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Deflections - Talkin’ Like the Big Boys


Whoever says the media or the pros don’t influence us hasn’t spent much time talking with minor hockey coaches. Every now and then, I have to give my head a vigorous shake when I hear a coach talk about his team or approach as if they’re adults being paid a couple of million to play.

“He can’t play within the system we’ve been working on.”
This was the response of a coach of seven-year-old house leaguers when asked to explain why a boy who’d been splitting his role between goalie and forward could no longer do it as the playoffs began; he had to stay in goal and ride the bench every second game. The parent was, justifiably, rather upset. This coach doesn’t seem to have a handle on what these children need. They’re in grade two. I’m not so sure they can even spell the word “system.”

“We could use more secondary scoring.”
In other words, wouldn’t it be great if more than just the team’s top two kids could put the puck in the net? Well sure, every coach at every well wants that. So, coach, how much time are you spending in practice teaching passing, shooting, and scoring? How many opportunities are you giving the less skilled shooters to even do that? 

“We have two power play units and neither one seems to be doing the job.”
This was a bantam coach. Now let’s remember that minor hockey is a three-line, six defencemen (usually) game. If he has two so-called units, that eats up 10 of the 15 skaters. What’s left is, in his mind, a group of kids incapable of playing with a man advantage. Not exactly a self-esteem boost for them, is it? It would seem this coach hasn’t bothered to teach the principles of offence or power play before the much ballyhooed setup.

“Our practices get us ready for the next game.”
An unequivocal ‘no’ to this statement uttered by the coach of nine-year-old competitive level players. That should never be the objective nor even a small part of the objective. It would be like saying the reason why the grade fours are doing basic sentence structure in English class is so that they can complete a proper 500-word essay by the end of the month. It’s nonsense on a number of levels, the most important one being the focus needing to be on process, not product.

“We’ve talked a lot about getting pucks to the net.”
No kidding. Who hasn’t? This peewee coach at least recognizes a fundamental offensive precept: if you don’t shoot, you don’t score. But for children, that idea needs to be shaped more for them to understand just how to go about it. Talk is nice; action is better.

Perhaps it’s time to turn off the hockey broadcasts and work on communication with kids at their level.

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