Keeping Things Positive Will Be Key in a Youth Hockey Season Unlike Any Other

Both players and coaches can benefit from adopting a few positive traits

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – This hockey season is going to be anything but normal.

Coaches know that and certainly players are finding that out.

It’s going to take an extra effort from both coaches and players to make the season run smoothly and be as enjoyable as possible.

With so much uncertainty going on, it will be helpful for coaches and players to inject some positivity into the season that will benefit everyone. Lake Forest Academy boys’ hockey assistant coach Rob Klein shared his thoughts on three traits that are important for coaches and players.

For coaches, the most important trait is flexibility.

“I think flexibility’s huge, because we’re going to have to be able to adapt to the current environment,” Klein said. “Players are going to be faced with challenges as well as coaches and we’re going to have to work around practice schedules and have that flexibility to be able to get the most out of each practice this season.”

Another trait is creativity.

“We have to be able to keep the athletes engaged, so it’s going to really push the coaches to create some new, in-depth practice plans, be able to keep a high level of fun involved with practices while we’re waiting for the go ahead for in-state play,” Klein said. “Keeping those kids engaged and practicing at the highest level possible is going to be reliant on that creativity from the coach.”

The third trait a coach should have during the season is levelheadedness.

“It’s really important because I think a lot of individuals have frustration built up from not being able to play, and from a coach’s perspective, not being able to give the players the opportunity to have a full regular season,” Klein said. “Keep a level head and remember that the players are looking up to the coaches as leaders. We want to pass down that levelheadedness to them.”

Coaches will need to be able to think outside the box more than in the past. That’s a big point of emphasis this season in USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program. Coaches should look at this as an opportunity to focus on development without the distractions of playing games.

“Throwing out different ideas to the coaches for practice planning as well as management of the situation we’re in and trying to provide the coaches with different flexible options to keep kids engaged,” Klein said.

As for the top player traits, a big one is open-mindedness. This goes hand in hand with the coaches’ flexibility.

“This is going to be a really important trait for these players this year, because they need to realize that the situation is really out of everybody’s control,” Klein said. “I think about seniors at Lake Forest Academy and feel terrible for the season that they’re walking into right now. But having an open mind will definitely help get them through these tough situations and remember that we still have our teams; that we’re playing with and for each other and we’re going to try to make the most out of this season and move forward from it.”

A second player trait would be patience. This can be a hard one since kids were cooped up at home for months during the pandemic.

“Having patience and really practicing that art is incredibly important I think for these kids and remembering that they have no control over the situation,” Klein said. “You need to make the most out of it and the most out of the time on the ice.”

Last, but not least, is excitement. Kids need to be able to make the most out of each practice.

“They need to enjoy it and feel lucky that we’re even able to be back on the ice right now,” Klein said. “You’ve got to find that excitement in the practices; that appreciation for the game is going to be a big part for keeping spirits high.”

One trait both coaches and players should share is compassion.

“I think each team and each individual needs to understand that we are faced with unprecedented times right now and having compassion for one another with each other’s choices and how we want to handle the situation — how you approach the situation is going to be important,” Klein said. “Having each other’s back and collectively knowing that we’re playing a very fun game and we’re lucky to be out there.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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