Hey, Coaches, You Never Stop Learning!

In June, I wrote about individual skills and how critical it is for players to refine them and continually learn to make themselves better. What about coaches?

It stands to reason that coaches should make every effort to improve their skills. After all, they are the ones entrusted with the task of developing players.

A few years back, I considered organizing a coaches clinic in Nashville. We would be offering local coaches an incredible opportunity to learn from and interact with some of the best minds in the game – Barry Trotz, Brent Peterson, Peter Horachek and Stanley Cup winner Terry Crisp. I can’t help but laugh when I think about the response of one coach, who stated, “I’m already a level 5 coach, what more could I possibly learn?” HELLO!

The point I’m trying to make is to not let your ego get in the way of any chance to learn or improve. I am a member of a National Hockey League coaching staff and can tell you firsthand that our group is always open to new things and NEVER stops learning.

Barry Trotz and I recently returned from the draft in Vancouver, where I assisted  him in making a presentation to both NHL and amateur coaches as part of a joint venture between the NHL Coaches Association and British Columbia minor hockey. We had the opportunity to listen to other coaches present their topics as well. What do you think both of us were doing while they were presenting? If you said taking notes and listening intently, you’re the grand prize winner.

In one day alone we heard presentations from Wayne Fleming, Perry Pearn, John Tortorella, Craig Ramsey, Mike Johnson, Jack McIlargy and Barry Smith – all of whom are either head or assistant coaches in the NHL. For someone like me who is very passionate about coaching, it was great see those amateur coaches soaking up all that knowledge. What it comes down to is, if you are passionate about what you do – not just in coaching but in anything -- it will rub off on the people around you.

In my case, passion prompted me to accept the position of head coach with Father Ryan High School, a private Catholic school in Nashville. Many people, including my wife, have asked me why I would want to take on an additional task, what with my working with the Predators and traveling with the team all season, not to mention already being part of an NHL staff. My answer: “Why not? It’s a passion thing!.”


I was told, and now firmly believe after spending the past two months with the Father Ryan players, that these kids need me. What a rewarding experience so far! We may or may not win a championship this year, but I promised them one thing: We will be both passionate and technically sound in everything we do and they will know exactly what to do in every situation on the ice. We will never lose due to a lack of preparation. I feel I owe this to them.

We have already had video sessions to show players how we expect them to play. And our June practices were based on one thing and one thing only – TEACHING. They will soon receive a DVD about forechecking in the offensive and neutral zones, breaking out, what to do on face offs – both won and lost -- and what to do in our defensive zone. They will also be given a handout with diagrams of each system we will use.

While I am fortunate to have the facilities at my disposal to do such things, don’t let yourselves to be limited by a lack of resources. Be creative. Do team building, where all you need is a room or a field. Got a chalkboard? Draw systems for your players. Got a good quote? Share it with them. There are tons of resources out there on the Internet, in  books, on instructional DVDs and at coaches clinics. 

As I said earlier, don’t let your ego get in the way when it comes to teaching kids how to play the game. Remember, failing to prepare is preparing to fail!

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