Archive for the ‘Winter – 2010’ category

Proving I Can Laugh At Myself

July 6, 2013

Ya, I can laugh at myself.  However, if I might begin with a little brag here…

You see, I was a fairly good athlete as a young guy.  Folks around my hometown would tell you that, as would older members of my family.  The reason it’s necessary for me to tell you that is so I might also tell you it didn’t prevent me from being the world’s absolute worst golfer.  And really, wouldn’t you think that all my years at coaching three different sports would count for something?

Ya, wouldn’t you think.   Grrrrrrrrrr…

I think one of my frustrations has been that many of the skills I honed in baseball, football and hockey just never seemed to transfer over.  Oh, I know that hockey players are known to really crank their drives, but people on a course will run for cover when I wind up.  Ugh.

With that, the only ones who have ever been able to lure me out to a day of embarrassment — errrrrr, golf — have been my late dad, my two brothers and my son.  And, in most instances, it took three of them to do it.  (I said I can laugh at myself, but I didn’t say I volunteered to do it!)

Okay, so let me set the stage for what I believe was my very last time on a golf course…

Our hockey seasons over, my son and I got to join my dad and my youngest brother, John, for a day at a pretty nice place near Tampa, Florida.

I say it was nice, because it was a far cry from the Sunbaked Acres known as the Hall of Fame Golf Course (I think my brother had dubbed it the Hall of Shame).  We’re talking about a dusty place with no cover from the sun, gators popping their eye-balls up from the waterholes, and landing gear almost hitting you on the head as planes came in or took off from the local airport.

If I have one fond memory of the Hall of Fame, it was playing alongside one of dad’s neighbors, a guy named Bill, who didn’t want anyone to take this golf thing too seriously.  I mean, Bill’s favorite expression out there was, “Oh, that’s a gimme,” even if your ball was twenty feet from the pin.

My late dad, God love him, only carried about three clubs with him.  To be honest, I’m not sure he even used more than one.  Ya, he’d nub a ball from the tee, and it would roll on a straight line for six million yards.  Then he’d nub another and another ’til he tapped a near gimme into the cup.  I’m talking mostly grass cutters here, that still always amounted to a five or six on each hole.  Grrrrrrrrrr…

Brother John was also a pretty good athlete, but he took golf more seriously than I once he put the spikes and cleats away.  (I happen to like working at hockey, and just never found the time to do anything other than play golf — and again, only when I was dragged onto the course.)  You can be sure John always knew what his handicap was, while I hadn’t a clue how to even compute mine.  Grrrrrrrrrr…

I said earlier that hockey players can really crush a golf ball?  Ha.  My son, Mike, hit his drives further than the other three of us combined.  With that, I think he only had to blow on his ball a few strokes later to put it in the cup.  Grrrrrrrr…

As for me, all I can say is that my dad had tears in his eyes throughout every nine or eighteen holes he ever played we me.  I don’t care where or when it was, he could hardly control himself, laughing at my frustrations on courses from Massachusetts to Florida.  Grrrrrrrrrr…

Okay, so we’re out on this nice course, and things are going pretty much true to form.  John looks like the reincarnation of Ben Hogan, Mike is crushing balls and looking a little Tiger Woods-ish, and dad is doing his usual nubbing and somehow managing to stay with the other two.

Me?  I was doing fine for awhile.  In fact, maybe I started getting a little cocky.  For, instead of taking dad’s safe approach, and going around a cluster of trees, I salivated at a clear spot I thought I saw between them.

Ya, well…  My next — probably blankin’ six — shots looked like something out of a cartoon.  Grrrrrrrr…  I hit the first ball and it glanced off one tree and then another, probably ricocheting off about five in all.  That’s what I mean about it being cartoon-like, because one could almost hear the Ping…  Ping…  Ping…  as my ball hit tree after tree.

Thinking back, I’m not sure if dad, John and Mike were ducking for cover each time I swung.  Ping…  Ping…  Ping…  Come to think of it, though, I covered up a couple of times myself.  Grrrrrrrrr….

Then, ya know how time flies when you’re having fun?  Well, I had inched my way through that stand of trees, again to the tune of a good six strokes (at least).  All the while, my playing partners were up near the green — about two counties away, talking amongst themselves, I’m sure, and hoping I emerged from the trees before the sun went down.

I did emerge, though, and that’s when something struck me…  As clear as anything, I could recall Mike saying to me a little earlier, “Dad, my ball is way up near the green, so I’ll leave you the cart.”

Oho.

There I am, finally on the other side of those trees, and I can see the cart in the distance, not too far from where we teed off.  Ya, and speaking of teed off, there stood four pretty pissed off guys, leaning on their clubs, and staring at Mike’s golf cart right in their way.

