“Teach to Win” Development Philosophy

By: Nick Dellaquila

My “Teach 2 Win” – Developmental Philosophy.



a. Practices are to Hockey what class lessons are to school. It is an incredibly simple philosophy when you think about it.


b. Practices as outlined below should be well planned and executed to maximize the utilization of ice time. Along with utilizing Ice Time effectively, practices should also always include ample skating, skills and small area games to cultivate Hockey Sense. Hockey Sense is commonly the most misunderstood and overlooked yet the most crucial skill to the long-term overall development of players.


c. Practices should also be consistently inconsistent. By this I mean they should be planned with skating, skill sets and games that repeat a maximum of 2-3x in a row, then completely change for the same amount of time. Why and where this “Interleaved Training” becomes important is you then should return to the skating, skill sets and games you had earlier taken a break from. By doing this you promote something called “Sticky Learning”. Again, with everything, patience and planning is crucial.



a. Games are to Hockey what Quizzes are to School. However, there is a MAJOR distinction that needs to be made here. If you have properly focused on teaching in practices you should use your games to evaluate the effectiveness of YOUR teaching. If the kids aren’t “getting it” you simply need to entertain the notion that as a coach you are not “Teaching It” effectively or allowing enough reps in practices or in games with mistakes for them to achieve mastery.


b. Now here’s another important point in this philosophy. This “Quizzing” during games should be done with little to no input on your part aside from questions on effort or concepts we have already achieved a reasonable mastery in. Yelling at a player for making a mistake is not the way to help them learn, it is definitely on the other hand the way to instill anxiety and diminish confidence when Confidence is the key to them continuing to pursue mastery of skills. Is this pretty? Usually no. Not at all. It is usually very ugly IN THE SHORT TERM… Yet for Mastery to truly be EFFICIENT in the LONGTERM (Read: Achievement of full potential when it matters) it typically has to look INEFFICIENT in the SHORT TERM. Not only does this go for SKILLS it is also bang on for the Development of Hockey Sense.


c. So… Do you ignore the scoreboard all together? At 8U Yes. Why? Because score isn’t kept and as mentioned above the focus should be on successes. In the micro. Or small successes which should be defined as execution at a reasonable rate, the small skills and concepts that you have effectively taught in practices. The results will come. I promise you will have the opportunity to test this several times throughout the season. See Below.



a. Here we go Boys and Girls! This is what you’ve all been waiting for! WE ARE KEEPING SCORE! Yep. You just read that right. We are going to focus on the Score Board. Now… As you may have guessed there is a “but” coming up… But, we’ll save that for later.


b. First, why is it okay to focus on the Scoreboard in Tournaments and not in games?  My reasoning for this is the following. Kids need to have the opportunity to go for it. While we may not focus on the score in games most of the kids by around 6 or 7 know damn well what the score is. They are not stupid, and it would be naïve of us to assume so. We need to acknowledge this and give them the opportunity to “go for it” and what better time to do so than in the short format that Tournaments provide. So in Tournaments ask the players if they want to “Go for it?”… Trust me, they will ALL reply with a resounding YES! From there keep them emotionally involved as much as possible and let them experience the highs and lows of “Winning” and “Losing” but only in that short format of 4-5 Tournament games. Then we return to our Teaching (Practices), and Quizzing (Games) where we can build on those experiences good and bad and grow from them. What I have found is that the emotional roller coaster is good for them when controlled slightly and will give them a taste of an important life lesson. Carrying themselves with Pride, Class and Confidence in both Winning and Losing will begin to be a pillar of our Culture.


c. Now for that “But” I mentioned above. While I believe in “Going for it” in Tournaments, that is NEVER and I repeat NEVER at the expense of the playing time or development of any player or players. I feel that it is my responsibility and duty as a Coach to develop each and every player I have on my team each year. In that I will always build (demand) the culture of our team to be WE BEFORE ME and when I say we “Go for it” we go for it as a team, together. No one player is treated “better” than any others. My players will respect each other regardless of who is maturing earlier or happens to be a little more athletic at a given time. Again. This is a simple life lesson that is crucial in teamwork.


d. So what happens if we encounter a situation where we are down a goal with 2 minutes left, a limited player overtime shoot out or regular Overtime? It’s simple. The players choose who THEY want out with the game on the line. I have done this multiple times over the years and what happens 9x out of 10 is that the players choose the exact same players that we as adult Coaches would have. The difference is that when THEY choose, THEY own the decision and Win or Lose THEY went for it as a team and no players are left out feeling unworthy by the Coach they are asked to trust and look to for guidance.

1 Response
  1. Love this philosophy!

    Question – how do you get the players to choose who goes out in limited situations? Is it beforehand? Is it at the moment? I see some logistical challenges here… Also, is it a blind vote so they submit on paper, or do they point in the room… I’m curious because I think this is a very valid strategy that is could be great for some coaches to implement, but I am curious for some examples or your suggestions on HOW to specifically implement it.