Honesty and Mentoring: Trademarks of a Successful Coach

Mike Babcock is the very successful head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. An excerpt from a recent newspaper article points to two reasons for his success-honesty and mentoring. In the article, he appears to have little problem accepting part of the blame for his team losing a game in the Stanley Cup finals. No excuses or coach speak here. Just an honest assessment of what happened. Refreshing, don’t you think?

The article also mentions how Babcock also talked with Dave King, former NHL head and assistant coach, and former coach of Canada’s National Team. He is one of the most respected coaches in hockey. Babcock uses King, Scotty Bowman, and several others as mentors.

Following is a portion of Eric Duhatschuk’s May 30/08 article in the Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail.

PITTSBURGH — Mike Babcock woke up yesterday morning after the Detroit Red Wings’ first loss in the Stanley Cup final and did what he usually does the morning after a game: He talked to his wife and he talked to a fellow coach, Dave King.

It wasn’t necessarily in that order.

Babcock does it for reasons that he patiently explains all the time: That lifetime learning is a core belief, and that no matter how long he stays in hockey, he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers.

Babcock was blunt about where part of the fault lay for Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins – a loss that cut Detroit’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1. He admitted to overplaying his two best forwards, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, although he added that they didn’t do a good job of keeping their shifts short enough.

Honesty is a ‘must have’ quality to be successful. It might take people awhile to find out you are not honest, but they will eventually figure it out. Players will be the first group to see any lack of honesty. An important rule for coaches- Never try to fool your players. It can’t be done for any significant length of time.

Mentors have the ability to bring the best out in your coaching. We don’t have to learn everything ourselves. Get great mentors and find out what they have learned. Share ideas, ask questions and be sure to listen.

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