6 Ideas for End-of-Season Player Gifts

Landy_300Consider skipping the typical trophy this year in favor of a more usable item. Grab a silver Sharpie and personalize these items with each player’s nickname. Whether your players are 4 or 14, boys or girls, you’ll find something for them here.

1. Colorado Avalanche Mini Figures

This cute little figure of Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is Lego compatible. At $12.99, it’s not a bad trophy price. Find other NHL team items—including pucks, mini sticks, mouthguards and hockey socks—here.

2. Mini Hockey Sticks

Hockey players of all ages indulge in knee hockey—at least until their knees go bad. And nobody ever has enough mini sticks. Check out the Total Hockey Mini Stick for $5.99 or spend a little more on a sturdier composite version.

3. Mini Hockey Pucks

Those mini hockey sticks don’t get you very far without some nice, soft mini hockey pucks. A pack of 2 Foam Balls & 2 Foam Pucks is only $4.99 or check out the USA Hockey Mini Foam Puck for $2.99. If you need to play in the dark, try the Franklin Glow In The Dark Mini Balls Set for $6.99.

4. Stickhandling Ball

A stickhandling ball, such as the Pro Guard Total Hockey Wood Stick Handling Ball for $2.99, is not only a great memento of a season but it helps players keep their skills sharp for next year.

5. Skate Lace Bracelet or Necklace

Let the world know that your kids play the greatest sport on earth with a Bauer Skate Lace Bracelet ($5.99) or an A&R Hockey Lace Necklace ($8.99).

6. Water Bottle

Stuff a $2.99 Total Hockey water bottle with an energy bar and stickhandling ball for a practical treat.

10 Top Volunteer Incentives

Every year, every team seems to go through the same ritual: How to thank the team manager. (And maybe the team treasurer, the social coordinator, the water bottle hauler.) So you take up a little collection and then you start asking around. Does this person like coffee? Movies? Golf? You buy a gift card, sign a card and you’re done. There you go: A perfectly forgettable gift that is gone in no time. This year, think about more personal gifts that don’t get lost in the shuffle of daily life:

  1. Insulated travel mug

  2. Hot/cold clear acrylic cup

  3. Stadium/tailgate foam cup holder for your favorite team

  4. Smartphone gloves

  5. Stadium blanket

  6. Spiritwear for your association

  7. Car wash, detailing, car scents

  8. Dinner out with reservations and babysitting money

  9. Tickets for a favorite experience: movies, comedy club, hockey game

  10. Top-of-the-line anything: golf balls, nail polish, car wax

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Anton for this story.

The Importance of Regular Team Meetings

regular_team_mtgs_postYouth coaches sometimes joke that the ideal youth team is a team of orphans. Though this approach is one solution to problem parents, there are other more practical solutions that can work equally well. The following article reminds us why it is crucial to have team meetings on a regular basis.

One of the best ways to alleviate problems and misunderstandings is through regular communication with parents. In the absence of coaching guidance, parents will form and communicate their own opinions of the status of the team and the steps necessary for improvement. Some parents may be objective and knowledgeable about the sport, but if they don’t speak up, then the overall team opinion may be shaped by others.

For coaches, parent-to-parent and parent-to-player communications can become distracting to their efforts to make team improvements. Coaches should consider short and regular meetings with all parents to help shape these opinions and give parents better insight into what to watch for in games and practices. In these meetings coaches might cover:

  • Recent team performance giving parents insight into the progress the team is or is not making in various areas.

  • Approaches taken in practices that are attempting to shape game performance.

  • Re-emphasis of team goals and objectives.

  • Realistic guidance concerning upcoming game and practice performance.

  • Positive comments concerning every player.  Mentioning only a few players may raise more parent concerns.

Parents often help judge the success of coaches, teams and seasons. In the absence of information, the judgments they give will vary greatly based on their own experiences. With information, parents gain better appreciation for the challenges coaches face.

Editor’s Note:
Thank you to Sports Esteem for this article.

3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Team’s Results

three-goal-setting-tips-postGoal setting is an important practice in any stage of life. It helps us move forward and makes us realize there is always room to improve. For young hockey players, goal setting can help motivate them to move their game to the next level.

Good performance starts with good goals. Lou Holtz, one of the of nation’s most successful college football coaches, once said that “Of all my experiences in managing people, the power of goal setting is the most incredible.” He carried with him a book identifying personal, player and team goals and used these to motivate himself and his team.

