First Break All the Rules for Coaches

Jul 25, 2022

I wrote a previous post about First Break All the Rules aimed more at business owners and managers. However, I couldn't help but think about my daughter's recent experience in youth hockey as I read. My daughter had, by most standards, a great year. She was her teams leading scorer and her team qualified for the national tournament in her age bracket. However, if I asked her how the year went she would not describe it as I saw it.  In spite of her success the season was tough on her. As I read what motivated employees in First Break All the Rules, I realized it was the same things that motivated players. What motivated people at work ( and probably at practice) was not what you think. It's not money and it's not power. It's not success on the field , court or ice. Below is a list of what the author of First Break All the Rules found really motivated employees. I have to admit that I was both surprised but, a bit embarrassed when I read the list.

Do I have the materials and equipment I need to work right?

At work do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?

In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.

Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?

Is there someone at work who encourages my development?

At work, do my opinions seem to count?

Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?

Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?

Do I have a best friend at work?

In the last six month, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?

This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow? “

(Pg. 28)

As a coach, ask yourself these questions adapted from First Break All the Rules as they relate to your players. Please note these are the actual things that employees identified in First Break All the Rules.


1-In the last seven days, have I praised or recognized every one of my players for doing good work. ( Note: make a list and do this either in private or publicly in front of the team. To maintain team dynamics it might need to be a little of both)

2-Do I seem to care about my players as people? ( Note: ask yourself if you know anything about your players? Are they doing well in school? Do you collect report cards?)

3-Do I encourage my players development? ( This might be the easiest one to say yes to from a coaches perspective)

4-At practice do players opinions seem to count? ( This might seem like the inmates running the asylum but, it could be as simple as “what do we do for the last five minutes”)

5-Are all team members committed to doing quality work?  ( Are practices good? Does everyone put forth an effort? How's attendance?)

6-Does everyone seem to have a best friend on the team? ( This may not seem important but, based on Buckingham's research it is. Happiness on the team is enhanced by friendships)

7-In the last six month, have I talked to each player about their progress? ( This is tedious but necessary and relates to numbers one, two, three and six. A talk about progress is a chance to recognize a player, show you care and encourage development.  In addition you can ask a simple question “who is your best friend on the team”?

8-This last year, has each player had opportunities at work to learn and grow? (If you are doing a good job this should be an easy yes)


I am a firm believer that we can become better bosses and better coaches by studying what goes on in the business world. An employee is a team member. What makes for happy employees makes for good teams. Review the eight questions above and ask yourself if you are creating an environment for success.