With just one day left until the opening of the 9th Gazprom Neft Cup KHL Kids Hockey Tournament we interviewed Oleg Znarok, head coach of the Russian national ice hockey team. Oleg’s coaching credentials are hard to beat: he won the Gagarin Cup with Moscow Dynamo in 2012 and 2013 before leading the Russian national team to gold in the 2014 World Championship.
What is the decisive age for shaping a future hockey player?
It depends. Some boys find their talent early on, even in primary school, others find it later. What’s needed is a personal approach to each boy, to each player.
What do coaches need to focus on with 10 or 11 year-old hockey players?
On the atmosphere in the team. The boys have to be full of enthusiasm, to treat every training session as a special occasion.
What sort of person must a children’s coach be?
He has to be a psychologist and a teacher and he or she must have a definite method. I think that working with children is just as hard as working with grown-up players.
Do you and the other coaches’ team keep a close eye on players in the Russian junior team?
— In Novogorsk, the junior team works side by side with the adult national team. The head coach of the junior team, Valery Bragin, invites me and the other national coaches to attend junior team training whenever we can and the juniors regularly attend our training sessions. Some of the young players have already trained with the national team. We even took some of the best junior players to Euro Tour matches in the Czech Republic, and we weren’t disappointed.
Teams from Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Finland are taking part in this year’s Gazprom Neft Cup. In your view, which of these countries is doing the most to develop children’s hockey?
I can’t speak for neighbouring countries, but we have certainly done a lot for children’s hockey in Russia recently and I am very pleased about it! The more time we make for our children, the more successful our teams will be, and that includes the most important team of all — the national squad.
What are your wishes for the players in the 2015 Gazprom Neft Cup?
— Love hockey! Respect it! Do your best to win!