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Mentor Program “Coaches the Coaches” to Improve Coaching Education Practices

By Dan Scifo, 09/10/21, 8:30AM MDT


Coaching mentors receive training that they can then apply to coaches

USA Hockey is taking the next step towards improving coaching education throughout the country.

The USA Hockey Coaching Education Program recently held an event at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, that brought in coaching mentors from across the country as part of a “Mentor Coach Developer” program.

“USA Hockey does a world-class job offering training and support of coaches and this event was an extension of that,” said Andy Shriver of Alexandria, Minnesota. “It speaks volumes when the organization has its top people directly involved with initiatives like this. The staff at USA Hockey is world-class. Being able to work alongside them for a couple days inspires a person to go out and try to emulate a little bit of the professionalism and class that the ADM staff brings to everything they touch.”

The intent of the program was to “coach the coaches” who will be going out into the field and training the grassroots coaches throughout the country. The gathering helped teach the mentor coaches about the new, engaging and interactive formats for the coaching clinics ahead of the next season.

Chi-Yin Tse, the director of the Oakland Ice Center, near San Jose, said that a player-centered emphasis is a key initiative for his area.

“Hopefully, the overall impact will be extremely beneficial into how our hockey community educates its players,” said Tse. “The emphasis on player-centered environments should be a huge impact in programs that truly focus on the development of players. It’s my hope that we can educate and grow the mindset in our region that will benefit all of our youth players.”

Key points of the weekend were communication, facilitation, feedback and reflective competence, which is integrating actions with understanding in the effort to learn. Another key aspect of the weekend was to recognize the importance of involving the learner in the learning process.

“This was a fantastic event that provided the opportunity for mentor coach developers from all over the United States to learn and work together,” said Ryan Carter, who is based in New Jersey. “Through the mentor coach initiative, the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program has established a network of coach developers that will have the opportunity to assist each other. Additionally, within our individual districts, the coach developer staff will now receive immediate feedback from the mentor coaches, which will assist in their ability to develop and grow.”

The training was focused on the relationship between mentors who attended the training and coach developers, who teach the curriculum. Coach developers had room to process how the event went, and what they can do to improve next time, as they created space in which a coach developer could maximize strengths and identify strategies for improvement.

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“The dialogue between mentors and coach developers gives those who are training coaches an opportunity to reflect on how the teaching went,” Shriver said. “By identifying what was most effective, what potential there is to be more impactful next time, and how the coach developer plans to adjust, USA Hockey has found a way for its coach developers to grow in much the way we hope coaches and players develop.”

Tse focused on the fact that coaches are always learning, and their greatest assets are fellow peers.

“We all get uncomfortable in the learning process,” Tse said. “We must learn to trust the process and be open-minded. In order to overcome being uncomfortable, we have to be vulnerable to set ego aside. New strategies will help develop me into a better teacher and coach.”

There have always been a strong team of experienced, talented, coach developers across the country, teaching the program curriculum to USA Hockey coaches. The creation of the new volunteer position of mentor coach developer, with the support of USA Hockey staff, provides a significant increase in support for coach developers by providing a forum through which they gain feedback and have conversations about being the best coach developers they can be.

“This heightened level of support will enrich USA Hockey’s culture of growing and improving its coach development program,” Shriver said. “Another subtle, but more important outcome of this new level of support should also lead to attracting and retaining even greater hockey people to the role of coach developer, knowing that they’ll be in good hands throughout their experience of training coaches. Getting to know USA Hockey people from other parts of the country, and realizing first-hand how talented and dedicated they are, it definitely feels like an honor to be in the room with this group.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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