When it comes to the development of coaches in Canada’s minor hockey programs, few sports can boast the level of leadership and infrastructure like that of Hockey Canada in preparing the thousands of volunteers to help children love and learn the game. It is in this order that we must recognize the first critical steps of player participation in the game for Canadian kids.
Often, first experiences dictate our level success in an activity and the likelihood that we will continue to take part in an activity. I recall a time early in our relationship, my wife taking me skiing for my first time. I was not a skier, believe me. There I am, twenty five years old on the face of Red Mountain in Rossland BC, looking at the ski lodge between the tips of my skis, wondering how the heck I was suppose to get down there (alive)! Needless to say, the experience was not a lot of fun, and I have skied seldom since. Skiing, a life time sport for many, is not that for me.
The philosophy behind the education and certification of volunteer coaches in Canada, is designed to ensure that kids find the enjoyment and fun in playing hockey in the first place. This objective is often times lost on the parent who deem on ice games that challenge a player’s agility, balance, and coordination, a waste of time or that feel cross ice games that actually encourage touching the puck and experimenting with handling and sharing it, not hockey. The fact of the matter is nothing could be further from the truth.
Too often pressure is placed on the coaches to live up to an expectation by parents to manufacture the “next one”, as their 6 year old is about to embark on what Hockey Canada hopes becomes a lifelong sport for children.
The acquisition of the appropriate skills, is essential to ensure that player participation continues to grow. Without the continued commitment to player development, enrollment in hockey, which appears to have leveled off, will suffer and hockey will lose a generation of participants.
And yes, coaches too must understand that to succumb to the pressure of winning at a full ice game that sees 200’ X 85’ of ice dotted by little people who can barely stand up on their skates, turn, pivot, or handle a puck , is a mistake. “Playing” hockey does not mean, especially at a tender introductory age, kids touching the puck once or twice in a 45 minute span, barely getting up and down the ice. Just like “Coaching” is more than hollering all kinds of technical instructions from the bench.
Parents, volunteer to be part of the solution. Coaches, make the game fun … “set the hook “ . Help kids and families discover hockey.