Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why do people coach. Why do YOU coach?

The question is very deep.  And very important.  Why do you coach?  Answer the question truthfully and be able to share it with whoever asks.

It doesn't have to be a killer answer that sounds like you just made it up, yet brilliant.  It can be thought about, over time, and shaped into a precise, sincere statement.  You also have to leave yourself open to modifying it as you gain experience.

What some of my friends said:

Linz: "For the love of the game  "

Theo: "To teach the youth of today!"

Randy: "To reinforce all the best of what sports offers-short term and long term."

Allie: "I always felt like I had a really good understanding of the game and what each player could bring the game ... And I found it rare to find a well educated coach who knew how to let the players shine with their individual skills - rather then try and conform them to an "idealistic" view of what they think a player should be ... I just wanted kids to know that there is no such thing as the "perfect" player...everyone brings what they can"

Dancer: "Because I feel I have something to offer" 

JJ: "To give kids the chance to be something great and to keep them from going down the path of peer pressure."
Carmine: "To teach the game as it should be played, of course."

Frank (not me) : "To try to generate the love I have for the games in the kids"   

@7-touch-coachng: "I coach because I love soccer. I coach because I want to share my passion. I coach because teaching fundamentals is critical."  

@SoccerCoachYYC: "To give back to the game. To help kids be better people. To serve my community. And because its (usually) so much fun!"

Randy has the unique task of introducing new high school students to football every year;  teaching technique, physical training, coaching to compete and organizing a team at the same time, for a lot of students who have very little sports background.   Victories perk up that school for days.  He does good work.

My favourite answer was from my sister-in-law Andrea, who is not involved in sports : "To share in the joy of empowerment."  This statement speaks to me of confidence, expression, ownership, enjoyment, etc.

Other writers offering their reasons:

OK. you know how to use Google too ....   :)

So, here we are ... why do YOU coach?


    Thursday, March 14, 2013

    Why hockey justifies LTPD.

    A lot of LTPD's opponents cite hockey, its competitive nature and our domination as a basis for their argument.  But is hockey in Canada that successful?  Is it as successful as it could/should be?

    FYI.  Hockey has formally adopted Long Term Player Development, but it's implementation is still not fully known.

    Before this goes any furthers, let's be clear:  I enjoy hockey and it's been good to our three sons.  Port Colborne and Welland Minor Hockey have provided good times and exposure to wonderful people for our children and family.

    But Canadian hockey people seem to think our supremacy as a hockey nation is untouchable.  Not only is it very touchable, I think it's a title we can no longer claim so uninhibitedly.  We still produce the most players, but there are enough foreign players occupying the top spots in our top league that we need to think about what's going on.

    My personal position is clear:
    1. I want Canada to be the undisputed world leader in producing quality hockey players and coaches.
    2. I want minor hockey's registration numbers to increase year after year.
    A strong and healthy sports scene helps all sports and produces healthy, active Canadians.  Increased sports registration motivates governments to invest in facilities.  But hockey has some work to do, culturally and technically.

    Why discuss hockey?  Because hockey is the argument most people are using against LTPD.  I say hockey justifies LTPD.

    Let's put some information out there.

    This is a summary of several different sources.  But for the most part, Canada has:
    • The most players, at all ages.  Canada and the USA are top two for number of players.  Canada and the USA each have more players than the third to twentieth country COMBINED.
    • The most coaches
    • By far, the most rinks.  More than the rest of the world, combined.
    • We build new rinks at a higher rate than other nations
    • The world's best preparatory junior hockey system
    A little less than half (99/211) of the players drafted into the entire 2012 NHL Draft were Canadian:
    • 15/30 drafted in Round 1 were Canadian
    • 16/30 drafted in Round 2 were Canadian
    • 15/30 drafted in Round 3 were Canadian
    Not bad.  We have 46/90 players drafted in the first three rounds.  21/90 were American. 
    No question.  We are, by far, the most dominant hockey country on Earth.  Or are we?

    After the first few rounds where the better European players are noticed and selected, should our numbers, both Canada and the USA, pretty much occupy the majority of the rest of the draft?

