Celebrating Wins and Dealing With Losses

As the regular season winds down for most of us, there are all kinds of stories about post game reactions to winning and losing. There is some great stuff happening out there along with the occasional horror story. Here are some observations from this past season.

Celebrating Wins

Most of us feel we shouldn’t get too high after a big win. But there should be a way for all to enjoy the ‘thrill of victory’ when it happens. Players typically don’t need the coach to give them a pat on the back after a game well played. That said, there should be a way for teams to recognize and enjoy success.

What we have established with our team are two presentations to recognize achievement. After identifying the overall positives from a game, the head coach turns the team over to the player who was presented with the Game Puck from the previous win. This player then briefly describes the performance of a team mate and presents him with the game puck for tonight’s game.

Next is the Hard Hat Award that goes to the player who put in that extra effort to help secure the win. It is also presented by the payer who won the award the previous win. It is an actual hard hat with a team logo that the winner displays in his stall until the next presentation.

Team celebrations can be as simple as a three cheers together as a team. Build these positive events into the fabric and culture of your team.

Handling Losses

Just like we don’t like to get too high after a win, we should guard against getting too low after a loss. One story from this season was about a team that won 19 games in a row, lost game 20 in overtime, and the coach berated the team after the game. This is not exactly a proud moment in coaching.

A loss is an opportunity to learn and grow as a team and individually. The coach can simply put the game in context for the players following the loss. Let the players leave the rink with a positive lesson to take back to the rink next time. If you can’t find something constructive to say, then say nothing until you have figured out the proper teaching points. Wait until the next practice to address the team.

Playing and coaching should be a positive and fun experience. Be sure to use the post game as a time to accent these points.

Building Team Culture Using a Great Communication Framework

Whether you are in the pre-season phase or have taken over a team in midseason, developing a system that allows for smooth flowing communication within your team will do wonders for team culture.

At the moment, we are going through the experience of taking over a team that already played 46 of their 68 regular season games. Even at this late point in the season, we immediately set out to change the framework for the type of communication flow we wanted. This was the starting point to build a new team culture.

The first step we took in building our communication framework was to address the entire team and clearly outline what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior, on and off the ice. Discipline, good habits, and such topics were outlined to the team. But the starting point was communication.

We stressed that communication needs to be based on respect and common courtesy. One point we made, as basic as it may sound, is the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; basic common courtesy words. We also set up a scenario where players and staff were encouraged to vocally greet each other when they came in contact with each other for the first time each day. The act of saying ‘Good Morning’ to each other was a positive starting point for us.

The next step was to have one-on-one meetings with each player. We allowed 15 minutes for each, with the ability to go longer if needed. Here we identified individual player strengths and weaknesses, and with player and the coaching staff interaction, we agreed on the role each player would play on the team. Highlights of the meeting were written down for future reference. Free flow between each player and the coaches has to happen. A one-sided conversation is hardly a desired situation.

As the head coach, be sure to do the same with assistant coaches, trainers, staff, and team personnel.

Trainers are of particular interest in setting the communication for your team and building a positive culture. They are typically the daily first point of contact for your players as players arrive at the rink. This needs to be positive interaction for all to set an upbeat mood for the day.

Having a positive communication system is essential. Sure, there will be times when there might be a need to reprimand, address negatives, and yell a little. All these situations can be handled in a respectful and constructive way.

Dealing with every situation in a consistent way will help keep the lines of communication in tact and information flowing in all directions.

Taking the time to clearly define acceptable behavior within your team, taking the time to meet individually with all involved, and focusing on positive reinforcement will help establish a strong team culture.