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Feb 03

Don’t Be That Guy: 7 Attributes of Bad Minor Hockey Coaches

I recently wrote an article entitled, “10 Reasons Why I Would Never Coach Minor Hockey” that was posted on my blog site, glassandout.com.  People had been asking me for years why I don’t coach minor hockey, so I figured I might as well map out my reasons.  Not long after I posted the article, it went viral and the comments began flooding in from around the world.  Most people got a chuckle out of it and could relate to experiencing the minority of gongshow parents that were outlined in the article, while some people were downright angry, stating that I was biased towards parents and was letting bad coaches off the hook.  After reading some of these comments, I figured I owed it to my endearing critics to flip the coin and talk about the fact that there are some bad minor hockey coaches out there and that maybe, just maybe, there is a good reason why some parents turn into Linda Blair from the Exorcist when they walk into a hockey arena.

So without further ado, here are 7 Attributes of Bad Minor Hockey Coaches, in no particular order.

 

1.      Screaming Between the Whistles

Nothing annoys me more than when you see a coach screaming at players during the play at a minor hockey game. It serves no purpose other than to fuel anxiety and confusion. This is what ineffective coaches don’t understand. They think that coaching means being loud between the whistles, constantly screaming instructions. Effective coaching is preparing your team so that they can use the tools they have been taught to read and react when the game is on. Plays happen so quickly on the ice that the brain can’t properly process what a coach is screaming from across the ice. If anything, this creates confusion and a detrimental break in focus.

The human brain can only efficiently focus on two stimuli at a time. The first priority has to be what your senses are telling your body about what is happening on the ice, and in return, the reactions of your body to the stimuli. In hockey, this is called reading and reacting. The second focus priority is the communication from your team mates, helping you to make sound, split-second decisions.

Once you start letting other stimuli into that focus window, you start to lose efficiency and the potential for error increases dramatically. If you add in a screaming coach or parent, or you let taunts from opponents into your range of focus, you will experience significant drop offs in your prioritized focus areas and essentially, your overall performance. Being able to block out these other aspects is what is known as fine-tuning your focus.  Good coaches understand this and try to develop these skills.

 

2.      Board Talk Marathons

With the cost of ice today ($275 an hour in my hometown of Kingston, Ontario), it amazes me how much time minor hockey coaches spend at the rink board explaining drills and yammering on.  Some coaches will spend a cumulative of 15 to 20 minutes on the ice explaining drills during a 50 minute practice (An hour minus 10 minutes for resurfacing).  These coaches are wasting valuable ice time that could be put to better developmental use.

One of the best coaches I ever had was completely against any board talk while on the ice.  He was highly organized and had a very precise system of teaching.  At the start of every season, he would give each player a binder that contained all the drills we would do during the year, along with detailed explanations and diagrams.  Whenever he wanted to add a new drill, he would print a page out for everyone to add to our binders.  Each drill had a catchy nickname like, “Egg Beater” or “The Finisher.”

Forty minutes before each practice, he would write the drill lineup on the board in the dressing room.  If we had any questions about the drills, we had 40 minutes to get them answered.  When we would hit the ice, it was all business for 50 minutes.  When it was time to switch drills, he would blow the whistle, say the nickname of the next drill and away we’d go.  His system was efficient, organized and ideal for peak development.

 

3.      System Overload

One of the biggest problems in minor hockey today is “System Overload”.  Many minor hockey coaches are obsessed with strategies and systems, spending most of their time teaching 9, 10, and 11-year-olds the “Left Wing Lock” and “The Trap”.  They spend so much time working on trick faceoff plays and fore checks and neglect what makes hockey players great—fundamental skills like skating, shooting, passing, puck handling and reading and reacting.  At these ages, the extent of “system play” should be basic positional hockey.

These coaches mistake systems for hockey sense.  Hockey sense has nothing to do with systems.  Hockey sense has everything to do with reading and reacting and trusting your instincts when systems break down, which they always do.  Hockey is all about breakdowns.  Every time the puck changes possession, it is essentially a breakdown.  When players move onto higher levels—midget, junior and beyond—systems become more relevant.  It is at these levels that the finely tuned reading and reacting skills become a lethal weapon that separates good players from elite players.

The thing that is like nails on a chalkboard for me is when you get a coach who tries to emulate NHL teams and their systems with his major atom team.  I’ve heard atom coaches say, “You should have seen the Detroit Red Wings break out on the powerplay last night!  I’m going to use it with my atom team.  We’re gonna win it all!”  He’s got no concept of the level he’s teaching.  He doesn’t realize that 9 and 10 year-old kids don’t have the mental capacity or skill level to use these systems.

When is the last time you read a scouting report that said:

“Little Timmy isn’t much of a skater and has a shot like a muffin, but boy oh boy can he ever run that left wing lock!  This kid is really going places!”

 

4.      Lack of Communication with Parents

To be a minor hockey coach means you need to be approachable. As a parent, I have a built in worry system when it comes to my daughter.  I worry about her when I drop her off at daycare and I will worry about her once she starts organized activities.  As a parent, you want what is best for your kids and you want them to be happy.

