Observations From the Rink: “Hockey Tendencies” Detrimental For Players and Coaches

Tendencies among athletes and coaches are some of greatest indicators of success and failure.   

The ability to commit to and trust your culture as a coach and not buckle under pressure from outside forces is definitely one tendency that most young coaches fail to accomplish.  

As for athletes, tendencies in practice reveal themselves time and time again in game situations.   

Over the years I’ve coached a lot of skilled athletes, but the most skilled players comprised of the least amount of negative tendencies within their entire game.  

Now don’t get me wrong they made their fair share of mistakes, but they were quick to correct the glaring tendencies within their game and were very expedient to deduce the game on both the physical and mental side. 

So what do tendencies mean within the game of hockey and how can they be corrected to ensure success and overall individual skill development?   

A great example of a tendency within the game of hockey is a player’s inability to play and understand both the offensive and defensive side of the game. 

Case in point, I watched an up and coming player score goals at an amazing clip but his inability to play both sides of the puck was evident.  The following year I selected him to play on my team, based on his skill set he deserved an opportunity to showcase his skills at that level.   

I had to teach and develop his entire hockey sense and it wasn’t a smooth transition and his goal production went down significantly. Here’s a player that was told at the Atom Prov. Level to stay at the blue line and go score goals. Suffice to say he had a great scoring touch and wicked shot but his overall game lacked the diversity that is needed to succeed at the next level.  

His tendencies as a young player were based on the offensive side of the game; instead of making a responsible play off the boards as a winger he would try the chip and chase method to produce individual offense rather than making the correct play and taking the hit to make a play.   

As a coach it would have been easy for me to overlook his defensive shortcomings and focus on his offence, but that was clearly not how I coached or what I believed in.   

My coaching philosophy and culture is based on the total development of the individual within the team system.  As I have mentioned countless times my primary focus as a coach is to prepare the player for the next level and winning will take care of itself.  

It’s easy for coaches to take the low road and in some ways ignore the negative tendencies of individual player’s if it doesn’t hinder the chances of overall team success.  

Quite frankly I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror as a coach if that was the case.   

To prepare every individual for the next level should be the ultimate goal for all coaches but in some strange way winning prompts coaches to accept negative tendencies thus vastly hindering the individual players ability to develop, improve and progress.  

It was a tremendously difficult transition for this first year player, he knew he could score but the tendencies within his individual skill set were easy to game plan against and teams simply eliminated his offensive chances because of his lack of diversity within his game.  As a coach, it was difficult to play him in certain situations in tight games due to his offensive tendencies and poor decision-making based on his lack of experience playing in the defensive zone.   

I continued to reassure him and his parents throughout the season that by the end of that year he would be a very well rounded player and would excel at both ends.   From an offensive perspective he struggled as well because of a dip in confidence from not scoring goals at the same clip and a lack of diversity in his scoring touch. 

As coaches this is the fine line we walk, from the player’s camp they believe and witness their son or daughter’s production drastically decline and automatically look at time on ice and opportunities given by the coach.  From a coaching perspective it may seem clear, but if it’s a common tendency not to communicate to parents then friction can quickly surface.  

Tendencies in players and coaches can be equally detrimental for both parties involved. As coaches we have to be fully committed to our culture and philosophy and stay within those parameters throughout the entire season to promote consistency, individual success, but more importantly overall team success.  

We have to stress the importance and identify negative tendencies within players to ensure progression within the game and strive for individual skill development and improvement.   

As coaches we have to be able to explain, diagnosis and evaluate player tendencies and thoroughly review and communicate them to parents and players so everyone involved is on the same page.    

The overall outcome and goal to develop the player should take precedence over personal stats and winning.  

To eliminate detrimental tendencies within young players is greatest attribute a coach can possess.  

Unfortunately, tendencies amongst coaches determine alternative results in overall skill development of the individual.  

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