Coaching In NHL- Changing Attitudes, Changing Minds.

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"Efforts to control aggression in contact sports will continue to be ineffective as long as many players realize that their paychecks depend upon using aggressive behavior to intimidate other players and attract spectators"¦what they paid (spectators) to see was young men heroically confronting one another, putting their physical well-being on the line for the sake of achieving a legitimate and valued goal: victory. It is in the quest for victory that violence becomes glorified in the minds of spectators and players." We seek to change the attitude of NHL Coaches who believe that using enforcers is necessary for team success. We choose to change this attitude because it spreads like wildfire, and eats away at any base of an attitude in Pro Hockey Coaches that sees eye-to-eye with sportsmanship and appropriate aggression in hockey. It is not entirely unfeasible that this prevailing attitude of NHL Coaches threatens the personal safety of players in the NHL. Sometimes a coach will give a goon ice time because he is on the checking line. Most of the time however, NHL Coaches play their goons solely to intentionally injure player(s) on the opposing team. In the NHL today, violence is a necessary ingredient in a team's success, and NHL Coaches are opportunists and tacticians, as violence is a strategy, and the coaches who do not subscribe to it are placed in a precarious position.

The bottom line on the prevailing attitude of NHL Coaches is that enforcers have an integral role to play in team success on the ice. A Pro Hockey Coach's behavior is to put enforcers onto the ice to intimidate and intentionally injure players of opposing teams. We are confident that this attitude is the prevailing one among coaches in the NHL simply from observing what happens in the NHL night in-night out. Nothing else would suffice- NHL Coaches' actions in games situations speaks louder volumes than their words in the locker room and off the ice.

We are attempting to change both the consequences of the behavior and the evaluations of these consequences. For the sake of clarity, beliefs regarding the consequences of the behavior refer to making NHL Coaches aware of the consequences of having the attitude they do, while the evaluations of the consequences refer to making NHL Coaches care about the consequences of having the attitude they do.

Health risks and outright dangers to NHL Players become graver as more coaches adopt the prevailing attitude. Obviously Coaches are aware of this reality, so in this context, we endeavor to change NHL Coaches' evaluations of the consequences of believing that enforcers are essential for success on the ice.

The audience whose attitude we wish to change is NHL Coaches. Pro Hockey Coaches are role models to players and up-and-coming Coaches. By its very nature, the game of Hockey is aggressive, and we are not at all suggesting that NHL Coaches discourage appropriate forms of aggression such as legal body checks. However, using enforcers for the exclusive purpose of injuring other players and maintaining that this attitude is necessary for success is unacceptable. We endeavor to make Pro Hockey Coaches aware of the positive consequences of not playing enforcers and how it outweighs any negative consequences incurred by not playing them.

The medium of the message will take the form of an informative, interactive, and instructive clinic for NHL coaches. We believe that participation in a clinic can foster the commitment to change one's attitude. The clinic's duration will be four days, and it will be held one week before training camp begins every season. A clear advantage of holding the clinic immediately before training camp derives from the message and attitude change still being fresh in NHL Coaches' minds. A significant advantage of the clinic is that it targets Pro Hockey Coaches directly through face-to-face interactive programs. In the workshops, professionals share information in a relaxed and open setting. Information is received first hand by NHL Coaches, not like in an article or in a newspaper, where information is filtered through the subjective bias of the reporter and editor. In our workshops, speakers are on the spot, and will not be able to pass over unambiguous rhetoric. Last, we chose this medium for our message since we learned from the cohesion assignment that placing a group in closer physical proximity might foster a condition of tighter group cohesion focused around changing their attitudes.

But the clinic that we propose has some drawbacks. First, since it happens once every season, scheduling conflicts are a reality. But this clinic is just as important as training camp, and therefore all coaches should be just as committed to attending and to participating in the clinic as they are at directing training camp. After all, this clinic is a training camp, albeit for coaches. And under NHL rules, their attendance would be mandatory. But some Professional Hockey Coaches might perceive that gathering for four days over the issue at hand is not only a hassle, but also a waste of time. Some NHL Coaches, especially the successful and experienced ones, will disagree with the clinic's message and contend that their attitude need not be changed. So NHL Coaches must feel relaxed and at ease, and the opening address of the clinic is geared towards this end, and towards making it clear that NHL Coaches must accept responsibility for their attitudes.

We feel that NHL Coaches would absorb the message best if the sources of the message (the type of workshop and the speaker of the workshop) varied between instructional lectures and interactive workshops. On the first day of the clinic, the most successful NHL Coach of all time, Scotty Bowman will give the opening address. The more respected the source of the message is, the more influence the message will have over the audience. But if the more experienced coaches presided over all of our workshops, other coaches would perceive the clinic as an insult to their intelligence, and our attempt to change NHL Coaches' attitudes would be in vain.

