The selection of a coaching staff is not a decision that should be made lightly.
With hockey teams spending much of the year together, picking the right people to guide them on and off the ice is crucial in creating the best hockey experience.
Stephen Gaunce is the Vice President of the AAA Hockey Zone with the Markham Waxers. His sons Brendan and Cameron are both in the AHL and graduates of the OMHA. He is involved in the coaching selection process for the teams in his organization and says it’s a lot more than just reviewing a résumé.
In the Waxers organization, three people interview a potential coach. Background work is done within the hockey community on the candidate to find out how they operate and to get a general idea of their track record. How a coach acts on a bench is something that can’t always be communicated through a letter.
“It’s not a job interview. You need to get to know the person as opposed to what skills they say they have on paper,” said Gaunce.
“It’s almost a 12-month process in watching for coaches, seeing who’s out there, seeing who’s interested. It formalizes itself late in the fall when we start to ask for applications.”
Dealing with parents and the organization is something that a coach will come across during their time behind the bench. A candidate could check off all of the boxes when it comes to the ‘Xs and Os’ of strategy but a poor relationship with families is something that won’t always be tolerated.
“Sometimes we have to be willing to walk away from somebody if they can’t do well enough in their dealings with kids and families. These people are together for pretty well nine months of the year and sometimes you see your hockey family more than you do your own family. It’s important for everybody to get along and respect each other.”
At the end of each season, Gaunce sends out anonymous surveys to parents asking for feedback, a review process that is shared with the coaching staff after the final whistles.
Gaunce says he has former players, now in their 20s, asking him how to become a coach. It’s not as simple as taking a course and becoming a head coach. Sometimes you have to pay your dues before reaching the top of the ladder. Those are often necessary steps.
“It’s a really big commitment. When you’re a player playing, you don’t really realize how big the commitment is for coaches, especially the head coaches. So we try to line them up to be an assistant coach or trainer on teams so they get to learn about how often you are at the rink, how much time it does take and go from there.”
The bench can be a crowded place. Along with players, the coaching staff and trainers take up a lot of room. While it can be tough to distinguish who plays what role when observing from the stands, it is important to have many coaches for younger players.
“Because the game goes by so quickly… a lot of kids today, they need instant feedback on how their shift was. That’s important when you’ve got two people operating either door and two coaches standing. I think it really helps, especially at the younger age groups, it helps the team when you’ve got that many people involved.”