You sit on the couch or your favorite bar stool and watch your hometown team on the TV all the time, right? You shout obscenities at the TV on what players should have done or blast your thoughts about their play on twitter to your 64 followers. You could be a coach, right? Seriously, how hard can it be? You, believe you know the game fairly well, you played up through Bantam A’s and now you already coach your little cousin’s Timbits team. So, why not make it a career! Well let’s get you started and tell you what it’s like to make your career as a hockey coach.
A day in the life of a hockey coach isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Some may thing that it’s a cake walk job, that you throw out some drills, make the lineup and tell them to change when they get tired. Wrong!
Being a coach in any sport, especially hockey, is craft that’s honed over years of learning the sport. Not only do you have to know the strategies behind the game, you must find a way to get your players to execute those strategies. Then those strategies change depending on the opponent your team will be facing that week. Those strategies will also change depending on who’s in your lineup that night and who’s in the opponent’s lineup that night. This is going on while the coach also has to be the team psychologist. There is always something else going on inplayer’s lives beyond hockey. As a coach, how do you help them to keep everything straight in their head and focused on the task at, which is playing to the best of their abilities? And when coaching Juniors, many coaches are forced to take on other roles too, such as, General Manager,Director of Hockey Operations, Equipment Manager, Marketing Director, Scout, or even Billet Coordinator.
Practice? What are you talking about, practice?
Practice is an essential element in preparing for games and for player development. A good coach not only is creating a practice plan that will help develop player’s skills, but also build team chemistry, help learn team systems, as well as have fun playing the game. Depending on the level of play, a coach could be creating a practice plan from 2-5 days a week. In a 32-game schedule in college/university, 42 games in Juniors, 54-82 games depending on the level of pros,the number practices in between will add up. This could mean anywhere between 60 and 160 practices a season. That does not even include post season play. It’s not always easy to keep things fresh and still create good habits when it comes to game time situations. That’s just on the ice. Don’t forget that there will be off ice meetings that get rolled into a part of “practice”. A coach will have to watch video or the other teams and watch video of their own team and be able to breakdown these videos to show the team. Then there is, defense meetings, forward meetings, and goalie meetings. Wait, you just thought you could make them do Herbies and work on shootout moves? Sorry, no!
Is your head in the game?
As I said earlier, a coach must be the team therapist as well. If not, then emotions run wild and the team loses its composure and chemistry. Off ice or life issues can seriously damage a player’s confidence and/or ability to play. If the issues off ice are a team problem, then if those problems are not solved, it could be detrimental to the team chemistry and the season. Some of these issues that might come up are...
Stresses of classwork, tests, and projects
Boyfriend/Girlfriend broke up with them and/or are fighting (this is especially hard if it’s a long-distance relationship, which has been covered in other HOH articles)
Uncomfortable billet situations
Death in the family
Getting called up and then sent back down
Partying to much
And that’s just to name a few. Many other situations can and will arise while you’re the coach. Players mental well being is a part of the coach’s responsibility as well. You want the players to be healthy as possible and performing to their very best, right?
I have so many hats, but only one head!
Depending on the league, the level of play, and the financial situation of the team, a coach can and will many hats within the organization. If the Head Coach is also the General Manager, then he/she will be attending weekly, sometimes daily meetings with the owner or board of directors. If they are not meeting, then I assure you there is thousands of texts and emails flyingback and forth all day, every day. Also, as the GM the coach will be watching the trade wire, handling finances, booking hotels, booking buses, planning meals, arranging player appearances, organizing fundraisers, joining community events, securing sponsors, speaking with media, hiring/firing staff members, and acquiring volunteers. That’s just during the season mind you. When the off-season hits, players will have exit interviews, they’ll be showcases to attend, recruitment meetings, phone calls, emails, texts, lots of driving and/or flying, league meetings, and oh yeah, making next season’s schedule (which is no sunny day on the beach, I promise you that).
Still want to be a coach? It’s stressful and high pressure, but for me, it’s the only job I’ve ever loved. And I’ve had plenty of different jobs. I wouldn’t trade this one in for anything, except maybe to play again. And the route most coaches have to take to get there is not an easy one.
But you just want to coach your favorite NHL/NWHL team because you can do a better job than them. Well, make it to the NHL/NWHL, play 1000 games or so, rack up at least 400-500 points, retire, and then say, “I want to coach!” Someone will hire you then. Good luck!