September 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm #790
One topic I’m noticing discussed more and more in other coaching forums is the idea of a youth hockey organization having a senior coach to mentor all other coaches in the program. What I find interesting is that this seems to be going on mostly in Canada and Europe.
As I read posts on that subject, I foresee only a couple of obstacles to an otherwise awesome idea…
1) In some province- or state-run applications, I’ve heard that the mentor isn’t as available as was hoped. (I think this might parallel those put in charge of some district ADM Programs in the US, whereby guys lobby for the title and the money, but they don’t want to actually fulfill what’s expected of them.) This is why I believe an in-house or organizational approach is far better.
2) There is always at least the potential for some coaches to rebel against another coach overseeing their work — blame that on egos, I guess.
Still, as I said above, I believe this is an awesome idea, and I also believe the benefits of such a program would far outweigh the initial hassles or obstacles involved in getting it going.
With that, I’d love to hear the thoughts of others.October 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm #841
I spoke to the director of hockey at my home rink trying to get a mentoring program going for the last two years with no results. My suggestion was to have the DoH and the assigned Mentor to start the season with a list of directives that should be accomplished be each team, an overall theme for the season and a monthly follow up meeting. The Mentor would then assist each team as needed to help in all areas, whether it be in practice, game or locker room situations. The Mentor would not be the Coach, just an experience resource.
Unfortunately, there has been resistance from the DoH and mostly first and second year coaches. I don’t understand the resistance since I’ve always looked for those coaches who would help me do a better job. So if anyone out there has a “Mentor Program” out there that has been successful, please chime in with some of your procedures.October 2, 2013 at 6:06 pm #842
Well, Steve, we commend you for trying, and we hope you keep trying. We seem to agree that the benefits of a mentoring program would be worth it, if an organization can overcome a few hurdles.
And, that brings us to something we think we all have to consider — in this instance, and in any other worthwhile endeavor: If something is truly worth it, it’s worth busting through some obstacles.
So, like you, Steve, we’ll look forward to hearing from anyone else who has had experience in this area.October 4, 2013 at 7:14 am #868
First, Dennis, well done on the website!
A couple of weeks ago Dennis asked me to write about the program that the local hockey association I’m working with has developed over the past two years. Our technical title is “Development Team” which is meant for the players. However, what is different, is our approach is to help our coaches become better coaches and thus they will transfer their knowledge and abilities to the kids.
Quickly about me, I’m 29, and have been involved with our association for 2 years and have coached/played some jr hockey along the way. I say this to acknowledge the reality of me being young and not overly experienced like Dennis or some others on this site. Maybe that’s why I was hesitant to get involved when Dennis asked. Be honest, if you’re 40-50 years old and some young kid comes in to be your mentor, or tries to encourage you to change your method of approach with the kids…it’s going to be resented, isn’t it?
Well our association, and more importantly the coaches, decided to buy in as a whole. Are there still come coaches who don’t see the value? Yes. But I would argue that’s the 80/20 rule. 80% of our coaches love the idea they have access now to resources, mentors, and development that is unparallelled in our area (we’re located 45 mins SW of Toronto).
Our association went from about a 250% winning percentage to about 420% last season. At this point this year overall (as of Tuesday night when I last looked) the association is 4 games below .500. That’s with 30 travel (rep) teams playing from Tyke to Midget.
I’m sorry for the long winded reply but I guess this is my way of apologizing to Dennis for not taking him up on the opportunity to write about our program and it’s success, trials, tribulations, along the way.
If there is interest from other coaches out there for more information on how our program works, how it got started, or anything else please let me know and maybe Dennis and I can work on some articles to add to the site along the way.
Thanks for reading….hopefully to the end of it! lol
SoupyOctober 4, 2013 at 7:53 am #869
That’s awesome, Soupy, and no need to apologize. (I know I was a 20-something coach — too many years ago, and I didn’t have all the confidence in the world. It comes, however, if we just keep plodding away and studying the game.)
