Let's Talk Coach Program
Knights Hockey Club Initiative
Goal: To improve Knights Hockey Club (KHC) players' experience by creating communication framework for coaches, players and families.
Why Is This Important: Mental Health in Sports, On-Ice Performance
How Does the Program Work?
One (1) coach, per team, will be appointed to be the designated 'Let's Talk Coach'.
Roles & Responsibilities
a) Review Player Profile information form for each player to gain an understanding of how the player would prefer to receive feedback, past positive or negative hockey experiences, and any other sports related emotional or performance concerns they are willing to share.
i) Information can then be reviewed with the specific player (U11-U18) or the player's guardian (U9-U11)
b) Establish communication cue with players that signals to the coach that they need to talk
c) Be a liason between head coach, families and players to communicate concerns to the other coaching staff, either about team concerns or coaching issues.
Player Communication Package
The coach will receive a package that outlines on how to support their players in three (3) ways:
Emotional State Visual - Sheet with four (4) hockey figures on it (red, yellow, green, blue)
1. Goal - encourage players to self-reflect and understand their state of mind before participating in the current day's event
2. Introduction to Team - explain the concept of the Emotional State Visual, the Hockey State of Mind
3. Event Implementation - players are encouraged to reflect and identify their current:
i. Players, before stepping on the ice, touch one coloured figure to communicate how they are feeling that day. This will make the coach aware of how players are showing up that day. Coaches participate as well.
ii. Coach establishes another method for convenient daily check-in with their player
1. Non-Verbal - Thumbs Up/Down, Stick tap/Skate tap
2. Verbal - Good / Not Good, Ok / Not ok
Reviewing information on each player via the player information sheet will help coaches to:
i) Set expectations for not only behavior, but communication early in the season.
ii) Recognize the different learning styles within the team
iii) Share this information with the coaching staff to ensure every coach understands how to best communicate with each player.
Player Communication for Hockey Events
Introduce different communication frameworks for hockey and skill development feedback.
a) Goal setting - Goal setting leads to improved focus and awareness prior to and during the event
b) Feedback - the ability to give and receive constructive feedback improves team communication skills, player self-awareness and individual accountability
c) On-Ice Communication - establish key words or phrases for players to utilize on the ice to better communicate with one another
d) Mental Resiliency - improve player mental toughness to assist in on-ice recovery after a poor decision or difficult play
a) Goal setting - Buddy system - players pair up before the game - set goals for game or practice; positive feedback for their partner afterwards; group offense / defense / goalies together for goals and feedback.
U7-U9 - Coaches set team goals and outline them to the team before games; choose skill-based, character-based and team-based type goals; Having Fun and Being a Good Teammate!
U11-U13 - Begin the year with coach driven goals; can break up into defensive and offensive goals; players can begin to contribute with feedback following games. If players are comfortable with post-game reflection, encourage players to be involved in goal setting.
U15-U18 - Move from coach driven to player driven goal setting early in the season; can be both system based (team, defense, offense, goalie) and individual based.
Buddy System - players pair up before the game - set goals for game or practice; positive feedback for their partner afterwards; group offense/defense/goalies together for goals and feedback.
Coach feedback - ask players for skills that they did well during a game with an example; designate one player to be the feedback player or ask for volunteers
Player feedback - positive feedback regarding individual goals or group goals after the practice or game
c) On-Ice Communication - establish key words or phrases to use on the ice; consistently use these phrases in practice and implent their use during hockey drills
Refer back to these phrases if players are having difficulty during the game - it's hard to be down on oneself if you are focused on talking and helping your team!
d) Mental Resiliency - encourage players to talk to one another on the ice (quiet ice is everyone in their own head); help players discover a word or phrase they can say to themselves to recover from a difficult play to get them out of their head and back onto the ice
Program Pilot Feedback / Follow-up
The Knights Program Champion will follow-up throughout the year to see how coaches are doing.
a) Do coaches require additional support?
b) Can the designated coach speak to the head coach about feedback from players?
c) How did the program implementation go?
d) Is the team still using the program?
Frequently Asked Questions
What if there are negative concerns regarding the coaching staff - who receives this feedback first, Let's Talk Coach or manager? Who does this get passed to?
As with our usual escalation chart, parents can go through the team manager or to the age group coordinator if they are not comfortable at the team level. However, if the team has established a great communication framework and the players are comfortable to express a concern with the Let's Talk Coach, you have done a great job!
Is the Let's Talk Coach a point of escalation for the parents?
Parents should continue to follow the current KHC escalation process and raise concerns to the team manager, or the age group coordinator if they are not comfortable at the team level.
Why is the Knights Hockey Club launching this program?
The Knights HC is committed to ensuring our players have the best possible hockey experience. Mental Health focus has become a large part of the sports experience in recent years; both Hockey Calgary and Knights HC have committed to showing our support for initiatives surrounding this topic. We recognize that our coaches are not trained mental health professionals; however, many of the education programs provided through Hockey Calgary and the professionals hired through the Knights speak about the importance of communication as part of the process in addressing mental health. Communication is an aspect of coaching we have decided to focus on to improve our players' overall sport experience.
Here are other resources previously introduced:
Knights HC, How to Coach a Player with ADHD - https://knightshc.ca/coaching-kids-with-adhd/
I Got Mind - https://igotmind.ca/
They provided five free sessions through the Calgary Flames Foundation that were available on their social media outlets. The first session in particular spoke about the importance of communication.
How will the pilot program be evaluated?
Feedback will be gathered during the hockey year and at the end of the season. The program champions will seek feedback from all involved parties: coaches, players and parents.
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