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The Power of Post-Season Communication

By Hal Tearse, Associate Coach in Chief, Minnesota District, USA Hockey, 03/18/13, 12:15PM CDT

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At the end of each season, all players should take some time to review their performance and quality of experience playing the game. This process transcends the win-loss record of the team and looks at individual development and overall quality of the experience. There are no so called “life lessons” on the score board and only through intentional review and discussions in the proper context can the real benefits of playing athletics be realized.

All top-level organizations have feedback mechanisms to help individuals develop. Without this type of communication and process between player and coach, individual player development is likely to be slowed. This is very true in athletics as well as in the business world.

Spending time with players individually to help them assess their performance for the past season and provide input for their development in the off-season is very powerful and important. Many players lack focus and spend a lot of time doing things that may not help them improve their performance on ice.  Knowing how to focus on the right things that will produce meaningful improvement is important for most kids 12 and older.

This type of reflection and feedback process should occur between coach and player at all levels, but is particularly important at bantam/U14 and above, including high school and juniors. Without an effective and intentional feedback process, players have a hard time knowing how to move forward effectively and reach their personal potential.

The topics of conversation in these meeting would include any of the following:

  • What was the highlight of the season for you?
  • What was your biggest disappointment of the year?
  • In which areas do you think you improved this season?
  • What factors do you think are present that prevent you from reaching your development goals?
  • How do you think the season went for the team?
  • Do you have any plans in the offseason to continue your development as an athlete and hockey player?
  • How can I help you in your development process?

All of these questions will elicit response from the player and a coach can then probe for more information about specifics. The conversations will be rich in information for coaches and can lead to suggestions and recommendations for the player to move forward.

There are also a couple other topics that should be discussed and they include:

  • What did you like about practice and what did you dislike?
  • What can the coaches do more of or less of to make next years team a better experience?
  • Do you have any suggestions or thoughts for the coaches?

Through this process, the coach should remember to use a 5-1 positive to negative ratio in comments and evaluations of skills and ability.  This is important for every player whether they are returning to the team the next season or moving on.

These types of individual conversations with all the team members are also very important for coaches at all levels. The answers and information that players share will be enlightening to coaches and should help any coach to be better at developing players and understanding how the experience under their leadership was received and viewed by players.

For the process to be most effective, player/coach meetings should occur at the beginning of the season and the end of the season. This will provide a framework for discussion and help to build rapport between coach and player. During the season, mini meetings can and should occur on a regular basis. These quick meetings maybe short checking in conversations or could be longer if there are issues present that need to be addressed.

The downside to this process is that it takes time and energy by a coach to implement but the information shared will be far more valuable than the time invested and the shared experience of team greatly enhanced.

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