When a parent watches their kid skate onto the ice for a practice, they have to understand that what happens in the next hour is beyond their control.  For some parents, this is a really hard thing to come to terms with.  One thing that a coach has to do is to communicate and help parents understand their methods, and in doing so, alleviating some of the anxiety.  In minor hockey, the priority should be development and well-being.  The coach’s job is to teach kids the value of team culture and develop their skills.

Oh ya, I forgot to point out that parents are paying shitloads of money!  They deserve to know that their paying for more than just snazzy tracksuits and a team bag.

 

5.     Lack of Positive Communication with Players

When I was growing up, coaches were unmistakable in their cliché.  They had a sharp, piercing whistle looped onto a broken skate lace, barked orders like a drill sergeant, didn’t smile and they told you to “Suck it up” and “Tough it out”.  If you scored a goal, they’d point out what you did wrong before you scored and if you made a mistake, they’d bench you.  This was the old-school mentality that the real world is tough and I’m training you to be able to fight through adversity.

Most people understand now that this way of thinking is as old and outdated as 8-track players, but there are still a lot of people out there that practice this method of motivation. It’s the people who say, “Life is tough and no one is going to hand you anything for free.”  They say, “If you coddle these kids, they will never know the value of hard work and conquering adversity.”  The last time I checked, when times get tough, you kind of know it.  From my experience, it’s much easier to tackle daunting tasks with a strong sense of confidence and self-worth than with the mentality of, “I better not screw this up.”

If you’ve ever played hockey and scored a goal, you know the overwhelming feeling that follows.  It’s like being on top of the world.  After the goal, you always play your best hockey because you’re filled with positivity.  Your legs feel lighter, your energy levels are higher, and you have the desire to accomplish more. Now think about it.  Is it the act of scoring the goal that makes you feel like this or the reaction of pats on the back and smiles you get from your coaches and team mates?  Next time your kid scores a goal in a game, have them go home afterwards and shoot a puck into a net in the driveway.  Afterwards, ask them which goal meant more to them and why.

It’s as simple as this: Kids want to do things that are fun.  Feeling valued and a part of something positive and special is fun. Getting screamed at and called names isn’t.

 

6.      Winning is Everything Mentality

When I was a kid, I had a bunch of trophies and medals from winning tournaments and championships in hockey.  15 to 20 years later, two facts stand out.  One, I can’t remember one of the tournaments we won or how we did it, and two, I have no idea where any of those trophies or medals are today.  The simple fact is, minor hockey isn’t about winning.  Minor hockey is all about having fun and developing.  Is winning fun?  Sure it is, but not at the cost of having half your team rot on the bench.

Nobody cares if the Amherstburg Atom Cs from 1983 won the Regional Championships.  Banners in arenas mean absolutely nothing to me.  When I was a junior A coach, we used to go to St. Mikes to play the Buzzers and one of the other coaches said to me, “Look at all the championships they won in the ’80s.”  I said, “Sorry, I didn’t notice.  I was too busy looking at all the pictures of former players who went on to play in the NHL.”  To me that’s the biggest compliment to a program.  It’s the development aspect.

The primary goal of every minor hockey coach should be to develop all of their players and help them move on to the next level as better players and individuals. There is this obsession today about how great players have always been stars on their teams.  This is ridiculous.  There are more stories about late bloomers and underdogs in hockey than most libraries can hold.  NHL players like Dustin Penner were never stars on their teams growing up and didn’t realize their potential until it was almost too late.  Whoever says they can tell who will succeed and who won’t on a team of 14-year-olds is nuts.  Kids will surprise the heck out of you when you give them a boost of confidence and show some trust in them.

7.      Looking Out for Numero Uno

Don’t misjudge my message on this point.  There is nothing wrong with getting into coaching with the dream of someday making a career out of it.  What I want to touch on here is that there are some coaches out there that treat coaching minor hockey as a way to further their own interests.

There are a lot of different ways minor hockey coaches look out for number one.  One common way is to find the person who has the most influence to help them achieve their goals and coach their kid’s team.  From this position they can gain advantage by favouring the kid or working out an arrangement.

When I was in my OHL draft year, I was cut from my local AAA team because one of the parents brought in a coach that he could control to overplay his kid and all of his friends.  The result was, myself and several of my friends were cut that season and had to go down and play A level hockey.  Several years later, I was playing junior A hockey in Ottawa and this coach came to one of the games where I was named first star.  After the game, my assistant coach at the time said, “Jamie, one of your old coaches is at the door and wants to talk to you.”  I asked who it was and he said his name—the guy who cut me in my OHL draft year.  I said, “Go back out there and tell him to hit the bricks.”

Another way minor hockey coaches put themselves before the team is by using their position as leverage against the parents.  Everyone has heard of minor hockey coaches accepting bribes and preying upon parents in vulnerable positions.  Maybe it’s, “You give me a job and I’ll make sure Timmy is on the first line,” or, “Get me a reduced mortgage rate and I’ll make sure Billy starts 75% percent of the games in net.”

