Over-coachers are easy to spot. They’re the ones loudly yelling instructions, every step of the way, from the sidelines, making their players doubt themselves and lose confidence in the process. Over-coachers don’t facilitate one of the most important parts of athleticism- encouraging players to think and make decisions for themselves. Whether you’re guilty of this well-intentioned faux-pas or just don’t want to be, there are many things you can do to avoid over-coaching.
To begin with, know that there is a time and a place for so-called over-coaching. That time is during drills and practices. During these times, it’s perfectly okay to demand perfection from your players and to constantly insist that they do everything 100% correctly. When game time comes, though, it’s time to back off and give your players a chance to implement the things they’ve learned.
That might mean letting them make some mistakes. Yes, it’s definitely difficult to sit back and watch your players completely flub something you’ve taught them, even something you’ve drilled into them how to do time and time again. However, you have to understand that, no matter how much it may feel that way, you are not letting your players down by refusing to tell them what to do. You are actually giving them freedom and helping them to learn from their mistakes. Every action in hockey (and in life) has consequences- sometimes they are positive and sometimes they are negative. Either way, your players have to learn and see for themselves that their choices carry weight. Letting them make mistakes, even though it’s hard, is actually doing them a much greater service than simply calling all the shots for them.
Also, bear in mind that coaches aren’t the only ones guilty of over-coaching. Sometimes the parents can be just as bad, or even worse. If you notice parents who are constantly yelling from the sidelines or pulling their kids aside to “advise” them, it’s your duty as a coach to explain why you’re “stepping back” and letting the dice fall where they will.
Being a coach is about coaching, but it’s also about knowing when to stop coaching and when to let your young players spread their wings and fly free.