Grab your whistles and clipboards: Hockey season is almost here. Whether it’s your first year with your son or daughter’s mite team, or you’re a seasoned vet at the 14U or 16U level, all coaches want to enter the year with a fresh set of ideas and a solid plan.
“As a coach, you never want to enter the season unprepared,” said St. Cloud State University head coach Bob Motzko. “Preparation is your biggest tool to take into the year.”
Motzko’s prep skills have earned him plenty of success on the bench. At the helm of the Huskies since 2005, he’s guided his squad to five NCAA tournament appearances, a Frozen Four run and back-to-back conference championships.
Here are his five simple tips to take with you into the 2014-15 season and beyond:
- Organize – You absolutely need to be organized. Parents are so busy with so many things in their world, one of the worst things you can be is unorganized. Really have things in detail. Let them know what your practices are going to be. How long are you going to keep them? Are you keeping them longer after practice for a meeting or dryland? Have things spelled out so parents can be prepared. Define to parents how you’re going to proceed through the season – that’s the biggest thing.
- Define Ground Rules – Parents are guilty 99 percent of the time of one thing: They love their kids too much. They want to be directly involved with all aspects (of their child’s life) – that comes with the territory of today’s world. What you have to do as a coach is really define the relationship (with their kids) as a coach. Let them know that you’re willing to discuss the safety, well-being and development of their son or daughter at any time, but when it comes to playing time or lines, that’s an off-limits topic and not open for discussion. You were hired and put into this position to coach to the best of your abilities and defining those ground rules will help you do that.
- Respect Officials – Being an official is a thankless job. They’re getting beat up from fans, the players and the coach. You always have to keep that in perspective. They are good people who are dedicated to their profession. They don’t go into any game wanting to screw it up. They go in every night with the best intentions. Yes, things are going to happen and there will be times you are going to have discussions with them, but you have to first and foremost believe they have the best intentions. We all want the perfectly officiated game and you just always know you’re probably never going to get that. But those people choosing to be put in that officiating role don’t get enough appreciation for the job they do. Remember that. As a coach, you have to be a leader. Take on that role and respect the officials so your players will do the same.
- Watch What You Say – What comes out of your mouth – these players remember that forever. I’ll hear stories years later of something that I said that they remember. Speak from your heart and not your emotions. Keep a level head and know that your words are very powerful to your players. It’s amazing the influence and direction that you have. Just be cautious and don’t let your emotions take over when you’re young in the game because it will be remembered.
- Stick to the Basics – If you’re moving up a level in coaching, the game’s going to be faster; it’s going to be more challenging tactically. But everything else is the same. No matter what level, mites or college, it’s all about being organized, having a great practice plan and keeping skill development as the No. 1 part of your game plan. If you stick with the same fundamentals that made you a good coach when you first started, you’re going to do just fine. The game’s going to change, but all the strengths that made you a good coach will continue to be the same.