As a bench coach, you give up the right to have friends and frenemies in your league. What you get instead, is an extended family. The ruleset changes. Everyone's business becomes your business, you become accountable to everyone. But what do you do when, unlike Annamiettinen, you have no prior experience with dealing with sibling rivalry, twenty different personalities and all the emotions in the world in one moment?

Jedi mind tricks.

Our travel team has been called the dark horse of Finnish derby. What is a dark derby unicorn made of? Common goals, determination, sweat, practice, practice, practice. One important factor behind our league's development during the past year has also been training our brain muscles and mental strenght.

As a bench coach, I try to provide skaters with Jedi tools and to encourage them to pick their own brain. I can tell you when to call the jam and give you a strategy for winning the lead, but the commitment, the drive and the will have to come from inside each and every skater. I can tell you to find your own motivation, but I can't find it for you.

So what can I do as a bench coach, besides trying to make myself obsolete? I can introduce new working habits and improve the working environment together with our coaching team. Due to the changes we have made the past two seasons, our travel team Rollin' Hos has gone from showing up in the locker room fifteen minutes late with half of their gear missing to understanding that the game does not start when you step on the track – it starts months, weeks, days and hours prior the first whistle.

In a family of sixteen plus people, there are equally many ways of preparing for a bout. There are however, many things we do together that help bring our team together and into the right mindset. These are the things I like to call Jedi mind tricks. Others might call it sports psychology.

Power words. You have the power to choose your own hashtags, use that power. Decide how to define your life events. A defeat can be a #learningexperience, if you tag it with positive meanings. I will always associate the season 2014 with #hyväjee (#goodygood) and #herkkuapöydäntäydeltä (#platesfullofsugar). Also with #katoesa (#lookatmeacid), but that's not really relevant here. Even at the half point of this season I know this whole year will be full of sugar, because our whole team is committed to making it #goodygood.

Power songs combined with power dances. Trick your whole body into a happy mode with a simple and effective choreography.

Happy place. Self reflection and visualization are an under-appreciated art. Self reflection helps you evolve faster than any feedback given by others. Visualization makes you better at your craft. Take a minute before every bout to go to your happy place and visualize a perfect performance. Do it after bouts at home. Do it enough times and the perfect performance will come.

Safe place. Where ever you are with your team, make it a safe place. A place that is zen, calm, focused and supportive. A place where everyone has the space and peace they need to work on their own performance.

Power animals. We all have one. Some of us even have multiple ones. Find yours. Get to know it. Introduce it to your team. Bring it with you on the track.

Presence. Here, today, now. Focus on the task at hand and remember what you communicate to others with your presence – or the lack of it. When people begin to drift away, bring them together with a love huddle or a power word or with your own physical presence. Get handsy.

Feedback. Instant, long term, encouraging, constructive, peer to peer. There are so many kinds, but they're all good. And when there's no time for words, there's always time to hold a hand, give a hug or hand a candy. We have three colour coded candy jars at our bench at all of our games. One is to calm your nerves, one is to pick you back up and one to get you energized.

Targets and goals. They help you focus. They push you to try harder. We have a system of setting skaters personal goals throughout the year and three common goals per each bout. They relate to scores or they can focus on presence or mood. The ones that work become our new policies.

Time out. This is a personal one, but has to do with team spirit and team performance. Know your limits as a skater, as a coach, as a team mate; accept them and know when to take an official time out. If you can't give 100%, maybe it's better to step back. Ask for a time out during a game, use it to go to your happy place and use visualization and self reflection. Ask for it in your league. Be vocal about your time out and others will respect it. Use this time to rediscover your motivation. Find the hashtags that work for you. And come back stronger.

As a bench coach with an extended family, you will be constantly challenged by your league. There will be set backs, failures, let downs. But you do it for the double rainbows at the end of every game, the family holidays and the shared successes. This family will repeatedly surprise you and outdo themselves and you just have to see them grow and evolve. You don't just share the same jerseys and the same bacteria, but also the same goals. Life goals.  

// Deeku
Photo: Jams on Film