 

Jamie McKinven on twitterJamie McKinven on linkedinJamie McKinven on email2
Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

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  1. Michael O'Pray

    Hi There.

    I have read both posts and reserved judgment with your thoughts on how awful Minor hockey coaches are. I agree with most I what you say. After reading this post I again find myself agreeing with much of what you say. I am a coach course conductor with hockey canada and have been coaching for over 25 years. (I’m 46). What saddens me the most from what I read is that people like you don’t coach. You have to be part of the solution in order for coaches like you describe to not have a place to coach. With a volunteer system the hard truth is that these awful coaches manage to exist because people who can coach don’t step up and get involved. Blogging about won’t change anything. Any coach you describe won’t even read what you write. Their mirror doesn’t look back at them and say ” I’m a bad coach I need help”.
    Best Regards.
    Michael O’Pray
    Riverview NB

    1. jamer4472

      I respectfully disagree with you Michael. Firstly, the main reason that I don’t coach is that I have a young family and coaching is too much of a time commitment away from them. I coached junior A for 4 years and it was a significant strain on my family life. But, writing an article about that makes for a boring topic.

      The main reason I have written these articles, or any articles, is to create awareness and provide some insight. Before I played under great coaches in junior, the NCAA and pro, I wouldn’t have realized that spending 20 minutes at the board during practice was detrimental. Before I played in Europe and saw how advanced some of the skill development was, I never would have realized that spending 70 percent of practices in minor hockey practicing the trap is counter productive to developing crucial hockey skills.

      1. Greg Williams

        I live in Ontario and we are losing excellent coaches at an alarming rate. I have coached for the past 26 years and 10 of those years I was a coach mentor for our district program. We are losing coaches because of parent entitlement. I would challenge you to find one other institution that has volunteer position in the country that allows the abuse of their volunteers to go un-challenged? Associations have turned a blind eye to the effects and behaviours of parents when it relates to coaches. I have seen parents kicked out of rinks because they yell at referees. Coah abuse is a real thing that is being swept under the carpet by programs all over Canada. I attended the Roger Nelson’s coaches program in Windsor. Coaches from all over the country were saying the same thing. Why is Hockey Canada not adressing this extremely important issue!!! We are not only losing good coaches. I had the same challenge for my 22 year old son, who accepted the challenge last year. He was an assistant coach with a Midget B rep team. He ran most of the practices because the head coach wasa parent that never played the game. By the end of the season he told me that the 60 % of the parents were going out of their way to verbally attack him and his credability! The kid was 22 trying to give back to the game he loved! I tried to explain to him this percentage used to be 20 %. Now it is 60%. I think Hockey Canada and all executives should be the people that you ask to look in the mirror, not a potential coach!

    2. Greg Williams

      Michael: I live in Ontario and we are losing excellent coaches at an alarming rate. I have coached for the past 26 years and 10 of those years I was a coach mentor for our district program. We are losing coaches because of parent entitlement. I would challenge you to find one other institution that has volunteer position in the country that allows the abuse of their volunteers to go un-challenged? Associations have turned a blind eye to the effects and behaviours of parents when it relates to coaches. I have seen parents kicked out of rinks because they yell at referees. Coah abuse is a real thing that is being swept under the carpet by programs all over Canada. I attended the Roger Nelson’s coaches program in Windsor. Coaches from all over the country were saying the same thing. Why is Hockey Canada not adressing this extremely important issue!!! We are not only losing good coaches. I had the same challenge for my 22 year old son, who accepted the challenge last year. He was an assistant coach with a Midget B rep team. He ran most of the practices because the head coach wasa parent that never played the game. By the end of the season he told me that the 60 % of the parents were going out of their way to verbally attack him and his credability! The kid was 22 trying to give back to the game he loved! I tried to explain to him this percentage used to be 20 %. Now it is 60%. I think Hockey Canada and all executives should be the people that you ask to look in the mirror, not a potential coach!

    3. Hockey dad

      Thank you I have a son who played in ADHSHL JV league for one coach who played him about a. Minute a game and really $3,000.00 for a minute a game the coach had a family scrimmage at Honda center, it was great. He had photographer come out to take photos , when we got the cd’ it had 200 photos 118 where of the coach posing for shot ect. We finished the season in last place .
      The next year he played for another school and another coach .he played 20 minute a game we finished in first , no kidding and not because my son, he not the greatest player but because the coach.ps well at least he has 118 photo of the worst coach of his life

  2. snipersskate

    Reblogged this on snipersskate.

  3. Arnie Klassen

    Love the blog. Solid read, and insightful. I’ve been a volunteer with minor hockey since 1976, but never coached. Even at a safe distance, I have still had parents who wanted to sue me and the rest of the staff for potential lost future earnings of their little superstar, because we were holding back his development and future draft prospects. Keep your stick on the ice.

