The best Advise I Ever Got:

The best advice I ever received was from George Armstrong. He captained the Toronto Maple Leafs when they won four Stanley Cups in a row in the sixties. When I quizzed him why his teams were so successful,(he won two memorial cups in succession coaching the Toronto Marlies) I thought he would say he got another goalie, implemented a new system, traded for three new players, but instead he asked me these simple questions that I have never forgotten to this day:

1.” Do your players work hard?”
“ Do they have fun?”
“Do you tell them how good they are?”

I thought out loud and replied to George , “I think they do work hard.” Then I had to think about the fun aspect. My mind was racing, isn’t fun when you work real hard, get better and learn more and then you score more and do more in the game? Your teammates appreciate you more and people tell you are doing better, and contributing more to your team, isn’t that more fun, I thought? When you are playing like you always dreamed you could.

Keep that boy hood enthusiasm, that is fun!

I remember being five years old in Regina Saskatchewan and all of a sudden I didn’t need to hang onto the boards anymore and I could skate anywhere I wanted on the rink and skate fast, at least I felt I was skating fast. I remember thinking to myself as I raced around the rink hearing Foster Hewitt saying my name, “He shoots, he scores!” I could see myself scoring the winning goal; it was exhilarating and just plain fun. I ask the players to hold onto that boyhood joy every practice and every game. That exhilarating approach to moving fast, finding the freedom of play… that is fun.

I knew I had to think about how to create fun in every practice from then on, and I had to look at fun from another angle. Fun is working on things that will help your game. Make the “He shoots he scores” a reality. We work on scoring techniques every single day. Fun is being supported by your teammates and coaches. As coaches we have to find them doing things right and let them know if they keep working hard they are going to the next level. We need to remind the players enthusiasm comes from that boyhood joy. We need to have high five days, or low fives or fun fives which are the combinations of any support technique. We need to instruct our captains to find good plays in practice and go out of their way to show their support and appreciation. We need to keep score and cheer for teammates when playing small area games. And we have the players play games that are not evaluated, and only intended to warm the players up and prepare them for practice. We need to have a good sense of humour and we need to be genuine and sincere with our praise.

At the time I spoke with George I was a fledging coach in the Western Hockey League. Our team was not succeeding and I was searching for any tip that might propel us into the play – offs. So I thought to myself, it is hard to tell our players how good they are when we were losing so much and well quite frankly we didn’t play that well. Mostly, I was focussed on their limitations. I mentioned this sheepishly to George, “We aren’t that good George, how I can tell them they are?” George replied, “When I was coaching my first year we seldom won, but I told those guys we were going to be good and to just stay with it don’t give up and keep working.” Within two years we were the Memorial Cup champions.”

I thought to myself, that’s it, get them to work hard, have a little fun, and tell them how good they are! I can do that and I did from then on. Since then I have been to 5 National Championships, been coach of the year numerous times, taken teams to zones in basketball, volleyball, badminton and track and seen many student athletes excel.   It has been a great deal of fun for me to see young athletes reach beyond their own expectations.

I think of these 3 questions before I construct every practice and then I build the sequences with these in mind. Since I took this advice my teams have been extremely successful. It just works. will provide more details on how this is achieved in their Team Building Everyday sessions.

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Basketball a Rock Star and Athletics:

I volunteered to coach a grade 9 B basketball team because at the time I was teaching in an alternate program for Junior High students who had difficulty coping in a regular setting. I coached the team so one of our more athletic students could play on the team. I was to take him to all practices and games and return him home, watching him closely so he didn’t get into any trouble as he had been banned from the school we  practiced at.

That year we had an interesting team of players. We had a real tall kid, Elliot who was very bright and a very good leader. He was also a very good basketball player, quick of foot and he had good ball sense. He had only one arm and he never let it interfere with his ambition, tenacity or how he played the game. Every once in a while he would get called for double dribbling, by having his hand underneath the ball and turning it over when he dribbled and our team would protest as the ref made the two handed gesture signifying double dribble. “He only has one arm,” they would stand and yell to the ref. I appreciated the protest by the other players as they showed their support for Elliot. I too was thinking the ref could give us a break.

