Some of the articles I’ve been writing lately for The Coaches’ Site are based on the expertise of other coaches. Geno Auriemma and body language, the search for character before stats from Dallas Eakins, the proper way to practice from Pete Carroll, and the inspiring journey of South Carolina Basketball Coach Frank Martin.
I’ve learned a lot from the expertise of these intelligent, inspirational coaches.
But today, the expertise for this post comes straight from yours truly.
Let’s just say we got a lotta losses.
I coached spring hockey with the same dude for the last four years and I’ll never forget the face he used to make after opening the gate following a goal in a blow-out game.
And I’m talking blow-out, like, north of a ten goal split. Our side of the rink is dead quiet while the other team’s parents are celebrating like aliens just landed on Mardi Gras in 1999.
It sucks – there’s no denying that, but always there’s still that smirk.
Because getting the shit kicked out of you in spring hockey doesn’t matter. Like, at all.
1. What’s Important Here?
The first thing you can do is help your players find perspective. Why are you playing spring hockey? To win medals? Yeah, it’s fun to win, but in the wild west spring hockey world where anyone can put a team together (and any sarcastic writer/hockey guy can jump behind a bench), winning doesn’t mean what some people think it means.
2. What Do We Control?
You control your effort. You control your habits. You control your preparation.
You do not control who wins the game.
Kids young and old get confused by this, but when you’re getting obliterated by some all-star spring hockey team flown in from all over Canada, focusing on the things you can control will help everyone, players and coaches, drown out the frustration of OH GOD THEY SCORED AGAIN.
3. What Did You See Out There?
The teaching and coaching shouldn’t stop just because the red light behind your goalie needs new batteries. In fact, and I’m sorry to break it to you, this is where you truly earn that fat spring hockey cheque.
Someone once said losing was the evil twin of learning, so use all those teaching moments to your advantage. Ask players why they made a certain decision, and use that feedback to teach them something.
But remember, for your own sanity, chances are you just can’t teach your players to be faster, smarter, stronger, or shoot, pass, and make decisions better. You can do it over time and through amazingly rich and challenging practices, but you can’t do it in the third period of a game you’re losing 5-0.
Wait, it’s way more than 5-0 – they just stopped putting the score up.
Mercy rule FTW! Get that clock running!
Here’s a couple more tactics you can focus on to help yourself ignore the nightmare:
- Cool faceoff plays
- Dzone setup
- Nicknames (this works great with kids younger than 10)
- Switching it up in pregame during a particularly rough tournament (play Sandstorm by Da Rude and just watch the chaos hit a crescendo)