It’s that time of year again when minor hockey associations stress over filling their benches with people who share an elusive combination: being qualified to coach, and being actually willing to take on the job. Have you ever thought about coaching but didn’t think you knew enough about the game?
As an association there’s a lot than can be done to take the fear and uncertainty away from a potential candidate who may be on the fence, but for now I’m going to focus on things a hesitant volunteer might want to consider.
The first and most important thing you can pass on or develop as a coach is this: a love of the game. If this is the ONLY thing you teach a player this year, you’ve done your job. Spewing strategy, formations, and technique is meaningless on its own. Everyday a kid comes back to the rink, that’s a success. If you can keep them coming back and actually having a desire to learn, you’ll buy yourself enough time to pick up what you need to know along the way.
Also keep in mind that hockey, like all sports, teaches many vital skills completely unrelated to the game. Players learn a great deal from you long before you take the ice. What are your expectations for dress code, punctuality, respect, dressing room conduct, preparation, communication? How organized are you? Do you have energy? Do you have passion? Development extends far beyond hockey. You’re not coaching athletes. You’re nurturing human beings. I have a Coach’s Tribute page where each month I pay homage to my old and current personal mentors, and rarely do I credit them for being the one that taught me a slapshot or how to play a 1-2-2. It’s all about how they connected with me as a person. Some people are born leaders and every association, every team staff, needs that just as much as a “hockey guy” .
Hockey information is absolutely everywhere and your minor hockey association should have the resources to help you gain the hockey knowledge you need. And for every one of you that thinks you’d make a good coach but lacks the hockey knowledge, there’s someone else who thinks they have a lot of hockey information to offer but needs someone who maybe has a better connection with the kids or who has the ability to organize and plan.
A coaching staff is just as much of a team as the group of players it has under them. You never know where your skill set might be needed unless you ask. Contact your local minor hockey association and see if there’s a role that’s right for you.