Legendary coach Scotty Bowman worked 11 years in the minor leagues before he ever received a shot to coach in the National Hockey League.
During that time of paying his dues, Bowman built a foundation of knowledge and experience that would carry him through a Hall-of-Fame career and would see him lead some of the greatest teams in the game to nine Stanley Cup titles.
It’s funny to think how so many youth coaches feel as if they should be able to race to the top of the youth hockey ranks without gaining valuable knowledge and experience along the way.
That’s about to change now that USA Hockey’s board of directors has passed legislation enacting a major overhaul of the Coaching Education Program.
The new requirements become effective Sept. 1 with the start of the 2011-12 season.
The drive behind the change is to slow down the process of coaching certification, which will benefit not only coaches but ultimately our players.
Coaches can no longer attend multiple coaching seminars over the course of a season, or in some cases a long weekend, in order to obtain higher levels of certification. And while many may bemoan this fact, it will actually make their lives easier, and make them better coaches in the long run.
Under the new system, coaches can attend only one certification clinic per season. They will also need to complete an online age-specific module that corresponds to the level they are coaching.
That means a first-year Midget coach would attend the Level 1 clinic and then complete the corresponding online age-specific module for Midgets. He would no longer need to reach Level 4 certification in his first year of coaching.
We feel that this two-pronged approach to coaching education will give all of our coaches the tools needed to be successful by providing them with a solid overview of the essential elements of the game through the subjects taught at our coaching clinics, while the age-specific online modules offer critical information needed to coach at a particular age level.
The Level 1 clinic is designed to create a strong foundation of overall hockey and coaching knowledge, including the role of the coach, practice planning, skill progression and risk management, just to name a few subjects.
Each subsequent clinic will build on the information learned at that first clinic and add new topics, such as an introduction to goaltending and off-ice training in Level 2, and sports psychology and team concepts in Level 3.
A coach must progress through the various levels over the course of the three-year period until they reach their Level 3 certification. Once they achieve their Level 3 status, they will have options to recertify or move up to Level 4.
One common misconception is that USA Hockey will be making all coaches start from scratch. That’s not true. Current coaches will be grandfathered into their existing certification level.
However, they will need to take the online age-specific module.
The clinic curriculum itself is also undergoing major revisions to incorporate more of the American Development Model principles and will feature more on-ice instruction and demonstration.
We have found that coaches have responded positively to the ADM clinics held around the country, and the certification clinics will follow that lead by showing coaches how to conduct ADM-oriented practices. This will allow a coach to bring those principles and concepts back to his or her team.
Another major change to the current system is the enforcement of the Dec. 31 certification deadline. If a coach has not completed the certification, including the online component, by Jan. 1, he or she will be ineligible to coach for the remainder of the season.
Change, no matter how essential, is not without its challenges. But by slowing down the process and placing greater emphasis on the process of coaching education, we feel that everyone will benefit in the end.
USA Hockey boasts almost 60,000 coaches in its ranks, and we owe it to all of them to provide them with the most comprehensive Coaching Education Program possible. More importantly, we owe it to the game and the kids.