Archive for April, 2011

Coach’s Guide To Interacting With Parents

Being a coach can be hard enough without parents becoming an issue. But the fact is that a good parent-coach interaction is important to the team’s success.

Most parents are very supportive and try not to complain. Furthermore, most issues are non-issues and have a way of working themselves out over time. If you are well-organized, coaching well, are modeling great sportsmanship and your teams are competitive, you won’t hear many complaints.

Many parents are simply misinformed, don’t really understand the game or just love to complain. The bigger issue is usually the “player agents”… akin to stage moms. These parents believe that their child is special and have a career ahead of them and their agenda is far from hidden. Regardless of which type of parent you’re dealing with, there are steps to improve the parent-coach relationship. After all, it’s supposed to be about the kids, right?

Disagreements between a parent and coach typically begin when the parent believes that their child is not on the field enough, but a fair amount of problems involve disagreements with coaching style or competitive level of play. Playtime is by far the top complaint. Parents want to see their child play as much as possible. Unfortunately for you as a coach, you have a team full of kids whose parents would love to see their child playing a good portion of the game. You also have to do your best to ensure a win or your coaching style will be called into question. Some days it would seem that you just can’t win (and with some people, you just can’t. Try not to dwell on that).

This rule needs to be the basis of all interactions. This will go very far in helping your cause when there is an issue. If your players feel respected, they will respect you. Hot tempers are often the result of feeling disrespected. Respect also needs to be paid to the parents, even the angry ones. The way you treat people will more often than not alleviate much of the frustration that caused the parent to confront you in the first place. Respect is easy to spot and don’t think for one second that these parents aren’t watching your interactions.

As with respect, learning how to coach self-confidence into your players will dispel much of the impending conflict. More than anything else, parents want their child to play their best. They want them to exhibit confidence in who they are and their ability even if their child is not the best player on the team. You don’t want your players to feel belittled or unworthy.

Being a coach is an awesome responsibility. You have self-esteem in your hands and it can grow under your care or it can be shot down very quickly. You should be reinforcing the idea that, while everyone wants to win, the important thing is that everyone do their best.

Now that we have coaching style dealt with, let’s discuss the importance of setting rules and boundaries. This should be done before the season starts. If possible, call a meeting before the first practice (definitely before the first game) and explain what you expect from parents and what they can expect from you. Remember that many of these parents and players have worked with other coaches and they may come into the season with pre-conceived expections. Parents and players will come into the season with pre-conceived expectations. If you, as the coach, do not articulate what the expectations should be for your team, the parents will use their uninformed expectations as the standard by which you are measured. You want to emphasize that your rules are non-negotiable, but that you are willing to keep the door open for discussion.

Be sure to open the discussion to hear their concerns as well. By getting everyone’s expectations out up front, you can understand their position and assure them that you will do your best to make sure that everyone has a good time. Let them know what type of behavior and attitude is expected and accepted.
Describe your goals for the team, your coaching style, and how your style will help the team attain the goals. Explain to both the players and parents how you will determine play time and how much emphasis will be placed on winning games. Set these expectations early, but don’t stop there. Include parents in a little pre-game pep talk in which you go over the team’s goals and expectations. Keep this short and be sure you’re not singling anyone out.

Even when you set player and parent expectations up front, there inevitably will be times when conflict arises and it is important to have a conflict resolution policy in place to reduce the emotional impact and maintain the team’s positive attitude.

These days, it’s so easy to keep the lines of communication open. Set up a Facebook (and.or Twitter) page for your team and post updates as needed. Not only will this cut out many of the calls you get about schedules and events, it also becomes a place where parents can express concerns in a neutral setting. If you are having a recurring issue that isn’t a hotbed topic, bring it to the forum and get input from the parents.

As a coach, making yourself available for discussion with the player and parent (an open door policy if you will) goes a long way to keeping anger at bay. Be sure that parents feel comfortable approaching you, but not so comfortable that they begin to invade. The open door policy allows you to resolve issues as they come up without them boiling over and exploding later on.

Many coaches prefer a player managed policy in which parents don’t get involved in issues, but rather allow the player and coach to hash things out on their own. Obviously, this type of conflict resolution is reserved for middle school, high school and college when children are able to make thought out decisions on their own. With this style, it is the player’s responsibility to voice their grievance. Coaches that successfully use this policy listen to the player’s concern to understand the underlying issue but also know the best communication method to reach each player.

Every coach, regardless of how effective their communication style is or how passionate they are about coaching, will have player and parent conflicts. If you are prepared for it, the whole process will go much smoother and any disagreements can be worked through in an effective manner. To keep any misunderstandings down to a minimum, set the expectations early in the season, let both the player and parent know how and when they can approach you to voice their concern, and then listen to them and agree to a resolution path. Calm heads and open communication will lead to a successful season for all involved.

Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen


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Hockey: Staying Fit in the Off-Season

A good off-season workout routine is crucial to hone your skills and prepare you for in-season play and performance. Proper form, consistency and attention to detail will keep you in optimum shape to help you endure long games when the season finally rolls back around.

