Developing a working relationship with your coach

This might be the topic where I have the most experience. From my first year in Bantam to my last year at university, I had 11 coaches in 12 years. Every year was a different experience with some being great and others…not so hot. With some coaches I performed at my best, and others we didn’t seem to click. Now that I look back on those years without bias I wish I was mature enough to understand how I could have made every year more successful no matter who was coaching me.

There are a lot of guys that had or are currently having the same ups and downs I did. No matter the level, there will always be a relationship with a coach you will have to navigate. Having a healthy working relationship with any superior (not just in hockey) your experience will be much more enjoyable and thus more successful.

Key Takeaways from My Playing Days:

⁃ Respect – you don’t need to be best buddies with your coach, but there does need to be respect. This goes both ways.
⁃ Communication – even if you feel like your coach doesn’t want to, pick your spots, but encourage communication.
⁃ Ask questions – whether you are trying to understand a decision he/she made or wanting to learn from them, ask questions.
⁃ Be the bigger person – this might surprise some players, but there are adults who struggle to be the bigger person. Take the initiative.
⁃ It’s not personal! – probably the biggest lesson I had to learn. Your coach isn’t trying to ruin your career, it’s not personal.

Coaches will always be a part of the game, but it is up to you to take control of your career. Take the time to develop positive working relationships with your coaches. The further you play the more good references you want. You never know when you will need someone to make a phone call on your behalf or a future team will ask for a profile on you.

I always learn best through examples. Let’s take a look at something I’ve personally experienced:

Scenario: You show up to the rink for practice and you’ve been taken off your line. You have a feeling it is because you were benched for a period in the previous nights game…for something you don’t agree with.

Typical response from the player:
4. Arrive at the rink pissed off
5. Show poor body language
6. Talk about how your coach is an idiot and then avoid him/her all practice
7. Leave the rink in a bad mood, spend the entire day thinking about it

A better response:

⁃ Arrive at the rink with an open mind on how the day is going to go
⁃ Force yourself to have great body language and energy
⁃ Ask your coach if he or she can speak privately before or after practice to discuss the night previous
⁃ When you do talk with your coach, speak with confidence. Ask them if there is anything you could have done differently. Ask is there anything in specific you could work on to avoid that happening again
⁃ Make it clear to your coach you want to get better and learn form them
⁃ Spend the next days working your tail off

In that response you will have developed respect from your coach, you may have been the bigger person and confronted the situation, you will have communicated with confidence and will hopefully gained insight into how to best manage your relationship with your coach.

All of this seems very obvious, but in the moment for whatever reasons, I really struggled with this. I usually chose the negative response. Probably because I don’t like confrontation and always felt inferior to my coaches. Choosing the positive response might not seem right at the time, but will leave you feeling better about yourself, feeling confident, and giving off energy that people want to be around. This is just science :))

Parents, don’t allow your son/daughter to complain about the coaches. This is something my parents did when I played, and I hated it, but really appreciate now. Don’t sit there and enable that behaviour. It might feel good in the moment, but I promise, it is creating bad habits and achieving nothing. If something is worth complaining about, encourage communication with the coach. Even if you don’t get the answer you are looking for, at least you have made the effort to change whatever you are upset about.

Hopefully this helps you or your athlete in the future!