“If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
That old saying is probably running through the minds of countless coaches when it’s winning time and they decide to shorten the bench.
We have all shortened the bench. Obviously, it’s a coaches job to put the right players on the ice at the right times. When the heat is on, you need players you can trust on the ice, when the heat is on you need players on the ice that will trust themselves in those moments.
Nevertheless, who’s responsibility is it to teach them how to play and handle those situations?
When the heat is on in a tight game, why do coaches shorten their benches way too early and often?
Is it that they don’t trust ALL of their players?
Do coaches feel they don’t want to set certain players up for failure?
Wouldn’t it be great that every player would feel the heat from time to time throughout the season so when the chips are down they knew what to expect and how their body and mind would feel and react when it matters most?
If players are sitting or benched because it’s just the way it goes at that level, then that’s just wrong on so many levels. They won’t be prepared for anything.
Every player has to be valued, every player should be valued, it’s a team game. You win as a team and you lose as a team. If a coach is going to play the shit out of just a few players when the heat is on and wonder why certain others can’t handle the heat when thrown into the fire they need to take a long look at themselves not the players.
You see all of this comes down to a cultural coaching mindset and philosophy. How is a player going to learn and develop when they are denied ice time, “just because” throughout the season?
Sitting on the bench because you’re in over your head because you’re not ready or prepared or given the opportunity is just plain wrong.
If you’re on the bench because the player isn’t ready to play at that level and was selected for depth or because their parents were tight with the coaching staff then that’s bull shit to and everyone fails in that scenario.
Some associations have given minor hockey coaches free reign in the final 5mins of the game to shorten their bench.
The vast majority of the hockey world is no doubt torn when it comes to this topic.
The question remains, why would you select the player, if you’re not going to play them in every situation or teach them how to play in those situations. Why would you select a player or expect a player to be ready to handle anything that comes their way when you don’t expose them to the heat at different intervals of the season.
Play your top players all you want, but prepare everyone to play in every situation, shorten the bench when messages need be sent, moves players up and down the line up, but don’t “ghost bench” kids for being the perceived weakness link when the heat on.
You can tell a lot about the players when the heat is on, but you can tell a lot about the coaches and staff in those moments as well.
Shortening a bench throughout the season and only playing a select few doesn’t get the team ready for the big moments or games, it gets “certain select” players ready for those moments not everyone.
When the heat is on you need the right players on the ice at the right times. That’s good coaching, that’s good bench management, but what happens when there’s injuries or penalties or when your top players are utterly exhausted?
Every kid needs to know what it’s like playing with the heat on at every level.
Shortening the bench will win you hockey games, teaching kids how to play under every circumstance the game presents will win you the games that matter most.
When things get a little intense and the heat is on in October and November, how does everyone on the bench react?
Is it the same the reaction as when the heat gets turned on in the playoffs?
Who was on the ice at the start of the year?
Who is on the ice now?
How does the coach and every player on the bench handle things when the heat is on?
Have the same mistakes been happening when the heat gets turned up throughout the year?
Have those mistakes been addressed?
Have those mistakes or tendencies been practiced?
Has every kid experienced the heat?
Isn’t developmental hockey all about development?
What happens when the heats on!