By: Erin FitzGibbon (www.erinfitzgibbon.com) - Originally published in Dufferin Total Sports.
Representative hockey is finally finished for another year. Tryouts are over and kids are focused on their summer sports but this doesn’t mean that coaches are taking time off and forgetting about the sport. The summer months are valuable time that coaches use to organize the upcoming year. Some parents may not realize that during the summer months coaches do a lot of planning. They work hard to get all the administrative pieces in place so they can focus on developing practice plans and focus on helping your child to improve their skills.
Most coaches will begin by planning the season. They will work with the manager to plan create the budget. Coaches and managers develop a timeline for collecting rep fees and team fees. They estimate the cost per tournament and create a target for fundraising. Then there’s the matter of sponsorship. Coaches and managers will draft letters for finding team sponsors. Of course they send out the inevitable "please help" request to team parents. Coaches need help in finding sponsors. Later in the summer a coach will send a friendly reminder that they need your. There really is a lot that goes in to running a rep hockey team. Most people don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes.
Coaches will also work with managers to find team apparel and incorporate this cost into the budget. Some teams will search for sponsors to assist with this cost. It’s up to the coach and manager to decide how to pay for these items. If a coach decides to book extra ice time the process of finding a block of time starts in the early spring. Ice time is hard to come by and the early bird gets the worm. Leaving the search for ice time until the fall season can result in a frustrating search. Most of the ice left over will be at inconvenient times like Sunday morning at 6am. No one likes those times, especially if you are coaching teenagers.
Each team activity whether it is a tournament, team get together or extra ice time requires a travel permit to be filled out. These permits are submitted to the office for approval. Travel permits ensure that the team is covered under the Ontario Minor Hockey insurance policy. Given the nature of today’s society these permits are pretty important. In fact managers carry these permits with them to every tournament. The tournament directors require a copy to keep on file. On top of these permits coaches and managers have to submit an official roster along with the signed letters of commitment. These rosters are then approved by OMHA and the coach and manager receive and official document they use when registering for tournaments. Yep there’s an awful lot of paperwork involved in running a team.
Coaches will also start to plan their season. A good coach will look at the season and choose to enter tournaments that will help to develop their players. The idea is to give players the opportunity to develop their skills and build towards a peak performance during the playoff run. All of this takes careful planning. Coaches consider which tournaments are well organized, which tournaments will offer their team the best competition and which tournaments take place at important times during the year. There’s a lot to consider.
Next, coaches will start to map out a skill continuum for the year. They will consider the strengths and weaknesses of their team and work to address these issues. The idea is to move from simple skills to more complex ones. A coach might notice that his/her players are weak backwards skaters then focus on this skating skill for the first part of the year. Good coaching that focuses on player development is a fine art. It takes careful consideration and planning.
I’ve by no means listed all the off season duties that coaches and managers perform. There are lots of them. When people find out just how much is involved they will often ask me “Why do you do this? Why coach?” The answer is simple. There are an awful lot of headaches involved in coaching but ultimately I love seeing players grow and develop. I receive satisfaction from sharing the game with my players. This satisfaction outweighs the headaches. I can’t speak for all coaches but when I see my players move up a level at tryouts I know that all that planning and paperwork was worth the effort. So next time a coach puts out a plea for volunteers to help with a fundraiser or find sponsors take a few minutes out of your busy day. Many hands do make light work.