page contents
skip navigation
Home Players & Parents Coaches Officials Team USA Membership Safety About Help

Self-Evaluation with Scott Sandelin

04/30/2014, 5:00pm MDT
By USAHockey.com

There’s always room for improvement. That’s the mentality every coach should have following the season. In order for players to improve, you must believe that you can always improve, too.

University of Minnesota Duluth head coach Scott Sandelin knows it well.

He guided the Bulldogs to the 2011 NCAA national championship and was both a head coach (2004 – gold medal) and assistant coach (2011 – bronze medal) of the United States National Junior Team.

But even after a successful season, it’s always back to the drawing board. Sandelin told us his postseason game plan and the steps that he recommends coaches take in order to prepare for next year. 

USA Hockey: Once the season’s over, what are the next steps for you?

Scott Sandelin: I take a look at my season. I meet with my staff. We usually like to meet within a couple weeks after getting over the sting of being done. You look at your season as a whole. What did you accomplish? What can you get better at? We also have player meetings. It’s good to get feedback from the players, too. I think that’s healthy. Talk to them about their season and their experience. I think it’s important to get that feedback, good and bad, so it makes you a better staff. Some people don’t like to talk about it, but I think it’s good.

USA Hockey: For you, at the college level, it’s very results-driven. What advice do you have for youth hockey coaches around the country? What should they be thinking about as they look back at the season?

Scott Sandelin: I think No. 1 is what kind of environment are you putting the players in every day. Are you putting them in a positive environment for those players to develop as players and people? I have kids in youth hockey, so I know how much winning means to everybody, but at the end of the day, the environment you put those kids in certainly plays a factor in whether they get better or not. I’m a big guy for that.

USA Hockey: What fits your standards of a positive environment for youth hockey players?

Scott Sandelin: Make sure they’re having fun coming to the rink every day. Make sure you’re accomplishing what you want to accomplish every day as far as development. That’s what it’s about for these kids. It’s about development and it’s about having fun. It’s about these kids wanting to come to the rink every day. We want kids to want to come to the rink every day, want to work hard and want to get better. We try to create that experience for them to grow.

USA Hockey: There’s a lot of talk and information about how players can improve during the offseason. What are some things coaches can do to improve away from the rink?

Scott Sandelin: I think communication is a big thing. We all steal ideas. The more you can do to continue learning, whether it’s clinics or sitting down with other coaches, it’s all beneficial. Keep bettering yourself. As a coach, everybody has their own philosophies and core values. I think you have to identify those. In today’s world, I find you have to be a little more flexible with kids at times. It’s kind of a changing culture.

USA Hockey: You talked about creating a fun environment for the kids. Should it be fun for coaches as well? Should they ask, “Did I enjoy myself?”

Scott Sandelin: If you don’t enjoy yourself, you shouldn’t be doing it. Teams are a reflection of their coaches at times. If you have guys that are on the bench yelling and out of control, your team tends to be that way. If you’re more even keel, I think your team will play that way, too.

USA Hockey: Do you like getting new players to work with every year?

Scott Sandelin: It’s one of the reasons I love doing this. It changes every year. I get a different group of players. It’s a challenge of molding those players into a team. Sometimes that happens right away, sometimes it takes longer, sometimes it doesn’t happen over the course of the year, but that’s the challenge you have as a coach. Probably the most important thing for me is watching players come in as freshmen and hopefully leaving as seniors as better hockey players, ready for the next step. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing those kids mature and grow and be ready for the next step. That’s the fun part for me.

USA Hockey: Hopefully youth hockey coaches are seeing those rewards as well.

Scott Sandelin: I tip my hat to the coaches in youth hockey, because a lot of them are volunteers. They put a lot of time and effort into it that people don’t recognize or appreciate. It’s easy to criticize, but those people give a lot of time and effort to help kids and they should be commended for that, because that’s pretty neat.

Recent News

Most Popular Articles

The Northstars Never Miss a Trip To Eagle River

08/29/2015, 11:00am MDT
By Greg Bates - Special to USAHockey.org

The Bloomington, Ill., team played their in fifth straight Pond Hockey Championships in 2015

INTEGRITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN OFFICIATING

08/25/2015, 3:30pm MDT
By USA Hockey

No one has ever said that officiating, and especially officiating ice hockey, was easy. Rule knowledge, communication skills, fitness, skating and a natural presence are just some of the skills necessary to be a successful official.  Some possess more of these skills and those are the officials who advance to higher levels. But regardless of the level achieved or the skill set the official possesses, the one quality that should be equal among every official is a high level of integrity.

