CEP has helped AHAI give its coaches all the tools they need to succeed
By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI
It takes a special person who is good at working with kids, understands what it takes to help a player continue to develop on and off the ice and it also requires dedication. Those are just a few traits of a good, sound coach.
Even if a coach meets all those standards, the person has to be able to get certified to get on the ice. The Coaching Education Program (CEP) is a prime way for coaches to get acclimated to instructing kids.
The USA Hockey-mandated program is extremely important for the Amateur Hockey Association Illinois (AHAI). Coach-in-Chief and ADM Coordinator Jim Clare and the AHAI staff offer clinics four to five times per year — usually once a month in August, September, October and November — for coaches to earn their certification. Coaches go through a seven-hour clinic on a Saturday that prepares them for the challenges of the season.
“It’s a very interactive conversation. It’s not just a bunch of lectures,” Clare said. “We get the guys up, we get them talking to each other. To me, the best resource and the best thing that they can get out of that seven hours is to talk to seven or eight coaches about what are they doing, what are they seeing, what drills do they use. Let’s share some information. That internal communication in that class is to me the most important piece in what we do.”
Michael Strening Jr. is in his second year coaching with the Wilmette Hockey Association. He’s loved his experience with the CEP clinics.
“I’m really impressed with what USA Hockey, and through its affiliates, is doing with these coaching certifications,” Strening said. “They’re really on the cutting edge of clinic best practice. They are laying it out for the coaches. They’re almost paint by numbers. They’re like, ‘Look, this is the research, this is what works, this is how brain development is.’”
CEP clinics are broken into three levels based on the experience of the coach. Level 1 is for first-time coaches.
“It’s a really good acclimation to what AHAI is, what coaching education is for USA Hockey and you’re laying down the foundation for the principles of development around the American Development Model (ADM),” Clare said. “Really, the conversation in Level 1 clinic is mostly about what it means to be a coach. I always tell the guys what they do matters and how they do it matters, so be cognizant of how you’re dealing with these kids.”
Clare stressed that besides parents and teachers, coaches spend the most amount of time with a kid. So, during AHAI’s CEP clinics, coaches are taught the philosophies of coaching and how to deal with the kids. AHAI brings in a representative from the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to talk to the coaches for an hour and a half. The message is more impactful since it’s coming from a third party, not USA Hockey or AHAI.
“What the program was so great about, they really laid it out and how it applies to athletics,” Strening said. “They said, ‘This is a mite. This is what their brain is doing right now. This is how quickly they develop skills. This is how many repetitions they need. This is how you can spiral activities.’”
Level 2 is designed for second-year coaches. There is plenty of discussion on how the first year went, what was learned, what would the coach do differently and how was it dealing with parents. It also dives into age-appropriate types of training activities.
“We talk a little more about next level hockey discussion around goaltender training and body contact and some on-ice skills and drills,” Clare said.
Strening, who just went through Level 2 training in August, really thought reviewing Level 1 content was beneficial before advancing to the next level.
“They were teaching us how to teach the game organically, that’s what I like about Level 2,” Strening said. “Now they get into, ‘OK, let’s say you’re teaching a zone entry. How do you teach that so it’s organic?’ And they’re making decisions and they’re processing as players not as somebody following the rules. That was the best part.”
In Level 3, most of the coaches are teaching the older kids, so the class dives into more on-ice strategy. The coaches discuss such areas as systems, breakouts and power plays.
For all three levels, the clinics spend one hour discussing social media and the best way to handle that avenue with the kids. Referees are also brought in to talk to the coaches about rules and what they’re looking for.
After six years, coaches have to achieve Level 4 status, which is only run through USA Hockey.
In 2017, 1,172 coaches (464 in Level 1, 344 in Level 2 and 294 in Level 3) took part in the CEP clinics through AHAI. That’s the highest number of coaches since 2015.
Along with the CEP clinics and a background check, every two years coaches have to complete a 90 minute on-line training course called SafeSport, this is focused on creating a safe environment for the kids, being aware of potential bullying or sexual abuse, and policies to address it. Additionally, the coaches take a three- to four-hour coaching module for whatever age group they work with.
Coaches are certainly prepared to handle their duties with the kids.
“The amount of information we feed them can be overwhelming so throughout the year we deliver them information through articles and through our newsletter,” Clare said. “There’s no other governing body in my opinion in the U.S. that does it to this extent. It’s pretty thorough.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.