In Dr. Kenneth Blanchard’s book, the “One Minute Manager,” he identifies three steps toward getting the most out of a group of people. While written for a business audience, its lessons also apply to sports teams. The book’s three recommendations are:

  1. One Minute Goals - Goals are agreements between the coach and the individual players or the coach and the team, on the desired accomplishments. Three to five goals should be the limit with a good understanding of current and expected performance.

  2. One Minute Praisings - Immediate and specific positive feedback helps players know when they are doing something right and encourages them to keep doing it.

  3. One Minute Reprimands - If goals aren’t being met, players need quick corrections followed by a reaffirmation of the player’s value and potential.

Goal setting works at any age level although the goals and the methods of communication may be very different. Clear goals keep everyone focused and allow them to review their progress. If players know they are improving, then they will continue working to accomplish their goals.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Sports Esteem for this article.

Q&A: How Do I Deal With Out of Control Hockey Parents?

obnoxious_parent_postOne of the important elements of team sports are the relationships that form between the parents. Often times the camaraderie of parents in the bleachers is just as strong as that of the players. However, sometimes a few unruly parents can make it difficult for the rest. In this article, Former NHL player and founder of SweetHockey and OnlineStickhandling.com, Lance Pitlick, offers advice on how to control the out of control parent.

Sean asks: It amazes me how parents will sit there and bad mouth a kid’s performance on the ice not knowing the parent of that child is sitting near them. I constantly wonder what happened to playing a sport for fun, for learning what it is to be a teammate and to learn how to win and lose with dignity and respect. My son plays hockey because it is fun for him. We have no grand plans for him to play hockey in college or the NHL. I am sure he will want to continue play at the high school level. I just need to isolate myself from some of the obnoxious parents who ruin the whole game experience for me. Is there some other way to deal with this type of parent, and how do we keep this from affecting the general attitude and tenor of the team dynamic?

Answer: I’m always puzzled by how some parents act at a hockey rink. I wonder why they can’t see how ridiculous they look. I’ve often wondered if there is a medical term that explains this disorder?  Something like “I’mafreakshowhockeyparentsyndrome” With noticeable symptoms that include: uncontrollable inappropriate verbal outbursts directed towards hockey players, coaches or referees. The behavior is only exhibited at a hockey rink and mysteriously disappears upon exiting the building.

All kidding aside, this is a serious problem and needs to be addressed immediately. From what I’ve learned as a coach thus far, communication is the most important factor, both with the players and their parents. The more transparent I am regarding my coaching philosophy, goals for the year and expectations of players and parents, the more informed everyone is.  This eliminates any uncertainty and having to answer questions throughout the season.

I start every season with a player/parent meeting. This is where I lay out everything that will happen throughout the year. Players know exactly what is expected of them both on and off the ice, but more importantly, they understand the consequences if these expectations are not met. Parents have a similar set of rules or code of conduct. I leave some time at the end of the meeting to answer any questions. When we walk out of that meeting, there is a clear plan regarding the goals for the team, rules that need to be followed and the consequences for behavioral misconduct. This takes some preparation, but a little sweat equity early in the year will pay big dividends as the season progresses. Players and parents need structure and this is an easy way to set the tone for the season.

My last suggestion would be the use of video. Roughly 60% of the population is visual when learning. What this means is that visual learners don’t absorb information when told verbally. They need to see it for them to fully understand. I’ve used video footage of practice or games as a teaching tool when coaching players. I can explain to a player what they should do differently and nothing changes, however, once they see it on the big screen, the effectiveness is very powerful. I’d suggest this as a teaching tool for one of those goof-ball parents. A video showing the parent in action may be enough to eliminate the unwanted behavior.

Hockey is the player’s game, not the parent’s. Let’s focus on all the life lessons it teaches and the personal growth potential it provides.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Lance Pitlick for his valuable advice.  For more information about Lance please visit www.sweethockey.com or www.onlinestickhandling.com.

How to Ensure Your Child Has a Great Coach

how_to_ensure_a_great_coach_postThe following article was posted as a reader comment in response to our recent Q&A article titled “How Do We Get Better Coaching in Youth Sports?” It offered such great advice, we thought it would be beneficial for our entire readership. As a thank you for sharing his advice, HockeyShot.com is giving Tom a gift certificate to HockeyShot.com. If you have advice for how to improve the youth hockey experience, please click here. If your idea is selected, we will reward you with a free prize.

Parents need to expect more from their associations in the pursuit of coaching excellence. I have coached under four different hockey directors and found each of their interaction, education, communication and coach training grossly inadequate. It is simply a matter of more effort and better leadership.