The national official staff members, along with our volunteer referees-in-chief and local supervisors, have heard growing concerns over a decreasing level of integrity among our youth hockey officials. It’s sometimes said that no one is holding them accountable. A portion of this perception is likely a typical “blame the officials” mentality, but some anecdotal evidence suggests there is also some merit to this concern. That’s alarming to USA Hockey, as it affects the credibility of our entire program, along with every member it represents. The blunt truth is this: even one official who isn’t on the up and up can and will damage the credibility of all officials who do take pride in the integrity of their work.

Whether we like it or not, officials are under a microscope, and by the nature of the business, are held to a very high standard. When we signed up for this officiating gig, we committed ourselves to represent the game of hockey, USA Hockey, our local group of officials and ourselves as people of integrity who accept the responsibility and guardianship of enforcing the rules in a fair and consistent manner. Most importantly, we must remember that the game is bigger than all of us and that the game itself is what we serve. Those who lose sight of that not only compromise the competitive fairness of the games, they also make life more difficult for all of the officials by damaging the credibility of the officiating community.

An example of this type of unacceptable behavior occurred last season. A Level 2 adult official tended to work his games with a chip on his shoulder. He often created confrontation with coaches, alienated his younger partners with inaccurate advice and disregarded their help in attempting to get some calls and rule applications right. Even though the help they were providing was correct, he chose to maintain his incorrect position that affected the outcome of several games. He also tended to identify certain players and single them out for various infractions and/or on-ice lectures as a means of emphasizing his authority.

Once the trends were identified, concerns were voiced by several parents and coaches to the local assigner and supervisor, who acknowledged they had never seen the official’s work, but would keep throwing him out there working the same teams and levels that had expressed concerns regarding his attitude. This included intentionally assigning him a playoff game involving the coach who was the most vocal in expressing concerns. This official was then instructed to “throw the coach out if he says anything.”

That playoff game went without a hitch – a tight 2-1 game with a couple of close off-side plays and maybe an icing or two missed. In the post-game dressing room, the official in question, in the presence of his partners and the officials scheduled to work the next game, said, “It’s always a great day when you can make one or both of the coaches mad. It’s too bad the white team coach didn’t want to play along today.” The partners sat there in silence until finally a 12-year-old Level 1 official who was working the next game said, “I don’t think that’s right. We’re not supposed to bait coaches.”

The official got dressed quickly and left the room without saying another word. Kind of ironic that it was the innocent 12-year-old that seemed to “get it” and instill a sense of accountability among those in the room. Imagine how any 12-year-old player feels on the ice when they see the official(s) displaying an attitude that is simply not to the standard the game deserves. And yes, more often than not, they can see through those who do not have the level of integrity expected.

Fortunately, these types of officials are few and far between. But they do exist and to simply stick our heads in the sand and not address the concern is irresponsible. Each of us, as officials, has an obligation to behave in a professional manner at all times and take our role seriously. We have made a commitment to approach each game with the understanding that the game is about the players and we should be invisible until the players require us to appear as a result of infractions that occur. Respect is a two-way street and simply putting on the sweater with the USA Hockey crest suggests respect is warranted, but only if supported by your actions.

USA Hockey has an obligation to create a non-threatening environment that promotes respect for officials and an opportunity for officials to improve through education and evaluation. USA Hockey does this through playing rules, points of emphasis, zero tolerance policies and comprehensive education programs for officials, coaches, parents and players.

In return, the game expects USA Hockey officiating members to bring a professional image to every contest and an attitude that creates a positive environment and makes the game better. We realize everyone makes mistakes – it’s part of the game. However, laziness or unprofessional behavior is unacceptable and being creative in rule enforcement and not holding players/coaches accountable for infractions will only make the next team of officials’ jobs much more difficult and set them up for failure.

The reality is that the game official must always hold themselves to the highest level of integrity and behavior both on and off the ice. Maybe that’s fair, or maybe not, but it is the expectation we are required to meet.

As we head into the 2015-16 season, ask yourself if you are willing to meet that expectation. If the answer is yes, welcome back and we look forward to a great season.

Host Sites Announced for 2016 National Championships

11/03/2014, 5:15pm MST
By USA Hockey

Titles to be contested at 10 sites nationwide

Tag(s): Coaches