Communication Breakdown: Your Hockey Player Has No Idea What You Just Said

communication in hockey needs clarity
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The Communication Challenge:

Unclear messaging leads to communication breakdowns between minor hockey coaches & players.  Consider this simple communication challenge for coaches and recreational hockey players.  In your next discussion about the tactics or theory of hockey, count the number of sport specific terms you use.  It may surprise to you recognize how many hockey specific words and phrases you use in the course of that conversation.  When I listen to 2 mechanics talk about what’s wrong with my car, or 2 web developers discuss the details of the back end of my website, they might as well be speaking Greek (I don’t speak Greek). Your ability to speak the same language with your audience significantly increases the efficiency and effectiveness of your communication.

Let me try this sentence on you:

“Get your feet up ice, your head on a swivel, keep your stick active, and jump to a hole when the weak side defenseman rims the puck to the winger on the half wall.”

Unlock Your Communication Potential

To some of you this sentence makes complete sense.  Congratulations!  We’ve highlighted 7  key hockey specific phrases highlighted in bold.  If you processed them all without second thought, then you have a high Hockey IQ. You likely understand nuances about the game quite well.  If you repeat that sentence to your minor hockey players, or to adults new to hockey, many of these terms will simply confuse them.  Your communication will seem lost in translation.

I have had plenty of hockey conversations with youth and rec adult players over the years.  I often realize (perhaps too late) that one word or phrase I used completely threw them for a loop.  Their eyes glaze over and yet I continue on with my description.  If and when I catch myself do this, I have to go back, define each term I want to use and then continue.  One of my own communication challenges in this setting, however, is to resist departing on 6 or 7 tangential explanations while trying to complete my thought.  A tangential discussion or an overly wordy description is a very common communication deficiency in minor hockey coaches, and consequently an inefficient communication strategy.  Moreover, it can lead to confusion and frustration for either the coach or player in the heat of the game.

Communication Lesson Sample: Defining Terms

Taken from Module 1.1 of our online coaching Course.   We’ve created an effective & efficient solution to eliminate communication breakdowns.

Our Communication Breakdown Solution:

CaptureLearn the game’s nuances and languages to enrich your conversations and hence deepen your quality of teaching.  Give your players and teammates a chance for success by giving them access to the information they seek.  The video above is a sample of over 100+ video tutorials we have developed so that you, and your team, can speak the same great language through a membership to How to Play Hockey.  It describes the areas of the ice, like a map describes a city.  We explore the inside and outside of the ice, and what it means to be up ice, and down ice.  Do I sound like a tour guide?  Perfect.  Sign up today and develop your complete game.

Unlock Your Communication Potential

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3 responses... add one

Several years ago ; a former MJ.JrA player and a Masters in Phys.Ed now teaching at a Community College commented on a University Coach he knew locally and the difficulty his players had integrating his lectures and on ice positioning of players in order to execute plays . Our prof simply repeated the message that the response of the players indicated they even as University players and students were lost with this coaching and theory on ice ! The team at the University always finished in the middle of the pack and or out! This was competitive tough University Hockey.

Growing up in the hockey culture should work to your advantage as a new coach but as evidenced above it can also work against you. I was a hockey fan at 2 years old but didn’t pick up the game as a player until my early thirties. Like many others I didn’t get involved in coaching youth hockey until my own children got involved and quickly learned the need to brush up my hockey vocabulary. Through attending clinics and spending many hours on the ice with many experienced knowledgeable coaches I learned there is many different approaches to explaining basic concepts to your students, adult or youth, however the common denominator must be the terminology. I found it’s important to be consistent and conscious of the terms you use to describe the simplest ideas and quiz your players on these terms while explaining a drill. As we all know even adults will hesitate to ask questions in a crowd and although I don’t enjoy singling kids out for attention in front of their peers I do enjoy quizzing the ones who aren’t paying attention. It seems to improve their focus…

Thanks Nate.

Hi Mike,

Very well put, and thanks for taking time to read and comment. Your technique of quizzing players during descriptions is a great one. Funny how the same technique works well as adults, and also with kids. Perhaps we are just grown up kids after all:)

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