Before the excitement of training camp, before the thrill of being back on the ice for the first time in months, and before the stress of a new season helps itself to a comfortable spot in the front of your brain, now’s a good chance to check in with your players.
Hopefully most of them have spent the summer combining relaxation, rejuvenation and preparation for a new season.
The past couple off-seasons, arguably the most complicated off-seasons in our game’s history, are behind us. As coaches you were no doubt called upon to deliver guidance to your players and their families and that won’t change simply because the pandemic has slowed and we’re learning to live with COVID-19 existing. But who knows what tomorrow brings; it’s difficult when you don’t know the answers. Personally, it’s difficult when you don’t know if those answers even matter.
I feel guilty when I work on video or systems packages for next season while the world is locked in conflict. There’s always been and always will be conflict, and my privilege sometimes doesn’t allow me to see it or comprehend it. Well, I see it now, as we all do. So, first and foremost, it’s about being safe and spreading positive energy and strength amongst your family, friends, neighbours and strangers.
And as a coach, your players probably feel like an extension of your family. Checking in during the summer can be a powerful message to your players that you’ve got their backs. By August the off-season feels like it’s been underway for approximately 45 years, so no doubt the grind is starting to get old for your players who are coming back.
Accountability between teammates
In 2020, days after Coronavirus pandemic became a reality and the world of sports fell off a cliff, I held a makeshift awards banquet in the lounge of our dressing room. Which, looking back now, seems risky. But there was so much that we didn’t know at the time.
Anyways, I’ll try to stay on track here.
After that meeting, I created a simple Google document to which all our returning players had access. I broke up April, May, June, and July into weeks. The players weighed in each week and contributed a few thoughts about their progress, their mood, and some truly classic comedy regarding the golfing abilities of their teammates.
The point is that there’s no way you can keep on top of everybody in the summer, and to be clear, I don’t think that’s a good idea anyways. I could see the sheet as well, but it was a living document that belonged to the guys. It was up to them to take advantage of a long off-season.
Sure, I’m a coach, but it’s not my responsibility during the season to force them to empty the tank every single day, and it sure as hell isn’t in the summer either. That’s where character enters the equation. One of the players shared a link to the sheet every Monday, unprompted by me. Sure, not everyone is going to demonstrate the same levels of diligence to something like this, but again, diligence is their responsibility. And it has an impact on where they fit in when the puck is eventually dropped.
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