I think that’s a really good start in explaining your organization’s version of a mentoring program. I’m wondering, though, if you can tell us how it works on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. I mean, some of the questions that immediately come to mind are…
– Do you have regularly scheduled coaches’ meetings? If so, what’s their main purpose?
– How were the so-called mentors selected?
– Do the mentors on their own observe the other coaches, or do they wait until they’re asked for help?
Again, those are the questions that come to my mind right now.
Do others have different questions? I think the more coaches who get involved here, the better we might gain an understanding of maybe what will and won’t work.October 4, 2013 at 8:55 am #873
As things stand today, to answer some of your questions, our program works as follows:
To start GMHA hired a gentlemen to come in and provide guidance to the mentor program to get started. He introduced us to the idea of “Play/Practice Methodology” and this is to be a 5 year plan. We are currently in year two and learning as we go. That “Guru” has since left (due to circumstances beyond our control) however the “Mentors” he got involved, such as myself, have stuck around and we are off and running taking his idea and modifying the overall approach to better suit our needs. We did have to pay this “Guru” to get it started but it was well worth it. At this point after what I’ve learned from doing this and being involved as I have, I believe any association can start a program as this. What you need though is a dedicated couple of board members who are willing to challenge the old school ideas, take criticism, and hold firm that what they’re doing is for the KIDS! It helps our coaches but the goal always has to be how does this help out kids…and then it helps to have some “hockey people” who are willing to put their names and faces behind it.
We have about 5 coach mentors currently. Reality is about 2 of us actually do the majority of our “mentor sessions”. Our mentors were chosen for various reasons but the primary reasons became “Experience, ability, knowledge and a willingness to help implement the GMHA philosophy of play”. Basically what that means is are these mentors going to do things their way or are they willing to buy into the overall concept of what GMHA wants to achieve and the style of play we’d like to have as an association. Every association could adopt a different style of play and use the exact same “mentor program” to implement it. The “Mentors” are paid per session they work. A nominal fee but enough to say thank you for their time.
What we do is schedule each team (30 rep teams) to have about 4-6 “mentor sessions” with a mentor throughout the year. The goal of this “session” is to have the mentor go out and provide help on the ice, or from the background (whichever the coach is comfortable with- we don’t force our way on the ice where we are not welcomed) and provide feedback on their practice (to both the development team and the coach). That feedback can be as simple as showing coaches how to utilize the same drills their doing in a more efficient manner, to helping work on the power play, to teaching a tyke coach how to teach a tyke player how to properly shoot a puck. The feed back is taken into account for next season during the coach selection committee as is the utilization of the developmental clinics we provide.
On top of these sessions we also provide in house developmental clinics. We have people from the Ontario Hockey League, to CIS (University hockey) coaches such as myself and other various types of people to come in and talk to our coaches. The “Development Team” pays for this out of our budget. Typically get get about 35 coaches (all coaches and assistants invited) out to our clinics. We’ve had clinics on practice methods/habits/planning, Dzone, creating offense, shooting techniques, half ice practice planning, and mental preparation while many more are coming down the line. We understand that not every clinic applies to every level of play but we do our best to ensure every age group and level of player gets some attention.
I don’t want to go too much in depth here because there is a lot of little details that have added up to get us to where we are now. In the end though what this program has provided for coaches is access to opportunities, resources, and coaches that they otherwise would not have had access to.
Hope this has helped provide some insight into our program. If you have any questions please let me know and you can always email me at email@example.com if you’d like to talk more in depth.
Please remember though just because this is what we have adopted and our development team is running with it doesn’t mean it’s right. It means it’s right for us.October 4, 2013 at 9:39 am #874
All I can say, Soupy, is “Wow!” That is unbelievable information, and plenty enough for any organization to begin thinking about.
As I was reading along, I think I noticed a couple of things I might do a little differently. As you suggest, though, the rough outline would be a great start for any program, and from there adjustments could be made to fit unique wants or needs.
