Motivating your young hockey players to keep pushing on and trying their best can be hard. This is especially true after a big loss or other disappointment. However, as the coach, remember that you hold the key to helping your players reach their full potential and to keeping team morale high. If you’re struggling with those tough responsibilities, don’t worry; there are some simple tips that can help you big time.
Explain It All
To begin with, one of the most important things you can do to motivate your players when morale is low is to explain WHY you’re doing each and every thing you do as a team. For example, if your team members complain about not wanting to do a drill, tell them what skills the drill will build and how it will help them. Set a goal and a purpose for each practice, and clearly express it to your players. It’s a simple thing, but when people feel like they understand WHY they’re doing something and HOW it will directly benefit them, it can make all the difference in terms of motivation.
Encourage and Build-Up
People tend to flourish and truly do their best when they feel cared about and supported. For that reason, it’s incredibly important to encourage and build-up your players at every possible opportunity. Each practice, try to find one positive thing to say about each and every player. You’d be shocked at the difference this can make! Also, in general, try to always be encouraging and supportive. If you get frustrated or defeated, don’t let it show! Your players will be motivated by your positive attitude and by your support for them, and it will pay off big time.
Something you’ll want to avoid if motivation is your goal is comparing your players to one another. You should never say anything like, “Why can’t you pass like Johnny?” Even well-meant statements like, “Watch how Sam does it and copy him” can be damaging. Each of your players is an individual with his own strengths and weaknesses. Players can’t and shouldn’t be expected to have the same strengths or even the same playing styles as anyone else on the team. When you compare, you make players feel “less than” and really damage their motivation; you can also breed resentment and jealousy between teammates, which is definitely no good! Instead of comparing, offer gentle suggestions for individual improvement while also acknowledging and complimenting each player’s unique skills. You won’t hurt any feelings, and you’ll be helping your players to improve as athletes.
As you can see, building motivation isn’t hard. However, it’s also something that can easily be broken down, so don’t stop following these tips once you have your team where you want it. Keep on following them and being the most encouraging coach you can be, and you should continue to see great motivation among your players.