  4. Jeff Riddall

    Great post. I am a minor hockey coach to a group of 15-18 year old girls and I am happy to report that I only find myself relating to the first of your “coaches”. I believe my yelling comes from pure exuberance for the game and wanting to help/encourage the girls to compete at their highest levels. I know I do the same kind of “yelling” from the stands when I’m a simple spectator. That being said, I will take some of what you wrote to heart and make an effort to quell my screaming moving forward. I hope no one who has witnessed me coach feels I fall into any of the other categories as I do try to focus on personal skills, simple instructions and above all – FUN!

    #imahockeydad
    http://imahockeydad.com

  5. Good eye

    Can you do a blog on how coaches should coach their own kids on the team. Please refer to how favouritism should be addressed. It is not all in parents heads by the way their frustration with these type of coaches. Parents pay equally for registration, ice time and children should be treated equally. This is below the peewee level. They can see the ice and they see the favouritism, favouritism I mean by significantly more ice time and positional play. As well as better line mates. Also different rules in regards to allowing to rush the puck and not pass while others have to. Putting his/her kid higher in ranking during tryouts that other kids who should be there. In previous years it was even petty things like always receiving an MVP even when not deserved. Basically it is why he/she is coaching. Please respond to what you would suggest the coach should be doing in regards to his/her child.

    1. jamer4472

      Ultimately, all coaches have their own unique style. My contention, with regards to youth hockey, is to try and develop all players. From my experiences, the kids who are dominant at 11, 12, 13, and 14 aren’t necessarily the kids who will move on to higher levels and play in major junior, NCAA, pro, etc. Kids develop at different stages, that’s why it’s important to spend time developing all kids. I was cut from the AAA bantam team, and grew 10 inches two years later when I was 17. Everything changed for me at that point in time. As a minor hockey coach it is important to help develop each kid on your team. I believe in rolling the lines when it’s 5 on 5 and ensuring that everyone has a role on special teams, whether it be powerplay or penalty kill (It is important for kids to learn both roles as kids who are powerplay specialists in peewee aren’t necessarily going to be powerplay specialists at higher levels). That way, everyone plays and has a specific role on the team. No one rots on the bench.

      Minor hockey is all about development and having fun. Developing means being exposed to a variety of learning opportunities. And in minor hockey, just like higher levels, practices are just as important as games. You develop more in practice than you do in a game. Practice is where you don’t have to worry about making mistakes and can learn in a controlled environment.

      With regards to parents coaching kids and playing favorites, its a tough thing to weed out. Parents are and always have been a major part of coaching in minor hockey, simply because of the lack of coaches available. And when it comes to parents, it can be hard to be completely objective. It’a a fine line. Everything is under the microscope.

      With regards to awards, I’m not a big fan. If you’re going to do awards, I think it’s important to spread them out. I think it’s more important to award kids for hard work and recognizing things like sacrifice, sportsmanship, team play, etc. Instead of yearly awards, I like the idea of selecting awards for each game (ie. Hardest worker of the game or lunch pail player of the night). These types of things help teach players the value of working hard and doing all of the little things right instead of worrying about points and stats.

      1. Anonymous

        Thank you for responding. I agree with you on most points but I do think there is a since of entitlement out there with coaches regarding their kids on the team especially if they also play a role on the association they are affiliated with. I would bet this is probably the number 1 complaint by other team parents. It seems the coaches that do this, feel they are entitled because they volunteer but there are no notations in the association rule book that says the coaches child gets more ice and first choice of positioning and basically much more attention by the coach. Not all coaches are like this but I think the coaches who continue coaching their kid year after year after year tend to be like this. Change is good even for the coaches kid. Associations have to start paying attention and make adjustments. To me giving a coach so much political power is just asking for trouble. Sometimes frustration by parents is a symptom not the cause when it comes to discontent on a team. When I see quiet unassuming parents speak out after many years of not doing so with other coaches it is very telling. The awards are like you said not important but obviously to that coach they are when he/she would award his/her son the award regardless of anyone else consistently.

        1. Anonymous

          hit the nail on the head !

          the group my son plays with have had 2 coaches in 7 years.

          the same 2 dads take turn being the coach/assistant coach

          there are 2 other dads who take turns being the “manager” and “trainer”

          its sickening

          other people “apply” to be the coach but somehow, always get turned down – the coach’s brother is on the coaching committee.

