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Deflections: A coach’s off-season idyll

Pardon me, but I was in rinks lately.

I was recently working with our regional under-14 team in preparation for a tournament. It’s the first step in the identification process for the national Program of Excellence. Please excuse this poor soul who continues to stand by the notion that kids should be doing something other than hockey in the off-season. But to launch the process, we had to go after the season.

Anyway, there I was, in the parking lot on a sunny May evening, waiting for the boys to be picked up by their parents. All I could think of was how much I wanted to do something non-hockey once the tournament was done (we had just four weeks with the team). Our trainer was with me and we watched a stream of young kids dragging their bags into the rink for whatever ice session their parents had signed them up for.

“These kids need a break,” said the trainer. “They should be playing soccer or something.”

Me, too. Except for the soccer part. That heyday came and went quickly on a school team which managed a single goal all season. Yours truly had more ball touches in a single game warm-up than in the entire season. The point is, though, I’m a tired coach. Though rejuvenated by a terrific group of U-14s, when the tournament ended on Sunday afternoon (undefeated with only two goals against in four games), I was ready for a break. My brain got its work out for eight months and now it needs a rest. Training camp, practices, games, teaching coaching clinics, meetings, emails, phone calls, planning for next season. . . Hold ! Desist! So I can’t imagine what it must be like for a young’un.

My off-season plan takes shape July 7, the day after the High Performance 1 coaching seminar we’re hosting is over. I will not watch game tapes or Youtube videos of skills instruction unless they’re bloopers.

I will keep my drills and practice plans from this season in the unkempt pile in my steady, to be lovingly filed in the summer.

Meeting minutes, notes, budget reports, line-ups and other minutiae of the year are not to be touched until I have an adult beverage in one hand and I’m on my deck in shorts and a sunhat.

I will stuff my skate bag and sticks in a corner of the garage and let them collect cobwebs until August.

I promise not to read a hockey book. Not one. By anyone. Mysteries? Sure. Biographies? OK. I may even pick up the copy of Don Quixote I bought last summer but didn’t get around to starting. Why? Well, why not?

Like the kids, coaches or coach-like beasts such as myself need a clean break from the game for awhile. We owe it to ourselves and, once re-energized for a new season, to whoever our teams will be.

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