    Over the last 13 years, seven non-Canadians have won the goal scoring race and nine non-Canadians have won the points race (no Canadians the last 5 years). (updated June 19, 2013 ... Martin St Louis [CAN] won the points race while Alex Ovechkin [RUS] led the league in goals for the shortened NHL season)

    Every winner of the league's MVP award (Hart Trophy) up to 1993 was Canadian (I still count Brett Hall as Canadian).  Since 1993, of the last 18 winners, 8 are European.  More notable, 4 of the last 5 winners are European.

    Of active players, top 5 in each category
    • Points/game - 4 non-Canadians
    • Goals/game - 4 non-Canadians
    • Assists/game - 2 non-Canadians
    • Plus/Minus - 3 non-Canadians
    All time, 24/25 of the penalty minute leaders are Canadian.  Tiger Williams and Willie Plett are the only players on the list from the era that did not have many Europeans playing. (I smile when I see Ulf Samuelson on the list)

    Since all players were eligible for the Olympics in 1998, we've won 2 gold medals and did not medal in 2 other Olympic games.

    For the last ten U20 Championship (World Juniors) we won Gold five times and Silver three times.  Now, if that was any other sport, we would say that is great, and it is great.  But, for hockey in Canada, we know how big our numbers are and it's not unusual to expect success every time.  For the last two World Juniors, our boys have come home empty handed.

    Some say the change in rules over the past 10 years catered to the European style of play and given their players the advantage.  What advantage is that?  Skating?  Speed? puck-handling?  Are you talking about core fundamentals?

    Others will say that we are training some of their better players in our junior system.  I dispute that claim because your fundamental base is laid before you are 12 years old.  What foreign players we do have, we don't see until they are 16-17 years old.  Their basic skills are already in place.

    With our numbers and resources, every hockey competition should be a race for second place and the NHL should be a Canadian celebration with a few foreigners getting drafted along the way.  If you add the USA to the mix with their numbers, everybody should be a very distant third to our two countries.  Awards, leaders, etc should be dominated by Canadians and Americans.

    Why isn't it that way?  How do small hockey countries like Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic demand such attention in our highest league, considered to be the world's best with no runner-up?  Why are foreigners able to infiltrate the upper tiers of our highest leagues, with star status, in strong numbers. 

    What does this have to do with LTPD?

    What are the other countries doing that we aren't?
    • Their entry level youth programs focus solely on technique and skills.  Skating, puck handling, decision making. Very few games.
    • Most countries start a more serious approach around Grade 5 or 6.  In Czech Republic, players are considered  in the "preparation" stage until Grade 5.  You can play word games to try and distinguish the top hockey countries, but the formal age structuring is not that different among European countries. 
    • Czech Republic and Finland play on smaller ice (across 1/3 rink), smaller nets, lighter pucks and smaller sticks up to 8-years-old. 
    • In Russia, smaller players play across the ice on 1/3 rink.
    • In Sweden there is no body contact until 14.
    • Only 20% of Canada's Tyke and Novice players reportedly use the lighter pucks recommended by Hockey Canada. (nb I'm not a hockey guy and I've seen the famous lighter blue pucks in a lot of places, so I am not sure how that number is derived.)
    • In Finland, the practice to game ratio for youth players is much higher than Canada (3:1 as compared to average 1:1 here)
    • Emphasis on games start later in Europe.  Practice ratios are higher and fundamentals are mastered long before tactics.
    • Fewer arenas means programs are adjusted according to resources but training is still the priority.  In Peter Forsberg's home town of Ornskoldsvi, where there are less players, there were 4 training sessions per week.
    • Their emphasis on winning is achieved by focusing on better trained players, not shaping teams at young ages. 
    • In Czech Republic, players do not play on a full size ice until Grade 4/5.
    • Coach training is also taken to a new level with age appropriate instruction for those teaching the game.
    • In Finland, those teaching younger players are called "Instructors", rather than "Coaches".  To get an Instructor Diploma you must have 100 hours of courses through Finland's Ice Hockey Federation.
    OK, still, what does this have to do with LTPD?

    It seems to me that European hockey has been developing their players using the same model they use for soccer, and a lot of other sports they enjoy beating Canada at:
    • Small sided games
    • Game parameters and equipment adjusted for age, to aid in skill development
    • Programs designed around individual skill development with little/no team tactics
    • Less emphasis on games/scores at young ages
    • Specific information for coaches at specific ages
    • Higher practice:game ratio
    Sound like LTPD to me.