          disgusting

          nothing we can do about it

          1. Jamie McKinven

            I hear you. You see it everywhere and nothing ever changes. Sad, really…

      2. Rick

        Wonderful article. It took 25 years of coaching to finally understand what made a good coach, both as a teacher and as a person. I have seen it all, from tyke to junior, and parents are generally the largest problem. The other is the lack of talent in a small association and the amount of ice time that is available. Suffering through midnight and 5 am practices added to the problem. Your description of parent’s behaviors of control – I have been the recipient of them all. It became a balancing act to teach, to win, and to be fair. On more than one occasion I had to deal with an irate parent over ice time for Johnny when I carried only 4 defencemen. I was replaced, by those parents who ran for executive, so they could choose their coach – so that their child would get more ice time or make the team that weren`t on it from the year before. Winning a championship and losing only 4 games in a season wasn`t good enough. I had one mother at the bench calling me 4-letter words during a championship game for 10 year olds. Unfortunately, their kids never progressed any further and they didn`t `win`much – either in the rink or in life. I had 2 sets of parents in my face toward the end of one season over playing time, power play, etc as they were trying to get their kid the `scoring` title. I ran the full gambit from tyke to major midget, from house to AAA, and over 25 years, I can really say, I`ve seen it all. I was a decent player, and above average coach. I tried allowing others to coach my son, but found that worse than doing it myself. I can relate to the parent waiting to see their kid play because I have been there. It did help to develop a philosophy but didn`t do much for my kid. There were lessons for both of us to learn. I was more respected outside of my home rink and `blackballed` to coaching `B`teams instead of AAA the last 4 years that I coached. The problem has not changed in a generation as I now witness the same things happening with my 18 year old grandson. He has experienced the worst coaches that have ever existed. From favoritism to bullying on the team, they are just not nice people. They do the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Although they can run a nice practice (drills) they have no concept on how the game is played. Sad. Although I enjoyed teaching at the house league level, I have lost my zest to coach at all. No wonder that those that left are not very good. I hope that your article will promote and develop one good coach that will have the `guts`to follow your ideas and philosophy.

        1. Anonymous

          so you quit…cause it got to hard.

      3. Anonymous

        I have been coaching for 20yrs both as a non parent coach and now as parent coach.
        My philosophy for my peewee A team is for everyone to get fair ice time (roll the lines and hope that each shift is close to equal in length), split the goalies 50/50 for both home and away games (notify the goalie parents who is playing ahead of time so they can plan) discuss the practice before going on the ice, every practice needs to be structured so there is skill drills that lead into offensive and defensive situations, allow the players to understand different options so they can read and react for different game situations.
        At the end of the year everyone gets an award based on the season, these are fun awards, example best tape job award, greatest hair coloring award.

        It is important for coaches to ensure the kids develop but it is also important to ensure they have a fun happy year. Wining a championship is great but not wining is not the end of the world.

  6. Devin Malakoff

    My son played hockey in a small town where the emphasis was always on skill development, and they rolled lines, and everyone had opportunities for special teams. We took it for granted this was how it should be, and we did notice other teams in the league didn’t do this. I always felt sorry for those kids.

    This season my son went to a different center to play Bantam Hockey and in the most literally sense this was disgusting. The three Coaches all had their kids on the team, and the favourtism was apparent. The same kids all played Power Play, and it was a very short bench. Not that this matter, but my son scored over 50 goals in his last season of Pee Wee playing on a team, that rolled lines, and gave opportunities to everyone. This season he rotted on the bench. There was no skill development, no team play, the team was undisciplined it was just awful.

    The process was to wait 24 hours if you have an issue. The Team Manager is best friends with the Head Coach, and they share Roughrider season tickets. When a parent asked the Team Manager why her son has not been played as a Goalie for the first 3 games, she was told, there was a lot of hockey left. He played 6 games total. The Head Coach is also President of the local hockey Association. There was a boy who was cut and then put back on the team, and he was buried on the bench as that boy’s Dad cut the current Coach’s son last year. It was so political, and you get the drift quick that if you raise an issue it could come back on your child.

    I did approach the Coach eventually and he said he disagreed. So that’s that. Very unfortunate, but I told my son just keep playing and don’t get discouraged.

    1. Good eye

      I think that coaching and having a role on the team’s association should be considered a conflict. I also think maybe a good idea would be to limit the number of years a coach can coach the same kids in minor hockey. There begins to be too much history, too much of a sense of entitlement. I think it is good for kids to have different coaching just like different teachers. It teaches them there is more than one way. Minor hockey associations wonder why kids give up rep hockey or hockey in general. Coaching has a lot to do with it, parents know this and they hate to see their kid who loved the sport not want to step on the ice. Some coaches think parents are upset because their kid is not get special treatment but that is not so. A good coach should be able to separate his feelings from the parents from how he treats the kids on the team. He should not be giving less or more ice to kids in order to gain leverage with parents or to try and get back at parents and the same with positions. I mean grow up already who is the adult! I think that is what I find the most frustrating is the using kids as pawns.

  7. Brian McElroy

    Great articles. I really respect that you are addressing such contentious issues on a public forum. I also respect your stance and answers to people who obviously disagree with your views. The issues that are in this forum are found in every minor hockey association, in every region, in every province across Canada. The only common denominator is the volunteer adults that oversee and maintain minor hockey. I also believe that 95% of the adults are involved for the right reasons. However, the vocal 5%, which usually have an agenda, create such a sour experience for everyone else that the good people are choosing not to get involved. Canadian junior hockey teams that compete Internationally want to win as bad as every. What is happening is that other countries are improving dramatically. The irony of this is that other countries are getting improving because they are using Hockey Canada material and personal in their minor hockey systems. These countries are willing to follow that development process that Hockey Canada has put out in printed material as early as the 1980’s. As adults/coaches/executive members, we need to realize that we need to change the way we teach/operate the development of the game of hockey. Unfortunately, I feel that we have to witness more unacceptable behaviour in minor hockey before the adults create an implosion within minor hockey. Like people with addictive personalities, we as hockey overseers, have not hit rock bottom yet before we try to make this kids game fun again.