On average players are performing for 15-20 minutes of a 60-minute game, so a hockey training program should meet the demands of this physically challenging sport. Be sure that your workout program incorporates the following activities: cardiovascular training, strength and flexibility training as well as endurance exercises. Remember that simply playing hockey to keep your body fit is not enough. Off-season and in-season body training will help you to maintain speed and strength as well as the physical and mental readiness for each upcoming season.

Hockey players are faced with 30-80 second intervals with a 4-5 minute rest between shifts and usually consist of short, intense bouts of high speed skating and aggressive body contact. The intermittent nature of the game means that endurance becomes of the utmost importance. Add to all this the fact that players are skating, holding a stick and controlling a puck and you’ll see that hockey is in fact very physically challenging.

Cardiovascular Exercise
Cardiovascular fitness helps players cope with these demands and can help speed recover from an injury. Establishing a good cardiovascular “base” is very important before focusing on more specific exercises. Start with a 4-day workout program, concentrating on the lower body for two days; upper body for a day. Begin every session by focusing on strong aerobic exercises by cycling on an exercise bike or treadmill for 20 minutes. Include sprints, starting with 400-meter exercises and then working up to shorter and faster exercises. Running for distance is probably your best option to get your heart rate up and help with endurance.

Strength and Flexibility Training
Strength and flexibility training in the off-season promote a balanced body, improves muscular endurance and power and helps stabilize joints. However, be sure that your weight training is targeted and specific. Increased lean mass is not the only goal of strength training. Gains in maximal strength are only useful on the rink if they are converted into explosive power and power endurance. This takes a more refined approach than a typical bodybuilding routine.

Flexibility exercises stretch tight muscles and improve joints’ range of motion. Incorporating strength and flexibility training into your off-season workout routine also helps prevent injury. Start by lifting weights three to four times per week, taking a day off between workouts to allow your body to rest and recover. Be sure that you are stretching after each workout to keep your body flexible and strong. Children should use strength training (not weight training), using his/her body weight to provide the resistance. This will ensure that you are not piling on more than your child can lift. Weight lifting injuries are common among children, but they should be able to lift their own body weight with little trouble after time.

Some other good exercises to build into your routine include squat exercises, jumping rope, sprinting and stair climbing. These are all great for upper body strengthening. Also try fast push-ups and power abdominal crunches.

Endurance Training
Training for endurance involves intensity and duration. This type of training is typical of a long distance runner’s routine and will help you increase oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle and increased utilization as fat for fuel (which spares muscle glycogen). Endurance training is about getting yourself to the point that you can endure intense physical activity for longer periods of time without being too winded afterward. It also means that your muscles can continue after such strenuous exercise. In essence, there are three forms of endurance training that you’ll need to incorporate into your routine; aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance and speed endurance.

  • AEROBIC ENDURANCE: Aerobic simply means “with oxygen”. During an aerobic workout, your body is working at a level that the demands for oxygen and fuel can be meet by the body’s intake. Aerobic endurance is developed using continuous and interval running to improve maximum oxygen intake and to improve the heart’s function as a muscular pump.

    Aerobic endurance can be sub-divided into short, medium and long aerobic endurance. You’ll want to get proficient in each of these areas:
    Short aerobic – 2 minutes to 8 minutes (lactic/aerobic)
    Medium aerobic – 8 minutes to 30 minutes (mainly aerobic)
    Long aerobic – 30 minutes + (aerobic)

  • ANAEROBIC ENDURANCE: Anaerobic simply means “without oxygen”. During anaerobic workout, your body is working so hard that the demands for oxygen and fuel exceed the rate of supply and your muscles have to rely on the stored reserves of fuel. The oxygen-starved muscles take the body into an oxygen debt of sorts and lactic starts to accumulate in the muscles. Unless the oxygen debt is repaid, your activity will not be resumed. Anaerobic endurance can be developed by using repetition methods of high intensity work with limited recovery.

    Anaerobic endurance can be sub-divided into short, medium and long aerobic endurance. You’ll want to get proficient in each of these areas:
    Short anaerobic – less than 25 seconds (mainly alactic)
    Medium anaerobic – 25 seconds to 60 seconds (mainly lactic)
    Long anaerobic – 60 seconds to 120 seconds (lactic +aerobic)

  • SPEED ENDURANCE: Speed endurance is used to develop the co-ordination of muscle contraction. This type of training should form the later part of pre-season training and in-season training. It is important to develop a solid fitness base beforehand, which includes strength and endurance conditioning. Because speed endurance training can be so demanding, keep session duration to 20-30 minutes maximum. Rest intervals should consist of active recovery exercises such as walking or jogging slowly on the spot.

    Sprints are great for speed endurance. Try changing this training up a bit with some high intensity shuttle runs. You’ll need 7 cones in total. Pace out 30 meters on grass or a running track. Place a cone at the start and at 5 meter intervals. Sprint from the starting cone to the 5 meter cone and back. Turn and sprint to the 10 meter cone and back to start. Sprint to the 15 meter cone and back to start and so on until you sprint the full 30 meters and back. Rest for 90 seconds and repeat. Complete a total of 6 sets keeping rest periods to 90 seconds.

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