We had quite the collaboration of players, besides Elliot we had Manuel who was very fast and a good dribbler. Manuel recently came from Puerto Rico. He spoke very little English. Trevor another player on the team, was quite a good athlete but was deaf and had a debilitating disease that qualified him for the Make a Wish foundation and then we had David, my student with the emotional difficulties. It was quite a crew. We practiced hard, led by the one armed boy Elliot but we never had many players who played before. We were also playing in an A league and our players were new to basketball and new to the league. It was a moving experience. I treated them the same as if I was teaching an elite team except we stayed on the fundamentals longer. We learned to dribble, pass and shoot, and we learned to be a team. The process is identical to coaching any team. We worked hard and I pushed them hard often bringing them in for extra practice on week- ends. We lost almost all are games, close in a few, but mostly the A teams with their great experience defeated us with full court presses and they  seemed to pad the score. One time when we were getting beat easily 40 – 12 with 5 minutes left and the other team still playing a full court press  I asked the other coach,  how many points he felt he needed. I then let him know after the game that he obviously didn’t know much about integrity and maybe I would have to explain this to him the old fashioned way. Like out behind the barn. The Superindent spoke to me about choosing my words wiser.

Trevor, our deaf boy was a very interesting fellow. I needed to look straight at him when I spoke or he would have difficulty understanding what we were to do and often if I moved my head too much during an explanation, when the other players departed to try a drill Trevor would tap me on the shoulder and point to his ear to signify he never understood. Manuel often would wait with him because he didn’t speak English well so I learned to have Elliot lead these guys through the drills.

Trevor had an interesting scoring celebration. Once he scored in a game he would slide shuffle around the full perimeter of the court with his arms out stretched and make loud sounds that signified his happiness. The problem was the other team would be bringing the ball up court and Trevor ignored them until he did his basket celebration. At first the player’s would yell at him form the bench,” Trevor get in the play, get in the play.” Then one of the boys would figure out he couldn’t hear them and they would sit down mumbling “he can’t hear us anyways.”

I never said for Trevor to stop the celebrations. He never scored that often and it certainly wasn’t why we were losing, and he really enjoyed his celebration. By Christmas we were getting better, getting closer and if the other teams would start and play their second stringers we would be close. Often we went for burgers and shakes after the games, at least Manuel, David and I as I always took them home.

Trevor got a call from the Make a Wish Foundation and his wish was to visit and have lunch with Gene Simmons of Kiss. Trevor got ready for the trip to Los Angeles and we were never quite sure if he was telling the truth or not. He said for the luncheon he was going to paint his face like Gene Simmons does when he performs. When Trevor returned from his week end, he came running into practice with a Calgary Sun that had him and Gene on the front page. It had Trevor with his painted face and Gene smiling. It was proof he met the legendary rock star. He was supposed to visit for lunch from noon to 2:00 o’clock, but when 2:00 o’clock came Gene suggested they go for a limousine ride to the studio where other Kiss members were rehearsing. Trevor went and after the studio session they went to Gene’s house and hung out with his family. Once supper time rolled around they went for supper and after Gene took him back to the Hotel at 8:00 pm that night. Trevor told the team about his adventure and we halted practice to listen, asking questions about meeting Paul Stanley and what they ate to how big Gene Simmons house was. He beamed the whole time and we sat there each of us whispering when there was a lull in the conversation – Gene Simmons like how incredulous is this? How surreal. Gene Simmons moved up on the meter of great guy that day. He didn’t have to take Trevor in the limousine off to the studio or show him his house or take him for dinner again. He did though and he made one deaf boy very happy. Hech, he made all of us happy. We got to live through this young man and appreciate his happiness. It was a Kodak moment for all.

We went on to win 2 games that year. Trevor did his celebrations; David became our best shooter and even shot a few three pointers. He was the only one on our team to get a three pointer. Manuel learned more English as the year progressed and Elliot learned not to double dribble and when rebounding offensively just tap the ball in and not to bring it down where others could easily steal it from him. I learned the meaning of athletics. We worked hard and we worked together, no one missed practices and no one worried much about the score. When we won our first game we just stood there for a second not knowing how to handle it, after this brief pause we finally came together and cheered, and we smiled and Trevor did a small shuffle not quite all the way around the court.

Onetime I had everyone who was associated with the Alternate program come to the game. Every one of our teachers, the school psychologist, the principal, my mother, wife and her sisters and a few friends who could make it all came and they cheered every time David got the ball.   We made signs saying Go David Go and David dribbled more and shot more three throws than in most games. I believe he was showing off for the fans! We had a student film the game so David would have proof he actually played on a team.

