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What Coaches Can Learn From Other Sports

By Tom Bly, Chair, Coaches Program, 12/02/19, 12:00PM EST


Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe watches other coaches

Photo Credit: Heather Pollock Photography

Playing multiple sports holds many benefits for players. Physically, they can avoid overuse injuries or burnout. Skillfully, improvements to their hand-eye coordination, speed and footwork are just some of the gains that will be seen when becoming a better overall athlete.

For coaches, the opportunity for learning doesn’t have to be limited to when the ice is still in the rink. Like players, there are always chances to pull best practices from other sports to improve your toolbox.

Look no further than Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. He admits to watching NFL coaches Sean McVay and Pete Carroll to see what he can take away from their team-building. While their may not be a lot in common in terms of what can be transferred between the gameplay of the two sports, there are still many lessons coaches can learn from each other to manage a bench.

“The biggest thing is how it’s not just about the coaching. It’s not just about the Xs and Os. It’s just as much a priority to focus on the culture of the team and the spirit of the team and all those types of things. I think that’s what I learned from those two guys in particular, watching them from a distance,” said Keefe. “Just the way they communicate with the players is one thing I’ve really noticed. They’re very positive in nature. They follow that through with how they organize their day and their practice plans coming from everything that’s going on.”

Looking at hockey from an outside perspective can give you a new view on what concepts can be transferrable in your players.

Basketball has a very similar up-and-down the court flow to hockey and all players are responsible on both offence and defence. Understanding the benefits of spacing can help develop offensive opportunities. You need to work to get open for a shot. There is also the concept of playing man or zone defence. Perhaps the most striking similarity is the 5-on-5 gameplay, the same amount of players per side as in hockey.

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Spacing is very important in many sports and soccer is no different. With feet being the main point of contact for ball movement, soccer requires a different muscle coordination than hockey. Soccer can boost a player’s speed and leg power. The footwork required can help players become craftier on the ice. Cycling the ball back to the defence for a reset mimics what can happen on the ice. Just because the ball isn’t moving forward doesn’t mean the offence isn’t working – using the whole area of the pitch can keep defences on their toes.

The next time you’re looking for new concepts of how to expand your coaching knowledge, remember to take a look outside the rink.

Tom bly element view


Tom Bly is a Barrie, ON native and holds the position of Chair, Coaches Program in the OMHA.

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