    I have opinions about what hockey can do to improve, but I am not a hockey coach nor have I ever played, so I will keep those to myself and not be another unqualified voice on the hockey bandwagon.

    There is one thing hockey cannot deny.  As with every other sport, physical literacy is a huge problem with every passing entry level group and will continue to be unless it's addressed.  Our kids, on the whole, are not well rounded athletes.

    I feel sorry for hockey coaches in Canada.  Every guy who plops himself in front of the TV every Saturday night thinks he understands how hockey works and they collectively pressure coaches to shape their programs to satisfy them.  Parents want to see a mini version of NHL when their children play.  But it can't be that way.

    Let's get something straight.  Europe's slow, patient development and holistic approach to training young players is not about taking winning away.  It is 100% about winning, when it counts most. 

    A lot of hockey people do not like having this conversation and I’m not sure why.  But when I watch ex-professional players coaching, the ones who’ve been to the top, they seem to be the most patient and thoughtful regarding skill development.

    Canada is not dying on the rink.  But you have to admit that Europe has come a long way in a relatively short time.  They have a lot of lessons for us to learn from.  The very level of their presence in the NHL, Olympics and World Juniors not only suggests, but OBLIGES us to closely examine and integrate their methods into our programs.

    The one point that stuck with me during this article was how Finland uses the title "instructor" instead of "coach".  A simple word changes the function of that person and the reason the players are there.

    Another that stuck with me that was not mentioned earlier is that a lot of countries start hockey a bit later, from 6-9 years old, depending on the country, instead of 4 years old like we do.  So now we can start to think about (a) burnout as another possible scenario (b) why aren't the extra years on skates producing more top players.

    The top hockey people know there is work to do and hockey is religion in Canada.  We take is so seriously that we even had a Hockey Summit in 1999 after a few fruitless tournaments.  A SUMMIT, like warring countries or major economic powers have, but for hockey. 

    I wonder if the hockey community (ie. parents, coaches, administrators) would ever accept a system that downplays competition and promotes deep fundamental mastery at young ages.  It would take some seriously big hockey names to promote this and some very strong coaches to take a slower, more fundamental approach to coaching the youngest players.

    Canada will continue to have hockey successes , but the signs at the very top point to an antiquated system that has not changed much in 50 years.  Formal initiatives are released and guidelines change, but the same things keep taking place on the ice.

    Some articles for you to read :

    Great Article:

    (Update June 17, 2013.  The OMHA has moved the introduction of body contact from PeeWee to Bantam, )


    Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    What makes a "soccer drill" work?

    Anybody can jump on the Internet and download a few drills.  But can they coach them?

    Note: I don't like calling them drills, but to stay in the context of most sports and our terminology in North America, we'll use that term.
    What does that mean?

    A lot of coaches download drills, set up the cones, run the drill then move on to the next sequence.  There is movement, touches on the ball, some direction on how the drill works and it's over.

    Was there any coaching?

    I also hear coaches watching a demonstration session say "what's so special about that? I run the same drill."  OK, maybe that coach runs it, but how do they deliver it?  To what level?  Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho use the same drills too ...but I am guessing the delivery might be different.

    It's not the drill, it's how you coach/deliver it.  Here's how you can make sure your drills and activities at training are more effective.

    Some considerations for you when preparing a new or borrowed drill to be used in training.

    • How many players do you have and how will the drill accommodate the group?  Does it need to be modified?
    • Does the layout of the drill allow for coaching and addressing the group?  If you have 20 players and it involves 2 long lines of 10, will all the players hear you or see the demo?
    • How does the organization mesh with the next or previous drill?  Do you require full clean-up and setting up again?  How much time will that take?
    • How are balls introduced into the sequence? How are you set up to keep the drill going?  How do you introduce a new ball if a ball goes astray?
    • Where are spare balls kept in relation to the drill's layout?  Can balls be reintroduced at different locations within the layout?
    • Do you have enough equipment to deliver the drill?
    Coaching position
    • Does your coaching position allow you to see as much of the activity and players as possible?
    • Are you in a position to quickly step in and out when making coaching points?
    • Are you in the players' way?  Is nothing more annoying than coaches who wander through a drill or small sided game.  GET OUT OF THE WAY.
    • Can the players hear you from where you are. 
    • Are you speaking into the wind?  Are the players looking into the sun when looking at you? 
    • What are you looking to achieve with the drill?  How will you know you have success unless you know what you're looking for?
    • When your groups achieves success, how will you progress?
    • If your group is struggling, how will you step backward to achieve success?
    You also need to ask yourself if the activity actually needs to be coached, and if so, to what level.  Some warm-up sequences can just happen to get the kids moving.  Some small-sided-games with conditions might allow the game itself to be the teacher.  You need to decide, but you do need to make sure all else is organized.

