3 Tips for dealing with Young Players who are having a hard time…

As a Coach you’re going to have a lot of various roles

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Being the Head Coach of a minor hockey team is a fun and enjoyable experience. It’s a great feeling when you can see the progress that your players are making individually and as a team. From laughter to great big grins and smiles, we get a lot of immediate feedback when we’re doing something right!

However, not every day will be filled with progress, nor will every player be experiencing the same positive feelings that others may be feeling on ice, on the bench or in the dressing room. Being aware of your team’s individual needs is akin to being a child psychologist at times. Whether a Player’s moods is “UP” or “DOWN” may be due to how they feel about their skills, other teammates, their need for approval, their Parent’s expectations or any other host of reasons both on and off the ice.

You play an important role…

As a Coach you get to be a part of the solution by providing a safe & fun environment filled with drills and/or games that will build confidence, improve individual’s skills, illustrate the importance of teamwork and encourage your Players to want to come back for more.

Despite this, you can only control what’s going on in your own realm of responsibility, so it may be a good idea to discuss any persistent concerns you have about a Player with their Parents. Having a joint discussion is not always easy or possible, depending on the circumstances, but addressing the right issues constructively may result in a positive breakthrough when they are limited to the aspects of the game:

  1. Skills – if the child is feeling inadequate due to their performance, relative to the rest of the group, discuss power-skating options with their parents. If they are agreeable, offer some recommended skills camps. Bare in mind that some Parents may not have any experience with how to assist their child’s development and will be thankful, while others may not be financially able to support extracurricular training and might find the discussion uncomfortable. Of course, a small percentage of Parents will be offended by your decision to address the issue, but stick with it, it’s better to offer assistance than to avoid the problem.
  2. Getting along with their teammates – some of your players may be having a tough time making friends. Ask their Parents about any feedback they’re getting from their child. Come up with a plan to encourage improved interactions and champion their engagement with their teammates. Be aware of any bullying that might be taking place.
  3. Feeling unworthy – this is often due to a Parent with unattainable expectations. Ask the Parent how they feel about their child’s progress. Use the opportunity to establish a realistic expectation for their progress and agree to focus on hitting a specific goal by the end of the season. This is also a good time to plan on offering additional positive reinforcement to help boost your player’s confidence. Don’t be insincere or patronizing, just be more aware of positive results.

At the end of the day you can’t do it all! Any opportunity you take to try to help a player enjoy the sport of minor hockey will be a step in the right direction, even though it may take the added help of their Parents and your Bench Staff.

Always be aware of your Players individual needs and do your best “for the GOOD of the game!”

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