This month some kid I know really well has his senior year athlete banquet. I was looking at the Princeton website, and at the top of the athletic department’s home page was a quote I had never heard that impacted me – “I am the teacher of athletes, He that by me spreads a wider breadth than my own proves the width of my own, He most honors my style who learns under it to destroy the teacher." --Walt Whitman
This same month, I was honored to speak to about 75 of USA Hockey’s core coaches, in their first ever High Performance Summit in town at the Olympic Training Center. I spoke of “never being a child’s last coach,” and some other things which I have learned the hard way. There were several NHL players now giving back to the sport and one, Mike Sullivan, who now scouts for the Chicago Blackhawks, spoke about things he had learned. This is taken from my seat in the back, where the power outlets hide out.
Each evening we listened to a panel of hockey legends and heard their stories. Then we got to sit around together and hash out what the day had done to impact us. Being the odd duck of the group, I learned that what I had shared impacted them as I simply was there to help them learn, with no stake or really history in the hockey world. So they did not put it through their hockey history filter, and since none of them really knew volleyball, they were able to hear the facts and principles. This collaboration between sports I strongly believe in. I have done keynote speeches for the National Pole Vaulting Summit, the US Synchronized Swimming International Symposium (299 women and guy from Venezuela), US Tennis Association, USA Shooting, and many more. My favorite group are the coaches and parents of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, who listen to volleyball stories and make them fit racing and doing tricks at the world class level.
That first evening some hockey attendees came up to thank me for my presentation, and I found out one guy has three kids, 14, 10 and 7 years old and the other a 15 year old. We started sharing parenting stories and ideas. Two hours later we were still talking about our role as coaches and parents. I asked one of my new friends what was the most important take away from the summit and he said one word – “Evolve.” The biology major in me smiled. It was not until I got home that I found out one of the guys, who gave me his card, was a 13 year NHL vet and Stanley cup winner – Kevyn Adams. The other, in addition to being an NHL player for the Buffalo Sabres, was one of the key reasons that Canada won the Olympic Gold medal over the USA in that epic contest – Michael Peca. Evolve, the value of hard work, and so many laughs about the joys of parenting and coaching, such an enjoyable time sharing. Some Russian star player, whose name I did not catch, but who they respected, Kevyn said impacted his coaching when he said “The player who thinks fast will beat the player who skates fast…”
Hockey is more traditional than volleyball in training it seems. I mean, they still call players midgets, not by age/birth year. I remember when we did, and standing up in a USAV meeting and saying how we need to drop names like midget and bantam, as we are 1. Not hockey, 2. Not midgets 3. Need to just say their age, not some name new parents have to translate. That was one of my more successful short “speeches.”
The last evening, something magical happened. Sitting with Michael, talking about growth mindset and guiding the discovery of kids as a coach and parent, he shared his story on the most impactful moment of his playing career. It happened to him when he was 9 years old, and scored his 100th goal. He showboated afterwards, and let the bench know too when he came off the ice. His coach saw the teachable moment at hand and asked – would you have done the same thing for your 6th goal? Then he made a difference in a future NHL and Canadian Olympic Hockey gold medalist’s life and said “When you do something bad, say little; when you do something great, say less….”
At the end of this special week with all the hockey family, I spoke on the “Technical Timeout” podcast with a former Canadian National team and pro player, Louis-Pierre Mainville. The 45 minutes somehow stretched into over an hour and a half, as we spoke about things that I think matter in coaching in general. He asked me a question that I would ask all of you reading my blog to ask yourself and share in the comments or with your club coaches -- “What one thing would you tell your younger self that you know now?”
I am going to share more of the things I learned, for I think perhaps the most important thing that too many coaches are failing to do, I wrote about in this blog – Ancora Imparo. It is also how I sign most of my emails now, as it is so important. I mean, if the great Michelangelo said at when he was 87, it is a principle that is important for all coaches and their players.
Finally, from USA Hockey, what else did I learn, outside of what I feel are priceless new ideas seen above that I will weave into my teaching? Here are more….
A you a Recruitment Program or a Development Program? “Do not shorten the bench until the they are 15U…” – USA Hockey staff
I don’t think I am better than anyone, I just want it more than anyone. – Tony Granato
The Journey is the Thing, the Result Will Come Through it – Finnish Federation goalie coach.
The day your talent is more than your work ethic is the day you leave the NHL – Unknown NHL player.
Crap Inoculation – Run towards things that are uncomfortable.
You will become clever with your mistakes – German Proverb.
Target the Struggle – not the comfort zone. Struggle is not an option, it is a biological requirement – Mike Sullivan – Chicago Blackhawks Player Development
A you in a Race to the Wrong Finish Line? – Unknown at an OTC lunch
Tie the Knot – Don told a story of a military guy he met traveling. The serviceman said “I want to tell you a story about my son, you have to teach your young men to tie the knots. At 14 my son came into kitchen, and I told him he as to take the garbage out. Tie it in a knot before you take it out. One day he would, next day I did. Then I stopped and let my son do it. All the way thru high school. Son did you tie the knot? Yes. So for 4 years his my son did that.” You have to make sure your players tie the knot. That is what player development is.
Compete or be beaten worse – Don Granato
Use what you have, don’t complain – Don Granato
What you permit, you promote – USAV Ohio Valley RVA Commissioner Bob Price’s father said this, which came up after I shared the Peca video.
Thank you Ken Martel for inviting me to share, and I am looking forward to the Level 5 gathering in summer of 2016. Thank you Kevyn for letting yourself risk by evolving. Thank you Mike Sullivan for reminding me my role is to be unnecessary. And thank you Michael for sharing your story with the coaches lucky enough to hear it. Maybe it is time to retitle my blog “Growing the Games Together…” Please share your stories below about becoming unnecessary yet impactful in athletes’ lives….we all will be a bit better teacher for it.