Today’s athlete is very different from the athletes of even five years ago and today’s youth players have a different mindset than the generation that played before them.
That difference in attitude can cause some friction between coaches and players and lead to misinterpretations of motives and actions.
“It’s such a powerful topic,” Brenley Shapiro, a leading sports psychologist who is quickly becoming one of the major influencers in professional hockey, told the Total Sports Quinte Podcast. “We have a new generation of kids, and that old-school coaching, it just doesn’t work anymore.
“It’s still out there. That sort of yelling and intimidation. That power imbalance. You’re never going to get the most out of the kids. They might conform; they might listen, because they’re fearful. But you’re never giving them a chance to develop to what they’re capable of because they’re motivated by fear. Fear of failure. They’re never going to be willing to try new things and make mistakes.
Shapiro has worked with several coaches and they have discussed how to create a better atmosphere in the dressing room, on the ice and on the bench.
“I did a really powerful workshop once with coaches, they came into the room and I gave them cue cards and said, ‘Tell me why you do what you do. Why do you coach?’ And we went through the presentation and I went back and read their answers,” she recalled. “They really wrote me the most beautiful things. They coached for the love of the game, they coached to give back to the game, and they coached to grow the game. To develop players and good people, it was beautiful.
“Then I started to throw back some scenarios at them. When you’re screaming at a kid when he comes back to the bench after making a mistake, benching him, doing all these things, are you really in line with what you just told me on these cards? Do those behaviours match with what you said?
From there the room got really quiet and it felt like an a-ha moment for many of coaches present.
“We really have to educate ourselves on how to create that type of environment where kids can develop and grow,” she said. “If you’re screaming at a kid for making a mistake, where is the learning opportunity? Have you squashed it because now the kid is frightened? He is going to defend himself, put his head down, and blame somebody else. I think you just lost the learning opportunity. It just doesn’t work.”