The world of coaching, especially minor league coaching and coaching a sport as nationally competitive as hockey, is not an easy one. After all, it seems like the level of competition, not to mention violence, in minor league hockey is only growing.
Last year, Macleans wrote a lengthy feature story on the alarming increase in violence happening in Canadian minor league hockey. As the article pointed out, in a period of six weeks in 2014, there were no less than three cases of physical altercation in minor league hockey in Canada, all these altercations happening among the teams’ parents and coaches.
The article continues by describing the growing “level of obsession” seen in parents and coaches, something that is “exacting an enormous toll on the minor hockey system”. Even more worryingly, as a result of the increasing disputes and physical confrontations between the adults at minor league events, leagues around the country have become more judiciously complicated, with parents bringing lawyers in favor of snacks to hockey events.
The article ends on a fairly sour note, mentioning that the number of volunteer minor league hockey coaches who are no longer willing to coach because of increasing violence and abuse is increasing.
This is clearly a very disturbing trend. But, what should be pointed out is that coaching hockey can still be rewarding and enriching, and plenty of coaches around Canada remain just as inspired in having the opportunity to mold young hockey players.
Jarret Reid, Director of Power Skating at Wave Sports Centre in Burlington, Ontario, is one of those coaches who remains highly confident in minor hockey league’s future. In part, this confidence comes from some of the reasons why Jarret coaches hockey in the first place.
Following ten-plus successful years as a professional hockey player (in 1993, Jarret Reid helped OHL’s Sault Greyhounds win a Memorial Cup), in Jarret’s words, there was no way he could leave the sport of hockey.
“[Hockey] was ingrained in my blood. Having spent so much time on the ice as a player and as a kid, I couldn’t consider life without hockey.” Jarret Reid continues, “What better way to be able to share my knowledge and love for hockey than with those of a younger generation? That’s a major reason why I became a coach.”
A question. What’s more important, a young hockey player’s long-term development or whether or not they win a competition that day?
It’s the job of any successful minor league coach to not only understand the distinction between these two points, but to remind increasingly invested parents of this distinction too.
Jarret Reid adds, “Of course, in minor leagues winning is something that’s important and that parents, coaches and players all strive for. But, winning is not everything, particularly when you’re talking about the minor leagues … It takes time for young players, even talented young players, to develop. Competitions give players the time they need on the ice. That goes towards their development. Whether their team wins or not that day is in some ways irrelevant.”
Those may not be the words that some parents want to hear, but it strikes at a truth.
Fundamental to Jarret Reid’s power skating philosophy is that players should foremost be highly adept and comfortable skaters on ice - from there, kids can develop into effective hockey players.
This is another principle that both players and parents need to keep in mind.
Reid adds, “I think minor hockey leagues around the Canada would benefit from being reminded that, one, young players are not going to improve if they don’t enjoy the game, and two, it takes years for a talented player to develop - it doesn’t just happen because of one good season or one good match.”