1.19.22 – The Regroup: Leaders Go First

A look at some of the best content out there from this past week, round up by The Coaches Site founder Aaron Wilbur.

What’s up everyone! Hope you’re having a great week.

THIS audio clip from Gabby Reece has really stuck with me. The former professional volleyball player, super model and wife of Laird Hamilton talks about the importance of going first.

First to smile. First to say hello. Otherwise there is a risk that nobody does.

I believe there is a lot in her message that applies to coaching. We set the tone with our actions. So be intentional about setting the tone with your actions.

Be first to welcome your players to the rink or on the ice. Be first to pick up garbage off the floor. Be first to congratulate a player or member of your staff.

Because the leader of any organization is the one who goes first.

Regardless of their title.

– Aaron Wilbur, Founder of The Coaches Site




In case it wasn’t covered at the coaching clinic, kicking players is frowned upon.

Now you know and there’s no excuse.

This incident involving Vladimir Gromilin, the (now former) Head Coach of Sarmaty Orenburg of Russia’s MHL, induced an eye roll. Like seriously?!?!

It’s also the second case of a coach kicking a player in recent memory.As both coaches were fired, that gives you even more reason to pause and reflect if you’re considering kicking a player (or anyone). Don’t kick people is always a great rule to remember.




“The lessons we learn from sports are really powerful. We learn how to win with grace and we learn how to lose with dignity. We learn how to lead and follow. We learn how to compete. We learn how to give of ourselves for the benefit of others.” – Scott O’Neil

Scott O’Neil shared a lot of wisdom on the Glass & Out podcast.

Being mindful of his time I had prepared 13 questions. I got to 4 of them in our hour-long conversation.

Sometimes it’s best to just get out of the way and follow the conversation instead of trying to lead it.

The former CEO of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia 76ers and Crystal Palace, shared insights from his new book Be Where Your Feet Are that have helped him stay more present and grounded in every aspect of his life.




You can get away with not having that total investment every night on some clubs…but our club can’t. Simple. It shows.” – Darryl Sutter

If you’ve been to Calgary in the winter you know how dry it can get there.

A long time ago I was scouting the Mac’s Tournament and didn’t leave the hotel without one of those little bottles of moisturiser. After about three days it felt like the skin on my face was going to peel off like a snake. Turns out I had accidentally grabbed the bottle of conditioner and NOT the moisturizer.


In related news, the Calgary Flames offence has dried up and Darryl Sutter has some strong opinions about how to fix it.




“He never let you get ahead of yourself. He was a hard-ass. He was tough on you. But he made every player feel important.” – Brian Lawton

32 Rhode Island State Championships (26 in a row from 1978-2003).

Over 20 NHL draft picks.

2 first overall picks (Brain Lawton in 1983 and Bryan Berard in 1995).

North of 70 NCAA Division 1 players.

These were some of the highlights on Bill Belisle’s resume. Except he didn’t need a resume because he coached at the same school for 44 years. During his tenure he racked up over 1,000 wins and was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame.

Normand “Bill“ Belisle passed away on January 12th at the age of 92.

Climbing the ladder and reaching the top of your profession is impressive. So is committing to one program and being content helping kids reach their dreams.

RIP Bill. Your legacy will live on.




I could watch this video of Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin all day. It genuinely makes me giggle (the popcorn bit gets me every time).

It’s not designed to be a coach education video, except that’s exactly what it is.

You can’t describe the power of language with X’s and O’s. It requires you to use really effective language. This might be why it’s rarely covered in coach education and it’s left to coaches to either turn language into a communication strategy or to assume that simply communicating is enough of a strategy.

Every elite level coach I know could have a video like this made about them and each would be unique to them. And therein lies the magic: drawing on your own personality, not taking yourself too seriously and trusting in your sense of humour.




“Backchecking doesn’t end until offensive zone play begins.” – Craig Ramsey

Before any coach teaches backchecking, they should have to sprint from one corner of the rink to the crease, or “house,” at the opposite end. Just to remind yourself how hard back checking is.

Because it’s really hard.

If you’re a minor hockey coach and you can establish just a little bit of structure on the backcheck, you’re winning. If you can genuinely get your players invested in the relationship between backchecking and scoring more goals, then you might deserve a trophy. Or you’re a Jedi.

Everything about backchecking is hard. Doing it. Teaching it. Thinking about what to do while you’re backchecking as your lungs feel like they are going to explode at the end of a shift.

Hard. Hard. Hard.

The good news is that the most consistent quality amongst championship teams is their commitment to backchecking. Consider that a segway to the latest edition of The Breakdown with Dave Starman, on Transitioning from Offence to Defence (AKA Backchecking).




“Having young women get the opportunity to buy a stick that’s targeted to them in the female market, from a female player, I just hope it can grow other opportunities for other female players to do the same.” – Hayley Wickenheiser

What Hayley Wickenheiser needs next is her own brand of cape (the super hero variety).

Because if she isn’t already wearing one, she deserves to be.

For a moment, put yourself in her shoes and think about how you would cope. Hayley is a medical doctor and spends her shifts delivering babies. She is also the Toronto Maple Leafs Senior Director of Player Development. She is a mom. She spearheaded a “Conquer COVID” initiative. She operates WickFest, a Female Hockey Festival, supporting the development of young women through sport.

She just designed the first hockey stick for females, with Verbero and it’s Founder, former NHLer Andy Sutton.

Whatever she’s on we could all use some.

In the meantime, take the time to learn how Hayley and Andy are making the game more friendly and accessible for young women in this profile by ESPN.




“I’m thankful for the opportunity to coach. It’s energizing and energetic to get your hands on it and coach and develop young players. In their case, their dream is to play in the National Hockey League level. My goal as a coach is I always want to develop a player to get to their best.” – Dan Bylsma

Let’s get one thing straight: in no scenario is signing up to coach hockey in Palm Springs a demotion.

But I can see how that could be the perception if you’re a coach with a Stanley Cup ring, Jack Adams trophy and Olympic coaching credentials on your resume.

This is the case of Dan Bylsma, who signed on with the expansion Seattle Kraken to be a coach with their AHL affiliate in Palm Springs (it’s unclear if he is to be the team’s Head Coach), BUT who this season is working with the Charlotte Checkers (the Florida Panthers affiliate) as an Assistant Coach while they build a rink in Palm Springs.

Hopefully that made sense.

What does make sense is that Dan is a life-long learner who is embracing this all as an opportunity to get better and just part of his journey.


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Aaron Wilbur

I’m a husband, father, sports nut and Founder of The Coaches Site. I enjoy cooking, watching live music and hiking the North Shore mountains with my family. My son is a football player, which has turned me into a big football fan. It’s helped me appreciate what hockey parents go through, especially those who have little experience with the sport, when trying to navigate their child up the hockey ladder.

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