As an aside here — especially for those concerned about board members embracing such a program… It’s been my experience that just about every complaint in youth hockey comes back to coaching. A good many people leave a program because of a coach, and a good many stick with a program because of a coach. That in mind, I think that anything that helps coaches be better at what they do is going to be equally good for the organization, and it’s obviously going to be good for their kids.
Thanks again, Soupy, and now I’m really hoping some others will help expand this conversation even further.October 4, 2013 at 10:54 am #876
Coach, I think you’re bang on about the consistent emphasis on positive or negative experiences, at every level, from all associations across North America, the hockey world really, boils down to coaching.
I would encourage anyone who is trying to broach the subject of Coach Mentor’s with their association to contact me, if they want.
I hope some others start to add their thoughts/questions as well. Looking forward to the conversation and engagement that will come with this!October 4, 2013 at 11:21 am #877
It’s funny but, although youth hockey organizers don’t often look at things this way, the strength of their programs is usually in the quality of the coaching they offer. And, I see no better way to improve coaching, year to year, except with a good mentoring program.October 4, 2013 at 7:39 pm #878
Nice work by your organization. Just the simple fact that you got coaches and board members on the same page means you can move the program forward with a common philosophy. That’s huge. You’ll end up with better coaches, teams and players just because you have more experienced eyes watching.
So many organizations are set in there ways. If the ice time is sold then there is no reason to progress. A little ego can go a long way if the rink wants to hang a few more banners. Your winning percentage shows you are moving in the right direction and yet you think it’s “right for you” but not necessarily right for others. Let me tell you that when an Organization works as a team it benefits all involved.
No one does everything right or has all the answers, but the simple fact that you collaborate as a group will allow you to quickly ID problems and find solutions.October 5, 2013 at 6:14 am #879
Thanks for those comments, Steve B.
And, let me echo a sentiment you seem to agree with… I’ve personally always been hard on someone who isn’t at least trying, while I have a lot of patience with anyone I believe is giving it their best. I don’t care if a player, coach or anyone else keeps failing, so long as they are just trying.
And that brings us to those youth programs that seemingly have their heads in the sand, or especially the ones who do so almost on purpose.
Actually, in a fairly long discussion with a youth hockey parent last night, he told me about needing to pull his kids from the local youth program. As we’ve all come to realize, those kinds of problems usually boil down to difficulties with a coach. Of course, the coach doesn’t always have to be at fault — players or parents can be as guilty. However, here’s my observation on this one…
Even in games where the team is losing by a lopsided score (and I guess most of the games run this way), the coach in question “shortens his bench”, or stops playing those kids he considers his lesser skaters. I could go off on a tangent about a lot of things I see going wrong here, but a mentor coach surely would help guide the erring head coach through this one. (Actually, I believe any organization that is looking to do the right thing would deal with this problem whether a mentoring system is in place or not.)
Then, although this might be slightly off the subject, I feel the need to point out that youth organizations around the country are structured in different ways. Many are non-profit programs run solely by volunteers — from board members down to coaches. Some are more like for-profits, with most coaches being compensated at least in some way. Then, there are those organizations that are controlled by a rink — whether it says so on paper or not, and most of their coaches are also somehow compensated (although I know of some such programs that are rink run and staffed by volunteers).
All that said, I can’t believe there’s a single group described up there that shouldn’t want to keep their current players while attracting new ones. And, since we’ve pretty much agreed here that quality coaching seems the best way to accomplish both, it just makes sense to me that they would all benefit from a well run mentoring program.October 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm #880
I still find it difficult to believe that “Rinks/Organizations” no matter how they are set up are more inclined to adopt the new ADM, as opposed to a a system that better trains their coaches. Mentoring is a proven method not only in education but also in business. Why not apply it to sports when both areas are covered. The result is good for the organization, the coaches and the players. Not to mention it keeps kids coming back and new ones joining.October 5, 2013 at 2:07 pm #881
Ya know, there might be some out there resisting it, Steve. However, my gut tells me that’s a small sampling, and not enough hockey organizations really know about it so far.
