Jack Blatherwick

The fatal mistake in development

 

By Jack Blatherwick
Let’s Play Hockey Columnist

Two of the greatest coaches ever, Herb Brooks and John Wooden, had some important advice for coaches who are committed to helping their players develop over the course of a season.

“I wouldn’t dwell on mistakes of commission,” Brooks said. “It’s the mistakes of omission that worry me.”

John Wooden’s philosophy was the same, but expressed with slightly different words: “The team that makes the most mistakes will eventually be a winner. That team is taking the initiative and will improve.”

Every young athlete should replace the word “team” in Wooden’s concept, and insert yourself.  If you are trying things, being creative and bold – if you stick your best foot forward regardless of the consequences, you will improve.

On the other hand, if you try to be invisible – if you leave your best moves untried, because you are out on the ice to avoid mistakes – you will not develop. 

Many coaches dwell on mistakes of commission, sometimes in a calm and rational way, but it is intimidating to most players, and prevents them from expressing their deepest passion to be extraordinary. Hockey requires instantaneous read-react, creative decision-making, and this is learned only by trial and error. Thoughts of preventing errors will slow down the decision-making.

Coaches must be patient with errors – accept them as part of the process – or there is no bottom-line improvement. Of course there will be physical improvement – skills will certainly get better in a hockey season – but without the freedom to let it all hang out, the player will not become a more effective competitor.

The fatal mistake in the development of a team or an individual is to be so intimidated by the possibility of mistakes that you make the greatest one of all, the mistake of omission.

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