Updated: Nov 4, 2018
It is the beginning of the hockey season, and I have always wanted to create a set of series' that I could share with others about my experiences and practices that I have had in this game as a coach, hockey director, parent and player. So let's start this journey together as we poke the hornet's nest and share what it takes to be the coach, player, parent, hockey director you want to be in the game of Ice Hockey.
Our first series, "There Is An "I" In Team, will discuss what it takes to have a successful season, being a teammate, team building, character, and the roles that you fill during the season.
All teams have the opportunity to create and build a legacy in their hockey program. The most important thing is to establish a unique and robust team identity. Team identity stems from the mission and core values that are upheld by its leadership and is essential to the success of a season.
A team’s success largely depends on the roles and standards that the leadership/coaches set for a team or organization. The empowerment of a player is of utmost importance. We must encourage a player to find their place within the hockey culture that has been established. The leadership/coaches need to lead and act in a way that is highly conducive to developing a sense of cohesion. The leadership/coaches have to find ways to connect to their athletes and connect athletes both socially and through the culture of hockey.
What we have learned from the history of successful team development is that teams go through four phases: forming, storming, norming, and performing. All of these phases are crucial for a team to develop efficiently, address challenges and conflict, tackle problems, and achieve their best possible results. The most important thing to grasp is the understanding that each of these phases varies in the amount of time a team experiences them. Teams can move one step forward and take four steps backward from one moment to the next. As we discuss these experiences, think about what triggers may influence your team to embark on these phases, think about the possible order these phases may take place in and then think about the time a phase may take to complete.
We are going to take a more in-depth look at the forming phase. This phase is where the building of the team begins. You can always tell when a team is still forming when your athletes are operating independently, not showing trust and belief in one another, or lacking clarity on where they fit in or role they have on their team. Players are comparing their skills to each other’s and deciding whether they can and how to relate with their teammates to form connections within the team culture and out.
In this phase of team development, it is a critical time for a coach to establish rapport with his/her players. This is a significant observant phase for coaches where they can observe how their players respond to different levels of pressure in competition, practice and team building activities. During this phase, coaches need to establish clear expectations of the players as members of their program and what the athletes can expect of the coaches in their roles. When a coach has clear expectations, it allows for a culture of open communication which offers clarity to blurred lines and boundaries for those that are involved. Checking in with players regularly through one-on-one meetings to explain how they view their role on the team is the best way a player can understand their contribution as a player within their team culture.
A great way to progress through the forming phase successfully is to create a team charter with your players. This creation process should involve the entire team, so a sense of ownership and pride is rooted in the development of the team's pathway. A team charter outlines the goals and direction for the season, the roles players will play on the team, the expectations and standards of behavior for every player, and any philosophy or mission statements that will be underlying factors driving the team forward. Putting this down on paper and having your players sign it, provides affirmation of their commitment and reminds them of their contribution to the "how and why" formation of the team's direction. One process that has always worked well for me and offers constant visual reminders is to provide team/player binders for all of your players that they can keep their team charter pathway, handouts, goals, notes, team strategy, etc.. in one place.
Bear in mind, that the forming phase, takes time to establish, but in my experience, the players are always extremely motivated for the clarity and transparency that this process provides. Revisiting your team charter throughout the season will allow for players to reconnect to their team directional goals, which is the guide for your team’s success. Creating a uniform language that emphasizes the roles and standards that make up your team charter will allow you to track the improvements your athletes make within their roles and their skills.
This part of coaching is often overlooked because of the time and commitment it takes to go through these phases with your players. What I promise is that if you do put it in the time, you will get the best from your players and the most out of your season.
Please stay tuned for the next part of, "There Is An "I" In Team," as we talk about the "storming" phase, and continue discussing the formation of a successful season.
Thank you for taking part and see you all around the rink, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me.