This paper is designed to help a coach motivate a team to win. It is written from my experiences, so it will not be appropriate for everyone. Please read the paper and take from it what you can. Hopefully you will pick up some useful ideas. Happy coaching.

To explain some general motivational principles and some specific points to prepare a hockey team for a competition this paper will endeavour to show you ways to:

  1. get to know your team (and them you),
  2. leadership principles and styles to consider,
  3. understanding team culture,
  4. building a team and preparing it for a competition,
  5. the big game and finally
  6. some general points.


2.2.1 Talk with the team

Sit down with the whole team and ask them what they want to achieve. Initially it is good to hear their opinions before you voice any of your own. Don't give them a big speech about how they have to win, or conversely that winning is not important, just tell them that you are here to help the team with its game and whatever they want to accomplish is just fine with you. Now it is possible at this point that you will not like what you hear. Don't worry. This step is best conducted with groups smaller than ten or fifteen players.

2.2.2 Formally define their objectives

This should be the first time your own opinions are voiced to the team. Make it subtle if your objectives differ from those of the team. It is quite easy to pick up the mood of the team and gently lay your own ideas down as sub-issues. If, for example, the team say they want to meet lots of boys/girls (delete where appropriate) and have a good time don't wrap up the meeting by saying "Well its clear the whole team plans to have a good time this year and the only way to have fun is to win therefore I can tell that you all really want to win so I'll see you at the pool at 5:30 tomorrow morning" - it won't work. It can be more effective to 'plant a seed' and let the team pick up on your ideas, think about them and then call them their own.

2.2.3 Take the team's objectives and break them into goals

Goals should be:

Specific Don't say By the end of the month I want you to get better, that doesn't mean anything. Instead say I think with some time this whole team could have the best flick in the grade. If goals the team sets are too general then you should set a number of incremental goals as step to reaching a final objective.

Challenging A goal should be achievable, but not easy. Use a flexible contingency approach to set goals that are appropriate.

Owned The idea of goal setting is not to impose your ideals on somebody else, it is to enable them to maximise their own potential. They should have a sense of ownership of the goal which means as far as possible the team should set their own group and individual goals. Your job is to ensure that the goals are ppropriate.

Feedback Talk to the team. Praise them, chastise them, but let them know what they achieve is important to you and to the rest of the team. If someone needs confidence let everybody else hear you praising them. If they are too cocky do it quietly and in a more restrained manner.

2.2.4 Give the team the help they need to achieve their goals

This might require many hours in the pool working with a individual, arranging for a specialist coach to help someone with a particular skill or it might take 5 minutes yelling at the whole team. Again be flexible and trust your judgement.


Now that you should have a reasonable idea of a possible system for implementing your chosen regime you have to consider what style of leadership you will use to convey your ideas and ambitions to the team. Your motivation methods will largely depend on your character strengths. Don't use legitimate and coercive power to coach your team if these are not styles you are comfortable using in daily life.

2.3.1 Status

For a school team the coach is (likely to have to be) the most important person. It is unlikely you will have anyone in the team with sufficient skills to lead the team from a captaincy role. This does not mean you have to ignore the power of the team. There are many aspects of controlling and leading a team that are better left to others.

2.3.2 Power

As a coach there are five recognized power bases you can draw from:

reward, expert, legitimate, coercive and referent. It is important to recognize these bases and utilize the strengths of each approach to develop a leadership style you are comfortable with.

Reward As a coach you have the power to reward the team. Rewards do not have to have any monetary value and in fact the most effective rewards can be praise and friendship. To use friendship as a reward it is important that the team respect you and their is no certain method to ensure this. Use your own personality strengths to maximise your reward power. An important consideration for using rewards is perception. The rewardee must value the reward. Use this power base sensibly and sincerely and it can be effective.

Expert Supposedly you have a reasonable idea of Hockey is supposed to be played (otherwise you wouldn't have volunteered to coach). Use this knowledge to teach the team how to win.

This requires skills, fitness, positions and all the other things you can read about in this manual. By showing the team that you have 'the answers' they will learn to respect your judgements and value your opinions. Do not abuse this power, one slip up can greatly diminish its usefulness.

Correct use of expert power requires leadership by example.

Be on time for training, be the first one into the pool. You don't have to do the fitness work every week but it helps to show the team that the work is achievable and that you are better than they are, it gives them a good role model and something to aim for. If they start to beat you hold your head high and praise them, after all you are here to make them better.

Legitimate As 'coach' you immediately have a degree of power over the team. To maintain this power base it is important to remain some what distant from the team. Be friendly with them but don't make them your only group of friends or the barrier between being the coach and being one-of-the-guys will disappear. Different people will need to use different policies to influence the team with legitimate power, use the policy that suits your leadership style, but remember as a coach you can't count on this power.

Coercive Can only be used sparingly for a team of volunteers. Results obtained from coercive power are unlikely to be as satisfactory as results obtained when the team feels they have a degree of control. This technique tends to gain compliance not commitment. Unless you can show results from decisions implemented using purely coercive power the team will degenerate.

The one time coercive power can be beneficial is when the team is doing something it doesn't want to do but knows is beneficial to them. With out a degree of support from the team you will quickly find out how captain Bligh felt. Use it carefully and sparingly.

Referent This is the most important and the potentially most powerful of the five power bases for a coach. It is also the hardest to teach or explain. Referent power is also known as charismatic power because it is a very personal quality. You have referent power over a team when they would rather drown than let you down. There is no easy way to gain and use referent power, but there are many easy ways to lose it.

