If your players made the right decision every time they stepped on the ice, controlled the puck, or tried to get it back, then you’d be out of a job.
Sorry, that’s the truth.
And for decorated Swedish national team head coach Rikard Grönborg, the point isn’t to make the right decision every time, it’s simply the act of trying to do the right thing. This is how the Swedish development model has turned in recent years – to move away from a win-at-all-costs attitude to developing smart young hockey players in the long-run.
That means mistakes will happen. Swedish coaches are taught to be ok with those mistakes even when they’re costly.
You might have heard of such defencemen as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman, and Erik Karlsson? Even the lesser-knowns like Oscar Klefbom are committed to the modern style of playing defence focused on skating, getting the puck back, and moving it efficiently.
And these days, there are more young Swedes falling in love with the game than ever before.
Recently hired to coach the ZSC Lions in Switzerland, Grönborg has experience coaching various levels of international hockey for Sweden for the past decade. During his career the 51-year-old has won medals at seven World Championships, six World Juniors, and one Olympic Games.
Check out the presentation Grönborg delivered for the NHL Coaches’ Association in 2018 on how Sweden has managed to develop so many exceptional defencemen in recent years.
- “We’ve stole a lot from everyone else. The Russians and their skating. The Czechs and how the pass. North Americans and how they work along the boards and in front of the net.”
- “We’re looking for long term development for our culture. We have 65,000 players registered for hockey, so we have to be careful how we teach them.”
- “Winning is important, of course it is. But players are allowed to make mistakes – but I think this sounds better: players are allowed to make decisions.”
Ask questions of your players. As coaches we can learn from our players.
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