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Deflections - Behold, the trainer!


Hockey team trainers are overworked and under-appreciated. We say thanks at the end of a season though I wonder how many coaches realize just what these people have been doing all year.

I’m not sure whether I’ve been making my own luck by choosing the right people or not, but I’ve had some terrific trainers both in minor and junior. In fact, the only bad one I ever had was at the club in France where I coached. The fellow, whom everyone called Doc, seemed to know little about anything to do with injuries or equipment. A Gallic shrug translates pretty easily into any language. He did that a lot in answer to questions about injuries.

It seems that whatever we ask of trainers they take on enthusiastically and as a minimum standard. There was John, the trainer of a midget AAA team, who used his own funds to buy bags of bagels and fruit for the players at tournaments. He treated each kid like they were his own. Steve, who continues to be the trainer for the junior team I was part of for a few years, must have the club’s logo tattooed to his heart. Meticulous, caring, trustworthy and proud of the team, Steve sets a standard against which I tend to measure them all, which is perhaps a little unfair. And there’s Jack who, after a final tryout session with an atom AAA team, handed each kid a chocolate bar as a thank you for their effort. He has no child on the team.

The better coaches I’ve worked with – and I’ve unabashedly followed their lead – almost always included the trainers in staff meetings, sessions with parents, and closed door talks about players. Invariably, they had something novel to add to conversations; about how players interacted in the room or on the bench; about which kids were more or less likely to be able to deal with the game’s bumps and bruises; even about dispelling (or confirming) rumours that tend to swirl around teams.

With younger or lower level teams, it’s essential trainers be regarded not just as the people who fill the water bottles or fix helmets but as important members of the leadership group. They aren’t coaches and shouldn’t try to fulfill dual roles. I once had to ask one exuberant dad/trainer on my team not to go to his child on the bench to give advice. A fine trainer, he meant well, but it was misplaced.

Many teams have trainers run the off ice warm ups, a solid idea indeed. In fact, if you can get a trainer with a physical training background, even better.

We spend so much time in our game extolling the virtues of coaches. It’s time the trainers got some love, too.

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