At the beginning of the season, the head coach steps up in front of the group of parents and, after she/he has said all the ‘hockey stuff’ they usually finish with… “Oh, and we need someone to step up and be our team manager.”
Immediately, each seasoned parent looks around at each other hoping that someone else would be willing to volunteer. Invariably, there is at least one parent who has been the team manager in a previous season, or with another team that another one of their kids have been on in the past. Guess who ends up taking on the role? Yep! Reluctantly, the parent who started out as a team manager in Squirts, is now the veteran team manager to whom everyone in the room is looking at to help lead this team of parents.
While the coaches develop practice plans, player development plans, and work with assistant coaches to make sure the players experience is what it should be, there is another constituent that needs to be given a good experience as well… and that is the parents. I say lead this team of parents, because communication is probably the biggest area of work that our managers spend their time on. Not only are they communicating with the parents but are also leaned on by the head coach to assist with organizing scrimmages, communicating with the association and the district with questions.
Our team managers are those who take on a role which needs to transcend the needs of their own children and to put the needs of the other players, coaches, and parents ahead of their own. Ultimately, I have found that the parents’ experience is very much intertwined with the ability of a good team manager to deliver a positive experience through strong communication, organization, and self-less tasks that simply need to be done to keep the hockey-bus moving in the right direction daily.
Really, if you think about what the definition of a Chief Operating Officer is in business and compare that to what a team manager does for a youth hockey team, the similarities are amazing. In most companies, the COO of an organization is responsible for the day-to-day workings of a complex organization. They spend time coordinating and managing resources throughout the firm so that they are aligned with the stated vision set forth by the executive committee, president, and regulatory bodies with the intent of ensuring successful execution every day on behalf of the shareholder. Similarly, the team manager spends their time coordinating resources between the association(s) (board of directors), the head coach (president), and the district (regulatory body) so that the team can function throughout the season. All the while, ensuring that the communication and direction to the existing shareholders (the parents) is clear and understandable.
As coaches, even though we know how valuable our managers are and how much we appreciate them, all too often we make their jobs harder. Whether it’s indecision or wavering on scrimmages, not planning far enough in advance or unintentionally leaving them on an island for team expectations and communication, many times managers are asked to pick up the slack the best they can and pull it all together.
To say their role is important to having a successful season would be a massive understatement.
As we have just finished the season in Minnesota, I think we should all send a quick note of gratitude to our team managers and thank them for the unseen hours of work and effort that they have done to make this season as good as it could have been.
Remember, hockey is a team game, from the ice level through the administration. Thank you to all the team managers, assistant managers, co-assistant managers, assistants to the assistant managers, scrimmage coordinators, live streaming gurus, social media savants and everyone else who did not touch the ice this year, but yet had a profound impact on our team experience this year.
The View From Center Ice Blog
As a former goaltender growing up in the Detroit, MI area, Antonenko finished his high school hockey in Thief River Falls, MN, and got his coaching start with East Grand Forks Green Wave High School in 1991 while attending the University of North Dakota. He is a USA Hockey Level 4 Coach, USA Hockey Level 1 Official, Former Hockey Development Director for Armstrong/Cooper Youth Hockey, Former Coaches Board Chair for Orono Youth Hockey, and has coached teams of all ages and skill levels since 1991, girls and boys, from Mites through high school throughout the upper Midwest. He is the father of 3 girls and 2 boys who have all played through various levels of competitive hockey including the Girls Tier I Elite League outside of Minnesota, Minnesota High School Hockey, and juniors in the USPHL Premier League. He is currently involved as a non-parent coach in the Orono-Westonka Warriors girls hockey program.