Show me a great coach, and I will show you a human being with a tremendous ego.
Some may come across more brash than others, but all share at least one common bond. If you are a successful coach in any sport, you no doubt believe that you can impact the outcome of an event without making one physical contribution yourself. It is, in part, about believing that you can control people, and therefore situations, even if you are not on the field of play. It takes a great deal of confidence, and yes ego, to believe you have that type of power. In the NHL, the personalities of the men behind the bench differ greatly (see Darryl Sutter and John Tortorella in recent press conferences for an example of the contrast). However, they all share a similar inflated idea of their own importance.
As you move on and coach at higher levels, your belief that you can control outcomes of games becomes closer to reality. When we throw a puck out and let a group of Mites play a cross-ice game, we would be crazy to think that much of anything we say or draw up in the ensuing 30 minutes will impact the end results. Aside from the childish nature of the adult's behavior, this is why it can be so frustrating to watch coaches at youth levels yell from the bench. By the time the average 8-year-old realizes you are yelling at him to get into the position on the ice you desire, the opportunity to make the play you saw developing has surely passed.
When we coach a team at the high school level, it is safe to say we can now positively or negatively impact a game. I once played for a great coach who would essentially take responsibilty for one goal a game. If we were to lose 6-1, he was aware that all of the "right moves" in the world would not have been the difference, as we would have been out-worked or out-classed. But, if the game was 2-1, he knew there was a good chance that somehwere within the confines of those 60 minutes, he probably could have made different decisions to positively impact the outcome. By creating different match-ups, calling a timeout, or simply working harder in preparation leading up to the game, he could have allowed us a chance to make up the miniscule difference between a loss and a tie. We respected that about him, and to the best of our ability, worked that much harder to ensure the "blame" didn't fall on him with a one-goal defeat.
USA Hockey's American Development Model has set up guidelines for effective ways to coach, teach, and manage a season at all levels. Here is what they had to say about coaching players entering the Midget and High School levels:
Building the “engine” and consolidating sports skills
Optimal training window for speed (second speed window)
Develop anaerobic lactic power & capacity
Optimal training window for “Strength”
12 – 18 months after Peak Height Velocity
Play hockey 40% of the time, play multiple sports or engage in activities like soccer, running, gymnastics, swimming, skiing or other activities 25% of the time and engage in fitness through other sports (like lacrosse, baseball, golf, track and field, etc.) 35%.
18 – 36 players per practice session
3 – 4 ice touches per week
60 to 80 minutes per session
120 total ice touches
7 – 8 month training and competition calendar
Off-ice training as appropriate to each individual’s stage of development
80 - 85 practices
1-2 teams per session
35 to 45 games
16 skaters and 2 goalies per team
I was fortunate to be a member of a wildly successful High School team. A great deal of that success can be attributed to our coach putting a part of his ego aside and following the majority of these "rules" years before they were ever conveniently given to us on a website.
We spent our off-seasons, and a good part of the season focusing on the aforementioned speed and anaerobic training. We dedicated ourselves to the weight room almost daily in the summer, and a couple of days a week during the year. We were encouraged to play other sports, and eventually saw as many athletes go on to collegiate careers in other areas of athletics as we did in hockey. There was what, at times, seemed like an excessive number of players on the roster (30 or so in all), but each served a key role. Practices were held four days a week for around 75 minutes a session, with the last 15 often dedicated to face-offs or other specialized areas of individual skill development. Finally, we played a 25-30 game high school schedule with roughly 15 additional games played as part of a split season with our local youth hockey association.
Basically, our coaching staff ran a textbook model before the textbook or the model ever became commonly accepted and promoted.
A 52-4-1 record during our final two seasons of High School hockey was our collective reward for the coaches adherence to ideas similar to the above guidelines.
One final piece of advice...If you are new to coaching and looking for a successful system to develop players within your youth organization, don't let your ego lead you to emulating the actions of the NHL coaches you see on television. Just go to this website....The answers are already there.