Often time I get the email and the question asking me what I believe it take to be a good Mentor 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 player to follow or not. In the old day, 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 player who has goals he 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 deserve to be taken seriously. Sometime that require hard honesty but sometime it also involve just listening, and then watching. Someone took you seriously at some point in order to put you in your position. Young or old, all player need to be taken seriously.
#2: Under promise and over deliver.
Keep player and staff goals reasonable and attainable. Do not talk championship 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 expectation come greater enjoyment of every success.
#3: Follow up, even when you may not feel like it.
A Mentor Coach must learn time management skills. It is critical in that he learn to find at least a little time each week to follow up with people within his organization, and those player he hope to one day have in his organization that he have seen in the past. Answer the email, 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 story.
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 person. Stop with the cliché’s and the stupid story that really do nothing but name drop people from you 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 thing work for me and have help me through many decade in the game. Developing people, not just the player, is what the Mentor Coach do. Sure you can be the old style coach today, but you will not get far. Growth is required from the coach and not just the player.