Five Coaching Tips to Build Trust with Your Players

In Coaching Hockey, Leadership by Walter Aguilar

Photo Credit: Skate HQ

“Fear and trust ride the same teeter totter; when fear goes up trust goes down, when trust goes up fear goes down” – Walter Aguilar

As a coach, do your players fear you or trust you? When your players fear you you will get compliance, when they trust you you will get buy-in. Coaching is an incredible opportunity to influence young minds, not just to become superstars in hockey, but to be engaged and effective in all aspects of life. Unfortunately, due to such an outcome focused sport mentality, often the ends justify the means approach creates an environment of fear. The high performers are rewarded with ice time and encouraged to grow but the rest of the players become the collateral results of such outcome result focus.

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

― John Wooden

To build trust with your players, understanding yourself as a coach is very important. Are you driven solely by wins and losses? Is focusing on the process and player development an important value that you carry and embody? Learning to ask yourself meaningful questions in regards to the “why” of what motivates you to coach can be helpful in your pursuit of excellence. Being a hockey coach is a privilege and may sometimes feel like a lonely endeavour. However, when you can create an environment of trust and respect for one another in the dressing room, ice, and off the ice, you will have accomplished much more joy and meaning than any championship could ever hope to offer.

There are five things you can do to build trust with your players:

  1. Don’t take things personal. Whether it’s with a player or their parents, keeping an objective perspective while help you understand and get to the real issue.
  2. Become a great listener. Seek first to understand then be understood. During a game everything happens quickly but when you adopt this approach to listening, opportunities will come up where you will benefit from being a great listener.
  3. Embrace acceptance. Acceptance is not losing or surrendering. It is understanding that life happens, and life is what it is, and that’s OK. Acceptance is learning to let things go. Not because you don’t wish things were different but because it’s now in the past and this present moment is all that really matters.
  4. Be impeccable with your word. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Follow through, keep your promises, walk the talk and help your players trust your word.
  5. Be a “cup full” kind of coach. Look for the positives, learn from the adversity. Be vocal in a room with praise, but private with a player when constructive criticism is needed. Look to build on the positives.

The big shift required for teams that aspire to be great is to learn to go from me, to the we, to the us. This is where the gelling process happens. As a coach, setting the tone to one of trust and respect, not fear, will be the foundation on which your team’s success will be built on.

“To be as good as it can be, a team has to buy into what you as the coach are doing. They have to feel you’re a part of them and they’re a part of you.”

– Bobby Knight


About the Author
Walter Aguilar

Walter Aguilar

Walter Aguilar – is a Certified Professional Coach and COR.E Performance Dynamics Specialist. Using the mind/energy connection to performance, he teaches a unique approach to peak performance. He specializes in teaching mindfulness for hockey using the COR.E Performance Dynamics energy leadership system. This is based on the 7 levels of energy that thoughts create. These affect awareness, confidence, engagement, creativity and intuition. His equation of Performance = Potential – Interference, provides a framework for success in hockey and life.


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