The Blueprint to Bad Coaching

Originally Published on February 26, 2019 

In mere seconds players can rhyme off their favourite coaches and the reasons why. In the same breath they can list the coaches they all try to forget.

With so much technology, formal training, certification and attention surrounding the game today how can bad coaches still infiltrate the sport?

Everyone can identify common characteristics of good coaching, but that’s not really the point.

Maybe we need to start looking at the characteristics of bad coaching to get to the bottom of some archaic coaching philosophies and styles that are still ever present in the game today.

There is so much attention directed towards skill development from a coaching perspective now that one of the most important aspects of coaching is often overlooked and downright ignored. People skills.

So many people look at coaching resumes rather than fully evaluating the coach during the formal interview process.

Obviously, winning overshadows and clouds the judgment of those assigning coaches in their position.

The evaluation and interview process is usually based on past performance and perhaps whom the coach knows or if their child a solid player making the step up to the next level.

Associations across the country have the daunting task to place coaches behind their benches. There’s no question that system sometimes reeks of favoritism, misinformation and bias.

Whenever you have a group of people selecting/choosing between coaches there’s always going to be mistakes made that can’t get overturned.

Those decisions are made with the best interest of the players, coaches and parents in mind, but are the right questions being asked of the front-runners for the position?

Do those meetings and interviews look at coaching scenarios or are they fraught with past coaching glory or looking to future success with a team that hasn’t even been selected?

I’ve never been a part of those conversations and I never care to be. 

So here lies the first dilemma of dealing with the bad coach. More times than not they are given the position that they don’t deserve and find themselves in over their heads.  

Forget the “people skills”, these coaches don’t usually have the skills necessary to teach and coach at the level they have been assigned to and often have ulterior motives for fulfilling their coaching duties, like looking out for their son’s or daughter’s best interest.

Sure they may have played the game at a high level, but were coached by “old school coaches” that yell and scream rather than teach and develop.

By the time the association or team realize that they have made a big mistake behind the bench the team has already been selected, reeks of favoritism, poor selection process and now has a bad coach running the show. The hockey decision made in the comforts of the quiet non-controversial boardroom comes back to haunt them.

Good luck and welcome to the “shit show”!

In those cases a “long year” is an understatement.

The coach will be told time and time again that the players and parents are having a bad experience, but they will refuse to change their ways, due in large part to their supposed spotless coaching resume, solid playing career and self-perceived coaching knowledge.

The coaches glaring mistakes will be overlooked or deemed as dealing with a tough group, a group they selected.

The bad coach will try to deflect all the blame off themselves rather than taking ownership of it. The yelling and misplaced emotion/frustration will be directed to the officials and the opposition.

Show me a bad coach, and I’ll show you a coach that yells and screams at refs and the opposing players and their coaches.

Playing time will be all over the map, line combinations will be like a revolving door or so stagnate that the players will lose their passion for the game.

Specialty teams will be brutal due in large part to only certain players ever getting a look. Bench management will turn into a joke and TOI will be a foreign term.

God forbid the coach be challenged by a player or parent or for that matter a knowledgeable bystander trying to help.

“How dare a person ever challenge my knowledge of the game, coaching philosophy and style,” says the bad coach to themselves.

Don’t even get me started on systems or culture because there won’t be any.

The blueprint of bad coaching all starts with the coach that is closed off to learning, narrow minded and so set in their ways that they wouldn’t know change if it came up and clipped them in the face like an arrant high stick.

Do you want to know the worst aspect of bad coaching? 

Due to the code or unwritten rules of the game, no one will step up and say anything, the players can’t because they have too much respect for the title of the position, and if they do say something their plight might change for the worse, equaling zero playing time.

Management or the association can’t say anything because they are the ones that put the coach in that position, so automatically if they do something it makes them look bad.

The blueprint of bad coaching is pretty clear and it’s really unfortunate that it still exists in the game today.

An Interview That Changed My Approach

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interview a lot of former NHL’ers, Scouts and Player Development Coaches. Nevertheless, I will never forget one interview about a decade ago with long time coach Don MacAdam.  

It is one of the best answers I have ever heard within the game of hockey. 

Don MacAdam has an extensive coaching resume that includes time in the AHL, Major Jr. ranks even to the NHL.  Don had been hired by a struggling Maritime Jr. A team, a the time to try to make a push to get in the playoffs.   When I caught up with Don he was coming off a tough, but character building loss versus a top team in the league.

I asked him “As a coach, I have often wondered how difficult is it or what are the differences between the professional and the amateur coaching ranks”?

Without hesitation MacAdam said the following. “Coaching is all about communication, no matter what level.” 

“If you are an effective communicator you can coach at any level.”  

MacAdam’s answer was fascinating and has had a lasting impression on me. It changed my personal approach to teaching, coaching at that time. 

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