Monday Nov 05, 2007

Making It By Not Making It Big

I spent half of yesterday at my first-ever USA Hockey Coaching Education Program, held in the municipal courtroom in Brick Township. For $30, and listening to several hours of speakers covering safety, sportsmanship, coaching styles, goaltending, and the Atlantic District coaching certifications, I was granted an Initiation, Level 1 USA Hockey coach's card. I'm semi-official; I'll pass a carding check if I'm needed to fill in on the bench.

Despite the seemingly dry nature of the day (one could argue the venue matched the content), it's an impressive operation. In addition to the hockey-noob class in the big room, there was a 2nd level training, and the conclusion of a weekend-long advanced level seminar all proceeding in parallel. Everybody had a different reason to attend: new high school coaches, coaches just starting the certification process, long-time coaches re-starting certifications that had expired, or in my case, a prospective coach for younger kids. Some of us have kids who play, some are just interested in staying close to hockey.

Highlight of the day was hearing from Steve Riley, our very own Devils Youth goalie coach, who gave a half hour whirlwind tour of teaching goalies how to skate. Not your usual approach to goalie practice, and delivered in a whimsical tone that is uncharacteristic of a practicing goalie. Goalies are supposed to be weird; we laugh at them and rarely with them. Riley's concluding remarks were one of the few things I wrote down during the day's course: You can practice hard and develop skills with the hopes of playing NCAA Division 1-A hockey, and if you do that well then you might not have to play hockey for a living. It's rare indeed to hear a coach emphasize education over sports, but more practically, the long-term value of education enabling and cementing your ability to play that sport when, where and how you like, as opposed to it defining and bounding your sense of self-worth.

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