Ask the Coach: Brian Maloney talks about managing a locker room

Ask the Coach is a bi-weekly feature with Chilliwack Chiefs head coach Brian Maloney.

Ask the Coach puts Chilliwack Chiefs bench boss Brian Maloney in the spotlight, providing unfiltered answers to your questions.

Today’s query comes from Justin DePodesta, who asks, “How do you relate to today’s players and manage personalities?”

The days of, even my good friend Harvey Smyl, he came into the locker room, told you what to do and you did it.

You didn’t question it.

Kids nowadays are taught to ask questions and we give them the confidence to ask, ‘Well, why?’

I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, to be honest with you. But as a coach, you’d better be prepared to answer when they ask why.

Usually, if you can explain it in great detail you’ll get more out of them because they understand it, they believe in it and now they want to do it.

It takes more work and time, but I think that’s what separates good coaching from the rest.

We spend a lot of time with our players. Even before I was the head coach, I personally spent countless hours and had a revolving door with players coming in.

And different personalities.

Some kids are outspoken.

Some kids are thinkers and some kids think the world is going to blow up tomorrow.

It’s about keeping it positive, letting them talk it out and being there to listen to them and help them through it.

I listen, ask questions and get to know them because every kid is different.

I have two kids and my two kids are different. My boy is really quiet and you’ve really got to dig and ask questions with him and my daughter, you sit back and let her talk and tell you things.

It’s no different with these guys.

Some guys will come in and you just sit back while they vent to you and you’ve just got to make sure you guide them, whereas there are other kids where you have to dig and make sure they’re OK.

It could be something with their game.

It could be something that’s happening away from the arena. It could be pressure coming from the school they’re going to.

After you talk to them and listen to them, you’d like to think they open up to you and you can figure out a solution.

When we’re trying to configure a locker room with all of these different personalities, first of all you don’t get it right all the time.

I’d personally like to think I’m a good judge of character, and (assistant coaches) Cam (Keith) and Brad (Rihela) as well are pretty outgoing guys who care about people.

It’s not just a statistical thing and let’s bring this guy in because he’s going to score 40 goals for us this year.

We talk to these kids before they ever set foot in Chilliwack and a good example is Callum Volpe.

We were possibly thinking about bringing a defenceman in, but we weren’t sure when his name popped up.

Cam gave Callum a call and he got off the phone and said, ‘This kid’s unbelievable. He is a Chilliwack Chief.’

So I got on the phone with him (Callum) for 45 minutes, and we didn’t talk much about hockey. It was a grown-up conversation where he talked about his life and the ups and downs and where he’s been in his career.

That’s how you get a connection with players. All of a sudden you have a bunch of those kids and you plop them in the dressing room and they’re instantly gelling and getting along and that’s what we’re having right now.

When we have to make a change in the locker room, it’s not fun.

I’m pretty outspoken and honest. Before Trevor Peca showed up I had some conversations with players where I said, ‘Here’s another body coming in and he’s going to make our team better.’

That’s our job as coaches but it’s not fun.

You’d like to just roll with the kids that you have, but if we have a chance to improve our program, make our team better and make some of the players who are already in that locker room better, you have to do that as a coach.

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