Despite what those “Coaching for Dummies” books would have you believe, there really is no manual for coaching. Everybody knows there is no crying in baseball. Legendary football coach John Heisman used to preach, “Gentleman, it is better to have died a small boy than to fumble this football.” And of course, Herb Brooks famously proclaimed that great moments are born from great opportunity. Coaching philosophy. Every coach has one and a preseason meeting can be a great opportunity to find out if the goals set by the coach fit what families hope to see happen .
This is the time to also explore playing time, discipline and expectations for the months ahead. Minnesota hockey mom Lisa Mackeben, with the Champlin Park Youth Hockey Association, says practice attendance, communication, financial issues and safety top her list of objectives for the preseason meeting. “I remember this meeting being very important the first season my son, Jack, played hockey,” Lisa said. “I like and expect coaches to speak to their expectations for the season, so we’re all on the same page.”
Concord, Massachusetts hockey parents Jessica and Steve Kennedy say a coach’s attitude can be everything when it comes to developing skills and a love for the game. “A youth hockey coach should foster a fun and encouraging atmosphere, especially for impressionable younger players,” said Steve. “It could be hard to determine the coach’s attitude during the first meeting, so a bit of “research” talking to other families can go a long way toward finding out what you are getting yourself into.”
It helps when coaches set clear boundaries as to when they're willing to talk to parents.
Our coach let us know up front about the "24 hour rule." Parents had to wait 24 hours after a game before talking to him. It's a good rule to follow. That cooling off period can help you put things in perspective. This is also the time to get your hockey budget figured out. What will the season cost and how many fundraisers can you realistically pull off ? Decide, as a team, the tournaments you want to host, how far and how often everyone is willing to travel. Find out about parent involvement, too. What does the coach need to lighten the load?
While your Jim Craig-in-training likely isn’t being groomed by Scotty Bowman, it’s still important to understand how his or her coach approaches the game. After all, like any good agent, you are entrusting your star to another’s authority. You want to know that he or she will look out for your child’s safety and well being, but also help maximize his or her on-ice talents.