When I was a young hockey player, back in Belleville Ontario I use to love this time of year. I loved the feeling of the crisp autumn air. The smell of freshly falling leaves, and most of all, the fact that hockey was back in full swing.
Whether it was at school, at home, or at the local arena, of all the sports I played, I loved hockey the most and I couldn’t get enough of it.
I see that same enthusiasm today in my nephew’s minor hockey team back in my old hometown.
He and his buddies are all a-buzz on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with tales of their accomplishments as they begin this hockey season. All over North America youth teams are busy getting ready for their own seasons and most are playing in some form of early season tournament.
Most coaches choose to do this because it allows the group to come together, to have a common experience and to see exactly what they have as they prepare for league play. It’s simple, get the group together, eliminate some distractions, and let the team bonding occur naturally.
In my time as an NHL coach we paid professional facilitators thousands of dollars to do basically, the exact same thing.
Team building is, in a nutshell, giving your group a chance to get to know each other a little better, by giving them a common experience where the group learns how to best function with each other.
When players get the chance to interact and attempt to complete complicated tasks, they see how each team member reacts to stress, to adversity and most importantly, they are forced to work and function together.
As a coach, you are responsible for putting together a tactical plan for your team. This game plan is an important part of your preparation. You also must keep in mind that you need to get to know our players’ personalities.
All teams are filled with many different personality types and the more you get to know these players as individuals you will see that some interpret and respond to your directions in different way. Some players need to know exactly why they need to play a certain way, while others may just need more encouragement. Still others may need to learn visually or learn by doing with the repetition of practicing.
ALL of them, whether they are beginners or veterans, in the NHL or playing minor hockey, need to have FUN.
When I talk to my nephew about his experience at his early season tournament, the main message I received from his was how much he enjoyed it. I asked about their record and he informed me they were one win three loses.
Years from now he won’t remember the scores or the results, but I guarantee you, he will remember how much fun it was to be with his friends enjoying the game.
I have coached in the NHL for many years and when I see my old players, we almost always end up talking about the good times we had.
The season is a journey, and you will have ups and downs during it. The trick is to learn as you go, try to improve every day, and most of all Enjoy the Ride.