    1. jamer4472

      I completely agree. The game has evolved and changed and we need to re-evaluate the system. The game has become alot more specialized now. Goalies need specific development and teaching, as do defencemen and forwards. Long gone are the days when one coach could go out and develop an entire team. As an instructor, my specialities are skating and defensemen. I know nothing about goaltending and not enough about teaching forwards. It’s like in football. There are offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterbacks coaches, special teams coaches, etc. It’s specialized and unique and hockey has now reached that level. The unfortunate truth, however, is that this requires either alot more resources or more experienced volunteers. Two things that are hard to come by.

      1. Brian McElroy

        More good coaches teaching all players all aspects of the game is crucial. My philosphy is that all players on a team need to understand the skills and concepts of each position. As well all players need to understand how the power play and penalty kill works but not until high calibre levels, at least Bantam level. No player should be taught or practice a system until at least then!! Coaches need to understand that the most successful teams are the one that use all their players which means the goal at the start of the year should be move the bottom 1/3 players in to the middle 1/3 group and try to develop the middle 1/3 group into the top 1/3 group and challenge and develop the top 1/3 group to move on. Coaches strategy of shorting benches at novice age level in order to get the win has always confused me. This goes on all all levels and age group of minor hockey. All players need to be able to play in all situations. During NHL playoffs, commentors always talk about how the teams that use all their lines/players usually go the farthest in the playoffs. Yet, in minor hockey coaches do the complete opposite. Not all coaches do this but an alarming number do. Then as adults and administators of minor hockey, we wonder why kids are leaving minor hockey…..

        1. Anon

          So true!

  8. Joe

    I too am a minor hockey coach. There are a lot of things that happen on a daily basis that are strongly making me re consider coaching next season. I coach at the Atom level. I do not run a PP or PK line. We roll our bench with 3 lines. A different line will start every game on both D and Fwd. Some parents disagree with this and feel I am not properly teaching them how special teams are suppose to work. We look at the positioning for a PP or PK but they feel I should be using the top 1/3 of the team for these items.

    I have a child on the team I coach. I have been told that I do the opposite of most coaches and I cut his time short. He sits out more than any other kid on the PK, He never gets to demo a drill in practice, I use his mistakes as teaching aids. Why is this some may ask. Its the fall out of dealing with parents who have had other coaches favoring their own child. So how can we stop this ?

  9. Anonymous

    How do you expect kids to learn if you don’t take enough time to explain the drills to them?

    1. jamer4472

      Take time to read the article. It answers your question.

  10. Alain Aubin

    I didn’t just have to deal with a coach that winning was everything thus he had no problems with playing his top players more at each and every opportunity but he also had no issues with benching players in HOUSE LEAGUE tournaments where each patent thought their monies paid would mean their son/daughter would be treated with respect. Yet the topper was when the association my son plays in upheld these practices after I complained. The discipline chair of this association stated that heb”guaranteed each and every player on any team would rather be sat (benched) if it meant winning as opposed to playing and losing”. When I told him he was incorrect (as every study on this matter has shown) and that my son only plays for fun and that winning is just a bonus I was told I was wrong.
    I have since then attempted in various manners to have this addressed yet at each and every corner these issues have been dismissed as a “rant” from a disgruntled parent even though I have various emails and recordings to back up my claims.
    The state of minor league hockey has been chronicled quite a bit over the course of the last few years and I can see why. Even though there is an outcry to fix the game nothing is ever addressed. The status quo within the upper escelons of the hockey world won’t allow change to happen.
    It is a sad reflection on Canada’s game.

  11. Lisa

    Thanks for taking the time to write about poor coaching techniques, I agree sport at the minor level is about developing the we person; kids get it, that’s why ranting coaches who favour some players over others inpplay in an effort to win the game ultimately loose the respect of the players, and usually the season is lost!

    1. Jamie McKinven

      You’re absolutely right Lisa. Thanks for commenting!

  12. hockeyfan25

    Great article, myself and coaching partner try to live by NOT doing these things, although I recognise what you describe in an awful lot of people I come across sadly…..

    1. Jamie McKinven

      Thanks for weighing in!

  13. Anonymous

    As a coach I have always yelled out instruction while the play was going on. I’ve found lots of success with this at all different ages at the AAA level. Yelling like a mad man may not be the best way to go but yelling instructions like “get the puck deep”, “wheel”, “you’ve got time” are common things said. Nothing wrong with that.

