We Need More Problem Solvers

My coaching dream is to be in the National Championship game, standing behind the bench and watching my players make decisions and solve problems. I would be leading a group of people that are elite at adapting.

In a sport like hockey, adaptive performance is omnipotent. The pace of play, number of players, the playing surface, officiating, and the mistakes that are made create a randomness to the contest. It’s one thing to have a plan and it’s another thing entirely to be able to adapt to the environment and circumstances as it unfolds so quickly and under the “fog of war”. The game of hockey is VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

In order to perform under these conditions I have found it’s helpful to prepare the following:

  • Everyone understands the structure. Our structure stays the same but decisions are made within that structure. When everyone is starting from the same frame of reference, they are more aware and confident to adapt.
  • Commander’s intent: everyone knows the objective but is free to find the best way to accomplish the task. This gives the players freedom and autonomy to play their game and it builds trust between everyone in the organization.
  • Identify common and likely situations and pre-determine our response. For example, either we will score first or the other team will score first. How will you handle each scenario?
  • Put your players in a position to make decisions and solve problems every day. If you want them to perform and adapt under the stress of the competition they should have a chance to practice.

Try this drill:

A common situation is your team is tired and ices the puck. The other team puts out their top line on the ice for the face off and they are fresh. How do you get out of this situation? What are the options to “buy time”? What is your plan if you win the faceoff? Lose the faceoff?

We practice this scenario by having 5 players perform a conditioning skate and then immediately line up for a defensive zone faceoff against 5 players that are fresh. You play out the shift until a whistle or the tired team can execute a line change of all 5 guys.

The offensive team should have a plan on how they will play to prevent the tired team from changing and consider their own line changes in the offensive zone to further increase their advantage.

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