Player selection criteria
Posted by Dean Holden at April 22nd, 2013
by Dean Holden, M.Ed (Coaching), ChPC, 22 April 2013
When it comes to player selection, skills and abilities are often initially designated as the most critical criteria. These abilities can consist of skating, puck control, passing and receiving, shooting, checking and the area in which I specialize -developing hockey sense. Coaches must remember that there are other individual characteristics or personal traits which must also be considered in order to select the best team; only by having a clear coaching philosophy in place can the coach identify what identity he/she wants the team to take and ultimately, what kind of athletes to select to realize this vision. Can the coach relate the performance of the athlete to effort?
There have been many regrettable cases of player selection whereby skills override other individual qualities, such as attitude (positive, coachable), work ethic (motivation, competitiveness) and these decisions may even compromise the personal philosophy of the coach; perhaps some of you have first-hand experience with a situation like this? I am sure those of us have learned from hindsight that when choosing a team, one must not be seduced entirely by skill; especially when it is paired with low effort – and certainly not at the expense of our coaching philosophy – but to evaluate individual players on each of their overall aptitudes. How will they ‘fit’ into the vision for the team as a whole? As Tom Renney is fond to say, an experienced coach looks to ‘peel back the layers of the onion’ to examine the athlete more deeply as a person; not to stop at their skill-set.
This diagram has been in circulation for many years. I first saw it in the late 1980’s at a coaching clinic. It provides a useful overview by dividing athletes into four general categories:
GOLDEN EAGLES – high on skills and high on effort. These are your top athletes. Consider yourself privileged to even have one per season; they are indeed rare! GE’s are passionate about improving, take instruction and suggestions well and consistently lead by example.
EFFORT EAGLES – low to moderate ability but high on effort. These are your reliable, humble, hard-working athletes who should form the majority backbone of the team and are consistently working towards contributing to team success.
TALENT TRAP – high on skills and low on effort. These athletes are a conundrum to a coach because they lack work ethic, yet tease with their clearly superior skills. In the absence of true GE’s (due to scarcity), these athletes often get multiple chances by coaches who believe they need their skill level, can ‘change them’ or ‘get through to them.’ Will they become more of a GE with focused coaching, additional maturity, a heightened sense of accountability and the right team culture? Or would the coach be better off with another EE? That is the million dollar question! It is an honourable intention to work with a TT, but the athlete has to match the commitment of the coach and demonstrate their understanding of the situation (“I know I don’t work near hard enough in these situations”); and show a willingness to take responsibility to improve (“Tell me how I can get better and prove to everyone I am a dependable player, coach.”) … otherwise it could be a very frustrating time for all involved!
MIRACLE TRAP – low on ability and low on effort. These people are not usually chosen for team sports and weed themselves out fairly early in the try out process – if they even try out!
EE’s make up the majority of successful hockey teams – if you are fortunate, you might get the odd GE too! The TT can have a negative effect on the team and the coach must be proactive with this athlete immediately (act with a team-first approach in mind). They must be made aware that while their skills could be a tremendous addition to the team, their work ethic must improve to a minimum acceptable standard, or they will be held accountable. Depending on the age / level, this could involve ice time (earn your ice: more effort equals more ice) and ultimately, if the TT does not buy into the effort level required, it is recommended that this athlete should not be part of the organization. The admission ticket for this type of athlete is work ethic – this is an important life lesson for the TT to learn, and although it may sound harsh, releasing a player as a last resort might do them a world of good.
Coaches, be careful not to spend too much time with TT’s at the expense of your time with the EE’s and GE’s – determine a timeline and stick with it. Otherwise, the time you spend managing the TT could be at the expense of the EE’s and GE’s. I term this a 90/10 situation: 90% of your time is taken up by 10% of the individuals. Each individual coach needs to assess their situation and make their own gut decision concerning if they want to deal with the TT at all… and for how long.
Coaches, be clear on your coaching philosophy prior to framing the vision of your team. Know what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable and communicate this to your staff and potential athletes prior to the selection process; then hold people accountable, including yourself. By modeling your words, this will help clarify the player evaluation / selection process and provide the foundation of a successful program for the coming season!