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Deflections: Young Guns

I recently bought a new car. Don't go away. This was how a chance meeting and some positive vibes came about.

I'm filling it up one afternoon when I notice the car at an adjacent pump is identical to mine, only a different colour. The driver gets out and I sort of recognize him. You know, one of those faces you recall from rinks past but can't quite place where or when.

He asks me how I like the car and we compare what attracted us to it. Then he adds he remembers me from hockey. Seems I taught his son. He tells me his name and I instantly recall his boy as a lad of about 12 at hockey school. Well, he says, Terry (not his real name) went on to junior A, which I knew. And now he's coaching.

I guessed Terry's age within a year. So naturally I asked what's he coaching. A competitive atom team, the dad replies. To which I couldn't help but smile.

I don't know what kind of a young man Terry became except that as a youngster he was a darn fine kid, eminently teachable, with lots of ability. That he had now decided to pursue the game as a coach made my heart jump a bit.

What I’ve seen lately is how many young former players want to give back to the game, or just stay in it, and so they serve as assistants in junior. When asked, I always counsel otherwise. Junior is not where you learn how to coach.

You're still too close to the age group and the memories of how and what you learned don't provide you the opportunity to grow as a coach. You become instantly stale by reverting to the same ol' same ol'. If you really want to coach, if you really want to discover how to teach and guide kids, deal with parents, learn rules and regs, and take on true responsibility, go back to minor. Better, get your own team. Best, make it a house league team.

Not much in coaching grounds someone better and provides a perspective of the impact of good coaching than being with a bunch of kids who just aren't very good.

This is where the Young Guns fresh out of the playing ranks ought to be recruited to coach. Too often I see associations content with cajoling some poor parent into heading up a team rather than going after some of the local youths. Too young? Perhaps. That's where mentoring plays such an important role. That and teaming up a young coach with a couple of parents who will be supportive and offer the wisdom of parenthood.

As for Terry, I'm glad he's coaching and didn't just call his former junior team to do something. Will he get some good help? I hope so. We need to keep these rookies in our sights. Realistically, until careers and/or families come along, coaching is one thing they'll have time for. Maybe, years from now, his experiences with the atom team will form the foundation of what he does with his own child's team. 

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