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12U: Three Keys to Coachability

01/11/2021, 11:00am MST
By Steve Mann

Youth hockey players can give coaches the gifts that keep on giving – effort, energy and a positive attitude. Showing up unprepared or with a bad attitude can hinder a player’s coachability factor.

“Athletes are definitely in charge of their own work ethic and attitude. These are things they can control that are big for coaches,” said Kenny Rausch, former NCAA champion and USA Hockey’s director of youth hockey. “A selfish kid, with bad body language, who complains a lot, ends up bringing a negative aura that brings you and others down. You want to have people on your team that are uplifting.”


Rausch says it’s more than just what players do on the ice that makes coaches happy. What they do off the ice can be even more important, starting with simply being a good person that tries to do the right things and treats others with respect.

“Treating opponents and officials well is high up on the list,” said Rausch. “If they treat others with respect and are humble, it’s probably a person you want to be around. I oversee national development camps and it’s the kids who open doors for people, say thank you… These are character things that stand out.”

Team Player

On the flip side, players can get in their coaches’ good graces by following a few simple steps.

“I love players who want to be part of the solution, not the problem,” said Rausch. “You want disciplined players who play the game the right way, are willing to sacrifice for the team and are coachable. For example, every kid wants to be a center. The kid who wants to be a center but is also willing to try other positions and show versatility is huge to get on a coach’s good side. You want a player who is selfless, where any little thing that needs to be done, that player will do – from picking up pucks, to cleaning the locker room, little things that go above and beyond.”

The Parents’ Role

According to Rausch, parents can also play a big role in reinforcing coaches’ expectations at home.

“Parents set the tone for their child’s behavior,” said Rausch. “Do you have them say please and thank you at home? Do you hold them accountable to do things they’re supposed to do in school, with chores? If you create that environment, that person hopefully becomes one who wants to go above and beyond on their own.”

There are also things parents can do to ensure they themselves have a positive impact on the team.

“Coaches want someone who is a helper and creating a positive environment,” said Rausch. “Maybe you can’t skate but is there something else you can do like run a timer during practice or keep stats? At games, are you a positive person in the stands, cheering good plays by both teams and not getting caught up in wins and losses? It all comes back to being a good-hearted person.”

The good news for both players and parents is even though bad behavior or attitudes can follow them if they’re not careful, more often than not there are opportunities to turn things around.

“It depends on the coach, some give second chances much easier than others,” said Rausch. “It all comes down to having a relationship with your coach. It should never be us versus them. We’re all in this together.”

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