Charismatic power comes from the respect the team has for you. Make them value the time you give them and the knowledge you are passing on. Once this trust is gained DO NOT ABUSE IT. You have to care for the team, value their aspirations and abilities and let them know it. One of the main points is to "make the walk fit the talk", be honest in what you tell them and how you feel about them.

Once you have established where your power comes from hopefully you will be able to recognize where you are strong and where you need to make some changes to your leadership style, but do not attempt to become something you are not. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses this is important and it should be encouraged. At this point study the reprints for further guide-lines to the use of the different power bases.


2.4.1 Definition

Cultural problems refer to the culture of the team as a whole. A cultural problem can be the hardest for any coach to correct and usually a change can only be implemented with a team that respects and trusts your judgement. An example of a cultural problem; the team finds it acceptable to turn up 5 minutes after training starts, take 15 minutes to get changed and ignore instructions once they are in the water. Cultural problems, such as seen in this example, require a special approach.

2.4.2 Changing Culture

To change a team's culture you have to: Unfreeze, change and then Refreeze. This means changing the norms. Norms, or usual situations, generally require a significant shock to change. Try acting out of character, for instance if you usually yell at the team a lot, be nice to them, appear hurt by their lack of respect, or if you usually try to be nice to the team take 5 or 10 minutes and really tell them how you feel. If you adopt the latter approach don't stop until every player in the team breaks eye contact with you, this approach is more effective when only used occasionally (once every six months).

2.4.3 Key Players

Start with the key players in the team hierarchy. Get them keen. Let them put the pressure on the key trouble makers to support the group objectives. At a secondary school level the drive to conform to group norms and be accepted by the team is very powerful. Use this power.


There are no easy ways to make a group of individuals bond to form a cohesive team unit. If you have group that are friends to start with then the hard work has been done for you. It is very unlikely that in a group of eight players they will all be the best of friends, but luckily friendships are usually easy to create. Some brief 'bonding' suggestions:

Encourage the team to work together to prepare plans for you for what they want to learn.

Treat them as a group. Eg. Punish one punish all, tell individuals their specific strengths and then tell the whole team how this strength will enable the team to be a more effective unit.

You work for your team mates, not your self. Eg. Point out that if someone does not do their job effectively then someone else has to work harder to compensate for the mistake.

Foster team socialisation. Eg. Give them time at training to talk together. Suggest that the whole team may want to do something away from the pool together.


2.6.1 A Goal

A competition is a great goal to set a team. It is specific, team members have a stake in the outcome, it will challenge their abilities and it offers instant feedback. Use this goal as a reference point for the team throughout their training. Before the big competition make sure the team have all of their equipment together and they know what is expected of them. Talk to them about food, sleep and let them know that their training programme has been designed around getting them ready for the competition. This will get them thinking about the competition and hopefully taking it seriously.

2.6.2 Balance

While you want to focus the team on the competition don't let them get psyched by it. It is important to balance their enthusiasm so that they peak their energies at the right time. You will not be able to judge this unless you know the individuals in the team.

2.6.3 On the Day

On the day of the first game you will have to make sure the whole team is mentally ready for the game. You will need to calm some players, praise, psych, coax, encourage, and nag others. There is no right way to do it. If you have taken the time to get to know your team you should be able to help their preparation. If you haven't you are probably best to leave them alone.

2.6.4 Together

Keep them together as much as possible. Get them focused on each other and on what is required of them. Let them do it.


Although there are no hard and fast 'rules' to gain a team's respect and motivate them there are a number of specific points I recommend at least trying.

No coach can motivate a team unless they are motivated themselves. If you are not genuinely interested in making the commitment to work with a team don't bother. A coach who is merely going through the motions will not be effective and will not inspire the respect an effective coach needs.

Talk with your team and be patient. Can you remember learning to turn? It was not as easy then is it is now. Be prepared to repeat training sessions persistently until the team is confident. If you have one or two players who are slower to learn a point than the rest of the team (and we all know every team has at least one) be prepared to work with them one on one. If they are genuinely interested in learning the time you spend with them will more than pay off in personal loyalty.

Show interest in the team. Let them know you care whether they win or lose, play in a sporting manner or start fights, have friends in the sport or sit alone. Talk with them. Get in the pool and watch them.

Foster confidence and honesty. There is no point offering personal help and then not making the time to implement it. Don't tell the team winning is not as important to you as having fun and then get upset when they lose every game - make the walk fit the talk

Remember Hockey is a team sport. Don't be afraid to drop key players from the team if they don't live up to your standards (for example being on time for training) - F.I.F.O., Fit In or (use your imagination to guess the ending).

The success of any organization requires Resources, Ability, and Role Perception. By Understanding these components and satisfying the team's needs it is possible to develop a plan that will prepare the sports team for competition. For instance; ensure they have the resources to do the job (fins, training time, etc.), give them the ability to perform at their maximum potential (coach them and remove other barriers to success such as uncooperative parents) and ensure they perceive themselves as athletes who are here to play hockey.

Success is a relative term. Depending on your desired result from any given activity any given outcome can be considered; acceptable, disastrous or sublime. The important thing is to achieve what you set out to do, or more.

The role of a coach is not to make the team win, it is to help them reach their objectives and maximise their potential (even if they do not know what their objectives are).

Final point, yell at the team while they play, they can hear you, and the feedback is as close to immediate as you can get. In competitions watch quietly and talk with the team to build confidence, it's too late to chastise now.

DISCUSSION: It is not easy to motivate a team. The only way to learn to coach, in my opinion, is to coach. Having said that I still feel you should read everything you can on the subject. Take the time to broaden your horizons and you will have your efforts paid off by improved personal abilities and that wonderful feeling of success that only comes when your team improves.

Dave Phipps

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