Coach behaviours for a safer game

Malcolm Sutherland

Malcolm Sutherland is a coach, physical educator, sport pedagogist, and SME in sports development, sports safety and injury prevention. As an athlete and player safety expert Malcolm has developed prevention tools and a program to control serious injury in sport.

He is a Chartered Professional Coach holding designation with Coaches of Canada. In hockey specifically, Malcolm is now active as a sought after development coach working internationally and nationally. Malcolm has coached at every level from professional minor leagues, varsity as well as junior and AAA levels of minor hockey.

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Modelling healthy choices, fitness and the value of sport and recreation should be every coach's goal.
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The prevention of serious injuries like concussions, spinal injuries and lacerations is a concern in the modern game. But who is responsible for the prevention of serious injury? And whose role is it to address the antecedents of serious injury?

This article is the first in a series of items written for coaches, players, parents and administrators. The series will provide activities for each of these stakeholders because the truth is we are all responsible and we all have a role to play in making the game safer. The advice and information in this series act both as a guide and a challenge for you as a leader in hockey to eliminate serious and catastrophic injuries from our sport.

As you read through the list below reflect on what you have already done or what you are doing as a coach and compare and contrast the advice to your current training and hockey program. Recognize that all serious injury is preventable and that in your role as a coach you must be aware; you must act, and you must operate with an attitude that hockey is intended to be played safely.

1. Begin with a player-centred approach when coaching. All decisions, procedures and choices made as a coach need to funnel back to meet players’ needs. This implies focusing on the physical, mental, social and psychological health of players. By doing this exercise you as a coach will begin to prioritize player safety with a focus on appropriate training, practice and competition that is aligned with player growth and development needs and readiness. Ask yourself how does my program help players effectively improve, grow and achieve.

Modelling healthy choices, fitness and the value of sport and recreation should be every coach's goal . . .

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