Coachability… wait what?

By Cory Cross (@CoryCross23

Lots of people ask me: how did you make it to the NHL? Being 6'5" definitely helped, but I was a guy who didn't have incredible skills. Reflecting on it now, the first thing that comes to mind is my coachability. I was able to take what the coach said and translated it onto the ice. It was this skill that helped me stay in the NHL for twelve years. Now that I am a coach, I look for players that are coachable and I want them on my team!

Let’s put some context into coachabilty, which according to spellcheck is not a real word. To paraphrase the renowned dictionary between my ears, coachabililty is the state or condition of a player’s ability to be coached, or more simply, taught. No different than a classroom, it is a two-way street that takes both an active listener and an engaging teacher.

Active Listening

If a player listens, they will learn. Active listening starts with focusing on the coaches signs & sounds, no other distractions, absorbing information, asking questions, and performing the skill to the best of your ability. Use these steps to create a better learning environment.


This is a constant battle against the attention span of the players. Keep your explanations very brief, focus on one concept, and provide multiple demonstrations. Kids naturally want to keep moving, so let them do so by minimizing the time spent at the white board.

Smile Currency

Kids generally come to the rink with a smile on their face, excited to step out onto the ice. That’s usually a given otherwise they wouldn’t be there. As a coach, it is your obligation to return that smile to the child when they are leaving the rink. Bottom line, practice needs to be fun!

Pro Tips by Division

Initiation & Novice Players

  • Just have fun!
  • Be eager to learn
  • One or two knees on the ice while actively listening
  • Try your hardest
  • Respect your teammates & opponents

Atom & Peewee Players

  • Have fun!
  • Improved active listening
  • Share the puck
  • Be on time
  • Respect teammates, opponents, & coaches 

Bantam & Midget Players

  • It’s got to be fun
  • Don’t be ready with excuses, be ready to listen
  • Team comes first, eliminate egos
  • Harder you work, the more you will benefit
  • Respect teammates, opponents, coaches, & referees


Either you’re in, or in the way. Which one are you?


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