Community Sustainability and a Hockey Love Story

It's been a long week, but I think they always feel like that when you start off sick and then play catch-up for days. Had a few conversations about long-term sustainability, ranging from an interview with John Fowler's internal systems group communications team to preparation for a panel next Wednesday at Suffolk University Law School in Boston on Innovation and Speed To Market. I'm going to talk about the need to balance flat-out innovation with long-term thought about maintaining what's been invented. Long-term thought was what occupied my mind as the week wound down.

I spent this Friday night the same way I've spent the last half-dozen, watching my son volunteer as a junior coach and mentor in the Devils Youth Hockey Primary Program. He's on the ice with the under-8 set, getting to learn coaching style, and not just playing style, from his own favorite coaches. Tonight I had the added bonus of being asked to babysit for two of the coaches (who are married to each other), as they had their not quite three year old on the ice, practice jersey knotted behind her so she didn't trip on it. I got to entertain their little one, bringing back some pleasant memories of bouncing babies of my own. Fastest 45 minutes I've spent in a long time.

As I was returning our future 2022 US Women's Ice Hockey olympic athlete to the home bench, her father (more commonly known as Coach Adam) pointed out to the other coaches assembled in the office that I won additional brownie points for taking my son to see Godsmack. What struck me was that he only knew that little tidbit from reading this blog. So if I'm truly to comment broadly about community sustainability, I owe Coaches Adam and Theresa props in a place where they, and others, will see them.

In a variety of all-hands and staff meetings with peer organizations in the past three weeks, I've said that community sustainability -- building and maintaining a community of experts, of athletes, of volunteers, of any similarly interested people -- requires a few leaders who will put in the time no matter what, and a larger number of people who will follow their example. That's what makes our Devils hockey organization run over time -- the long-term efforts put in by people who are willing to do the community development. Ben skates with the primary program because he had fun as a participant in it eight years ago. Coaches Adam and Theresa were there every Friday night as well. He got up Sunday mornings at 5:30am, half-dressed in shin guards, socks and hockey pants, looking for a ride to the rink from any available parent or guardian, to skate in a half-ice game in the house league supervised by the two newlyweds. There have been a number of other coaches and contributors -- Big D, Coach Garry, Coach John and his wife Kelly -- who have pushed, cajoled, stretched, and molded my son into the type of kid who wants to spend the opening shift of his weekend with beginning hockey players.

I find it a nice touch that my son is able to be on the ice with his first coaches' daughter. I didn't know then that a few minutes of volunteer time here and there was going to turn into managing and a board position. My first "job" with the Devils organization was opening the bench door for players, or lifting them over the boards in those half-ice games. I managed, as best as you can, a swarm of 6 year olds and laughed about it afterwards for most of the day, especially when Coach Adam let the pre-dawn skaters call his new wife "Coach Crabby." Thanks, and happy anniversary wishes to my most hockey-astute blog readers.


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