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Hockey Analyst Provides Advice On Choosing Best Coach/Organization For Your Child

Nico Hischier instructs a child during the 2017 NHL Draft top prospects hockey clinic and media availabilty at the United Center on June 22, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s the question most parents are faced with at some point in their children’s lives – how do I pick the right sport/coach/team for my child?

Professional hockey player Jordan Parise and CBS hockey analyst Dave Starman joined the Utah Puck report podcast to break down the dynamic of coaching for wins, development of young players and whether or not there is a “magic age” to focus on when it comes to youth sports.

“I can’t seem to answer that question. I’ve been pulled in so many different directions over the course of my career that I can’t seem to come up with a concrete answer,” said Starman.

In trying to come up with a generally accepted answer, we had to ask more questions.

“Are we coaching for right now, or for 10 years from now?” asked Starman.

It’s a good question to start with.

What is the goal for this season? Are the goals different for the player than they are for the team? Do the goals differ from one player to another? You can see how asking these questions seems to get us further from the answer.

Parise’s youth hockey experience saw him growing up in what will have to be classified as one of the most elite groups in the history of hockey. His father JP was a 17-year pro and was involved in some important moments for team Canada and the New York Islanders history.

His brother Zach Parise is currently a pro and has made huge plays in NCAA, NHL and Olympic games. Throw in names like Sidney Crosby, Drew Stafford, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Toews and it almost seems like you’re making it up.

Jordan was coached by his father JP at Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school in Minnesota. Now keep in mind, this is before it became the legendary hockey school that it is today. In fact, this is
the reason it became what it is.

JP had a few philosophies that he coached by, including, what Jordan recalled as, “Winning isn’t the most important thing, but you’d better not lose.”

JP also believed that if you developed all the players on the team, while simultaneously feeding their passion for the game, the winning would come.

As a head coach, I (host of Utah Puck Report, Jay Stevens) started every season with a parent’s meeting. I would tell the parents that my goal was to be around .500 by the end of the season and to peak during playoffs. My plan was to roll lines and see who could do what. Sometimes you’d learn what that player could do at the exact same moment the player would learn.

The thing about coaching this way is that sometimes players would be in a position that they hadn’t been in before. A player that was 4th line or even a development player would find themselves on the ice in the final minute of the game either protecting the lead or trying to tie the game.

I would still have parents yelling at me over the glass after games that their kid didn’t get enough ice or that I’d made some mistakes, which I’m sure I had, but it was a learning process for everyone, including me.

I was fortunate enough to be coaching in an organization that supported my philosophy of keeping it fun for everyone while seeking tournaments that would keep us in that .500 range.

Here are the suggestions we came up with when it comes to what to look for in a coach and an organization:

1- Seek out coaches that know what they are talking about and are not afraid to admit they don’t know everything. The reason this is important is coaches that aren’t trying to cover up their shortcomings don’t put their ego ahead of what is best for the players. It’s sad to have to list this first, but I’ve seen this as one of the biggest downfalls in youth hockey.

2- Find coaches that have a reputation of being liked by their players. These types of coaches typically are the ones that love coaching and love the kids. Coaches become an influence in your son or daughter’s life. Sometimes for a year, sometimes for multiple seasons, and sometimes it’s lifelong.

3- Watch out for coaches or organizations that promise everything. It’s hard as a coach to know from season to season if your team is going to be great or not. Coaches are always out to get the best players. The sad thing about the way tier hockey is handled in Utah is the ability to be tier 1 for one season and tier 2 the next based on the depth of your signing class. In order to keep players, some teams are forced to make promises they just can’t deliver on. Your kid could end up on a team that is playing a full season in a division they have no business being in. That’s not good for anyone.

4- Ask your child. Most times, your kid knows where they and their friends want to play. In the end, that’s what is important.

The most important thing, at the end of the season, is not whether or not you won the championship, it’s whether or not your young hockey player wants to play again.

Burn out is huge. I believe parents are the first cause, coaches are the second and the game would be third.

If you can find a coach that inspires the kids and keeps it fun for them, most likely they’ll keep playing and, if they don’t, it’s because the game wasn’t for them, not that the coach burned them out.

Gone should be the days of screaming coaches that have players skating ladders for most of the practice time.

The most important part is finding a team where your player can have fun, feel like they fit in, grow as a player and a person, make lifetime friends, and feed their passion for the game.

This isn’t a complete list. How can it be? Every player has a unique set of needs and it’s up to the parents to find the right fit.

Utah Puck Report is a podcast all about Utah hockey, from interviews with NHL stars to which Grizzlies players are about to take the next step, Utah Puck Report has everything for a Utah hockey fan. Find it wherever you find podcasts or on KSLSports.com.

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