This thread is for discussing how we can make a greater impact on coaching methodologies... how we can become better coaches and in turn, make those coaches and players around us better.
John ("The Colombian") and I have been continually evolving as coaches and we are developing solutions to these areas. We have synthesized the Game Sense methodology, first purported by Thorpe in the UK in the 1980's, and the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) and Play Practice techniques, into what we call the "Game Intelligence Training" approach (GIT) is our proposed solution. I have hinted at a few of our techniques below and I will continue to post aspects of this approach over time; along with other projects we are working on that will help make a positive difference to the professional development of coaches and players. It is our passion and purpose in life!
The following opinion is based on my own personal experience as a player (retiring in 1986 to become a coach), a coach, a coach mentor / evaluator, someone who has contributed to developing coaching videos, manuals and certification content for Hockey Canada, one who has taught at the university level in neuro-motor psychology, decision training, coaching and strength and conditioning and one who has taught at skill academies for several years. I spend most of my 'free time' researching the areas of pedagogy, expertise and talent identification, neuro-motor psychology and decision-making. I have worked for longer than the criteria of 10 years / 10,000 hours of deliberate practice commonly accepted to become known as an expert and continue to do so as I am passionate about coaching and teaching!
I don't believe Hockey Canada and Hockey Alberta (and other provincial governing bodies) spend enough time (or focus on the right aspects) on developing the coach and their abilities to teach; nor is there enough post-course / exam / evaluation mentorship provided. The governing bodies seem to be more concerned with providing a quick overview of communication and planning (the 'soft' side of coaching); then they spend the majority of the time teaching team tactics, systems and strategies and even the 'science' of coaching.
I have been trying to work 'from the inside' to help influence and initiate change but have had limited success so far. The hockey culture, while slowing changing, is still controlled by people who were products of a bygone era. I admit, I am frustrated by the pace of change (or lack thereof). So I am doing my small part in sharing on this forum... consider it a form of catharsis for me!
Without properly addressing the base skills of coaching (excellent teaching), we end up with an inverse pyramid that is doomed to collapse. Our base foundation is too weak and can't support the rest of the top-heavy structure! It doesn't matter if the coach knows a 1-2-2 from a left-wing lock; if he can't see the strengths and weaknesses in his own players (and if he doesn't know how to improve these weaknesses or design ways to hide these weaknesses, or see what the other teams S & W's are to take advantage of them) then what good is the all the knowledge in the world if you can't impart it to your players and other coaches?
I don't think we prepare our players to play the game properly. By this I mean we don't know HOW to capture and develop healthy, respectful competitiveness; link purposeful practices to games to purposeful practices (yearly / seasonal / macrocycle / mesocycle / minicycle planning); nor do we know HOW to design meaningful activities that capture those elements we are trying to improve.
We have little or no idea on how many puck touches and 'time with puck' our players have in a game... based on position. We have even less idea on this number in practice. HOW do we know if an activity is achieving it's purpose? I see far too many of the drills running too long, without purpose or correction or feedback at the end, with far too few people active. When they are active, it is for 10 seconds or less... and they may not touch a puck for the entire repetition! In a 15 minute drill, an individual player may take 20 repetitions, for a total time involvement of 3 minutes and 20 seconds! What are they doing for that other 12:40?
We don't know HOW to make drills into game-like situations (to develop hockey sense) - keeping track of performance ('the score') - nor do we know HOW to hold players accountable to their performance.
We tend to become 'spectator coaches' during practice and games. We do a poor job of paying attention to details in practice. These make a huge difference when it comes to the games! "You get what you accept!"
When should we stop the activity to provide or ask for feedback from our players? Why do we tend to 'tell' the players rather than ask them... or provide them with guidelines and let them figure it out (FIO)? After all, the game is the best teacher! How do we limit or extend the bandwidth for the feedback?
In short, I don't think we don't provide enough guidance towards the "Art of Coaching" during our coach certification - especially at the higher certification levels! (Hockey Canada no longer requires the sequential accumulation of certification. In other words, you can jump right in for certification at the level you are coaching. At the higher levels, there is minimal time spent on the Art of Coaching; it is more heavily-biased (almost exclusively) to the science and X's and O's!) I don't think we offer enough practical experience or followup contact / mentorship - at our lower levels. (I suppose this also applies to the higher levels too.)
I would be curious to hear from other coaches - their coach certification experiences (good and bad - what topics they would keep, add, subtract - any recommendations at all) and if they act as course conductors, what their impressions are of their content, delivery, evaluation and mentorship models for their area / country.
What aspects of the game / practice do you yourself, as a coach / administrator / course conductor, feel you need to improve upon? How do you think you can improve these shortcomings... can you think of ways to get better (and share them here?)
Please contribute to this thread and check back for responses. The off-season is a great time to reflect and plan...
I will continue to add elements of our "Game Intelligence Training" methodology and details about our upcoming projects to help improve the coaching community and ultimately, the players and the game!