This is Part 2 of a 3-part piece on problems surrounding minor hockey. Check back next monday for part 3!
There is the infamous video on YouTube of a minor hockey coach tripping a player on the opposing team during the post-game handshakes (click HERE for the link). In fact, if you search the right words on YouTube, you’ll find a whole bunch of videos of coaches (or parents) acting inappropriately towards kids. I remember seeing one video where a coach shoves a kid down to the ice while the rest of the players are having a little shoving-match. These are just a few examples of coaches taking their job too seriously. They are not coaching a team of high-paid superstars on their way to a Stanley Cup. They are coaching children.
I started playing hockey when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I had been going to my brother’s games for a couple of year, and I was really excited to start playing myself. I’d be ready to go with all my gear on before we were even in the car! I wasn’t as good as the other players, who started a few years before me. That didn’t bother any of the other players, but the coach made sure to let me know that I was behind. He was constantly yelling at me during practices, and even though I was trying my hardest, I could never impress him. On top of this, I hadn’t received the right socks when I got my jersey, so I was wearing the wrong colour. My coach would scorn my every game and practice for not having the socks, even though it was completely out of my control.
He made me miserable. Halfway through the season, may parents would have to drag me out of bed to go to practices. This nightmare of a coach had destroyed my love of the game, and I no longer had the will to play. That was the only season of minor hockey I ever played. Looking back, I find it scary that one man can so easily kill a child’s love a sport. I loved hockey, and for the following years I still went to watch my brother’s games. But I never played organized hockey again.
This just goes to show how much of an impact coaches can have on their players. They, along with parents and teachers, have a very big influence on kids. They are supposed to be a role model to look up to, who acts in an appropriate manner at all times. They are supposed to support you in difficult times, and help you learn from mistakes. Many people discuss the amount of influence teachers can have on their pupils, but I think coaches are often overlooked. My old coach may have ruined my love of hockey (and maybe even a shred of my self-confidence), but I have heard many stories of coaches truly helping their players, both on and off the ice. Many coaches become role models and mentors to their players, teaching them how to get through difficult times, how to keep their head up, how to be a team player, how to be a good sport, and how to act under pressure. These are skills that can be used in all aspects of life. A good coach can really help turn a young player into a great person, just as a bad coach can have the complete opposite effect.
Sometimes a player on your team deserves a talking to, such as when they act in a disrespectful manner. As the coach, you have the responsibility to make sure your players act in a respectable manner. Yelling at a player is not acceptable, but telling them when they are in the wrong is important. It can be done in a controlled, constructive manner, informing the player of what they did wrong and how to avoid it in the future. A good coach can make a player realize their mistake without scolding or punishing them.
What can be done to make sure we filter out the rotten eggs? Coaches must get certified to coach minor hockey, and the higher the level, the more certificates the coach needs. I have never taken a coaching course, but I would assume that being a good role model is at least mentioned. There should be more emphasis on being a good role model and acting in an appropriate manner. Winning isn’t the most important part of being a coach; it’s about teaching kids how to have fun while trying their best. It should be a staple in the teaching courses, instead of the technical aspects of hockey. Don’t get me wrong, knowing hockey is also important. In my opinion, the job of a coach, especially in the younger divisions, is to be a good role model, and to encourage kids to enjoy the game of hockey.
As mentioned is Part 1, hockey is an intense sport. From time to time, there is a bad call or a bad play on the ice. The coach’s job is to coach his team while making sure his players act respectfully, have fun and do their best. Many coaches put too much emphasis on winning, and they leads to a hostile and intense atmosphere. This isn’t what hockey should be about. As a role model to kids, coaches must act respectfully, encourage their players and enforce the main principles of hockey: work hard, do your best, and most importantly, have fun!