This is one of the many reasons I am extremely passionate about coaching. The first two questions I asked myself when I finished up my playing career was "what am I going to do to stay in the game?" and "Can I work a 9-5 job?" Well, luckily I found something I never even thought I would ever do. That is, coaching. Coaching has been one of the, if not the most rewarding, joyful, impactful and eye opening experiences for me. And this is one of the many reasons I have found coaching to be something I pursue for the rest of my life.
For the 2017-2018 season I was the head coach of the Potomac Patriots 14UAA Bantam team. A new challenge I was a novice too, never coached a team before let alone, a group of 13-14 years old who are entering pivotal ages in their life. I had no experience working with any of these kids and had no idea what they were taught or comfortable with. I think if you were to ask the parents and kids when they found out I was the coach, a 22-year-old New Yorker they had their doubts. In which were reasonable, but I did my best to be enthusiast, positive, teach, support, care and welcome all these kids throughout the year. I would have to say a majority of these kids needed a lot of work when it came to stick handling, hockey awareness, spatial awareness, decision making, the basics of hockey that coaches do not coach. Therefore my project this year was to one make every single kid better and help them progress for the next level, push every single kid to believe in themselves and demand more from themselves and of course give them the confidence and tools to be a good, well rounded hockey player. I can confidently say out of the 14 players I had, I believe 10-11 reached a level they never knew they could and excelled their game to a whole new level. In addition the greatest accomplishment, they have developed a new love and passion for the game they might not have had before the year. Doing that for kids is one of the many reasons I enjoy coaching.
Well, with that said. Two of my top players, tried out for different clubs. 'AAA' clubs and I know the hockey world is a little weary of triple A hockey but it is a good level of hockey, perhaps a little expensive but still a good level of hockey that will help push kids to be better and demand more out of themselves. Both kids ended up making the Little Caps 'AAA' 2005 team and Little Caps 'AAA' 2004 team. Won't disclose their names but I could not be more proud of these two. At the beginning of the year if I told these two they would play AAA hockey for the 2019-2020 season they would not have believed me, nor would their parents either. That is another reason I enjoy coaching, neither of these kids believed they could do it in September and probably did not believe they could until the day after they were selected to the roster. But, by me just saying "hey you are a great player, you have what it takes. Trust me, go out and try out." Gave them the confidence to go out and do it and now they have opened doors for themselves that could potentially be a pathway to reducing the cost of higher education, playing at top tier junior hockey levels or more. My lesson here is, if you are a teacher, coach, boss, whatever it may be. All it takes is a little care, a little attention to the kids, employees, players, etc. Show them you care, be enthusiast. LEAD BY EXAMPLE, support them and most importantly. Believe in them. That belief you have in them, gives them the confidence to do things they never thought were possible.
The two kids I am speaking of. I would just like to say this, if you see this. Player 1: We will call A. Player 2 we will call M.
A, buddy, as hard as you are on yourself, you have an unreal work ethic. Look around you, most kids your age are doing stuff that does not benefit their future self. They do things to be cool, show off, be popular but I knew whenever you would send me pictures of you shooting pucks or stick handling on your own that you would be something special. You have a knack for the back of the net, you are a freaking fierce competitor and one of hell of a teammate. I remember first time seeing this kid in a game, dipsy doodle, in and out of three defenders and shelf it. When we needed a big time goal, you always stepped up. Any team would be lucky to have you. Continue to believe in yourself and the sky is the limit for you buddy. Keep going.
M, guy, sheesh. For a 14-year-old, you may better than myself and some of my former teammates in college are. First time I saw this kid shoot a puck and make a move, I was like "holy, this could is going to be unreal". I remember a couple games this kid pulling off back hand toe drags that were out of this world and then next game he is throwing a hip check on a 5'8 14 year old when he is 5"2 if that. I knew the moment I saw this kid that he has the potential to play D1 if he is pushed and steered in the right direction. M, guy you are an all-around hockey player, hockey IQ, awareness, speed, puck handling, shot, game time competitor, hardest worker in practice and someone who others look up to. Trust me when I say this, never settle for less. You have what it takes to be the best player at any level you play at.
Best of luck to the fellas on a WELL deserved feat. Can't wait to hear about all your future success. Best of luck next season, remember Coach JJ is always here believing in you!