On the other hand, if the clinic is only interactive, where coaches have control of the medium and the message, it might be more difficult then to convince Coaches that their attitude needs to be changed. In the morning therefore, sport psychologists should be respected in their professional capacity while directing the clinic's instructional lectures. We believe that using sport psychologists as professional sources is more beneficial to using a Coach for the same purpose, since a Coach is less likely to challenge the professional opinion of a psychologist than they would be to challenge that of a fellow Coach.

Fair Play Code of Conduct Clinic for NHL Coaches Workshops are instrumental in our endeavor to change NHL Coaches' attitudes and are designed with four things in mind. NHL Coaches should appreciate the prevailing attitude among coaches in the NHL today. NHL Coaches should collectively foster the commitment to change this undesirable attitude. Our clinic should cause each Professional NHL Coach to individually re-assess his attitude. But for an effective change of NHL Coaches' attitudes, they must understand the causes behind their attitude and their game-time strategies.

Day One 8AM-9AM Coaches arrive in Toronto at Pearson International Airport 9AM-11AM Coaches travel to Collingwood to Cranberry Resort by bus 11AM-1PM Arrival and Lunch 1PM-3PM Opening Address- Scotty Bowman We chose Cranberry village in Collingwood as the location for our four-day clinic because it provides a comfortable setting, and creates an environment more conducive to changing NHL Coaches' attitudes. Cranberry resort has hike trails, two Olympic-size pools and diving boards, twelve indoor tennis courts, two indoor ice rinks, plentiful and spacious racquetball and squash courts, saunas and hot tubs, and cozy chalets featuring brass fireplaces and tasty room service. To make coaches feel even more comfortable, the NHL will cover the four-day tab. Our desired effect is to make coaches feel most physically comfortable. Hopefully, creating a vacation-like setting might make their attitudes easier to change.

By design, day one of the clinic is an icebreaker. In the opening address, Bowman will prompt all NHL Coaches to dig deep down inside, and perform cost-benefit analysis as to whether their undesirable attitude is worth clutching to. Near the end of his opening address, Bowman drills the ultimate message home that teams can win without enforcers, and that enforcers do more harm to the game than they do good. In the opening address, it is essential that Bowman causes all present to commit to the purpose of the clinic and to be as open minded as possible.

Not only will Bowman's message be taken seriously because he is the most successful coach in league history, but also because his personality is best fit for delivering the crucial opening address. He is neither eccentric nor loud. His demeanor is calm, cool and collected. He speaks softly and slowly in an intelligible voice with a powerful overtone. Most important, because Bowman is the most successful coach in league history, if he asserts that teams can win without enforcers putting players in hospitals, NHL Coaches will buy it. Bowman's opening address gives our clinic purpose and legitimacy.

On day one of the clinic, we chose to give the coaches the rest of the afternoon off for a couple reasons. First, on the first day of any such clinic, one does not want to mentally overload the participants. Some Professional Hockey Coaches will feel uninterested, some even hostile to the clinic. These feelings will diminish NHL Coaches' attitudes' capacity for change, and would therefore counter-act the purpose of the clinic. We also gave the participants the afternoon off since they need to unpack their luggage and get acquainted with their surroundings.

Day Two 9AM-10AM Breakfast 10AM-12PM Speaker: Sport Psychologist- Dr. Widmeyer Topic: Antecedents of Prevailing Attitude of Coaches in NHL 12PM-1PM Lunch 1PM-3PM Interactive Question and Answer Period To change Professional Hockey Coaches' attitudes, we must take note of the attitude's antecedents. So day two of the clinic is designed to identify these antecedents. In the morning instruction, the sport psychologist lectures on these causes so NHL Coaches will hear a professional opinion. Our group identified some of the antecedents. First, coaches play enforcers because they want to show other teams that their team is tough and will not be pushed around. Second, coaches become frustrated because of perceived unfair officiating. Third, coaches may experience frustration and embarrassment after a player on his team loses a fight and/or when his team played below their capabilities and expectations.

The afternoon consists of question-answer periods. So all the participants may analyze and appreciate the antecedents of their undesirable attitudes, the afternoon session should teach coaches that a team could look tough using appropriate aggression, such as bone crushing hits. Appropriate aggression becomes inappropriate when coaches use enforcers to head-hunt, for blindside hits, hip checks, knee checks, pushing and shoving after the whistle has blown, and off-field trash talk about demolishing opponents. Inappropriate aggression is destructive to the game of hockey and to fostering a sportsmanlike atmosphere. On a different note, if coaches perceive officiating as unfair, they should take it out on the officials, criticizing them in the press after the game. Professional Hockey Coaches must learn not to transfer their frustrations at poor officiating to the use of enforcers to annihilate the opposing team's star player(s). Next, if a player loses a fight, the Coach should accept the result, instead of taking revenge on the opposing team. When a team plays below expectations, Coaches should take it out on the players in the locker room. NHL Coaches have to learn to take deep breaths and consider well thought-out solutions to remedy the causes of their frustrations, instead of acting impulsively to punish opposing teams. In this regard, NHL Coaches should act as role models for their players. Enforcers are not needed for victory. What is necessary for victory is curtailing lethal outbursts of anger and frustration on the ice.

