On the heels of a question I received and answered just days ago — on “When To Teach Team Hockey Skills” — comes another that is very similar.
Ironically, I mentioned in my earlier answer, that a lot of similar questions come to me via Ask The Coach, while they’re often “framed” just a tad differently. And, of course, while the questions might be very similar, I always know that the pain expressed by each sender is real.
Then, speaking about pain, I sensed exactly that in the question I just received on changing a hockey culture.
— Dennis Chighisola
Changing A Hockey Culture
Let me get right to the gist of the question I received from a hockey dad…
“My daughter plays H.S. and U16 AA. We drive over an hour for the AA team and pay a healthy cost. The team’s coach is very personable, never yells from the bench or scolds and works well with the girls. He has a very strong interest and a great hockey knowledge. The rink closely follows ADM. The problem is that (including tourneys) we are a 2-20 team and haven’t won a game since the beginning of November 2016. The parents are all great and the girls are tight knit and like each other. Some of us parents are just wondering how to change this culture of losing. Our U14 team is also in last place and just dropped 8 of 8 (at a recent tournament).
Any thoughts would be appreciated…”
Now, I find it interesting that both parent letters echoed a number of very similar circumstances. I mean, even though the dad authoring the above note was pretty positive, he raised the point that their rink “closely follows ADM”, that his daughter’s group is currently “a 2-20 team”,and that the girls are in last place. (You don’t have to go back to the earlier article to appreciate that the other dad explained very similar conditions — as in ADM being involved, and as in his son’s team getting killed on a regular basis.)
Anyway, with all that, both dads kinda asked the same thing — about overcoming the regular losing, and somehow changing a hockey culture within their kids’ teams. And, as it so happens, I’ve written at least three posts on the latter topic over recent years…
Members might like to go through some of those protected articles but, having done a lot of research on this topic of changing a hockey culture towards the positive, I think I’m going to attack the current question without referring back to those other posts…
The more I think about this, the more I realize that it’s hard to truly change a culture without starting at the top. In other words, I honestly believe the rink that acts as home to those young ladies has to understand its own role in the problem — if there is a problem…
Is the rink in any way responsible for the success or struggles of their member teams? If only one team is struggling, higher-ups might not be held accountable. If, on the other hand, most of the teams are battling losing seasons, well…
Organizations can work differently in various sections of the US, but most I’ve observed go from rink control to level directors to the head coaches they appoint (in descending order: maybe from AAA to AA to A to whatever).
Of course, the head coaches hold a lot of influence over their team’s success, given a fair amount of talent.
The latter might not strike a lot of readers the way I’ve seen it, but I’ve watched certain organizations and individual coaches attract talent to varying degrees. The location or condition of a rink can draw lots of players — or not many, while the coach with a great reputation will likely attract a ton of good players. (I’m thinking of one rink in Central Florida that is the pits for maintenance or upkeep, and shy on a coach who can really draw talent beyond those who live right down the street.)
I’ll say again, that it’s not easy changing a hockey culture without starting at the very top. If it’s the rink overseeing things, the decision to make changes has to begin there, and it has to be with as firm a hand as possible. I mean it has to be etched in a well articulated and understood mission statement, with everyone knowing the organization’s aims — from the main office to directors to each coaching level to the parents to the players.
That said, an ADM connection with the rink might just doom the whole thing. Ya, I hate to say it but, written between the lines of the USA Hockey driven mission statement is that winning and losing don’t matter; only following procedures does.
I don’t doubt folks in Colorado Springs are pulling their hair out reading this, and they’re probably (once again) sticking pins in Coach Chic dolls. Still, the truth is in the pudding, or it’s in the complaints I hear from across the country.
Let me tell you, though… I know of some rinks or USA Hockey programs that only follow the guidelines to a point. Ya, to a point. In other words, they do a lot of what the ADM prescribes, but they also do what they feel necessary to developing hockey players, and helping their teams be successful. In fact, some of the program leaders I know — mainly from my old stomping grounds in the Northeast — have realized their bottom line is totally tied to icing successful teams, bottom to top.
Okay, the problem with all I’ve written so far is that it probably doesn’t help that hockey dad or his daughter’s team one iota. And that brings me to just about the same suggestions I offered to the other dad…
In other words, short of positively changing a hockey culture within his organization, I think it’s more urgent to quickly do something about his own youngster’s psyche. She doesn’t need to know that there’s anything wrong with her team or program — that could create a bad attitude, but she might need to know that she’ll benefit greatly from some serious personal development.
Understand that future tryout successes aren’t usually going to be influenced by a youngster’s win-loss record. No, it’s more often based on how a player looks at the tryouts, how strong his or her skills are, and how smart the player seems to be.
What I’m suggesting here is that the dad find a place (or two) where his daughter can get the extras, or the kind of extras that will help her stand out in future tryouts. If the dad knows enough to teach the game, he might benefit from CoachChic.com membership — there are thousands of tips in these pages to help anyone teach any area of the game (even at home). Of course, a more expensive but worthwhile approach would be to find a local authority capable of guiding the girl towards higher levels.
Lastly, while I always feel a little sad at not totally answering a question — or in not providing an easier answer, the above does represent my heart-felt opinion. As always, though, I welcome others to offer us additional ideas — the idea here is to always gain the best results.