Develop ‘Coachability’ in Your Players: 5 Steps to Success

I often tell my teams at the start of the year that I want people who watch us play say “Wow! That is a well-coached team!” This is where I make it very clear that being “well coached” has nothing to do with me as a coach and everything to do with them as players.

To me, a coachable team is one that plays “as a team”. From the stands, a coachable team looks like they know what they are doing positionally – together – and do the little things well: line changing, winning battles on the boards, making good decisions, etc… So, what it comes down to is how well a team can execute what a coach is teaching throughout the year.

I discovered a great quote on the internet the other day that I found interesting, and a little scary at the same time. Patrick Murphy (coach of the University of Alabama Softball Team) said;

“Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults, let your kids get use to someone being tough on them. It’s life – get over it.”

I have had a difficult year this year with a team that has not bought into our systems or, frankly, anything we have been teaching this season. I think there are a lot of reasons for this – some are my fault. Which brings me to another quote I came across the other week;

“Coaches are only as good as the team in front of him and parents behind him!”

So with all this in mind, here are five things I believe coaches should endeavour not to overlook when trying to create a coachable team:

1) Inform: Talk about coachability and what that means with your team. Talk together about what a coachable team looks like. This message can be delivered to all age groups at all levels in an age appropriate way.

2) Include: It’s vital that you share your vision with your players and members of staff. Make sure the team understands your expectations and objectives for the season. Determine and explain their role and responsibilities within the team and how they can impact the success of the season’s objectives. It doesn’t just happen on its own.

3) Parental Buy-In: If you are coaching minor hockey, make sure you have parental buy-in. I don’t think anything can be more damaging to a team than having parents not supporting what you as a coach are trying to accomplish. We have been running the Torpedo System this season and I have been in touch with a fellow coach in Calgary who is working at the same level as I am and running the same system. He informed me that an early season optional parent meeting to explain the system brought everyone on board. He explained that this parental buy-in was crucial to his team’s success this season. Endeavouring to bridge the gap between my coaching philosophy and the parents opinions and understanding, I created a series of videos for “parents to show their players” on YouTube. As such, parents were brought into the teaching of our system play and could help players understand better.

4) Coaching Approach: When coaching minors I believe the most effective coaching approach is to try and condense all teaching into bite sized pieces. For example, when teaching offensive zone entry, I start with taking the puck wide, then add a player going hard to the net, then add a player driving the far dot line, finally adding a fourth player coming into the zone late for a drop pass. This all may take two or three weeks to get through but hopefully, the most important pieces of information stick with the players and the tactic is executed with some sort of regularity and competence.

5) Standards: Don’t settle for “kind of” correct, try to always insist that players are executing the skill / movement / tactic properly. Sometimes players simply don’t have the skill level to execute some things well all of the time but it is essential that players understand that there are certain parts of the game that can’t just be going out and playing shinny type hockey. Players need to really understand and appreciate that setting and maintaining standards is crucial in creating playing success as a team.

I believe that it is no coincidence that the three most successful teams I have been involved with throughout my 27 years of coaching experience were the teams I would consider to be the most coachable. Above all, the players bought into my philosophy and knew they had a responsibility to their teammates to execute tactics and systems as a team and not as individuals. Being successful in installing the 5 principles discussed above within your coaching will go a long way to determining not only team success but the future success of your players.


Rick Traugott

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