Ya, I said “Mike’s golf cart”!  I surely wasn’t in the right frame of mind at that time to go all the way back and listen to those guys’ crap.  Dad’s belly laugh being as infectious as it was, he and John were bent over near the green in stitches, which left Mike as the only one who could bail me out.

Of course, to this day I’m sorry I did that, buddy, but…

As much as I suck at golf, and as much as I hated the frustration it usually brought me, I think it kinda neat that my last twirl around a course — despite my battle with those trees — had my dad once again laughing.  And, who knows…  Maybe blogs can be read from heaven, and dad is wiping away some tears from his cheeks right now.

Advertisements

For Some Rinks, Status Quo Seems Good Enough

June 26, 2013

I’ll bet even my long time followers believe my experiences over the past 40+ years have been limited to just coaching hockey.  Oh, it’s true, that my main interest has been in teaching the game.  Over all that span, though, I’ve actually had to wear a number of hats, including running some hockey businesses and twice being an arena manager.  Moreover, I’m an observant rascal, and I’ve hardly missed a trick as I’ve watched some of the best at doing hockey biz.

With that, I sense that any business type is going to find a number of my recent observations interesting…

Coach Chic:  Hi, this is Dennis Chighisola.  Is Bill available?

Rink Secretary:  Sorry, Coach, but Bill and Jerry are out of town for a couple of days, at an arena managers’ convention.

Coach Chic:  (Thinking to himself:  Hmmmmmm…   A 20-year veteran rink owner and his long time manager are taking the time to learn new things, and to discover what’s going on at other rinks?  Ya, hmmmmmm…)

So, what got me going on this topic today?  The truth is, it’s the culmination of my having received a kzillion emails over recent months, these having to do with rink offerings that will take place lightyears from now.  Okay, that last part was a little tongue-in-cheek,  but let me explain…

This morning’s email was advertising a stickhandling course that will take place next fall.  So, with this being almost the start of July, that rink is alerting potential customers at least two months in advance.

Actually, I have probably received five or six other notices from various rinks, each of those alerting the reader about the summer hockey schools coming to their facilities.  Rightly so, though, those emails arrived in my inbox a good three or four months ago, and still several months prior to each program’s start.

It should make sense that enrolling in anything like a clinic or camp requires some sort of commitment on the parts of the prospective customers.  And it should make further sense that families will oftentimes plunk down their deposits as early as they can.

What I’m getting at is that it’s risky business to think about and then advertise new programs at the last minute.  Most of your potential customers will likely already be committed elsewhere, even if they’d have preferred your program.

As you can tell, I’m on a lot of mailing lists, mainly because it’s my business to keep up on the goings on in the hockey world.  And one of the regular newsletters I received yesterday is from back near my old Massachusetts home, where a group of rinks is always announcing their coming programs, also a good two to three months in advance.  And they then constantly remind their readers of those offerings over subsequent issues.

Then, get a load of this…  About a month ago I received information about two different youth hockey tournaments that will take place next Christmas — one in the northeast, and the other out west.  So, in each case, I believe the notices arrived something like six months in advance.  (Halfway into writing this post, an email arrived announcing tournaments at a southeast location that will take place this coming November, January and February.)

Of course, it’s easy to see that every one of those arenas is on the ball.  At the same time, my relocation to Florida has me observing some rinks down here that don’t seem to be on quite the same page.  (More on this later.)

I think it’s been a good thing for me to experience or see the rink business from different vantage points.  Of course, I’ve spent the majority of my time as a rink customer, and mainly as a hockey clinic or school director.

As an aside here, I know I used to drive relatives back home crazy when I described my need to sometimes design my own hockey work schedule close to a year in advance.  Trust me, that one doesn’t just rent ice on a given day, and then expect a slew of customers to show up a day or so later.  So, very far in advance, I’d have to lay out the likes of my winter teaching schedule, my winter-long team coaching schedule, my spring clinic lineup, and then where I’d be over the summer months for hockey schools in various locations.  Not easy, for sure, but very, very necessary in my line of work.

Oftentimes those conversations with friends and relatives had to do with how difficult it was to predict the economic climate and so many other outside influences that might have a bearing on attendance (or profit).  A major storm could hit at the wrong time, the economy could tighten drastically, or the local schools could even make a scheduling change that devastated my turnout.  As I said above, though, it was absolutely necessary to book ice, enlist my staff, and do so many other things long in advance of each program.

Switching hats now — from hockey school director to arena manager, let me tell you that so much of the same line of thinking holds true from one job to the other.

When I was a rink manager (in my younger years), I was always working on schedules that were two seasons away.  In other words, sometime around mid-winter, I’d already be plotting how the rink’s spring should look; not long after I’d be looking at the summer months; and by the spring I’d already be sensing what was necessary to fill our ice come the fall.  Then, considering all the things long distance teams have to do in order to commit to a tournament, an undertaking like that had to be planned and then announced a good six months (maybe further) in advance.

