The hockey coaching clichés we’re totally over

Jay Stacy in action. Photo: Getty

Jay Stacy in action. Photo: Getty

“You’ve got to go for the ‘W.’”

So goes the famous line from the first Mighty Ducks movie.

It would have been almost inspirational if Coach Reilly hadn’t been drilling it into the mind of an innocent child.

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Year in, year out, it’s often the same people who put their hands up to coach at club level – some for the better and some for the worse.

But coaches at all levels face a common challenge: how do you make sure your message is getting through without resorting to coaching clichés?

The clichés are a dime a dozen. You could probably list at least five off the top of your head.

My personal favourite is: we’ve got to work hard for the first five.

I get the sentiment; you need to get off to a good start, but I can’t help but think, what about the rest of the match? Should I slack off once we tick over to six minutes?

In fairness, when it comes to coaching we don’t all have the benefit of a Hollywood script to get us over the line and finding a way to motivate players can be a confronting task.

The word from the coach

One man who knows how to get the message across is Jay Stacy.

The Kookburras legend, who only recently was knocked off his perch by Jamie Dwyer as the most capped Australian player, coaches the Victorian Vikings in the Australian Hockey League.

Stacy says there are “many ways” to motivate your players and at AHL level he likes to think “the message sinks in”.

Jay Stacy in action in 1999. Photo: Getty

Jay Stacy in action in 1999. Photo: Getty

“They [the Vikings] are accountable and they execute that on their own, obviously it doesn’t always go to plan,” Stacy said.

“We want these players to be self-driven and make that continual improvement to become a better player, those things [coaching clichés] are still mentioned from time to time.”

What about the classic ‘we need to maintain possession’?

“Certainly the key to the game is to keep possession of the ball and you might translate it into: we want to target unforced turnovers. So there’s many ways to do it.”

Coaches need to take the time to reword, rethink and evolve their message, Stacy says.

“It evolves in different ways to get the message across to certain athletes.

“One message doesn’t always get across to all athletes, so you need to find ways to communicate to different players in that specific situation so they take it on board.

“Sometimes it’s the same message just the delivery is different.”

It’s a tidy bit of advice especially for those who relish their coaching duties,

There’s a reason why the term ‘coaching merry-go-round’ has been coined – fresh blood at the helm helps maintain motivation.

Take the time to develop your message and if you need to repeat it, deliver it in a fresh way.

Five coaching clichés you’re totally over

1. Concentrate on our game, let them worry about them.

But part of our game is to worry about them. We are trying to stop them scoring, right?

2. Work rate. It’s all about the work rate.

To be fair, it’s also about defending, attacking, passing, etc.

3. We have to maintain possession.

Yes, thanks. I was going out with the sole intention of giving the ball away.

4. We’ve got to win the first five.

After that, let’s lose.

5. This team has come here to play, so we’ve got to be ready.

Remember that time a team showed up and didn’t want to play?

The Ellis family take time out from hockey practice.

The Ellis family take time out from hockey practice.


Talk about putting the hard yards in before training. The Ellis clan, including Hannah, Amelia and Hamish, head out to the backyard on their farm in Binya, NSW.

Mum Fiona said it’s “farm turf training at its best.

“We may not have turf, and the kids head into town and play on grass on the weekends, but they have a ball despite this.

“Some scrap metal and a love of hockey equals happy kids.”


Kookaburra Jake Whetton posted this snap on Instagram of the team cycling through the streets of Antwerp. Jamie Dwyer reposted with the caption:

“The Kow’s (Kookas On Wheels) crusing through Antwerp.”

Cute, but don’t think it will stick.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.49.33 PM

Tim Doutré tweets at @TimDoutre


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