Answer To Your Question On...

Improving Your Team Quickly

By Greg Siller - Pro Learning Systems


I am a YMCA roller hockey coach who would like to improve his team and his coaching ability. The problem is that our season is only 8 games long and we only get 30 minutes of practice time before each game. I need to learn how optimize my time to effectively coach my team (that consists of nine 13 year olds with varying degrees of hockey skills). Can you help?--Rob

Rob, your question is not an uncommon one in roller hockey. I agree with you that 8 weeks is not much time to improve. In fact, I believe that each season should be a minimum of 12 weeks long to allow teams to gel together, the coach time to teach his or her players some essential skills, and time to see how these new skills improve the team. Even though you only have 8 weeks, let's see what we can do.

  1. Knowing that you have a limited amount of time to improve your team during the season, be realistic about your players and overall team ability. From the start, you need to assess the potential of the team, and your ability as a coach to teach, influence, and improve your team. Assess your players and teams' ability right from the start. Use the Player's Assessment Checklists from my book, Roller Hockey: Skills and Strategies for Winning on Wheels, to take the pulse of the team and note what skills your team has and what they need to work on.

  2. From that point, determine which 2 or 3 skill areas that you want teach them. These could be individual skills (like skating or passing), positional skills (playing forward, defense, goaltender), or team skills (face-offs, breakouts, offensive zone penetration, defensive coverage, backchecking, etc). Being realistic means that you cannot improve every player in every area. So pick the areas that need the most improvement, and get busy. You will need to set up your practice plans to support those improvement goals. You can also get creative and work with your team away from the rink. This could involve practicing in a parking lot, watching instructional videos together, or giving your players some hockey homework. This area is very under-utilized in coaching and if your players (and their parents) have the time and desire, you can really turn this extra learning time into some fun time as well as team growth and improvement.

  3. Monitor your players/team improvements in the 2 or 3 areas during the season and let them know how they are doing, by communicating what they are doing correctly and how they can improve. This can be in the form of individual talks, report cards or certificates that show the players (and their parents) the results that are being achieved. Be careful not to discourage the players. Your role here is to set these experiences up for success and learning; along with some fun. Remember, there should be no failure with your players results; only communication on how they have improved and what they can do to further that improvement.

  1. Since you cannot improve all areas in just one 8 week season, your role is to also plant the seeds of learning. These seeds may or may not sprout during your season, or over the next season; but when you see those seeds make a positive affect on one of your players, that is one of the greatest rewards that any coach can receive. Believe me, I remember those aspects of coaching much more than whether we won a game or not.

Coaching can be an undaunting task, but when you see the seeds of learning sprout, it can make coaching one of the most rewarding occupations around. I hope that this information will plant some seeds in your mind on how you can improve your team during your short season; by being realistic, improving in a couple of areas, communicating with your players how they have improved and what areas they need to work on, using time away from the rink for individual and team growth, and planting lots of seeds in your players each season.

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