Everyone has goals for a team. From the organization down, there are a number of goals that are important, but in terms of setting expectations and the all important parent-coach meeting, coaches often neglect to differentiate between the goals of the player versus the goals of the parent. Many coaches assume that a player’s goals will align with their parents’ goals, which sometimes could not be farther from the truth.
I started asking my players going back to H3 (7 year-olds) at the beginning of the season – why do you play hockey? The number one answer is “it is fun”. I then would ask them why is it fun? I would receive numerous responses from “I like to score”, “I like to body check”, “I like to skate”. I subsequently would ask then what is not fun about hockey and the response almost always has to do with players or referees being yelled at, or criticism from the family to and from the rink.
This is particularly evident in the competitive Rep A stream with numerous stories revolving around Bantam A1 level where the second-year players are eligible for the major junior draft, but it is also happening all the way to Recreational C (house) stream as well.
In terms of player goals, they will vary by age group, but the majority will revolve around improving specific skills so they could be better players. As a coach, I have players describe their goals as improving their ability to skate backwards, being able to shoot accurately, pass harder, control rebounds etc. I work with them specifically on those skills in order to achieve their personal goals. Following up with mid-season and end of season reviews to ensure we stayed on track.
At no point in my ten-plus years since I started asking the questions and working on player goal setting did the players say, “I want to win a 80% of our games” (or a similar specific measurable). It is the parents, coaches and hockey executive members that focus on winning percentage, which you will find out if you also ask parents to provide you their goals for their child in your parent-coach meeting.
Other parental goals will be for their child to play for them to play at a specific level, be it Rep A1, major midget/academy, junior, drafted to major junior, collegiate hockey, or even the NHL. Only a small percent of players achieve these goals, however, given a great hockey experience, the majority will at some point be playing recreational adult hockey which means you’ve succeeded in giving your players a love of the sport that you are so committed to.
Balancing the goals of players versus parents doesn’t have to be incredibly challenging, but opening the conversation about goals in your initial parent-coach meeting will certainly be the first step to achieving them all.
See you at the rink.