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Season Reflections: Now, Not Later

By Paul Antonenko, 04/15/21, 4:00PM CDT


Spring is upon us, which gives all our hockey families some time to step away from the rink and get focused on the soccer/lacrosse fields, baseball/softball diamonds, the golf course, tennis courts, and maybe even look forward to some lake time and family vacations. The grass is turning green, leaves are popping on the trees, and birds are back! There really is nothing more refreshing than the spring after the winter, no matter where you live. 

It is also the best time to reflect on the hockey season we just had and think about the success and failures we had as players, coaches, referees, association leaders and parents. The reason it is so important to do this reflecting right now, is because everything is fresh in our minds and there are concrete examples of our successes and failures that we can, and should, learn from so we are better next year. 

Like everything in life, if we do not take stock in what we have done, received, and given, then the true benefit of being part of this great game can get lost. 

It has been said many times over that there are more lessons to be learned by our failures than in our successes. While I fundamentally believe that is true, why do we end up making the same mistakes repeatedly? I think the reason is relatively simple: admitting failures and being honest about how we contributed to those failures is uncomfortable. Yet, the best way to make ourselves better and create a better future is to get uncomfortably honest about what we did, or should have done, to have been more successful, however you defined success. 

On the flip side, it is also WAY easier on the mind and soul to think about the successes we had in our roles because we are proud of those accomplishments and we all want to feel good.  Hence the reason so many of us, in whatever role we play in the game (player, parent, coach, referee, association leader), spend time talking about the successes and fun we had. In this case, it is just as important for us to be honest about how our actions contributed to, or detracted from, the successes that we had. 

I have always loved this self-reflecting question: “Were we successful because of what I did, or despite of it?”  An honest assessment of both the contributions to success and failure is key to the long-term future of this game and this should be a question that is asked by every constituent involved in the game from the players through to executive levels of USA Hockey.

I know that many associations now do a year-end survey of parents (and players in some cases) which is where some of the best feedback can be found about what need to be improved upon, and just as importantly what initiatives or programs made a positive impact! 

For those of you involved in these surveys:

  • To my fellow parents: provide feedback that is beneficial by giving it with best intentions.  By that, I mean make sure that any criticism you are providing is given to make the receiving person better, and not necessarily to make you feel better.  And make sure to also include what you felt the association or coach did well so they can continue to build upon those areas.  While you are providing that feedback, I would also suggest you reflect on how you contributed to your child’s success and failures this season too.  How might you change your approach to the game as a parent? For instance, here are a few ways I tried to evaluate myself after each season.
    • How did I do after games?  Was I more interested in what was done well, or what was done poorly?  Do I need to be more focused on asking questions first before I offer my opinion?
    • How did I contribute to the team environment?  Was I a positive influence with other parents and kids, or not?
  • To my fellow coaches and association leadership teams: I hope that you take the feedback from your year-end surveys and follow through on some of the changes requested. Does the feedback you receive match with your self-reflection of your success & failures? If you think back to your beginning-of-the-year meetings, have you followed through on what you said you would do? Do you need to adjust your next initial meeting agenda and philosophies? 

We all can do things better. The question of course is, “Are we willing to understand what should be done better and have the courage to make changes to ensure a better future?”

Paul Antonenko

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.

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