Families are made up of diverse people who have to work to get along and to trust one another, but who, underneath it all, always have each other’s backs and try to act in the best interests of one another. All of those same features should apply to a youth hockey team. It might sound a little sentimental, but the best and most well-functioning hockey teams are the ones in which the members view one another as family and have respect and concern for each other. If you’re a coach who is determined to turn your team into a family, read on to learn about the four attributes you must develop in your players.
First things first, your players need to support one another. There doesn’t need to be one or two “odd men out” who get treated poorly and picked on by the rest of the team. There also doesn’t need to be one “star” who gets shown special treatment and favoritism. If you’re noticing those kinds of cliquish behaviors among your players, put an end to them now. Also, assess yourself to see if you are in any way promoting these behaviors, and, if so, get yourself in check. Require that your players compliment each other when merited, give constructive criticism with “constructive” being the key word, and support one another’s goals. Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying or poor treatment, and also make sure that you yourself are a supportive, kind influence in your players’ lives.
Another important thing you can do is to require that your players take responsibility for their actions. If they make a mistake or do something wrong, require them to step up and take responsibility for their actions. Similarly, don’t allow any kind of excuses. Institute a “no blaming” policy that prohibits blaming or faulting referees, other players, and the like. Players need to be responsible for themselves as well as to the team. Require players to attend a set number of practices, to notify you in advance if they can’t make a game or practice, and to just generally be respectable, trustworthy people whom their teammates and you can count on.
It is also important that you require your players to be respectful people. Ensure that they respect one another (and you) both on and off the ice. That’s not to say that all players have to be best friends, but they should be able to treat one another with common courtesy. Players also must think of hockey as an “extended family” of sorts, one in which they must respect even the most “distant relatives,” including referees, other teams, other coaches, and anyone else whom they come into contact with through the game.