Hometown: Worcester, Massachusetts
Refreshed and recharged after winning the 2013 NCAA national championship, Yale University Head Coach Keith Allain has already started preparing for the upcoming season. Youth and high school coaches should start doing the same. Allain might be at one of the game’s highest levels, but all coaches can apply his preparation tactics to their own hockey teams to ensure a fun, successful season for all.
Q: The offseason must be a lot nicer after a national championship season. Were you able to enjoy some time off and decompress a little?
Keith Allain: The offseason is always a little more enjoyable after a successful season. We all invest heavily in what we do and I think it is very important to shift gears and recharge in the summer. The pace is different, the pressures are different, but at the same time we also use the summer to improve as a hockey team/program.
Q: Are you preparing for the upcoming season now? If so, what specifically are you focusing on?
Keith Allain: We started preparing for this season immediately after last season ended. It started with an internal analysis of last season, encompassing everything from personnel, how/when we practice, drills we use, systems, recruiting, etc. We also have individual meetings with each of our players giving and receiving feedback on their season with the goal being how do we all get better moving forward. Right now we are getting close to our players’ arrival on campus so we are setting up all of our preseason meetings, organizing our physical testing and making sure everything is well organized the first day our guys arrive at school.
Q: It’s a long season. Are you thinking about certain parts of the year right now, such as the first practice, first conference game or playoffs? Or is it more big-picture planning?
Keith Allain: It is more big-picture planning and trying to work in segments. This first segment is key to our future success. As an Ivy school, we cannot begin formal practice until Oct. 11, but we see our time before that as very valuable in helping our players become faster, stronger and indoctrinated into our unique culture as a hockey team. Right now our focus is on taking full advantage of this block of time.
Q: Like most teams, you’re going to have new players on the roster. How do you try and integrate them into the program? Do you worry about new personalities entering the locker room and potential conflict there?
Keith Allain: We are excited about bringing new personalities into our team. Our assistant coaches do a remarkable job of recruiting the type of individual who will thrive in our program. We actively seek competitive people with high character and a growth mindset. Those people continually raise our level. Our upperclassmen are also instrumental in the process of integrating our freshmen as they help them in all aspects of what it takes to become a Yale hockey player.
Q: Do you plan a big preseason meeting with the players to discuss the team’s philosophies, goals, rules, etc.?
Keith Allain: We will have our first team meeting as soon as everyone is on campus and settled in. At this meeting, we make introductions, explain our expectations of them and let them know what they can expect from us, go over our mission statement and talk about the identity of a Yale hockey player. This will be one of our longest meetings of the season and I try to make sure it is 20 minutes or less.
Q: How often do you interact with your coaching staff in the offseason? Are they preparing as well? Do they have different roles?
Keith Allain: I have regular contact with our coaching staff during the offseason but I also try to give them some space. They are pretty busy with recruiting, camps and hopefully family time. We do schedule a few times to get together as a group to plan for our upcoming season.
Q: Are there specific on- and off-ice training programs in place for your players as the season approaches? How important is it to have structure for the players while training now?
Keith Allain: Our players have been on a training program since the season ended. We give them several weeks immediately after the season for active rest. Then we test them and begin the program. Our strength coach does a great job of devising a program that is broken up into specific periods with the focus on individual improvement and having our guys peak during the playoffs. Guys for the most part are working alone during the summer so it takes a great deal of discipline to get the work done.
Q: Should youth and high school coaches be thinking about all of these components we’ve discussed here? What advice do you have for them as their seasons approach?
Keith Allain: I think all coaches should spend time in the offseason planning for what’s ahead. It is a great time to go over drills you want to use, settle upon the roles of your assistant coaches and get your schedule in order. Once the season begins, I find I have less control over my time, so the more things I can take care of in the summer, the better I can focus on the important details of coaching the team during the season. A youth coach that is organized and in control will be a great role model for his or her young athletes.