    Coaching points
    • Do you have specific message and, if so, coaching points to help get your message across?
    • Can you identify appropriate coaching moments?  
    • Can you observe/identify/demonstrate/rehearse/continue when the moment arrives?
    • Do you have your information in bite size chunks so the coaching moments are short?
    • How picky will you be in relation to the skill level of the group?
    • How much will you coach?  ie. If you are running a 1v1 session, will you coach the attacking or defending aspect?  How much will you coach the other to make your theme work?
    • Can you demonstrate what you're coaching? If not, do you have somebody with you that can?
    One thing to be careful of.  A drill may have a lot of components needed to make it successful.  An example is a simple 1v1 attacking drill.  You're in a 10x20 grid, one end serves the other and they play.  Before the 1v1 even happens there is the defender serving the attacker; a pass and the other end receiving the ball.  So the pass and the first touch have to be good.
    • Are you going to coach the pass on the serve if it's not right?
    • Are you going to coach the attacker receiving the ball if it's not right?
    • If the defending is weak, are you going to coach that? 
    • If the defender wins the ball, and doesn't advance quickly, will you coach that?
    • How quickly will you address those points? 
    Your players will benefit if you can get them to run the above drill properly from beginning to end, but it will take some coaching.  Or it might turn into frustration-a-rama if the players are not able to get there.  You don't want to reach that point.

    How will you adjust?
    • You can serve the ball for the defender.
    • You can make the service distance shorter by having a player half way to serve the ball.
    • You can not worry about how good the defending is and coach the attacking.
    • Make the grid narrower to help the defender in containing the attacker.
    How do you know to be ready for all this?  Well, you look at the drill and decide what you want.  And do everything I wrote above.  Ask an experienced coach near you?  Maybe your technical director.

    Experience will only make you better at adjusting on the fly, knowing when to coach or not and minor adjustments to make the activity work.

    The internet has been a blessing to all sports in terms of coaches sharing information.  Just make sure you know you have to put in a few minutes to shape it to work with your group.

    P.S.  My pet peeve: drill that leave most of the players waiting in line.

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Why I don't yell instructions, as a parent.

    A parent yelling instructions is something I work hard to control as a team coach.  And I work hard to not yell instructions during my sons' games, when I am not coaching.  This doesn't come from some deep moral fiber, but rather an embarrassing incident.

    As I coach more, that guides my decision to not control from the parent side, as it undermines the coach and I would not appreciate it myself.  But my incident?

    When my son was a goalie for the Welland "Tyke B" travel hockey team way back in 2000, I was just starting my career as a hockey dad.  I had helped a bit when all three boys were in the instructional program, but more as a guy who gathered and set up cones for the coach.

    So, still not sure why, I told him on the way to a tournament game "When the puck comes down the ice and nobody's around, why don't you come out and play it and set it up for your defensemen."

    Hey, I'm smart, I'm a soccer coach and that's what our goalkeepers do.

    So we are in Hamilton, Ontario for our first game, a puck slides down the ice all by its lonesome and he comes out of the net to play it and pushes it forward to a defenseman.  I was so proud.  But all of the parents were yelling "Leave it!!!"  "Stay in your net!!!" and his coaches were yelling.  But, he's stubborn and listened to his dear old dad and kept doing it.  Hey, what did those parents know??

    After the game we're in the lobby and his coach, an old friend, came out of the dressing room with a big smile and yells "Hey, DeChellis, what are you telling your son?? He killed every icing call we would have gotten!!!"


    Then, my son comes out of the changeroom with his friends and before the customary "I want a drink" he declares, loudly, "Coach Kirk says to never, ever listen to you again unless it's at soccer".

    That, my friends, is a life changing moment.

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Planning your parent meeting

    In my opinion, your most important non-technical moment during the season is your parent meeting.

