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When Dad is Coach

By Aaron Wilbur, The Coaches Site, 04/06/22, 1:30PM EDT


Being transparent with the team's parent group

Most parents coach their kids’ hockey team because they want to spend quality time together. Others want to give back to the game, or because they learned the game from their parents. Some may feel that since they’re going to be at the rink anyway, why not help out on the ice.

While all parents get involved with coaching their kid’s team for all the right reasons, there are times when their hearts may get in the way of doing what’s best for the team as a whole, or even doing what’s best for their child. How do you figure out that balance?

Jay McClement is a retired NHL veteran of 10+ seasons and a Kingston native who returned home to coach his son’s U9 AAA Kingston Jr. Gaels team. Playing at every level of hockey, McClement has experienced a lot when it comes to what coaching works best for his teams.

However, going from playing professional to coaching the game’s newest players proved to be a challenge at time when figuring how to adjust his instruction.

“I think the biggest thing for me was making the parents keep in mind that these kids are eight years old… They’ve got to come to the rink and have fun. It’s all about skating and skill development. It’s just a huge learning curve for these kids.”

Minor hockey doesn’t exist without parent-coaches. Being transparent with the rest of the parent group and having the ability to separate ‘coach’ from ‘dad’ are two of the biggest tips for those looking to volunteer on the bench.

Still, it comes down to balancing the needs of the players and the coaches. Some coaches are more suited to coaching an older age group as opposed to meeting the needs of a U10 team. For those coaching younger players, they need to be adept at working with younger players to provide a learning environment and teaching skills.

“For me, it’s trying to not step on these kids and let them be creative. I don’t know how to tell them how to be creative, they need to do that. They need to watch hockey, they need to watch their teammates, they need to figure that out.”

As McClement points out, for some skaters this could be the first time they’ve ever played hockey or been a part of a team, and you want to ensure that it’s a positive experience.

“The important thing is the memories from minor hockey. When I first retired I went back and played some old-timers with guys that I played back in Gananoque with when we were in Novice. I still have those friendships and memories.”

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Aaron is the Founder and CEO of The Coaches Site, the #1 online resource for hockey coaches, and also the host of the Glass & Out podcast. He is married with two boys, believes Major League is the best sports movie of all-time, is scared of heights and is mildly obsessed with the Alabama Crimson Tide football program.

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