“We developed the content to suit different target groups”, explains Markus Graf, Director Education at Swiss Ice Hockey. “On the one hand, we wanted to provide an insight into the latest trends in international youth hockey, and on the other, an opportunity for people to talk with like-minded colleagues.”
Kalle Valiaho, Development Director for the IIHF, concurs on the importance of international cooperation: “It plays a big role in coaching development and hockey development in general. It is important to share the best practices between the countries to be able to continuously get better.”
There was one thing that Ken Martel, Senior Director of Player & Coach Development at USA Hockey, wanted to make clear: “I’m telling you about ‘our way’, not ‘the only way’. Later on at the game, you’ll probably get to see both the positive and negative sides of our approach.” Martel and the attendees also discussed factors such as what “fun” means for children in sport, and what the research shows in terms of how highly they value which elements.
A similar insight into the profession, this time from northern Europe, was then offered by Anders Wahlström, Director of Development at Swedish Ice Hockey Association. The key message of both talks: targeted formats of the game develop young players’ skills in the various elements of ice hockey in different ways.
Sharing ideas like this on an international level is crucial, explains Graf: “We have a strong international network here and, with the support of the IIHF, have been able to attract these top speakers who can offer our attendees some hugely valuable insights. The same goes for the speakers from other disciplines and fields.”
A perfect complement to the more traditional topics from our own sport, and a very important factor to integrate into the event. The programme also included several other discussions and talks with the Swiss goaltending legends Jonas Hiller, David Aebischer and Pauli Jaks.
“These days, a coach has to wear a lot of hats. On one side, they have to develop the top talents and prepare them for the demands of the national and international elite levels of the sport. On the other, they have to be aware that 98 % of the athletes will end up playing at grass roots level. So it’s extremely important to create a positive learning atmosphere that is fun for everyone and helps all involved to develop.
It’s not an easy task!” says Graf, explaining the main challenges faced by coaches today. Kalle Valiaho agrees that coaches have a big impact on how children experience our sport: “It is important to understand that we should create a positive environment for the kids. One where they can have fun, try their best and the coach treats them with respect.”
The final part of the Coaching Symposium will take place on 29 April with the Women’s Sport Conference, which will be attended by 30 delegates from Swiss Women’s Ice Hockey.