Coaching: Cause or Effect

Another common theme among coaches, and an obsession of mine. What are coaches paying attention to? What are fans paying attention to? What are you paying attention to? Cause or effect?
If you are to talk to the average hockey fan, you are likely to hear remarks from them regarding EFFECT. They’ll tell you what a player did or how they perceive that they played in a game. They can tell you what they saw, because it was obvious to them.
I find that coaches will do this too. Some coaches will tell you what you did. Or they’ll tell parents what the team did. They are describing the EFFECT.
CAUSE, on the other hand, is tricky. Determining CAUSE requires expertise, careful thought, and detailed examination. It also requires a disciplined and open mind. That being said, coaches who understand CAUSE are worth their weight in gold. (Or at least coaches who are willing to investigate CAUSE rather than be content with observing effect). Why? Because a coach who can determine CAUSE, can change EFFECT.
If all you are observing is EFFECT, and you pay no attention to CAUSE, you cannot help a player improve his or her game. I’ll give you an example:
Let’s say a player skated down the wing, took a shot, and missed the net. When the player gets to the bench, the coach says “you missed the net. You need to hit the net.”
In this example, is the coaches feedback helpful? Not really. I’m sure the player knew he missed the net, and I’m sure that the player also knew that missing the net is not a desirable outcome.
So why do coaches tend to give this sort of feedback? As I said, it’s because it’s EASY. You watch something that happens, and then you report it back to the player…and you think you’re doing a good job as a coach because it’s “feedback”.
What is hard about determining CAUSE? Two things:
-First, as previously mentioned, it requires careful thought. You need to consider many different causes and think HARD about potential causes. Then you need to intelligently weigh the possibilities of each potential cause having an EFFECT. Which leads to the second point….
-Second, the actual CAUSE of an EFFECT may be unclear. There may be many contributing factors to an EFFECT. And determining which CAUSE has the most impact on the EFFECT may be very difficult or impossible. (I’m using simplifying language here…if I were to be 100% accurate, i would discuss correlation vs causation…but you can do a Google search for that if you’d like to learn more)
The main point is this: if you’re trying to help a player or help yourself, your insight is only useful if you can help them identify and improve CAUSE in order to improve EFFECT. But it’s hard to accurately determine cause, so you’ve gotta be ready and willing to learn and gather expertise.

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Jason at Train 2.0

2.0 was born from the belief that 1.0 isn't good enough. The way we're approaching coaching, training, and development for hockey needs to be rethought. My own lessons have led me to rethink the way it's being done and I can't help but write about it. I'm writing for my 12, 13, 14, 15 year old self who didn't have this resource. I'm writing for parents who are putting their dollars and trust in coaches who are wasting all of it. I'm writing because I hope it can make a difference.

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