Paid AAA Coaches vs. Volunteer Coaches


10 years ago I had a sales representative from a hockey supplier approach me. I could tell rather quickly that he was more concerned with coaching his AAA son rather than doing his job and generating revenue for his respective company. I saw the sales rep once a year during bookings. Twice he padded the orders with $17,000 worth of merchandise that I never ordered. Even when I was doing the bookings with him, he would step aside to speak on the phone with other hockey parents. I complained about him to the sales director, but since they only lived a few blocks away from each other, he was willing to turn a blind eye to the situation.


It’s safe to say that we never did like each other. He once asked me to make an offer on some closeouts. I made the offer but he never got back to me with the counteroffer, talk about professionalism.


Nonetheless I asked myself: are volunteer coaches as effective in reaching their goals as professional paid coaches? Most top AAA teams will pay coaches that mirror the effectiveness measured with the parents’ goals. Often it is hard to separate the business support of coaches with their own separate goals in building an effective winning team. These parents will act as a group simply because of the fact that political and financial resources are important factors that become the team’s initiative to win and establish control.


For these types of parents, it’s the capacity to build networks for their children’s dreams. The parents will provide additional financial support for things such as tournaments which measure the ability of their child against others. This group of parents will act as a type of discrimination against any newcomer that has the talent to be part of the team. This type of hostile environment is created stealthily to divert opportunity from a potential threat.


Market failures do play a part with paid coaches rather than volunteer coaches. If a parent pays a coach and the team loses, then there is more of a built-in mechanism for the parents to get rid of the coach. The entrepreneurial parent is paying for a service that seeks to supplant a private sector activity rather than the development and efficacy of the coach.


Once a paid coach is labeled a ‘non-performer’, it leads to a loss of future income. Many of the GTHL blogs are there for parents to attack and demote competitors and their social ranking within the team. What is disturbing is that the kids act as a catalyst towards the parents’ dream and get into the act by attacking their own players anonymously.


With volunteer coaches there’s a very high turnover rate, but it is a more effective way of nurturing and promoting the game even if the coach’s child plays on the team. The volunteer coach is not based on payment agreements, but rather on the sustainability of a non-financial service. Volunteering garners more on the social support of parents, athletes, and the organization that brings about internship and mentoring of the coaching experience. This also increases the coach’s confidence of their abilities to satisfy and lift the community standards that they abide by.


On the community level, volunteering does build a framework of education, playing experience, and overall coaching satisfaction. It is able to achieve improvements without monetary gain and without allowing the influence of parenting to block the opportunity of raw competitive talent. It also allows the community resources to build the confidence and development of hockey players that otherwise would not have the resources and financial need to gain access to play professionally.


Given the relative size of Canada’s population that is aging, we still produce the best hockey community athletes of the world. These hockey players are deeply rooted in the community’s success and become the pride of the community no different than the opportunity that was given to them.


Going back to the preamble of the story involving the sales rep, I once had another supplier who owned a hockey stick manufacturing plant. He was a 30 year old kid that drove the business to the ground along with his father’s investment. He was also the sales representative of his own stick-line, but now since his company went broke he is coaching a AAA hockey team. He’s never been happier and stresses the fact that he loves being a coach. Some of the parents on his team invested their money in his failed enterprises. He always did emphasize fringe benefits that had absolutely nothing to do with hockey, they had more to do with the gratification of a few wives that were fighting for his attention.


To this day, this AAA coach thinks I like him. I can say that I really don’t care about the AAA wives, but I do care that he tried to embezzle $5000 worth of sticks from me that he claimed he brought into my store. I showed him the video surveillance and he quickly changed his mind saying it must’ve been another retailer. At least with the other sales rep, I actually received the product.

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