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The Buzzword of 'Culture'

By Dan Pollard, 11/13/18, 2:00PM EST


Establishing a team's short and long term goals

Photo Credit: Barry Springle Photography

'Culture' is one of the most popular buzzwords in all of sports. It’s used to describe the environment or attitude of a team or organization. But what does it really mean? Coaches need to learn how to improve emotional bonds and engagement while understanding how these factors improve athlete performance. It starts with communicating expectations to players and parents.

Wayne Parro, a Senior Coaching Consultant at the Coaches Association of Canada, says that the coach-athlete relationship goes a lot deeper than trust when it comes to creating a high standard of play.

“Where I’d key in on is the culture. The coach is the leader of the culture. The coach is the leader of the team, the coaching staff supports the head coach and so forth. Where this begins for me from a hockey perspective is preparation. Solid preparation that conveys to the team that the coaches really understand what we need to train, why we need to train it and how it’s going to make us better,” said Parro. “From that, everybody around the team - parents, support staff - the players all see the investment that the coach makes and it raises the standard and everybody wants to be part of that.”

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Determining what your team’s short and long-term expectations are and communicating to players and parents starts before the season. Defining winning – and not necessarily coming from the scoreboard – can tie into the coach’s seasonal plan. The final outcome of a game may be disappointing but what winning means to your team can still be a success based on the expectations you detailed out.

If the coach has established the standard or being prepared and therefore the positive culture, ‘winning’ will take care of itself.

“It starts with the pre-season meeting. You talk about your philosophy and your vision for the team. Then you walk the walk and talk the talk from that point on. Your coaching staff, your support staff, you don’t want to just show up at the rink… we will communicate, discuss, plan, prepare and then share so that everybody’s in the loop. That leads to that positive culture.”

With nearly every player having a tablet or cell phone, coaches can speak their language by sharing video examples of what drills will be taught during practice. This way players can have an understanding of what they will be working on and know what to expect. It’s about knowing your audience – they are already using the devices, just establish rules and limit the usage of them when it’s time to focus.

This communication needs to remain an open dialogue throughout the year. For older players, the transition of responsibility in communication can go from coach to player to parent instead of coach to parent.

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Dan Pollard is the host of Breakaway, The Minor Hockey Podcast. His passion for hockey led him to volunteer as a coach and administrator while his professional career has allowed him to cover the game at various levels with CBC, Sportsnet, the NHL Network and TSN. You can currently hear Dan every morning on 105.5 Hits FM in Uxbridge.

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