  14. TJ

    There are good coaches and bad coaches and every type in between. Even the most well-intended coaches make mistakes. These (including myself) are volunteers and are constantly trying to improve their skills as a coach, similar to how the kids on the team are constantly trying to improve their skills. I have no problem with parents coming to talk to coaches and suggest changes – in fact I encourage that kind of communication. What I do have a problem with though, is parents who attack a coach without being able to provide solutions to the issues they are complaining about. Come to the coach with a solution and be proactive. Either that or get our your skates and help out.

    Like I said before, I realize there are bad apple coaches out there, but most (that I know of) are trying their best and really care about the kids. Otherwise why would they do it for free?

    I really enjoyed the article and can identify some of my strengths as well as some areas I could probably stand some improvement.

    1. Jamie McKinven

      Thanks for commenting TJ!

  15. Anon

    Sure it is, but not at the cost of having half your “team rot on the bench”- we play Atom AE in small town Ont. , how would you suggest approaching a situation where this happens to 2 kids on the team(not mine)- we are in playoffs – they got maybe 2 min total ice – coach and asst coach’s kids are #1 & #2 for play (I’ve never timed or watched for the middle line times but you notice every other shift to 2 min) also one just so happens to be president of the organization. I really believe that although I expect my child to work hard and pay attention, do his best and be accountable – that hockey is meant to be fun, enjoyable and boost your confidence, skill and sense of belonging. I always seem to be told “That’s rep hockey! ” and that attitude seems to be the answer for every problem.
    Any suggestions on how to approach an Executive board made of many members with this mentality?

  16. Tom

    there is good insight on this website. sure there are bad apples in hockey, but there are a lot of good people too. I have seen that this season, coaching on two teams. lots of positive energy, and engaged and committed parents and coaches. not a perfect season, but overall pretty good.

    can’t say that I have tracked ice time, but the players rotate through positions, the lines keep rolling, the vibe on the bench in in the locker room is good and high energy, so everything seems reasonably fair. the only time I can see the bench might get shortened might be in the championship final, near the end of the game, or in OT, if we make it that far. you have to give the head coach some leeway on that.

    I disagree with those who say hockey isn’t about winning. it kind of bothers me when people say that. hockey is about skill development, character development, being part of a team, having fun. but when you are playing a competitive refereed game you are playing to win (and if you are not, then I don’t know what you are trying to accomplish).

    I disagree with those who suggest everything has to be completely fair, down to the last minutiae. yes, ice time for minor hockey, especially younger players, should be equalized as far as possible (but certainly not tracked and timed). But nobody should complain when Johnny plays center 4 times, while Sam plays center 6 times. And nobody should complain when Donna plays D 5 times, while Jim plays D only 3 times. But people can and do.

    what do we learn in practice and during the hockey season? progressive skill development, working hard and getting in shape, respect for the game, respect for self, respect for others, and learning how to play the game (the objective of the game being to score more goals than the other team – to WIN).

    we should not criticize coaches who have not played in competitive league play. we need those coaches. those coaches need to learn as much as they can, as quickly as they can. but those volunteers are crucial, especially with the younger kids. later on, when kids start playing at a higher level, they will need more skilled coaches, but it should be self evident by that time.

    so hockey, like life, isn’t completely fair. though we try to be fair. and hockey isn’t only about winning. but when we play the game, we always try to win. and if we don’t, we learn from it, and move on.

  17. Anonymous

    How about coaches making promises to elect few kids and forget the others.How about coaches having agendas to make them look better in the community .Some coaches tend to forget it is a team sport and supported by the local community.These type of coaches are in it for themselves so i say them shame on you.

  18. sam

    How about when a coach is in a playoff game do or die and youre losing by 2 goals in the third period with 6 min to play and you get back to back powerplay is it wrong to leave your best five players on the ice for 4 min including a time out ?by the way this is at peewee level ?

    1. Jamie McKinven

      There are a few steps that should be taken before you get to this point in a season that can help you decide what to do. Firstly, at the onset of a season, the coaches should lay everything on the table for parents and maintain transparency. Have a meeting and discuss and document what the expectations are. This way, if it was decided that when playoff time comes, and you encounter a do or die situation such as this, you will do what you have to do to win. As a side, if this is house league, I would definitely not be only playing my best players. If it is AA or AAA and you’ve had the discussion about expectations with parents already, then you can make the call.

      If it were up to me, a couple things stand out. Firstly, players shouldn’t be playing 2 minute shifts at any level. When you tire, you start to make mistakes. Also, as a minor hockey coach, your number one priority should be to develop ALL of your players. Throughout the season, you should be developing players so that your team is well-rounded and versatile. Deep, well-rounded teams always last longer than teams with one big line.

