Often times I get emails and questions asking me what I believe it takes to be a good Mentor, Adviser or Coach. To me it is now just that, Mentoring. It is no longer the old days when you could simply bark out your order and expect the players to follow. In the old days, it was as they say, my way or the highway.
Today in order to have long term success, you have to be open to change, and know that no one knows it all. Today it is about managing personalities, playing styles and parents.
There are four keys to being successful today that I have found;
#1: Take all players seriously.
Of Course you will find the players who have goals they will never achieve. But you will also find the player who can by shear force of willpower raise his level of play above his talent level. Good or bad, every player deserves to be taken seriously. Sometimes that requires hard honesty but sometimes it also involves just listening, and then watching. Someone took you seriously at some point in order to put you in your position if you are a coach, Adviser or mentor. Young or old, all players need to be taken seriously.
#2: Under promise and over deliver.
Keep player and staff goals reasonable and attainable. Do not talk championships, and call ups, in training camp. Do not talk about first line minutes to any player, talk about earning ice time. Do not talk about number one goaltender position, talk about earning it. With lower expectations comes greater enjoyment of every success.
#3: Follow up, even when you may not feel like it.
A Mentor, Coach, or Adviser must learn time management skills. It is critical in that he learns to find at least a little time each week to follow up with people within his organization, and those players he hopes to one day have in his organization that he has seen in the past. Answer the emails, and if you can not, pay someone else to do it for you. Follow up is critical, it is the difference between professional and bush league.
#4: Share wisdom, not cliché’s and meaningless stories.
Hockey is built upon knowledge of the game. Knowledge is gained from learning by mistakes. Do not be afraid to talk about failure, as well as success. Both can be meaningful and teach the young people you work with. Stop with the cliché’s and the stupid stories that really do nothing but name drop people from your past. Sharing wisdom and knowledge is very much like being the person reading a story to school children, a good story will keep them engaged and help them learn.
To be sure I am not the know it all, but I have found these four things work for me and have helped me through four decades in the game. Developing people, not just the player, is what the Mentor, Coach or good Adviser does. Sure you can be the old style guy today, but you will not get far. Growth is required from the leaders or the players, and not just the player.
Joseph Kolodziej – Adviser