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How Coaches Can Create Connections With Their Players

By Aaron Wilbur, The Coaches Site, 03/26/24, 10:15AM EDT


Fostering those valuable relationships with three simple words

Dr. Jody Carrington believes there is no such thing as a bad kid.

“If the coaches aren’t okay, the kids don’t stand a chance,” she says.

Coaches can come up with all of the Xs and Os or pour over video, but a large part of what it means to be a leader on a minor hockey team is creating those valuable connections with your players.

Carrington is a child psychologist who has worked with over a thousand kids. For her, it’s about leading by example through showing the players how to be great people and great teammates. Hockey is the perfect environment for kids, as they have to leave the house and come to the rink to interact face to face. There, they can learn how to lose and win, how to be inclusive and all the other life lessons that come along with the game.

Warning: Podcast contains strong language.

“The number one predictor of a successful coach moving forward will be your capacity to regulate emotion in times of distress. To stay calm with stuff starts to go awry. When the parents start to question, because they will. When the kids start to push back, wen the ref makes a bad call.”

Hockey helps players overcome that loneliness and disconnection that you get while in front of a screen. Creating those connections on a personal level and learning about the lives of your players shows that you care about them more than just being a skater.

“You can see how fast I can get a kid to skate when I know the name of his dog.”

Carrington says it comes down to three words: Tell me more.

When kids have the ability to open up and explain their feelings, it can unlock more of their thought process behind their actions.

“It just becomes so much more than sport, to me. I just wish those coaches who lose sleep over their players, who write plans at three in the morning, who give their heart and soul and get very little recognition other than ‘why’d you bench my kid?’. I want you to know how grateful and how holy this work is. These kids will think about you ten times more than you think about them for the rest of their days.”

No matter the number of wins and losses, it’s easy to see if a child had a positive minor hockey experience at the end of the year.

“I want there to be a joy at the end of the season. I want them to already be talking about next season. That is such an indicator of success for me… The season is over and my son is shooting pucks every morning. That’s my definition of success. He loved it.”

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