Some of David’s friends would come and cheer him on also and one time even his Dad and brother came.  It was an exciting time, we steadily got better and what I admired about their effort and determination it had nothing to do with going anywhere as athletes.  They were not going to play varsity at least not many.  They played because they wanted to be on a team. They respected one another as they all played equally, they respected the game and they tried hard and it was fun! where coaches learn more than about coaching.

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Leadership Drill for Sports – teaching goalsetting, leadership, and work ethic.

Dot to Dot:

Video of Drill can be found here – 

At first glance and to the untrained eye the players appear to be involved in a very elementary workman like drill. Boring and mundane would come to mind and perhaps old school. In reality it has evolved from a drill that builds tolerance to lactic acid to a drill that brings pride, teaches leadership and is a key performance indicator when discussing the strength of your team bonds. How can a simple drill called “dot to dot” be so useful to leadership training?

The drill starts with players on the dots facing across ice. On the whistle they accelerate moving swiftly across perform a tight turn and return back to the original starting position stopping quickly. Snow should fly when they stop, signifying going the distance and finishing hard.   The players begin on the whistle, accelerate together driving forward at speed to the far dot turning quickly and returning to the start line. Simple for sure. We stress the Kariya start, and properly performing the tight turn. We reward those who fall down as it shows they are trying their best and falling signifies they are reaching beyond their comfort zone. When first beginning we tell them falling is expected as they get low, and dig in deep with their edges quickly reversing direction in a straight line. The more they dig in the more difficult it is. How can this be fun? Their legs start to burn; they are falling down and repeating the same movement over and over again? It is fun to work hard and work hard together!

The players are asked to determine for themselves which direction they are to turn so they all turn in unison. Someone must take charge calling out; turn to the net or away. It is an excellent way for the coach to see who will take charge and how well others will follow. This quick feet drill has been a staple for my teams for many years and it has evolved from being a drill to use when the players are not working hard enough to something they look forward to. It has become an exercise that defines our work ethic and makes us a better group. When done correctly it says “we work hard, support one another, and take pride in our performance.”

The players are in three groups. One group of forwards begin first from the blueline down shoulder width apart and proceed to execute the drill to the best of their ability. Once completed the d men who are lined up between the bluelines, accelerate skating forward to the cross ice dot and transition backward to the starting point. Then the next forward group takes off. The work to rest ration becomes 3 to 1.

How can this become such a wonderful teaching tool? How can this be a key performance indicator for leadership, teambuilding, and our team pride? has the answers for you. It is about putting goalsetting into action. We all have been guilty of giving many different slants on the goal setting process. Unless it is brought to the attention and explained to the players why we are doing this drill in concrete and specific terms so the players understand the goalsetting process these concepts are just that, concepts. We have to interweave our knowledge of goalsetting into concrete specific drills that gives players a clear understanding, a light bulb moment you might say. Then once we have established the goal setting process of linking small steps to larger steps and to the pride of completion, teaching the players to work hard is not about the pain of exercise. It goes far beyond how much can I tolerate to we are in this together working side by side, step by step, feeling that sense of pride together, with the underlining thought we can do this, we do it together and it is what we do. The players begin to cheer each other on and support one another in admiration of not giving in and not giving up. will explain the whole process and how this simple drill evolves into utilizing the power of three training practices and into teaching goalsetting, teambuilding, and creates the work ethic that sets a standard of we out work them because our practices are “Spartan like”

“ It is our duty as human beings to proceed as though the limits of our capabilities do not exist. “                       de Chardin

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Experience Counts – 7 National Appearances (2 Gold, 2 Silver)

The 2015 addition of the Strathmore Bisons was one of our most proud coaching experiences.  We grew from a team that was 7th place in November to winning 12 in a row in January and February, winning the South division and the Pacific Championship.  Something that has never happened in Bison history.

It has taken 2 years since becoming coach mentors with the Foothills AAA Association to achieve this.  A proud moment for all.

In terms of mentorship, the Association has had a Bantam AAA team that finished 2nd in Western Canada, with the Strathmore Bisons coach’s Dan MacDonald and Doug Raycroft the team finished 4th at Nationals.

Here is the link to the Hockey Canada Telus Cup Article on the importance of experience.

By implementing the 5 Pillars of effective coaching practices this team reached heights that were never expected within 2 years.

Visit where you two can acquire the powerful advantage found with Coach’s Edge.  Where Teachers teach Coach’s!

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