, but you’re not helping. 

Alright, if you are guilty of the above, this is probably the point in which you start throwing darts into the face of that Kelvin poster on your wall.

Hold up for a second. Coaches are guilty of coaching from the crowd too. Only in our case, it’s not the crowd.

It’s the bench.

The Prevention of Natural Human Development

Why does your child play hockey? To make it to the show?


They play to get better at being a person. Being a good hockey player is a bonus to being a good person. 

Every time a player goes on the ice, that’s their time, not ours. Hollering from the bench when the play is going on is totally useless.

They can’t hear you anyways and they learn to rely on someone else’s decisions in pressure-packed scenarios.

So as coaches and parents it’s our responsibility to give our children and players the tools to make decisions for themselves so they A) develop hockey skills that suit them and B) they move out before they’re 32.


Anyways, this isn’t about you, Kelvin. (If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this …)

Coaching from the crowd is downright confusing. If you have a predetermined set of agreed-upon hand signals, stop. Right now. 

Hockey is about playing for your teammates. There’s no possible way a parent across the rink can contribute to the same message the entire team is receiving. 

You know what they do hear? Cheering. Positive energy.

So cheer like you’re a grandparent.


Imagine this: what if you’re wrong? What if you signal something and it turns out to be a mistake that lets a goal against happen?

What then?

Resentment. You don’t want to be the reason your child experiences failure. The coach? We’re pad to experience that failure with them. It’s our job to create learning opportunities from that failure. Your job is to support your kids no matter what happens, answer their questions and get them back on the horse.

Now, back to the story about the 32 year-old living in your basement in 20 years: What if you’re right? 

What if hollering from the crowd results in something positive like a goal. Well, great, right?

Sure, if you want to keep hollering from the sidelines forever. 

“The square root of 9 is 3!”

“You forgot to add a side of ketchup to that man’s order!”

“No, one more shot of tequila is a bad idea, you have chores to do tomorrow!” 


Coaching from the crowd is damaging. 

Damaging to a hockey player, damaging to a person. No one likes the guy at work who can’t handle anything by himself. Hockey is about learning how to handle life, how to work with others and how to take direction from a hard-ass boss (or handsome coach). 

This will sound completely arrogant and asinine, so I apologize, but people who play and coach the game understand the intense level of focus required to perform. Keeping 15 - 20 players focused and responsible for an entire hockey game is sometimes like keeping dry on the Titanic. 

You’re always just hoping everyone can get off in one piece. 

The problem is that as soon as someone distracts a potential survivor, they stop running for the lifeboats. They get confused about the way to go, they resent the misdirection and they incur damage as a result of being on board the greatest nautical disaster of the 20th century.

Still with me?


Let failure happen. Let success happen. And let the responsibility of both rest upon the shoulders of those responsible. 

photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc

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