I’m not going to lie. I have a favorite. After years of coaching in various programs, there is still one kid that stands out as my biggest success story. He is my favorite. I was talking to him the other night and realized he doesn’t even know how much of an impact he had on me. And that was ok.
As a coach, I don’t show up to get praised for doing a great job, or to be thanked endlessly (the odd thank you is nice though). I’m here to do the best I can to develop hockey players. The biggest reward is seeing a kid develop and mature throughout the season, knowing you helped him or her do that. As an assistant coach that’s even harder because while all the shit falls on the head coach when things go wrong, all the credit goes to the head coach when things go right. So my job is to do the best I can to figure out what makes each kid tick, and to use that to help teach them what we want the team to learn.
This player was someone I identified early in tryouts. I liked what I saw on the bench; he was polite, respectful and tried that things I asked him to. I liked what I saw on the ice too. He was a very good hockey player. Lots of room for development of course, but a good set of tools to get him there.
Over the course of the season, I worked endlessly with this player. We talked about on and off ice development, and he showed me that he was willing to do the extra work to improve. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to push him just enough to get the most out of him. I know I can’t take the credit. This kid did all the work himself. But I do feel a huge sense of pride for being there to support him while he learned and grew as a player and a person.
Two years later, he’s a lot different from when he was as a 14-year-old. But it’s nice to see how he has turned out. He’s an amazing hockey player who doesn’t need to look to others for confidence like he used to.
I can’t help but smile, knowing I took a risk on that kid and backed him through the draft and team selection. My contribution to his development didn’t end there, even if he never realizes it. But that’s fine, because at the end of the day, I’m so proud of the person and hockey player that he has become. And even if the head coach gets all the credit, I know I had an impact on that kid.
Those types of moments are the reason I keep coming back to the rink.