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Deflections - For the love of coaching…


Yes, yes, I know, today is Valentine’s Day, so I’m sending some hockey love…

...However much fun it was as a kid to be in the room with buddies, it’s no different with coaching staffs. Once we’re done deciding who will do what in practice, it’s down to the business of ribbing each other about our shots, our mobility, our diminished speed, and who will fall first. Then comes the important reflective moments when each of us hopes the other will tumble so we can guffaw loudly in front of the kids. Gotta love it.

...I’m demonstrating a one-timer to atom kids. They don’t know my shot sucks. Always has. So I ask the other coach to pass me the puck verrrrrrry slooooowwwwwly, which he does. And I demonstrate also verrrrrrry slooooowwwwwly. The puck arrives in my wheelhouse and I connect perfectly. The shot rings off the goalpost. The kids cheer. Did you see Coach Richard’s shot!? Wow! For about one second, I love my shot.

...I’m asked by a hockey organization to do a presentation on creativity in practice, something I’ve done a few times before. But I don’t know the coaches, their hockey culture, their practice approaches, or even how successful their teams are. I fly blind. One thing I’ve learned over the decades is that you can never really tell from coaches’ demeanour if they like a presentation. But when we get on the ice and I walk them through some things, their eyes light up. Ice demos nearly always seal the deal. As does this one. The organizer tells me later it was all terrific, just what they wanted. I drive home sort of satisfied. Because it’s a long drive, I stop for a coffee, which I know will keep me up. But it doesn’t matter that night.

...A coach has me come on the ice to do a session on body checking skills. Early on, the kids are working in pairs doing some bumping exercises along the boards. The next progression is learning how to “break stride” and angle off an opponent. This is where the smaller or physically weaker kids become tentative because they think they need to hammer someone to succeed. I use the smallest player, the checker, to demo the technique against the biggest one, the checkee. The little guy sees instantly that if he just gets slightly ahead of the big guy, he can check him safely and properly. They do it a couple of times and I tell the bigger kid to go a bit faster, which he does. But the small kid again stops him cold on the boards because he broke the boy’s stride. I high-five the checker whose broad smile lights up the rink.  

We coaches own plenty more of such tales that make us love coaching.

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