Me, Head Coach – Now What?

Back to school.

Back to Ringette.

September is tryout season.

Time for players to don the standard pinnie and stand out in the crowd of other players trying to make the team.

Coaches and local associations are challenged to assess all players on the ice.

It is not hard to imagine new coaches getting overwhelmed with an arena full of old and new faces.

The September tryout phase is the most demanding for coaches, perhaps more so than the Provincial Championships. If you fail to bring home a medal, at least you can say the competition was too tough.

In September, it is just the coach, working against the perfect ringette storm – parents, player selection, public relations, ringette executives, determining the team caliber, finding extra players, finding supportive assistant coaches, and coordinating personal, business and ringette schedules.

September may be the leading cause of ringette coaching retirement.

Guess what? There is no pension plan for ringette coaches.

So, try this September Survival Guide to prevent early retirement:

  • Once selected as Head Coach, meet with the ringette executives responsible for coaches and find out how the tryouts work, who makes the cuts, who notifies players, and what the custom is within this association – not all associations use the same approach;
  • Get involved in the tryouts, become an evaluator, influence the drills selected; don’t fight association traditions, but, push for game play simulations to see the players in a game like situation; When making cuts from tryouts – respect the athlete who is being released – she will not be pleased, avoid public humiliation in arenas – known by some as the “walk of shame” –  when those cut must walk through the lobby for all to see; leading best practices for player release notification include publishing player ID numbers on websites or using phone calls to notify the family;
  • Create a Block Design for your season on one page – one column for each month; put key categories in each row: basic skills, tactics, games and tournaments, team building, off-ice, scouting and stats, and coaching meetings. Use this block design to keep track and to have discussions with your assistant coaches;
  • Select your assistant coaches to complement your skills, and to offer back up when your schedule does not permit your attendance; assistants should support your approach and bring the same consistent message to players;
  • For coaching development, share the load with assistant coaches consider the domains of skating, tactics, scouting, video analysis, team building, defence, goaltending;
  • Set learning goals, as  a coach: how to design drills, speak more clearly on the ice, scout other teams, deliver game speeches to players; off-ice preparation; strive to learn something new each season;
  • Don’t be the superhero and do it all yourself; however, the team expects leadership from the Head Coach – be visible, available and clear on what you plan to do with the team;
  • Have a coaches meeting to discuss roles and responsibilities – Head Coach should have the final say on major decisions, including game tactics;
  • Once you have your team, host a social and team meeting to discuss how the team will run, how unwanted behaviour will be addressed, how lines will be formed, and ice time allocated. Address the tricky subjects in September, so that the Ides of March don’t arrive and force you into early retirement.
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