Coaches In Youth Hockey
Please remember that all our coaches are volunteers! Coaches need to fill out a Coaches Application and be patched at the appropriate level by USA Hockey for the level which they wish to coach. Contact the Director of Coaching, see Contacts tab, if you are willing to help in any way - on or off the ice.
While coaches are supported by the Director of Coaching, it is the coaches responsibility to bring good sportsmanship to their team, to help their skaters improve their skills, and to prepare them for games.
The Board of Directors generally defers to the judgment of its coaches on team and player management issues, unless it is clear that a coach is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Please support your coaches, and bring any concerns to the attention of the Director of Coaching or any member of the Board after you have tried to work through your concerns with your coach.
Successful Youth Hockey Coaching
By Tom Hammond and Pat Clendenen
Coaching youth sports today is a challenge. More than ever today a coach must be a motivator, a teacher, a role model, and even a psychologist. Today, kids play sports for a variety of reasons, and sometimes the principal reason is not to have fun. For your season to be successful, however, you must create a competitive, serious, and fun atmosphere for your players. The following we hope will help you create success for your team and the Wellesley Youth Hockey Association, Inc.
For you to have success in your games, your team must practice well and with a purpose. USA Hockey recommends that players in youth hockey practice three times for every game. Use that time wisely. Hockey is a long season. The rinks are cold, the weather can be bad, and practice times can be inconvenient. To overcome these factors, a coach must work hard to ensure that practices challenge the players in a positive way, present competition, and are fun. The following are several key components of any good practice:
A. Planning. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Outline each and every one of your practices. Plan every minute of time. Keep your drills moving quickly; each should last only 8-10 minutes. Utilize stations. Include all of your assistants. Plan drills for positions. The time will fly. For you to demonstrate your competence and to have credibility with your team, you must present them with new challenges.
B. Competition and Confrontation. Your players will work harder and improve faster if they are competing with one another and confronting each other competitively in small areas. Repetitive, punitive, sprints are useless and boring. Races and time trials, however, are fun. Chasing players in drills encourages speed and brings your players out of their comfort zone. 1 v. 1, 2 v. 2, and 3 v. 3 games, with 1-2 minute shifts, are ideal. You must teach your players in practice how to deal with the confrontational nature of the game. If done correctly, your players will have an edge in the game, and they will be less likely to panic with the puck. In a game situation, you want your players hungry to take the opposition on 1v.1.
C. Overspeed. Hockey is a game of speed. You cannot practice at half-speed and play at full speed. You must present challenges and competition in practice that forces players to make mistakes and test the limits of their comfort zone, especially with the puck. Challenge them to go so fast that they lose the puck. Stress how important it is to try new things, to be creative, and to make mistakes in trying. If your players are not going fast enough to fall down, they aren’t going fast enough.
Stress up-tempo, high-intensity drills, with adequate recovery time. Leave loose pucks around so that when players lose pucks testing the limits of their abilities in drills, they can pick one up without fear of embarrassment. Actually, if your players go through the drill without losing the puck, maybe they are not pushing hard enough.
D. Participation. Practices are usually fifty minutes long. You should have your players skating most of that time with a 1 to 4 work-to-rest ratio. Avoid drills that require standing around in long lines. Use your assistants. Lower the coach-to-player ratio. Use stations.
E. Motivation. Be enthusiastic. Encourage, challenge, and support each and every one of your players, regardless of ability. Do not play favorites with your supportive remarks. You must be fair and consistent. Make each player part of the team by setting realistic goals for their improvement. Explain in detail to each player exactly what he or she needs to do to improve. Do not leave a player to guess. Most of all, believe in your players and project confidence in your team and all of your lines. You will be amazed at what they can do for you. Recognize and praise achievements and constructively deal with weaknesses. Yelling never works. Do not instill insecurity or fear.
F. Understanding. Be demanding but considerate. Try to understand why one of your players is not having success. You have to demonstrate concern for your players as human beings, not just hockey players. Is it a lack of effort, a lack of attention, or a lack of sleep. Examine factors outside the locker room, but examine yourself too, and see whether your approach to that particular player is correct. Work with your assistants and the player’s parents to devise a strategy. To be understanding, you must be approachable and open to what your players, parents, and assistants have to say. The same holds true with practices. Be flexible. If your players are not performing well in a drill, try to correct it, but move on to another (or come back later) if they are not responding.
G. Creativity. Encourage creativity and initiative in all of your drills. Encourage your players to take others on one-on-one and to try a new move or skill. If they are not exhibiting this kind of behavior in practice, that is, if your players are not surprising you, then your players will never surprise you in a game. Avoid over-coaching. Give your players the freedom to make decisions on their own on the ice and the freedom to learn from them.
H. Mistakes. Encourage mistakes that result from trying to exceed the comfort zone. Practice should be designed to foster mistakes by testing limits. Competition, chasing, and timed-skill drills are an excellent way to encourage this. Remember: There is no shame in losing the puck or falling down if you are testing your limits! You, as a coach, should remember this too. You must be able to take criticism and admit your own mistakes. Do not punish your players for making mistakes. Avoid sarcasm and fear.
