Last week I did something a little different for the podcast (Lead By Example Hockey Training Podcast). I asked my followers to ask questions I could answer on the podcast. I received some awesome questions and I will probably get into more depth on all of them, like I am with this one but later in the week.
But, one question that I feel as if I could have said a lot more about was this one. "What is the biggest challenge you face progressing young athletes?" On the podcast I went towards the direction of parents being the biggest challenge. While I do believe parents truly are a challenge when it comes to developing their child as an athlete. Another road block I did not talk about was the child themselves. While parents influence their kids greatly and try to helicopter parent and control everything that their son or daughter does. I am starting to notice another challenge when it comes to developing athletes and that is themselves. A theme I am seeing where I am at currently is either we have (A) a committed group of kids who want to win and get better or (B) a group of kids who are there because they want to make friends, spend time with friends or just say they play hockey.
As a coach, what do you do? When it is nearly almost an split down the middle of the two groups. What exactly do you do? You can't tell 10+ players to quit and find some other team to go play for, or you're left with low numbers, risk the other players health and probably annoy a great deal of parents and the organization committee. When I say the biggest challenge I face is themselves because obviously as you were a kid once before, when you have that really dedicated teammate who puts in the work every single day, tries his/her best and wants to get better vs a kid who does not care as much. The kid(s) who do not care as much are going to start berating the dedicated player, trying to make fun of or joke lightly about how seriously he/she takes hockey and the team. Which in the long run will make the dedicated player think twice about how serious he takes every practice, game, etc and start to second guess his efforts.
Therefore what I am trying to say is. Peer pressure from teammates and thinking it is "not cool" to work hard, bust your ass and give it all you have is a challenge that I do not know how to work around. You can try to pull the kid aside and talk to him/her they will nod their head and say they will change to then only do the same thing and go back to the same behavior as last week. You can try to call them out and say look at this player and how hard he/she works and the minutes he/she plays. If you do the same thing you can be just like this player. And that player thinks you are picking on them saying they are not working hard enough when they think they are working hard. So, now you make that player second guess you, think you are picking favorites and probably starts getting annoyed.
All in all, the biggest challenge(s) I face have to be the parents and the players themselves and the peer pressure they have on their teammates. It is not easy if you are not as good as the kid to the right and left of you. You sometimes start to envy them get jealous of them and sort of think "this sport is not for me" therefore you just show up to have fun, be around the guys, etc. Which leaves me/many coaches in a difficult situation.
The best thing I have seen work is taking each kids best effort and trying to push them to be more and do more. For example if I have this one player (player A) who is a great skater, player, teammate, etc all I do is try push that player give me more effort, try harder and bring the intensity/attention to detail every day. Then I have a player (player B) who struggles with some drills, is not the greatest skater nor stick handler and lacks hockey sense. If I use the same approach as I do with the player A, with player B. Player B will most likely think I am picking on them, think they are not any good, push them too hard to the point where they feel too much pressure and really just give up.
With that said, my question to you is, what would you do in this situation? Comment below or message me on Instagram @leadbyexamplehockeytraining just message me with the hashtag #coachescorner1 and your answer!