How do you measure the value of a good hockey coach? How can anyone fully understand the time and commitment they put into their team for the reward of simply seeing their players thrive? I bet if you asked any retired player (are they ever really retired) they could tell you who their favourite coach was, how old they were when they played for them, the colour of their jerseys and they could imitate their dressing room speeches before big games.
I think one of the most impactful moments between a coach and a player that I witnessed was when my husband was coaching my son when he was playing house league. He had a young red head player on his roster that had not been on skates before. He was the cutest looking young man with freckles on his cheeks and a very quiet demeanour. I was never sure if it was his idea to be there or his parents. My husband would work with him on how to get his balance, how to hold his stick and he'd tap him on the helmet each time he mastered something new. The one thing I noticed about him was that he was so serious. He always worked very hard and I could tell it was so important to him to please his coach, but he never cracked a smile.
At the end of the season, we had a pool party and a little awards ceremony for the team. One of the awards was "Most Improved Player" and he was going to win it. As my husband was describing this young player with the bright red hair and strong determination, I could see he was getting choked up trying to get through his speech. I watched the young boy while his coach was talking about him and he had no idea who he was talking about. It broke my heart that it didn't occur to him that he'd even be a thought for this award. Finally, my husband said his name and this young man looked up with a smile on his face that lit up the room. A smile that caused his teammates to erupt with cheers and yelling that just about took the roof off the building. As he jumped up to get his trophy, my husband shook his hand, also smiling from ear to ear and said, "Congratulations, you earned it!" He said, "Thanks coach" still beaming for being recognized for his hard work. I don't know if that young man ever laced up a pair of skates again, but nobody can ever tell me that moment between a coach and a player that worked together to get better didn't have an impact on that child for the rest of his life.
In recent years, one of my most eye opening experiences has come from watching my husband on the bench as a non-parent coach. I used to think that his passion for coaching came from being on the bench with his son, and although some of that was true, there was so much more to it than that. I have witnessed firsthand the commitment that goes into coaching. I have spent many evenings waiting for him to return home from a hockey practice after a full day's work. I have witnessed him inputting stats after traveling home from a game that was three hours away, ensuring that he didn't miss any well deserved points for his players; players that were no relation to him. I have seen the worry in his eyes when one of his players was having a tough time and I have also seen the joy in his eyes when one of his players succeeds and scores that long awaited goal or makes that important save at the perfect time in a game.
Time and time again as I watch him throw the pucks in the car while the snow was blowing in every direction, I would say to him, "Why do you do this?" He would often respond with no words at all, simply a look that said, "If you have to ask, you really don't get it." Yes there have been many moments that I have seen how much time a coach gives to his team, to his individual players and their parents, all for the love of the game. I know each year he coaches I'll learn more about being on the other side of the glass. What I've learned so far has made me realize that you can "Never Underestimate the Power of a Coach."
- Written by Allyson Tufts
About the author:
Allyson Tufts is a new author that has had many meaningful careers to date in non-profit, social work, and human resources. Her proudest accomplishment is that of being a wife and mother. She spent many years watching her son and daughter enjoy their extra curricular activities. Nothing could prepare her for the stress of standing behind her son's net for his debut as a goalie. As her experiences as a Hockey Mom started to pile up, she realized that not only were they funny, most importantly, they could be helpful to other parents going through their own experiences watching their kids play. She decided to take the leap and put her stories into her first book and so was born, “Lessons from Behind the Glass”.
Since the launch of the book in 2015, she’s sold thousands of copies in both Canada and the United States. She’s had the opportunity to speak to the senior staff and President of Hockey Canada. Most recently she has partnered with BC Hockey and Hockey Eastern Ontario to create a video series for parents based on the lessons from her book.
This article is the property of Allyson Tufts and is not to be used without her permission. To learn more about Allyson Tufts or to purchase the book, please visit www.lessonsfrombehindtheglass.com.