General Information-Michigan Coaches

The Role of the Coach in Youth Hockey


There is one, and only one, rule for youth hockey coaches:


The information on this page summarizes the extensive research and experience on the role that coaches play in youth sports.  It is meant for our coaches, as a self-check, and also for other participants (players, parents, administrators), as a set of expectations and recommendations for measuring coaches.  The information is concise and, we hope, easy to read and understand.


  • Helps young athletes master new skills, compete with dignity and pride, and feel good about themselves.
  • Teaches hockey skills at a level the players can understand and utilize.
  • Is able to teach skills properly, for best player development, reduced injury potential, and to keep players motivated.
  • Knows basic hockey techniques, strategies, and rules.
  • Is able to understand the feelings and emotions of his/her players.
  • Communicates well with everyone on the team.
  • Is a role-model of the skills needed to be successful in life.


  • Have fun!  Coaches and players should have fun and enjoy their time together.  This sense of fun should permeate practice time as well as games.
  • Help young athletes develop.  The coach develops players in several ways.  Physically-players learn to build new skills on top of previously learned skills as they become more complete players.  Psychologically-young athletes learn how to control their emotions and hopefully attain a good self-image.  Socially-young athletes begin to see that it takes a team effort to be successful.  
  • Have a winning team.  Everyone wants to win.  Coaches help players learn to win and lose, and to understand that striving to win, doing one's best, is more important than actually winning.


  • Command - The coach makes all the decisions, no questions asked.
  • Submissive - The coach makes a few decisions as possible, may lose control.
  • Cooperative - The coach provides leadership, but allows players to have input into the team, and makes them feel important, a part of the team.  This style is recommended for successful coaching experiences, but may take time to develop because it runs counter to so many stereotypes.  The level of player involvement in team leadership will vary with the age of the players.


  • Effective communication requires two skills:  (1) the ability to SEND messages and (2) the ability to RECEIVE messages.  Coaches need to know when to talk and when to listen.
  • There are two parts of every message:  (1) the CONTENT, or what is being said, and (2) the EMOTION, or how it is said.  There may be problems when a player interprets what is being said incorrectly, because of the way it is said.
  • Effective coaches use a positive approach in communicating with young people.  They explain what a player has done correctly, where improvement has been noticed, in addition to suggesting ways that errors can be corrected.  The positive approach gives the player confidence that he or she can do what is being asked of them.
  • Coaches must know how to LISTEN to their players.  Concentrate on what the athlete is saying.  Do not assume you know what they are going to say.  Ask questions, dig deeper, so the athlete knows you understand, and are interested.
  • Almost 70 percent of our communications are NON-VERBAL.  Facial expression, tone of voice, gestures, the manner in which we stand or sit, all of these convey our feelings---sometimes more clearly and truthfully than the words we are speaking or hearing.  Coaches must be aware that their "body language" is telling their players more than the words being exchanged.


Youth hockey coaches can improve their credibility, and their success at player development, by being...

  • A Cooperative-Style coach.
  • Knowledgeable about the game (or at least honest about what you know/don't know).
  • Fair and Consistent with players
  • Able to express warmth, friendliness, and acceptance.
  • Dynamic, energetic, spontaneous, and open
  • Positive, always positive, in dealing with players.

The USA Hockey Coaching Education Program presents this information in the hope that it will educate the reader, whether coach, parent, player, or other participant.  When children grow into adults, and reflect back on their childhood, they often recall the high and low points of that era in terms of the adult influences that were a part of the experience.  We expect and hope that our coaches will evoke many great memories in their players' minds, and will at the same time give to those players the skills and desire to continue on in the sport, at whatever level they try to attain.