“You’re playing great.” “You do all the little things right.” “Keep on working hard, your time will come.” “Love your skill, keep it up.” “You’re move up the line up, keep doing what you’re doing.”
Players at every level hear these lines all the time. Sadly those players never move up the line up, always work hard, do all the little things right and continue to play to their identity and beyond, but never get rewarded.
You see this is hockey’s quintessential form of mixed messaging.
Coaches and programs talk about transparency and player development all the time, unfortunately some stifle growth development and opportunity by providing mixed messages that leave the player and their family frustrated and confused.
There are some in the hockey world that believe opportunity is earned. Of course it is, but when it comes to the lower levels of minor hockey, opportunities take on political alliances or the bench always tends to tip in favour of only the few.
Obviously, the mixed messaging starts early and often which is really sad if you think about it. For many players and their families it sucks the fun and excitement right out of the game. The mixed messaging starts off as potentially the coach getting a feel for new players and personalities and the overall team. It quickly turns the other way when the messaging gets lost in translation from the coach to the player and on to the parents.
Mixed messaging is like quicksand, there’s no escaping and no matter how hard you try to do everything they say, you keep sinking faster and faster. Sinking confidence, sinking passion and ironically sinking down the lineup.
Mix messaging isn’t the business side of the game or “just the way things work”. Mix messaging is another form of head games which ultimately strings players and families along.
The best coaches and programs out there are quick to create a team first culture where every player is valued and appreciated. The best programs always create healthy competitive spirit amongst players and provide equal opportunity for upward mobility within the line up.
The best programs promote and celebrate the little things each player does and the sacrifices they make. The best programs out there right now are sending mixed messages, they are up front and honest. They make sure the players and families understand the messaging and feedback in a clear concise and professional manner.
Mix messaging comes from several different entities, while quality and productive feedback comes from the same source every time. The feedback can ultimately change throughout the season depending on what the coach observes, evaluates and projects, but the structure of the messaging is consistently delivered in the same manner no matter what. There’s no opportunity for mixed messages when quality feedback occurs and everyone remains on the same page.
Mixed messages are a far cry from up front and honest quality feedback.
Wouldn’t it be great to suggest that the lines of communication and transparency within the game continue to improve at each level or ascension in the game.
Mixed messaging isn’t always caused by coaches. Mixed messaging can also be caused by hockey crazed over the top parents prying into the inner workings of a team. Their disruptive actions throw a wrench into any productive feedback being delivered to their son or daughter or any player for that matter.
“Oh don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they are talking about or doing”
That’s the messaging that’s always delivered from those types of hockey parents.
Yet again we see the kid, stuck in the middle of mixed messaging and truly not knowing where to turn.
The messages are coming from every direction imaginable, and usually they are coming at warp speed.
The best coaches and programs always know how to decipher and navigate mixed messaging coming in from outside sources when it involves their hockey club.
The best coaches and programs are those that communicate the best.
Everyone knows exactly where they stand, their role and their value and no one player or person is bigger than the team.
I hope you all have a chance to experience a hockey coach and program like the one described above. Until then, good luck navigating all the mixed messages surrounding the game.