A Coach will impact more young people in a year than the average person does in a lifetime
– Billy Graham
For anyone who has played ice hockey, we all have memories of coaches we have had in the past. We remember how their behaviors, words, ranting and raving affected us. We may not always remember exactly what was said but we remember how it made us feel. There are some coaches we would walk through a brick wall for. Others, we tolerated and learned to cope with in the moment.
So, what made the difference? Was it coaching styles, connection, or was it all about winning?
In a sport with such outcome performance based mindset, it may seem that winning coaches would be the coaches we remember the most. However, as I reflect on my past coaches, we did not always have winning seasons. Instead many of my favourite coaches had the following attributes that made a positive impact in my life:
- Approachable and willing to listen
- Knew how influence without always needing to have control (by yelling)
- I always felt they always had my back and genuinely cared about me
- They were strong when they needed to strong and took ownership when they messed up
- Embodied positive core values in the way they showed up
- Did not let the stress in the moment overwhelm them into poor behavior
- Talked to us as men not boys
Although in the moment, many coaches experience intense pressure to win, it is those that understand that their role is much more than just winning games, that are remembered most. Especially those that coach the younger players. For these young players, their coaches are part of their understanding of what it is to be a man (or woman). How coaches handle stress in moment leaves an imprint on the psyche of these young players. Coaches who can be mindful and act with integrity as opposed to behavior associated with low emotional intelligence, will create positive environment for players to grow not just as players but also, as people.
Although, hockey is focused on outcome performance and chasing the dream of playing pro, or going to college or university, the reality is few will experience these dreams. That is why enjoying and learning from the process is that much more important.
Hockey is a game, although It has its battles, it is still just a game. The players are just emerging young people, who are learning about life, by playing the game they love.
Long after coaches are done coaching, some will be remembered by their players as someone who influenced them by their authenticity and integrity. Others will be remembered as a negative influencer because their inability to handle their stress appropriately and/or lack of awareness of how they showed up . In the end, how do you want to be remembered?