Can A New Coach Make A Difference?

I have heard a couple of incredible interviews recently with hockey coaches. I immediately thought of the parallels to leaders in the business world. It seemed like an opportune time to repost this article on a professional hockey coach. 

I was driving home from work one day last January and heard an awesome interview with Jeremy Rutherford from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the Team 1260 Sports Radio in Edmonton. The discussion focused on the new coach of the St. Louis Blues, Ken Hitchcock, and the team’s amazing turn-around since his hiring.

Highly regarded professional hockey coach Ken Hitchcock was out of work for some time when the St. Louis Blues hired him in November, 2011. He had a reputation throughout the National Hockey League as a disciplinarian for many years, and lead with a “my way or the highway” approach. He had a history of conflict with young players who were having trouble adapting to his style of play.

By the time he took over the floundering yet talented Blues hockey club, the positive change in the team was almost instantaneous. At one point in January of 2012, they were on a 21 wins, 6 losses and 2 overtime losses run. The team’s fans and casual observers were impressed with the team’s turnaround, but not totally surprised based on Hitchcock’s history of success.

When Jeremy Rutherford was asked about Hitchcock’s most recent success, his answer was simple and to the point,

“He mellowed”.

He adjusted his coaching style to cater to today’s players. There is still accountability, but the players are not afraid to make one mistake and then have their butt stapled to the bench for an extended period. Two veterans who had previously played for Hitchcock gave the players a head’s up of what to expect from their new coach.

Rutherford described a potential scenario,

“You make one mistake, no problem. You make a second mistake, no problem. You continue to make the same mistake; the coach and player are going to have to find solutions.”

The part of the radio interview that impressed me the most discussed that Coach Hitchcock had studied all 30 teams for several months while he was unemployed. He was preparing for his next opportunity, and waiting for the phone to ring.

Two things stood out for me about this message:

  • He was not just sitting at home waiting for the next job to fall in to his lap
  • He had the positive belief that another role would come his way, and it was only a matter of time
  • Have you ever observed a sport or business team make a remarkable improvement after a coaching or management change?
  • Can you pinpoint specific reasons for the improvement?
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About Tim Mushey

Dynamic and energized sales rep, mentor and leader since 1999. This blog will be about sales, social networking, personal branding, leadership, music and having some laughs! Don’t be surprised if I mix it up on occasion, and talk about something totally different! I thrive on being part of successful, forward thinking teams. I am ready to go from the moment my feet hit the floor each morning, with the expectation that new adventures will be coming my way. It is rare that there isn't a smile on my face, as I take it all in, and have some fun along the way!

Posted on November 6, 2013, in Leadership, Management and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Moosh, Excellent post. As an avid hockey fan I know of and have seen the type of success that Ken Hitchcock can bring to a team. The quote from one of his former players is something that all managers can take note from. Ken’s commitment to studying and learn is something that we can all learn from. You never know when the next opportunity will present itself. The take away, always be preparing!

    • Hey Bruce! Thanks for the comments. You are so correct in saying to always be preparing. HItchcock has been a student of the game for decades, and his commitment continues to pay off! Thanks again..

  2. The best coaches understand the people on their team and look for their underlying gifts and bring them to the surface.

    The best coaches are exemplary leaders. They understand they don’t have all the answers. They shine the spotlight on the team while the leader applauds in the wings.

    The best coaches are vulnerable. Think of the best leader you’ve ever known. I’ll bet they were swimming in the pool of humility. Great leaders are humble.

    • Hi Steve! Thanks for taking the time to comment! I love your perspective on this very important topic. I especially love the part where coaches “shine the spotlight on the team”.

      Love it. Thanks again…

  3. Great points Tim! Even the title of the post made me think of the Kansas City Chiefs – last year 2-14, this year under a new head coach 9-0 (with minimal personnel changes).

    Understanding who is on your team and drawing the best out of them is universal. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Chris! Wow the Chiefs sure have made a turnaround this year haven’t they? I guess you could argue the same thing with the Colorado Avalanche too!

      Knowing who is on your team is crucial, and understanding who they are can pay huge dividends.

      Thanks again…

  4. The other thing is he decided not to be subborn and unwilling to change his style of coaching.

  1. Pingback: The How To of Hockey Coaching | GET REAL HOCKEYGET REAL HOCKEY

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