    Don't ever underestimate how important your team parents are.  They drive your players to where you need them to be.  They pay the bills.  They have incredible influence on how receptive your players are to your coaching and philosophy.  What they say in the car before and after your games can undo weeks of work at training.

    I have always had parent meetings in one form or another but I never appreciated how useful they could be until my oldest son started playing travel hockey in Welland.   During my first parent meeting, as a parent, I also wore my coaching hat taking mental notes.  That was in 2001.

    Your parents have to be made aware of as much as possible about your program.  They are trusting you with their children 2-4 times/week and you need to establish as much trust as possible.  You also want as much buy-in as possible to help move your program along.

    My initial suggestions:
    • Set a location away from the field, and not around training.  Separate night and time, an event all on its own.
    • Confirm your location and required equipment.  Only once did I leave it a little "loosy goosy"and the facility ended up being unable to serve our needs.  Thankfully it was in the time of cell phones and we were able to quickly adjust.
    • Seriously consider if you want to invite the players.  I never did as I wanted parents to feel free to ask me ANYTHING.
    • Take the time to get to know your parents, have a little social time together, but take the actual meeting time seriously and be professional.
    • I always had it within a meeting room of a local restaurant or pub.  It allowed for social time after and suited those who came from work and might be hungry.
    • Ensure you give enough notice so at least one parent from each family can attend.
    • Give advance notice if your treasurer is collecting money that night. 
    Set an agenda and review it with your assistants.  Make sure you leave your parents with everything they need to plan their season and do what you can to eliminate any surprises during the season.  Here are some points you might/should cover:
    • All contact info for team coaches and players
    • Locations and possible dates for season games (if schedule is out)
    • Training schedule
    • Location and dates for tournaments
    • Budget for season, over and above club registration
    • Corporate solicitation, fundraising if applicable
    • How you will communicate with team
    • Coach's expectations of players and parents
    • Club's expectations (Code of Conduct, etc)
    • What the parents can expect from you
    • What players can expect from you
    • How can your parents help you (some ideas on what to cheer on the side, bed times, pre-game meals, etc) 
    • Playing time philosophy
    • Policy/guidelines for handling disputes
    • Assign jobs to parents (involve your parents!) 
    • In modern times, you should have a social media policy for your team.
    • Open the floor to any questions people may have and ANSWER the questions
    I am big on the parent meeting.  Here is my reflection of my parent meeting for the 2012 season. (I wrote in my reflection that I was considering inviting the players,  but that idea lasted about two hours.  It's possible that I might have hit my head on the cement and blacked out for a few hours.)  My intention was to set my parent meeting up to avoid any and all misunderstandings during the season.  My first and still assistant coach, Rino Berardi, set me straight on this back in 1989 and it's been very helpful.  I was always fortunate enough to have parents on my team who had older children playing travel sports and asking questions I had not thought of ... and nipped those in the bud the following year.

    Just as you would prepare for practice, you need to prepare for the parent meeting.  Know your program inside-out and make sure your presented philosophy is sincere.  If you are pretending to be somebody you're not, the real you will come out soon enough.  

    You want to share as much information as possible to avoid surprises for the families.  Do yourself a favour and avoid surprises yourself.  If you have jobs that require a lot of interaction or confidentiality, approach those parents in advance and assign those jobs.  And make sure you have several duties available for any parents who want to be involved.    Parental involvement is great for the group and gives kids a chance to see their parents in another capacity.

    If you coach house-league, a lot of these issues may not need covering (budget, travel, etc) but your parents deserve the same respect in terms of meeting with you and knowing your program.  The children they trust you with are just as precious as the children in the travel program.

    A new issue for coaches this year (2012) is answering questions about LTPD.  There are very valid questions that will be asked by parents and you should be prepare to answer them to the best of your abilities.

    My last 3 suggestions:
    • Check with your club to ensure there are no policies with respect to team parent meetings.  Some sporting associations ask that an executive member or technical director be present.
    • Stay aligned with your club's policy on team bank accounts.  Many clubs are moving to a system of having one main bank account with sub ledgers for each team.
    • If at all possible, try to host the meeting at a location that sponsors your club.  Nothing builds goodwill like 30 parents walking through the front door!
    Your parent meeting should not be seen as pressure, but rather the launch party for a peaceful and enjoyable season where you are left to do what you love; coach.