Talking to Your Players Between Periods

By Enio Sacilotto, Assistant Coach of the Victoria Royals & President of International Hockey Camps

Talking to your players between periods is important for any coach so they can directly influence the team’s performance and an outcome of a game. These are times where the coach and team can get a breather, gather their thoughts, focus tactically and mentally to prepare for the next period. A prepared coach has a plan so that he can communicate his message effectively so not time is wasted during these breaks.


Between Periods

In most minor hockey situations the coach only has a 2-minute break to prepare the team for the next period. As you advanced in hockey, you will get a longer break up to 15 or 20 minutes, thanks to the ice cleaning.  Let’s go over how to handle both opportunities.

For a 2 minute between period plan:

  1. Transition time (45 seconds), players do their thing, coaches have a quick meeting and head coach prepares their talk.
  2. Coach talk (60 seconds), use sandwich approach!
  3. End (15 seconds): players and coaches use the remaining time to prepare to resume play.

For higher level teams

Following are some suggestions for a 15-20 minute between period plan:

  1. Have a time clock in the players dressing and coach’s rooms so time can be tracked.
  2. Give the coaching staff a few minutes to gather their thoughts, get a drink, etc.
  3. If available review any video of specific plays, goals, penalties, etc.
  4. Have a short coaches meeting and get each coaches point of view. Ask, what are the most important areas to address?
  5. Head Coach prepares his presentation to the team.
  6. The optimum time for the coach to address the team the 7:00 minute mark. The talk should be 2 to 3 minutes at most.
  7. Players and coaches will then have the remaining 4 to 5 minutes to prepare for the next period.
  • Tell players what you want not what you don’t want. Don’t focus on the negative.
  • There will be times when the coach has to raise his voice! Know when these times are and they cannot happen too often. Most times teams don’t play well because they lack concentration and not effort, but do need a push.
  • Sometimes teams deviate from the game plan, give them some reminders!
  • Keep the message simple.
  • Focus on the team and not individuals. Although sometimes individuals need to be challenged!

Use The Sandwich Approach:

  1. Tell the team what they did well.
  2. Then focus on 2 or 3 areas (maximum) that need to be fixed or addressed.
  3. Say something positive so they don’t go out feeling or thinking negatively.

Reframing: is shifting the nature of the problem from a negative to positive. If the team is down by 3 goals, a comeback may seem overwhelming. Encourage your team to get the next one.  If your team is losing by more than 3 goals, break the comeback into smaller, easier to digest goals, like encouraging them to win the next shift or period.

Ask questions: Sometimes the coach can ask the players for their opinions on what needs to be done or the coach can use questions to the players to get his point(s) across.

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