I shared this philosophy with my players and their parents on Day 1 of the season:
My goal is to inspire the same passion I have for hockey into all of my players through encouragement, competition, mental toughness, respect, and pushing my players beyond their preconceived notions as to what their athletic ceiling is. By the end of the season, if your child wants to play hockey next year, I will be ecstatic. My goal is 100% return rate in terms of registrations next year.
Creating a philosophy like mine not only holds the players, parents, and assistant coaches accountable, but it shoulders 100% of the blame on the coach as the unquestionable leader of the team. Whether you realize it or not, your team takes on your personality. Players at all ages can smell fear, disorganization, and weakness. Furthermore, parents see the results on the ice and hear about it on the car rides home. A coach without a philosophy, and the fortitude to enforce it, will lose the respect of all of their charges, creating a toxic atmosphere that devolves into chaos and dysfunction.
As I break down my philosophy, it is important to remember that my players were 9 years old this past season.
Passion for Hockey
The moment I emerged from the birth canal, my destination was hockey. My dad played Division 1 hockey and coached the majority of my childhood. My brother played for the same Division 1 team as my dad, then 11 seasons of pro hockey including 9 in the AHL. He now coaches as well. When I get to the rink and smell the popcorn and stale dressing rooms, my heart rate starts going and I can’t wait for the game to start. The second the puck is dropped I coach every shift as if I am out there.
This is what I want for all of my players – unbridled passion for the game I love.
Encouragement, Competition, and Mental Toughness
If you play for Coach Waldo, take some Advil before the game because the amount of back-slaps, fist-bumps, and high-fives that you get will cause muscle pain and general body soreness. My players are constantly encouraged to get fired-up, and stay fired-up. You block a shot, win a race to a puck, or protect your goalie - watch out! The encouragement gets turned up to 11.
My players are on a COMPETITIVE team. You can’t spell competitive without…COMPETITIVE! I am not crazy; I am competitive. For the 50 minutes of practice and the 50 minutes of game time, you had better match my intensity. My coaches know this as well. Why bother doing anything in life unless you go as hard as possible? Schools are doing their damndest to take winning and competition out of our children. I tell my players all of the time, “This is not school. This is real life. There are winners and losers. There is a scoreboard for a reason. We might get outscored, but we are not going to get outworked. There are no participation medals on my team. Everything we do is about competing.” You have my word, if your child plays for Coach Waldo, I will NEVER take the competitiveness out of your child; I will only amplify it!
Mental toughness, like physical toughness, has to be built through pain and anguish. If you want your child to be mentally tough, then surround him or her with tough people. I coached 17 boys this past season. Every one of them cried at least 3x this season. (I cried 5x, but that is for another blog.) The reasons for crying are irrelevant; it is the bounceback that matters. Everyone of my players got back on the ice, some with fresh tears, and grinded out the next shift, period, or game. They learned it is ok to cry, but NEVER ok to quit. Why do we let kids quit when the going gets tough, then complain that kids are weak when faced with obstacles? Coach Waldo will NEVER let your kid quit.
Respect is not “Old School” nor is it optional
This is copied directly from my season-opening parent meeting:
I am huge on respect. At the rink I am Coach Waldo. This is NOT a power trip. Respect for authority is never out of fashion. The boys will also do the same for Coach ______, etc. Our manager is Miss ________. We, as coaches, will teach manners in the dressing room. “Please” and “Thank You” are huge. When a coach is talking, no one else is. When a coach is explaining a drill, no one is playing with the pucks. When we tie your son’s skates, it is, “Thanks Coach _____.” Any disrespectful behaviour towards a coach or fellow teammate will be addressed both on the ice and after practice/game.
Pushing My Players Through Their Athletic Ceiling
The Greek philosopher Socrates would back me up on this: “No human has the right to be an amateur in the aspect of physical training. It is a shame for a human to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which their body is capable.”
The human body is meant to be pushed. In practice, I push my players very hard because I want the game to be physically easy in comparison. The human body is meant to be tested; to be pushed. It is when we want to quit that we must find the physical and mental strength to push through the exhaustion.
There is a catch: You as the coach better push yourself as well. I do the bag skates at the end of practice with my players. Sometimes I’m so tired, I think the defibrillator might be needed. I’ve gone home thinking I suffered smoke inhalation, but it turns out I burned through my 43 year old lungs. If you push yourself physically, your players will respect you more and do the same for you.
100% Return Rate for Registrations?
Every family attended the end-of-year party. I also hosted the adult-only party, and every family was present as well. If your kid hates your coach, you do not party with the coach at the end of the year. If you party with your coach, you most likely want him to coach your child again. If you want him to coach your child again, you have to register your child again.
If all of the above statements are true…mission accomplished!
Coach Waldo1947 | Minor Hockey Magazine