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How To Become an Effective Coach


Coaching hockey is about teaching and helping. Coaches help players individually, as a group, in a team or they help other coaches. This section will provide you with the important elements that surround the world of coaching.

Role of the Coach

The primary role of the coach is to teach, guide and help players. The secondary roles are to evaluate, recruit and mentor players and others. The effectiveness of a coach is dependant on 4 personal attributes:

  • Ethics
  • Knowledge of the game
  • Communication skills
  • Resourcefulness


Ethics are the primary trait of a coach. They are revealed in the behavior and will dictate how he conducts himself . Before taking on a coaching role, coaches must be clear on their own ethics. This will help answer two questions:

1) What do I believe in as a coach?
2) How should I act as a coach?

Here is a sample Code of Ethics.

Skills of a Coach

The skills to coach are divided into 4 groups:

  • Hockey skills – The ability to play the game and the knowledge about the game.
  • Administrative skills – The ability to plan, organize, execute and evaluate.
  • Learning skills – The ability to research, understand, retain and recall information.
  • Communication skills – The ability to listen, watch, speak and write effectively.

Tools for a Coach

Tools for a coach are very subjective. What one coach considers to be an asset another will believe it to be a hindrance. The primary tools for coaches are:

  • Teaching Tools: These constitute items that will help explain the message that a coach is trying to convey in meetings, before games and practices.

Examples : white boards and markers, chalk boards and chalk, TV & video, computer programs, hand-outs, play books, speeches and internet

  • Statistics: These are the facts about games or practices.

Examples : individual, team and league statistics

  • On-Ice: These are the tools that are needed in a practice or game.

Examples : skates, stick, track suit, gloves, pucks, cones, tennis balls, tires, chairs, clip board, coaching card , PowerPen

  • Resources: These are tools which can be places or people to help make your message more effective.

Examples : gym/dry land training centres, conditioning coaches, meeting rooms, other coaches, mentor, parents, sponsors

Great equipment and gear you can depend on at Hockey Tron.

Head Coach vs. Assistant Coach

In any discipline, a great team is made of up quality leaders, effective doers and supportive followers. Hockey teams are no exception to that. For most hockey teams:

  • The leader is the head coach.
  • The doers are the assistant coaches.
  • The followers are the hockey players.

We define leader, doer and follower as follows:

Leaders : The individual who accepts full responsibility for the team. There can only be one person who has the final say.
Doers : The individual(s) who shares in the responsibility to carry out the strategies and plans.
Followers : The individuals who execute on the plans.

In most cases, it is up to the head coach to hire a staff of assistant coaches. Together, they select players and goalies to form a team. Another one of his duties is to create a season plan that will help develop the players. Together with the head coach, the assistant coach teaches and guides the players through the plan. His main role is to provide input by sharing his knowledge and expertise to the head coach, other assistant coaches and players.

Role-Specific Coach

Today more than ever, coaches are learning that this game requires proper teaching ratios in order to be effective. Having one coach to do it all can be strenuous on the coach and not very helpful for a player. From a young age, players need encouragement and guidance for proper skill development. Also known as assistant coaches, these role-specific coaches provide explicit and precise teaching for a player. For example, a coaching staff can be comprised of:

  • Goalie Coach
  • Forward Coach
  • Defence Coach
  • Special Teams Coach
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach
  • Power Skating Coach

Preparation and Planning

“To be prepared is half the victory.” Miguel De Cervantes

If this is the case, then why doesn’t everyone plan? Probably because most of the time, it seems like an enormous effort. The following is a simple 3 step process to effective season planning.

  1. Define – Where are we today?
  • Take an inventory of what you have today. Write down the resources (people, places and things) that are available to you.
  • Find out what type of schedule you have, where your games will be played and who can help out or who has been committed to being a part of the team.
  • Make notes of the history of the team.
  1. Decide – Where do we want to be and by when?

This is where you will set the expectations for yourself and your team. You will set SMARTER goals:

    • pecific
    • easurable
    • chievable
    • ational
    • ime-sensitive
    • xciting
    • ewarding

You will create a vision for your team to help you focus in the down times and re focus in the exhilarating moments.

  1. Decipher – How do we get there?


Napoleon Hill said, ” Reduce your plan to writing. The moment you complete this, you will have definitely given concrete form to the intangible desire.”

Nothing could be truer. As a coach you get ideas, you learn things and you get de-railed. Having a written plan gives you a place to go to when you need to focus and see your next steps. Planning with the end in mind will help you see clearly what needs to be done along the way. It makes it clear in your mind and easier to communicate.

P.O.I.N.T. Technology

“So what is your point?” Regardless of the level of hockey you coach, the following strategy will teach you how to be effective in your role as coach. You will become clearer in delivering your messages because you will now be able to articulate your thoughts. The feedback you receive will confirm that your players understood the message. Your team and those around you will want to listen to you.

The P.O.I.N.T Technology is a system created by Kevin V. Huhn.
Here are the five steps to making your P.O.I.N.T.:

P lan Write it down. This is the first step to being clearly understood.
O rganize Prioritize by order of importance. The second step is to make sure you know what you want done first, second, third and so on from your plan in the first step.
I mplement Do what you said you needed to do. The third step is one of the most important ones. Take your written plan and act upon it. A plan is nothing if it is not followed.
N urture Empower and Encourage. Think of implementing like planting a seed in the ground.It takes fertilization and water to help it. Tell your team that it will be a great experience and you have confidence in them
T rack it Journal the results. Whether your point was in a speech or in a skill teaching practice, write down what happened. Note reactions comments and your feelings. This will provide valuable input and lessons for your next plan.

The point is: Make your P.O.I.N.T. Be clear!

How To Become an Effective Coach

There are many ways to get into coaching. The most common is volunteering your time with teams of young players for on-ice assistance. Another way is to offer assistance in taking statistics for coaches. Regardless of the way you get involved, it is recommended and in some case mandated to take coaching certification courses with your nearest minor hockey association.

Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have spent years putting together quality coaching certification programs that lead you through the simple planning steps to the comprehensive biomechanical breakdown of a skill.

A great way to enhance your coaching skills is to align yourself with the support of a mentor. A mentor is an individual who works with you as a coach. A mentor’s interest and focus is to assist the coach with his role. The information exchanged between the coach and a mentor is confidential. Mentors provide helpful insight with planning, communication and other aspects related to coaching to better the development of players. They do not go on the ice or get involved with team situations. They are there to coach the coach.

NOTE: There should be no costs associated to this mentorship, otherwise it would be consulting.