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Genuinely Care About Your Athletes - It Really is that Simple

As an entrepreneur, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with athletes of all ages, sports, abilities, genders, etc. It’s still surreal that this is my occupation. This gives me the opportunity to use different coaching tactics and see the direct effects of those different styles. Don’t get me wrong for every “bad” coach there are fifty good coaches, but it only takes one bad coach to ruin a sport for an athlete forever.

It’s not the 70s anymore, call me soft but times have changed and fear-based coaching no longer works, and the quicker we as a society accept that the quicker we can improve our overall coaching abilities. Now I’m not saying as an authority figure you don’t assert yourself but personal attacks simply do not work in the year 2022. Fear-based coaching creates a power struggle between players and coaches where an athlete feels uneasy about asking their coach how they can improve their game. Athletes do not respond well to coaches who try to intimidate them to get them to do what they want. Some key characteristics of fear-based coaching may look like the following - aggression, insults, and yelling.

Coaching is about getting athletes to believe in themselves, believe in you, and “play above their pay grade.” Playing above your paygrade is a term I use (i.e a third-line NHL player producing 30 goals while only getting paid what the average third-liner is a good example of this term.) If you are stuck in your beliefs as a coach and not adapting are you really a good coach? Isn’t the point of coaching to enhance your athletes in life as well as sports? If you can’t swallow your pride and get with the times whether you agree with it or not are you just not a good coach?

Coaching has to come from a place of love, and genuine care for your players. You build and earn real trust and you can completely change an athlete's life for the better. Not just in a sports setting but in school, and society.

How do you build trust? One of the easiest ways in my opinion is through open and honest communication. You don’t need to coddle an athlete if you shoot them straight whether you believe it or not they are going to respect you in the long run for it. Everyone has heard the term “honesty is the best policy.” So when we speak to our athletes why do we have coaches that are 100% transparent and honest? If you’re able to unlock an athlete to the point that they are comfortable with telling you what they are dealing with deep down it will make it extremely easy for you as a coach to take the necessary precautions or corrections in order to get the most out of your athlete. That is how they reach the next level of their development both professionally, academically, personally, and in their sport.

Of course, you need structure in your programs. Athletes need to respect you, they need you to know you’re the boss, but you also need to be disciplined in knowing how NOT to shatter an athlete's spirit. Understanding what players you can ride more, knowing which ones you need to take a different approach with. You can’t paint a picture with a singular paintbrush so why in the world would we coach every player with one paintbrush? When you have created that trust with the base of love you would be ASTONISHED at how much more you can get out of your athletes. If you’re really angry it isn’t the 70s anymore I challenge you to tell an athlete you care about them and watch the impact it makes!


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ABOUT Fox Valley Hockey Training: Fox Valley Hockey Training is an organization that began in 2021 and operates out of the House of Hockey located at 1080 N Perkins St, Appleton, WI 54914. Fox Valley Hockey Training is owned and operated by Blake Hackbarth who has played, coached, and managed hockey programs and facilities all over the USA. Blake Hackbarth's playing career stretched from high school to the junior level where he enjoyed being named captain by his teammates as well as competing in the USPHL National Championships. Blake quickly transitioned to coaching where he got his first taste of coaching varsity hockey for the Neenah/Hortonville/Menasha Varsity Co-Op. Following two seasons behind the bench, Blake took an opportunity as the Program Director for Pro Vision Hockey Academy, as well as Team Tennessee Hockey Club. Blake's last stop before returning to his native Wisconsin was with the Southern Professional Hockey League's Knoxville Ice Bears where he had a variety of tasks within the front office. In addition to Fox Valley Hockey Training Blake also owns and operates a company by the name of Recruitment Hockey dedicated to helping athletes all over the world reach opportunities to play AAA, Prep, Junior, College, and Pro Hockey you can find extra information and philanthropy on Recruitment Hockey here: For more information, visit or call (920)810-5250.

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