First, the association leadership should decide what traits they want in their coaches and charge the league director with getting that accomplished. For example, do you want a competitive program or one whose philosophy is to have fun and learn the game? Those traits need to be communicated with parents, so their expectations are in line with the association’s, or they can choose to go elsewhere.

There is a real misnomer that the best coaches must be extremely experienced at hockey. While that can help, especially a beginning coach, it really should be low on the priorities for coach selection. Let’s face it, there are a tremendous number of players in all sports that are in their respective Hall Of Fame, but are horrible coaches. The same can be said at the youth level, with former youth, junior and college players. Keep in mind that some of the best coaches in the history of the NHL would have made terrible youth coaches.

What are important traits for a coach? First, he needs to be dedicated to the sport, kids and upcoming season. He needs to be open minded, and willing to do it the way the association wants it done. He should be constantly attempting to coach better. The association must train him for what they want and then monitor and tutor him as it is needed. This is essential! Too many directors build relationships with coaches and expect them to come in and do their own thing. And all too often, their “thing” is not in line with association expectations.

A level 5 certificate is not necessary, but I do recommend a Level 4 CEP (or equivalent) to coach squirt ages and above. The association’s hockey director must make sure the all coaches are coaching the association’s way.  And this only comes from proper recruiting education, training, mentoring and monitoring - no matter what it says on the coach’s resume. Furthermore, while fathers make fine coaches, it can be a problem with team selection and dynamics. It is up to the hockey director to make sure this is not happening.

Parents - you should expect your hockey director to provide your child with a great coach. It really is his most important job. If he does not do it - get another director.

Editor’s Note: A special thank you to community member Tom, for his permission to reprint this comment. As a thank you for sharing his advice, HockeyShot.com is giving Tom a gift certificate to HockeyShot.com. If you have advice for how to improve the youth hockey experience, please click here. If your idea is selected, we will reward you with a free prize.

Q&A: How to Deal With Problem Parents

problem-parent-postA travel hockey team is not only made up of coaching staff and players, but also parents. Often times the team and parents become quite close during the season, however, sometimes parents can over step their boundaries and create a difficult situation. In the following article, author of the Hockey Made Easy Instruction Manual and President of an Ontario junior ‘B’ hockey league, John Shorey, addresses a reader submitted question on the precarious situation of dealing with problem parents.

Dale Asks: How do you cope with parents who create problems during the travel hockey season? There are some parents who try to coach their kid from the stands and some who complain about everything from the amount of playing time, the coach and drills, to a multitude of other items. It also appears that these parents complain in front of their kids which results in the player having a bad attitude. These parents make it difficult for the rest of the team. Please discuss the responsibilities of the coaches in this type of situation and what, if anything other parents can do. In a long travel season, one bad parent can really disrupt a team.

Answer: At the start of the season, the head coach and his assistants should schedule a team question and answer meeting with parents and players. Doing this alone could, quite possibly, reduce the number of problem parents.

This information sharing meeting will break the ice and give the coaches a chance to answer everyone’s questions and explain their coaching philosophy, including: team goals and objectives, rules and consequences, earned or equal ice time, on and off ice practices, length of shifts, power play and penalty killing make-up, tournaments they intend to enter, cost for the season and anything else that seems reasonable.

Both parents and players should have the opportunity to ask the coaches questions. If the parents and players agree with the coach’s philosophy and other input, they can choose to join the team. But, if they disagree, they still have the opportunity to gracefully decline.

This meeting is important because it eliminates major surprises for parents and players during the season. However, having said that, some problems, concerns and situations will arise during the season - they normally do.

The team should have a protocol in place to address periodic issues. This might include scheduling a private meeting with the head coach and the parent or player to discuss the situation. A parent liaison could be appointed to set up such a meeting or bring the issue to the coaching staff to address.

If a resolution cannot be found and the player or parent continues to disrupt the team, the only course of action for the coach is to bench the player or even suspend him. If the situation is so serious and cannot be resolved, a last resort would probably be to release the player (and parent).

Editor’s Note: Thank you to John Shorey for this answer.

Q&A: How to Deal With Cliques During Hockey Tryouts

cliques_during_hockey_tryouts_postBreaking into hockey at the travel level can be very difficult. Add to this the problem of favoritism and cliques and you have the recipe for a less than positive experience. Former NHL player Lance Pitlick and founder of SweetHockey and OnlineStickhandling.com offers the following advice regarding how to avoid this unfortunate scenario.