I also believe mentoring hasn’t been packaged in the right way yet. Just imagine if every organization in North America received something that explained it well — something like Soupy did, but even a little more dressed up. Again, going by my gut, I believe something like that might take off fairly well. And, like anything else, a few successful mentoring programs would soon become models for others to follow (either willingly or in a panic).October 5, 2013 at 2:53 pm #882
Soupy is in a market just outside of Toronto, where needless to say, program competition is fierce. Mentoring is not new and teams/organizations find funds to support growth more readily than many markets in the USA. I know from chatting with him earlier that he had a tough go to start and the financial aspect was a great concern, but he’s getting results.
As for our markets, we are generally faced with a lot of coaches with little experience that “know everything” and they are supported by their organizations without question unless their win/loss percentage is embarrassing. Unfortunately, my district has so little competition and choices there is no pressure to change for the better.October 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm #883
You’re right at the start there were concerns about where the money would go and how it would be spent. Having done this for more than a year now I think it’s fair to say that based on what we pay our mentors ($25/hour) cost isn’t that big of a deal. I thought it would be. When a goalie coach comes out to help a team they charge $75-$100. Power skating often more. Now, up here are we more likely to put the money into a program, I think yes. However, if any association, in the U.S. or Canada wants to find someone to develop a program for you I think there’s enough “high end” coaches out there who would be willing to give back. And I honestly believe that the hockey world has some great people who do things for more than simply money. Most associations also have a pool of money that they set aside each year- or they should be anyways- that enables them to continue to ensure that their costs are covered. If you were to have 15 teams and pay a “guru” develop a plan for you he might charge 3-5 grand. It’s a lot of work to do and he needs to be compensated for his time and efforts. Add in one “mentor” session per month at $25 each time the total costs for each team would be about $500. When it’s broken down like that I do think each association can find a way to come up with $500 towards each teams development.
Now on the other side you are right certain areas don’t have many high end coaches. But that’s where the “Guru” comes in. He’s there to help implement the program and from there find a couple of coaches who can help- with the help from the associations and hopefully the local Jr./Ncaa teams in the area. Easier said than done I fully recognize that.
You mentioned the “coaches who know everything”…trust me I deal with them every day. Had one tonight, been coaching for 25 years, coached some JR. and he is doing a novice (7 year olds) AE team (3rd team). I mentioned I’d like to see the kids moving more. Nothing wrong with any drills he did except that the kids are bored and aren’t moving. The tactics behind what he wanted to do were great, no issues, however the approach he took to do it was very boring and it showed in the kids. This is where you need the support of a “Guru” for me as a mentor to ask the “guru” how to approach this guy. You also have to have the association behind you so that if the coach takes things personally vs constructively they have your back. It’s difficult but with communication I truly believe you can bring around about 80% of the coaches. And the ones who don’t buy into the associations philosophy and approach…do you really want them around? Would a parent with minimal hockey knowledge at the Tyke or Atom age groups be better off in the long run? Help that coach become better while he’s doing what the association wants. To me that’s going to create a stronger program from top to bottom and thus, hopefully, attract better coaches to the program.
On that idea what we’re considering doing is hiring a person to be a coach “recruiter”. The Kitchener Minor association which is about 15 minutes away from us has an OHL team. They paid one of their assistant coaches a nominal (and it wasn’t a lot, honestly) some money to help ‘recruit’ coaches. When someone of that pedigree calls a coach and says “We want you”…it has power.
Not saying that teams in Florida, Texas, California won’t have bigger issues and challenges to ‘recruit’ good coaches but I don’t think it’s going to hurt trying it either.
To touch on something else; what we have also done is we have our coaches email the “guru” with his questions. He answers them but sends the answers out to all the coaches. We also have an online resource, that’s just starting, that our coaches can go to at our website to find drills, games, tactics, and other ideas to utilize. It makes the coaches feel they can turn somewhere for some help. Maybe that’s the way an association like yours can start? The person doing the answering and putting the drills online doesn’t even have to be from the area. In theory I could do it from here for at team in Dallas.
Just a thought but maybe something you can bring forwards to your executives as an idea to bridge things towards a mentor program overall?
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.