I. Individuality. Allow and encourage each of your players to play the game within your system but also in their own unique way. Take advantage of all of your players’ different personalities on the ice. Find the right mix; do not make your players play in one mold. They will not. Find out what makes each one of your players tick, and encourage them to relish in their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
J. Attitude. Be positive and encourage your players to be the same. Expect and encourage success and understand failure when it occurs. Do not explain points in the negative. Do not show the players the wrong way to do something because the mind has a tendency to hold onto mental images. Tell your players that success is related to effort.
K. Reinforcement and Repetition. Success rates for learning improve dramatically by repetition. Develop themes for the year and repeat them. Explain what you want to see, show your players a picture or draw it on the board, demonstrate it, and review. Provide short explanations and demonstrations, not long-winded exhortations. Kids learn differently; some learn better by listening, some by watching, and some by doing. Use as many methods as are possible to facilitate learning. But KEEP IT SIMPLE.
L. Discipline and Penalties. Discipline all of your players evenly, in practices and in games. Call penalties in practices to educate your players, keep a safe environment, and reinforce good hockey.
M. Goaltending. The goaltender is the most important player on your team. Designate assistant(s) to work with your goaltender all year long. Learn about the position and incorporate your goaltender into your practice plan.
II. Team Management
A. Team Manager. Team management is a huge task. Select a Team Manager early. The Team Manager can help you enormously in distributing schedules, making calls, entering tournaments, and organizing social functions. They also will provide you with important information about the morale of your players and your parents as the season progresses. Develop a good relationship with your Team Manager, and treat the Team Manager as an important part of a successful season.
B. Team Rules. Meet first with your parents and then with the team to lay out your team rules and plans for the year. Some examples:
1. Homework comes first. (There is more to life than hockey).
2. Practice is mandatory. A player must call if unable to attend. Playing time will be affected for those players who do not attend practice.
3. Clinics are mandatory.
4. Players must be dressed and ready to play 15 minutes before game time.
5. Parents/Siblings are welcome in the locker room.
6. No one speaks when a coach is speaking.
7. When the whistle blows, everyone stops.
8. Do not play with the pucks in between drills.
9. Zero tolerance for scapegoating, complaining about the officiating or teammates, retaliation or unsportsmanlike penalties, and swearing. All of these breed negativity among the team.
10. Respect the rink and locker rooms. Pick up after yourself and watch your behavior. You represent Wellesley and its program.
11. Health. Coaches must know of emergency medical situations.
12. Nutrition and Rest. No sleepovers or parties the night before a game.
13. No trash talk. Win with grace and lose with dignity.
14. Practice Hard.
15. Play Hard and to Win. Winning, however, is not everything. The team is.
16. Support each other. Stick together as a team.
17. Believe in yourselves. Do what you think is right.
18. Never quit.
A. Tournaments. Schedule your tournaments as soon as you can in the season. Do not overplay your team. USA Hockey recommends 3 practices for every game. If you play too many games, your team will suffer. Remember: Even your best players handle the puck on average for only 45 seconds in a game. In a well-planned practice, that same player will be handling the puck constantly.
B. Playing Time. Each team in the Wellesley Youth Hockey Association should have sixteen players, three full lines and a goalie. Except for power plays, each of your lines should have equal playing time. Wellesley Youth Hockey is a developmental hockey program, not one designed to win at all costs. You should change your lines quickly, about every minute and one half. If you have concerns about having one weak line, balance your lines to include three of your best players on each five person unit (2 forwards and 1 defensemen). Your weaker players will improve quicker, and you will not be outmatched by an opposing squad that stacks one line.
C. Pre-Game. The pre-game time in the locker room is not a time for speeches. Prepare your team with a few points about the game, strategy, and positioning, using the board if helpful, and add to them as the year progresses. Focus your team on the task at hand but avoid pressure-filled demands and threats. Most players want to succeed on the ice, and they do not need their coach to make them any more nervous than they already are. As long as they do not provide a distraction, parents and siblings should be allowed in the locker room. Your parents should understand your philosophy and tactics, and they will reinforce those themes with your players.
D. Water. Make sure that you have plenty of water on the bench. Make sure your players drink a small amount of water after every shift, even if they are not thirsty. If you wait until your players are thirsty, they are already dehydrated. Your team will then have an edge in the third period if you make water a priority.
E. Mental Toughness. Develop in your players an ability to deal with adversity and to overcome it. A coach and the team should not dwell on officiating. If a player is hacked, tell the player to get back by putting the puck in the net and winning the game. A coach and a team concerned about the officiating is a distracted team. Control what you can control. If the officiating is that bad, consult with us and our league representative, but do it after the game is over.
 Pat Clendenen is a past Director of Coaching and Tom Hammond is a past Assistant Director of Coaching of the Wellesley Youth Hockey Association, Inc.