Chris asks: I’ve only been involved in travel hockey for 3 years. Unless your kid is a superstar, it seems hard to get into certain teams. The coaches and parents already know each other and ignore the other kids and parents. I’ve been to tryouts where there are 40, even 50 kids on the ice at the same time. The coaches watch a few kids and ignore the rest. Do you have any suggestions for coaches and parents to avoid this situation?

Answer: Where I am located in Minnesota, there are two hockey seasons, winter and then AAA. Players skate with their own association during the winter months and migrate to different AAA teams for the spring/summer & falls months. Each association has a tryout process that lasts roughly 1-2 weeks. Players are slotted for teams based on scores received during the tryout evaluations. Most associations in my area bring in independent evaluators or use individuals within the association that do not have a vested interest in the kids trying out. At the end of the tryouts, most players are put on appropriate teams and levels, based on what they showed during ice sessions. There will always be a few players that are on the bubble and could probably play up or down a level, but from my experiences, the majority end up on teams they should be on.

The AAA season is different. Teams are put together with players from a number of different associations. These teams are more like all-star teams and can be more difficult to get a foot in the door. Most have tryouts, but the more high-end organizations recruit players year after year and scout players during the winter months.

At the end of the day you have to be realistic about your player’s ability, passion for the game and willingness to improve. If you think players in your association are getting preferential treatment, I’d suggest getting involved in the process.

Looking at tryouts from a parent’s perspective, typically, all they want to know is how a player makes a team and the criteria that is part of the grading or scoring process. A parent within the association I’m involved with suggested having an open forum for parents to attend. At the meeting, parents will be informed of what to expect during tryouts. This can include the format that will be used, who will be evaluating the players and what criteria will be a part of making the final selections. At the end of the meeting, open the floor to questions. I have found that this process has great merit and should be implemented year after year.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Lance Pitlick for his valuable advice.  For more information about Lance please visit www.sweethockey.com or www.onlinestickhandling.com.

Q&A – How Do We Get Better Coaching in Youth Sports?

better-coaching-in-youth-sports-postGood coaches can be the difference between a positive youth sports experience and one that leaves a child wanting to give up. In the following article, Founder and Director of flexxCoach, Jim Johnson, provides valuable input on how to select outstanding coaches.

Nancy Asks: As a hockey parent, my concern is the selection that associations make for coaching staff. You send your child to upper level camps and pay for private lessons for spring and summer…then end up in a travel program with a BAD coach. This past season we spent close to ,000 dollars with sign-up, tryouts, uniforms, ice time, travel expenses, and more. For the price that we pay we should have higher level coaching. Dads should not be allowed to coach the game until they have a LEVEL 5 Coaching certificate and understand the level of skills and drills that are needed at different stages. Please help! What can I do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

Answer: This is an ongoing problem in youth sports today. There is a shortage of”good” coaches for a number of reasons. There is a tremendous lack of gratitude amongst players and parents today. The top level youth coaches are usually coaching their own children and move up with these players. Coaching takes a tremendous amount of time away from their own families and it is difficult for many to take vacation time to coach travel and at the top levels. My recommendation is to find an organization that is committed to development of the fundamental broad based skills that are necessary to enjoy the game (for coaches and players). Also do your research to find an organization that is committed to the development of  self worth and self esteem in players. The elite organizations generally share a philosophy with their coaches on how this process should take place. Doing this research ahead of time should help you select an organization that is committed to the proper development of coaches and players.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Jim Johnson for his input.

Q&A: How Do I Motivate Parents to Volunteer?

getting-parents-to-volunteer-postThe saying “it takes a village” is not just true in parenting, it also applies to youth sports. Keeping a team running smoothly is not just the responsibility of the coach. Rather, it requires help at all levels. Jim Johnson, founder and director of flexxCoach, offers the following advice on the age old issue of getting parents to volunteer.

Brenda asks: I know getting parents to volunteer has been a long struggle in youth sports, resulting in the same few parents picking up all the slack. I have players graduating out of our high school team this season, taking most of my regular volunteers. This causes a problem because I cannot get new parents to fill their spots. Do you have any solutions so as not to make parents angry but get them to help?

Answer: Volunteerism is a challenge at every level. If you can convey to the parents that this is an essential part of a “team” sport and can be reflected in the overall experience of both the player and the parent, that might motivate some of them. However, that being said, time can be extremely difficult to give for many families in the present economic landscape. Most people are happy to volunteer if the objectives and the expectations are well defined. In addition, it is imperative that the volunteers feel appreciated—including the volunteer coaches and managers.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Jim Johnson for his valuable advice.

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