Times have changed and coaches need to change with the times. No longer is it likely that the Vince Lombardi method of coaching will work with younger players. Today’s players are raised in an entitled atmosphere where they are given more than they earn. Coaches need to learn how to motivate the new athlete because winning and losing isn’t the end all for these players.
Today’s athletes are always asking “What’s in it for me” and as a coach you have to work within those confines. Today’s athletes are smarter and more advanced than athletes from just ten years ago. These players have been raised in the technology age and they are very informed about lots of different things and need more instant feedback than ever before.
Years ago you could motivate a team to be successful by just telling them that winning is everything, but now you really need to give them a different motivation. I’m sure each of you has had this happen. The team has just lost a tough close game and as the coach you are torn up inside about the decisions you made and the outcome of the game, but when you walk into the locker room you see all the players laughing and moving on. Most of us want to scream and jump up and down and say how can you be so unconcerned about the loss, but today’s player moves on quickly, much more quickly than the coaches do. One way to motivate the new breed of player is to give them something more to strive for other than just a win, you still want to win but you need to make it more meaningful. For instance last year I had a team that our club thought would be weak and finish near the bottom of the pack. All year I used that as a motivational tool to get the players to work hard and excel at practice. By the time the season ended we were the first place team and had accomplished far more than thought probable for our team. Every player wants to win but having a deeper reason to win other than just to win will help you motivate these players to an even higher level.
Another thing that is helpful is to include the parents. Hockey is a sport that has a very large family influence in a player’s day-to-day activity. Parents need to drive their players to the rink and stay around until after the practice or game to drive them home. Parents want to be a part of the process so don’t fight it, embrace it and figure out the best way to include the parents as much as possible. Always keep an open line of communication with the parents. You can use a team website, or email correspondence or text messaging, whichever works best for you but keep them involved. I have a team website and on it I write a short summary of every game we play. This gives the parents the ability to hear what happens on the bench during the game from the guy who is there. Many times a parent may see a coach talking / arguing with an official but not know what is really going on. By having a written account of the game you can let them inside some of the things that go on during a game and it will make them feel more involved in the process. Remember our goal is to get these players ready for the next level and that includes every part of the player.
Another thing I have found extremely useful is texting the players. If I want to get in touch with the entire team or just a few players I know if I text them they will see the text within minutes if not seconds. Today’s players do everything via their cell phones and as a coach you need to be involved with that technology as well. Players will accept you far easier as the authority figure if they think you are aware of the technology and use it accordingly.
In the next article I will talk about commitment, trust and character issues a coach needs to be aware of to gain the confidence of today’s athletes.