Day Three 9AM-10AM Breakfast 10AM-12PM Speakers: Sport Psychologist- Dr. Tyler-Dasek and Sport Therapist-Dr. Price Topic: Consequences of Coaches having this Prevalent Undesirable Attitude 12PM-1PM Lunch 1PM-4PM Team Assignment, Debate- Objectives and Deliberation Day Three is devoted to teaching coaches the importance of performing cost-benefit analysis of having undesirable attitudes. Threats to personal safety of players and threats of imprisonment outweigh any advantages of having the attitude that enforcers are necessary for success in the NHL. In 1987, Dino Cicarelli of the Minnesota North Stars was found guilty of assault on Luke Richardson of the Toronto Maple Leafs after a stick-swinging incident. He received one day in jail and a $1000 fine. More recently, Marty McSorley of the Boston Bruins was suspended for thirty-three games last year and received one year's probation for swinging his stick at Donald Brashear of the Vancouver Canucks. Moreover, McSorley was banned from the international scene as Japan and Europe refused him employment.

On the morning of day three, Dr. Price uses videos showing enforcers hitting from behind, swinging sticks above the shoulders, hip checking, hitting from behind, fighting, and boarding. Dr. Price uses these visual aids and offers his medical opinion, important for fear appeals too, to drill home the message to NHL Coaches that aggression does not pay. In the afternoon of day three, NHL Coaches will split into groups of four, as two coaches with fewer than five years coaching experience will be paired with two coaches with over five years coaching experience.

In the afternoon of day three, each group will be posed with the fundamental question If Aggression Pays and to consider the positive and negative consequences on both ends in their responses. If by the time the debate starts, some Professional Hockey Coaches still hold on to their undesirable attitudes, then hopefully after the debate, those very coaches will understand that the juice is not worth the squeeze. A two-sided message is obvious from the simple structure of a debate. A debate is an excellent source to consider all the angles of an issue. Debates are elaborate and far reaching, as each individual brings their own personal experiences and opinions to the table. After interacting in a debate, NHL Coaches will hopefully reach a collective consensus that Aggression Does Not Pay. For these reasons, three hours are allocated for the debate, whereas other workshops are two hours in length.

Day Four 9AM-10AM Breakfast 10AM-1PM Team Assignment- Presentation and Discussion 1PM-2PM Lunch 2PM-4PM Closing Address- Review of Attitude Change and Strategies 4PM-5PM Depart for Pearson International Airport We wish to use a debate and the advantages derived from the presentation of a two-sided argument, in an effort to steal the thunder of the side that will argue that enforcers are necessary for team success. After all, this is the prevalent attitude in the NHL, so we must acknowledge it. Moreover, debates are rehashes, as coaches digest what they have taken in over the past four days and apply all this new-founded knowledge. First, if some coaches are still unsure that their attitude needs to be changed, then a debate is a last ditch effort to have them air their opinions in an interactive situation where any NHL Coach's opinion may be rebutted by the majority. In this regard, peer pressure will discourage this Coach from clutching on to his undesirable attitude.

In the closing address, Bowman has his final opportunity to drill home the message that coaches are responsible for the conduct of their players. Are coaches really responsible for their enforcers' conduct on the ice? The OHL Commissioner, Dave Branch, says most definitely, as he suspended Lindsay Hoffard, head coach of the London Knights for twelve games for sending his toughest goon out on to the ice with two seconds left in regulation time. The enforcer pummeled a player and broke his nose severely.

In his closing address, Bowman must foster a sense of collective responsibility among Professional Hockey Coaches. And once NHL Coaches are committed to changing their attitudes, they will be more likely to understand when frustration is most likely to occur, how to detect it, and how to control it. To end the clinic, Bowman will inform all participants of a study conducted by the Texas Youth Commission, that at the highest level of competition, teams playing with more violence are not more likely to win. In fact, the opposite is true. In a study of 1,462 recorded penalties from all 18 Stanley Cup Championship Final Series from 1980 to 1997, teams with less violence were more likely to win and averaged more than seven more shots on goal per game than teams that played with more violence. Over the course of a seven-game series, this would provide an additional 53 more shots on goal - more than a whole extra game's worth of shots on goal, to teams playing with less violence. The researchers also found that losing teams demonstrated more violent player behavior early in a game, suggesting that "violence was not due to the frustration of losing, but rather due to an intentional strategy possible based on the mistaken belief that violent behavior contributes to winning."