As a youth hockey coach, I’m not concerned with game results in terms of wins and losses. My primary focus areas are safety, fun, and athletic development, in that order. Our rules make the game safe. Hockey is the most fun game on the planet. Ice time is development. My volunteer career as a youth hockey coach is pretty easy. Except for when someone puts game results or individual practice results above the development process. I like to call it results pressure.
It can come from players, coaches, and parents or other family members. I know, our mites players will often talk about how they were keeping score. As parents and coaches we should acknowledge that success or failure but redirect to something good we saw our players show on the ice. Compliments like, ‘great passing today’; ‘great move to the middle of the ice to score that goal’; or a simple ‘I love watching you play hockey’; are the best ways to focus on the process.
The results pressure can come from outside of the organization your kid plays in. Young players are very observant of opposing team’s behavior. Many of our kids remarked after losing to a more experienced team at a recent tournament that the opposing players were getting yelled at and were crying after our team broke their shut out. Make sure that you continue to praise the good things your players did in those situations and not acknowledge poor behavior from external sources.
Too often from coaches I hear more about game results and the things they did as coaches and not about the kids they coach. When I do hear about a kid they coach it’s usually a negative story about how the kid made a mistake and was upset about ice time being taken away. The primary focus of many hockey organizations and their coaching staffs is making league playoffs, winning tournaments, and winning trophies. They will sacrifice practice ice times in deference to scheduling more games or tournaments. They will limit less-developed players’ ice time or even not dress them to win. Don’t get me wrong, winning is fun. I’m a player too and you can ask anyone I’ve skated with, I do not like losing. But in youth hockey, it should not be the primary focus and if it is, it’s harmful to development. I’m not saying competitive hockey is a bad thing. Most kids will have a blast with it. I just want everyone to take positives from losses or individual mistakes.
Youth hockey should be focused on development of ALL kids at ALL age levels.
ADM Process Puts Emphasis Back on the Player – A good synopsis of the American Development Model and it’s emphasis on skill development and fun to keep kids playing hockey and not being discouraged by emphasis on game results.