Look, I’m as guilty as the next coach for over scheduling. I’m thinking, “if I could only get them up to speed earlier and faster…we’d be ahead of the game”. So I’ll go ahead and schedule a bunch of meetings, and outline an 18 part plan for team success.
I’ll be honest. I actually have done stupid stuff like this.
I once made the defensemen on my (spring) team do a video meeting on neutral zone defensive tactics while the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. In fairness, the defence were atrocious. But was this necessary? I was so hell bent on getting my message across, that I caused them to miss a Stanley Cup winning game. Stupid.
So what have I learned since then as a coach? Well, I walked across the room to chat with my friend Jason Yee, who is also a player and ask him what he thought. Then I talked to my teammates about what they like with regard to schedules. Here’s what we think…
People often make paradoxical statements like “less is more” or “time is money”. It seems to me that most coaches do not understand the “less is more” approach. They think that “more is more”.
Except when it isn’t.
More is not more when you have LIMITED RESOURCES.
Time, energy, attention, and decision-making are limited resources. When we schedule meetings, we ask for time and attention. When we schedule & prolong practices, we ask for it all.
My own experience as a player, and after talking with teammates, I’d like to suggest new guidelines for making team schedules and travel arrangements. Here they are:
- Minimum effective dose
- Focus your time – Parkinson’s Law
- Simple Structure – Be Predictable
Minimum Effective Dose
Minimum Effective Dose is a totally strange concept to coaches. As I said, I had a hard time with the concept because I kept thinking that if I just add in another video session, THEN they’ll get it. If I schedule another activity, THEN they’ll bond as a team. Coaches have tons of power over their athletes, and can willy nilly schedule events and have them show up. It’s cool ain’t it? But it’s a power that shouldn’t be abused.
The minimum effective dose is simply this: the smallest dose that will produce the desired outcome.
Let’s look at boiling water. We know that water needs to be boiled at 100 degrees C. Boiling at any higher temperature does not produce better boiling. No, it wastes resources that could be spent elsewhere.
I’ve found that many coaches take the “maximal” approach versus the “optimal” approach. “Let’s turn the heat up as fast and as high as we can” versus “let’s figure out what we need and do the things necessary to get there”.
The second approach, the minimum effective dose approach requires a degree of precision, planning and knowledge. The maximal approach is actually a lazier approach. It’s the shotgun approach to scheduling. Let’s do everything and something will stick, versus doing the hard work to figure out the right things to do.
Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.
What does this mean? It means that if you give yourself 45 minutes for video, you will start coming up with stuff to fill 45 minutes of video. If you say that you need to arrive at a game 4 hours in advance to prepare, you’ll probably find “important” things to do while you’re there. If you make practice 2 hours, you’ll find things to do to fill that 2 hours. Coaches often lose sight of tasks that are critical to on-ice success simply because they think they need a certain amount of time practicing, when what they actually need is to cover important topics. If coaches fail to aggressively schedule short time limits, the unimportant becomes the important.
Players do not like unpredictability. Players also don’t want huge demands placed on their time, attention, and energy. So where do you draw the line as a coach?
Coaches should identify mission-critical tasks and create the simplest structure with the least amount of meetings to meet that. This doesn’t mean “no meetings”. It means figure out what the most critical tasks are for on-ice success, and then create a predictable schedule ahead of time. If the power play isn’t going, having a 15 minute video meeting before a game isn’t going to fix things. It’s likely to confuse people. If you haven’t prepared your players to the point where they need more than a 3 minute game day video, you likely haven’t done a good job organizing your practice week.
Players don’t need more information. Any coach who coached me in the past me would know that the more you get me thinking, the more I play like dog crap. If I know the mission for today is to shut down one player, I’ll just do it. If I’m thinking about this play or that play…uh oh…
BUT players still need structure. It’s usually hilarious to me watching a junior/college/pro hockey players come up with drills on the spot. Void of structure, they’re hopeless (for a period of time – then they figure it out). So no structure isn’t the answer either, because players want to know what is coming next.
Could players be spending their time more wisely than watching TSN and cruising Tinder while laying on their bed in the hotel room? Sure. But if you’re scheduling meeting after meeting, and ice time after ice time, you drain on their limited resources of time, energy, and focus.
Better teams don’t practice more or meet more. They practice better and meet better.
The Bottom Line
Coaches, find your mission critical tasks. What are the 2-3 things that need to be done/understood today to make a difference on the ice? How long does it take for them to be accomplished? Schedule that time in advance to players don’t find things unpredictable, and then let them do their own stuff the rest of the time so they can save their energy and focus for the game.
For More Checkout Jason Yee at
Access to our entire library of videos from our annual TeamSnap Hockey Coaches Conference. You can cancel any time, although after joining a community of coaches from all over the world using the videos on a daily basis to pick up new tips and stay relevant, we doubt you will.
- Reconsidering Tournament Teams
- Confessions of a (Spring) Hockey Coach: The Truth About Silly Season
- Pro Players Panel with Natalie Spooner, Brendan Gaunce, & Mike Duco