      1. Anonymous

        Thank you for your response in that particular case we end up with 2 time outs so my players had time to rest and we end up winning the game anyway I understand

        Thanks again

  19. Rachel

    Jamie can you contact me? I really agree with your article and something terrible has just happened this season with our kids we sent of to billet in MA. We are looking to obtain some advice from the hockey community as well as raise awareness so that this type of thing never happens again. It includes all of the above minor coach infractions as well as no meals provided, tobacco, drugs, no supervision, empty promises, emotional damage you name it–

  20. ThePenaltyBox

    As a youth coach of 25 years in multiple sports, I have been fortunate to have my sons play for a 5-time NHL All-Star and 2X Stanley Cup winner, Jimmy Watson. He is the ideal youth coach…rolls the lines and nothing but “positive” comments are allowed by players, coaches, and parents. He has half-way through the season meetings with player and parent, and exit interviews at the end of the season. He has no system and basis everything on repetition and reading and reacting. What is sad is that so many parents do not realize how much their players develop with Jim. Many of them only care about wins and losses and whether or not their kid is on a pedestal…very sad, because it is an incredible opportunity to play for one of the Flyers best-ever defenseman, and especially awesome to experience a coach who cares so much about each and every player he teaches the game to…he wants them to learn the game so that 1) they love to play it forever, and 2) they can read and react, thus enabling them to succeed at any level, or each level as they advance, and not be dependent upon a system that they may never get to play in again after that season. Whether he has a really talented group of players, or kids who may not have the talent, Coach Watson’s methods and mentality always produce great results and improvement with each individual player’s skills, confidence, and effectiveness both on and off the ice. What more could you ask for??? Again, sad that so many parents don’t recognize a great coach when they have it.

    1. Jamie McKinven

      Small world! I played with Jim’s son Chase in Augusta of the ECHL. Great family! You’re right. It’s sad that people don’t see the benefit in that refreshing style of coaching. The egos of adults spoil the excitement of children.

  21. Anonymous

    I witnessed a lot of coaching with my sons and have also coached HL/Rep in various sports for the past 10 years. The poster makes great points and I am not going to argue them because they are all valid. There a lot of reasons coaches fail the players and I am not going to try to document them in this small paragraph. Parents/players in general need to give the volunteer coaches a break, give them benefit of the doubt and ask themselves a couple of questions. Did the coach give a solid effort? Is it generally a positive season for the player? Was the player/team developed and challenged? Players need to be challenged in a way that is appropriate for them (every kid is different) and not be allowed to stay in their comfort zone. This challenge along with discipline is not always a pleasant experience for kids/parents. Unless there are serious issues they need button up, do their best and support the team. I have seen parents/kids loose over what is in reality a minute or two of ice time over the entire season.

  22. John Walton

    Great article! I’ve questioned a coaching situation but have been made to feel like I’m the problem as a parent but the more I read I’m understanding I’m asking all of the right questions but not really getting any answers.

  23. Tyler

    The last part I know way to well. There is a group of controlling parents that I’ve had to play with all my career. It’s been frusterating at times but it never really bugged me to much. Last year when I was in Minor Bantam my friend and I made the jump from our home Centre to our local AAA centre. The group of parents went to AA to play on a winning team instead of a struggling AAA team. My friend and I had a great time that year and by the end our team was finally competing with all the other teams. Next year when tryouts came around we were very excited to continue last years push and see what we could do. Then we found out that group came along and was going to do their thing at the tryouts. The coach seemed nice at first until later we found out he was making inside deals. We weren’t sure if it was going to effect us but we played our best and were clearly part of the better players at the tryouts. Then late into tryouts we were released and later found out that a much weaker player that is friends with this group had signed. We had to travel to the next closest centre but there wasn’t enough time or NRP spots. We are now stuck playing A hockey. At first I thought my career was done and had no way of making a comeback. After I read this and heard you still made it to juniors after playing A your draft year really inspired me. Expecially since I still have a year before my draft year. I talked to my new coach and he strongly feels I should have made the team and said that he will help me get back to AAA where I belong. Anyway, what I was meaning to say is that this article really helped me by showing that’s it’s not over and to see it happen to someone in basically the exact same situation as me has been truly inspirational.
    Thank you very much,
    Minor hockey player.

  24. anonymous

    What is alarming and frustrating is that the good coaches, the ones that meet the attributes that you describe, are the ones that don’t get the team the next year!

    For some reason, in Waterloo Minor Hockey (for example), they are giving the teams to their friends and to the guys who screamed and complained that their kid got cut last year.
    Guess what? Those guys don’t make good coaches because their kid shouldn’t have made the team and their motivation to coach is to keep their kid at the high rep hockey levels.
    They pick their friends and develop only certain kids.
    Our AA coaching team at age 9 got the highest approval rating from parents and kids ever seen in the league, and they did not get a team in age 10 or even 11.
    The AAA coach is a guy from out of town who cut half the Waterloo team and kept his out of town players who were previously playing singleA. (His own kid got cut the year before and he had a tantrum). This year he got the team again and four of the remaining AAAWaterloo kids didn’t even want to try out to play for the guy. One parent told me that they went the entire year and not a single conversation with the coach if that tells you anything.

    Choosing coaches should be taken seriously. It should not be about your buddies or what guy screams the loudest about his amazing son. These years make a big impact on kids and the love of the game.
    A coach is someone who donates not just their time but also their heart.
    Let’s start picking them properly and then training them to meet the ideals that you have outlined here.

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