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Top 5 Qualities of Excellent Hockey Coaches

By Minnesota Hockey, 01/23/17, 9:00AM CST


Being a good coach isn’t always an easy task. Like teachers, coaches are trusted to pass on the skills necessary for children to succeed in specific areas while also enhancing their overall personal development.

The joy and excitement kids have for sports provides coaches a unique opportunity to make a significant and long-lasting impression in just a single season. Every adult can tell stories of coaches they really liked growing up, as well as those who had the opposite effect.

So the question is, what really separates the best coaches?

We took a look back at past nominations from our Coaching Excellence Award program, which annually recognizes youth hockey coaches in Minnesota, to see what players and parents felt made certain coaches their favorites. Here are the five most common characteristics in order of most frequently mentioned.

1.) Make the game fun.

First and foremost, parents and players love coaches who share a passion and energy for the game while making fun a priority at practices and games.

T-2.) Make all players feel valued.

A big component of child development is building identity and confidence. Coaches who make a point to ensure every player feels like an important part of the team typically have a lasting impact on kids. One nomination by a parent of a Bantam A player explained how providing equal playing time, especially on special teams and at the ends of games, gave the players huge boosts of confidence and inspired them to work harder in practice.

T-2.) Focus on the process of development on and off the ice.

Every parent hopes their kid(s) learns more than simply hockey skills when playing the game so it should come as no surprise that a focus on life lessons was listed as a key characteristic of great coaches. The three most referenced concepts for coaches to help players develop were being a good teammate, showing respect (to teammates, coaches, parents and officials) and handling adversity.

4.) Find ways to communicate in a positive way.

In most cases, learning a new skill or concept doesn’t happen on the first try. Coaches who are able to first instruct and then positively encourage players as they progress through the learning process are more likely to keep kids excited about the game and motivated to improve.

5.) Dedicated to being a good coach.

Coaching youth sports requires a time commitment, but the coaches who really stand out are dedicated to being the best coach they can be every time they walk into the rink. That includes being prepared with a practice plan, having a positive attitude (even after bad days at work) and evaluating how they can improve their own coaching as well as how they can best help the kids.

Does your child’s youth hockey coach showcase these qualities? Minnesota Hockey, in partnership with Park Dental, provides the HEP Coaching Excellence Award to recognize youth hockey coaches at all levels whose behaviors provide for a positive athletic experience, allowing players to develop to their greatest potential, have fun and learn to love the game.

“The Coaching Excellence Award is all about recognizing coaches that have their priorities right,” said Steve Morse, HEP Coordinator for Minnesota Hockey. “Caring about the kids is number one. When a young player takes the time to recognize a coach, we know the coach cares about the players!”

Parents, players, officials and other coaches can now nominate coaches for the 2017 Coaching Excellence Award. Selected coaches will have the opportunity to attend a Minnesota Wild practice during the 2017-18 season, and all coaches meeting the award’s criteria will receive a recognition certificate. The certificate will be sent to the nominator at the end of this season so that the nominator can make the presentation to the coach at the team’s banquet.

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