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Deflections: Getting in shape to coach


Sweeping generalization here: Coaches go from minor to junior. Few do it the other way around. My bet is, they’re afraid of the physical demands of coaching a minor hockey team.

Let’s face it. In junior, I didn’t have to take part in, demonstrate or even watch over pre-ice warm ups. I could diagram drills, using even sloppy writing and poor markings, and most players could understand. Even if they didn’t, there was always a guy to demo what was needed. I’d just point and say, “Yes, like that!” We did few really technical core skills and certainly nothing that required my showing 19-year-olds how to do a tight turn or take a type of shot.

Then there was the equipment. It was all in the team’s room. Pucks, pylons, rink board. Sometimes I left my stick, keeping an extra couple at home for coaching clinics. Carrying stuff into the rink was a breeze.

All gone now. With my new bantam group, I have to truck a pail full of pucks into the rink. Since I believe in lots and lots of pucks for practice, it’s rather heavy. I toss my shoulder bag briefcase over one shoulder. Overtop goes my skate bag. I wrap two fingers around the suction-cup rink board and lug the puck basket with the other hand. My stick is held by a spare index finger that is not being used on the basket handle. This is more exercise than I’d bargained for—or remembered.

The boys need to do a pre-ice warm up I designed. I pop into the dressing room to hustle them out. A trainer is supposed to watch them, but he’s a tad late. Besides, he doesn’t really know the exercises nor the techniques required. So I follow the kids to the back of the building, outside in a deserted part of the parking lot. I demo the key exercises. I note to myself I haven’t actually done these exercises in a couple of decades. Seems I can neither lunge nor jump like I used to. Better demo really slowly. Like, really.

We’re on the ice. The kids are good at understanding my diagrams. That’s because I’m drawing them as if I’m being evaluated. They start a drill and I catch techniques which aren’t strong. Need to demo these, too. Here’s how to do a tight turn; a sculling technique; a snap shot; a reverse turn; reception of a backhand pass. They now do them better though some have pretty clear deficiencies. I have three fellows assisting me and one of us is going to have to work on these with those kids.

At the end, child labour deals with carrying the puck basket right to my car. The next morning, my knees are sore. Never happened in junior. I wonder why.

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