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Making a Positive Impact as a Coach

By Dan Pollard, 12/11/18, 10:15AM EST


Leaving memories and an influence of leadership

Photo Credit: Julie Whelan Photography

What do you remember about one of your coaches in minor hockey?

Just as all players hope to have a fun year with a good coach, coaches hope to make a positive impact on their players. Coaches are going to leave a memory by the end of the season. Similar to teachers, coaches have the ability to make an imprint on players, whether positive or negative, simply based on the amount of time spent together. What they do with that time is up to them.

With coaching now a combination of communication, development and evaluation, the definition of success is changing with it. Players can still have a great season even if it is not reflected on the scoreboard. Coaches need to understand the high level of influence they can have on players, whether they realize it or not, and act accordingly. This is an opportunity for them to teach skills both on and off the ice.

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“When you’re talking about measuring success in minor hockey, my personal belief is how long are these individuals staying in the game beyond when you actually coached them. I know the wins and losses, everyone looks at those. I was fortunate enough to coach in the same association for six years so I truly felt that they believed what in my vision of success was - developing players for the next level and developing lifelong athletes in the game,” said Mike Bara, Manager, Coaching Development at Hockey Canada.

Bara credits coaches for being great communicators. Keeping the lines open between players, parents and the coaching staff has become an important part of the game.

Where the job of coaching differs from other leadership positions is the ability to help build life skills off of the ice. By getting into the community and giving back to those around you, players and coaches can experience firsthand the impact they are making beyond the game with their actions and behaviours.

“What I truly believe makes a great coach is their ability to mentor the people around them. I think what really makes a special coach is you can look at the Xs and Os but be able to look in the mirror and understand your own weaknesses. If you can bring on somebody that’s technically stronger than you at the powerplay, you’re going to learn every day… my true belief is a coach that truly stands above the rest is somebody that’s able to mentor the people around them and makes not only themselves better but the people around them better.”

Bara stresses that coaches should always be learning and willing to adapt. He has taken the time himself to look at how other countries are developing skills in their young players and what he can take away from it and apply to his own coaching. Knowing that different players have different needs (skill, nutrition, physical) at different levels and being able to identify this among them is also an important skill.

“We have that influence on players. We see these kids sometimes 15 hours a week. If we’re not developing as coaches, we’re certainly not helping our players. I think at the end of the day when you really look at what we’re trying to do as coaches, it is to better the player. If we’re not educating ourselves in skill development, if we’re not looking at safety, I don’t believe we’re doing the players any justice. I think it’s vitally important that coaches are continuing to get out there.”

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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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