Now, one thing I’ve always been famous for is the way I handle the so-called “dead ice”.

BIAFor sure, plotting a rink’s activities far in advance helps identify open blocks that aren’t yet sold.  And, of course, that makes for a handy list or chart to keep available when one is talking to hockey or other skating groups.  And it always came in handy when I was considering a new program.

As importantly, areas of dead ice can often suggest where slight scheduling changes might be made.  One has to identify them early, though, in order to jockey some hours around — to either close some gaps or enlarge them, the latter in order to accommodate a new program.

I said I was always famous for filling dead ice, and this is so.  In fact, there used to be one rink manger in Massachusetts who would call me any time he discovered a block of ice that he just couldn’t sell.

Actually, that’s the ice-time I’ve always viewed as dead.  I mean, something locally usually had an effect on that ice — maybe because that was when tee-ball was played, or when the local town soccer teams had their games, whatever.  It could have even been during prime-time cookout hours that prevented locals from coming to the rink, unless…

Ya, unless something very special was taking place.  And that’s where I’ve tended to excel.

I’ve already been told by more than one USA Hockey official that they keep tabs on what I do and write.  So, I have to be thinking that some of the inspiration for their current day ADM Program comes from something I created sometime around 1990-ish.  Believe it or not, it included “small area games”, teaching stations and — get this:  portable rink dividers that I made myself.  And, that program not only packed the ice in my home rink on Saturday mornings for many springs, but I ultimately trailered my portable “boards” and took that show on the road to several other area rinks.

Again, though, nothing of consequence can be accomplished on empty or trouble ice-times unless someone identifies those times far in advance.

Now, I might be unfairly accusing some rinks of not keeping up with what’s going on elsewhere, or with what others in the industry are doing.  However, it at least seems that way to me.  Remaining in the dark — and staying with the status quo — is not only stifling to a rink’s bottom line, but it’s also eventually quashing growth in most of its skating programs.

I recently stumbled upon a story about one local rink that seemed not to deal with a situation in what I know to be the right fashion.  What happened was that a hockey mom and coach’s wife messaged me on Facebook one day with a slight complaint.  She said that a local rink had wanted to charge her husband more than the wintertime hourly rate to run a summer hockey school.  Huh?

I told her that rinks back in and around New England generally discounted their spring — and especially their summer — ice-time, mainly because it was difficult to lure hockey families away from other sports, barbecues, the beaches, and the likes.

Here’s the scariest part to handling things in the wrong way, however…  My guess is that the manager of the rink in question is going to be walking into the place lots of times over the coming spring and summer months, and he or she is going to stare at a place with the lights off and no one on the ice.  Not good; not good at all.

SportAboutShopUnderstand a basic premise when it comes to a rink’s bottom line…  Within reason, the bills to run the facility are constant — 24/7, and for 365-days out of the year.  I mean, the costs to maintain the ice, staff and other things are going to keep mounting, whether anyone is paying for the ice or not, whether anyone is buying from the snackbar or vending machines or not, and whether anyone is spending any money in the pro shop or not.

And it’s at times like that — when the manager (and owners?) see the empty ice, that he or she has to be thinking, “God, I’d even take a dollar or two for that ice right now!”

Worse yet, not only is that hockey school gone for this summer, but it’s gone for lots of summers to come.  Think about that one, please.

Just so you know, when I’d make initial contact with a new rink, I’d ask the manager to help me over the first summer hump.  That guy usually knew what I meant, in that it’s always tough getting a first-time program started.  A hockey school director almost expects to lose a little money until his program becomes established, but if the rink can work with him a little, it surely helps.  At the same time, it seems in the rink’s best interest to help that school get going, understanding that it might stay in that previously dead ice slot for a lot of years to come.  And, if it’s anything like my old programs, there’s a chance that the new school might even expand and buy a whole lot more hard to sell ice.

Then, while I said that an email this morning got me reeling at my ‘writer, something else a few weeks back actually started me thinking on this subject.  I was talking on the phone with a guy from the midwest, and he was telling me about the rink near him trying to advertise and start a springtime adult skills clinic on the spur of the moment.  Ugh.  By now, you know my feelings on that.

Here’s what I suggested to the young guy on the phone…  “That thing should have been advertised while all the potential customers were still playing in the rink’s winter adult league.  They were a captive audience back then — for handouts left in the lobby and in their dressingrooms, and for posters around the rink.  Teammates would have likely discussed it, they may have told guys from other rinks about it, and some may have even arranged for car pools.  Most importantly, guys (and gals) could have made long-range plans to attend that clinic, before they looked elsewhere, and maybe before they arranged spring or summer vacations.”

One other thought when it comes to building up rink business…  I tend to use a pyramid to demonstrate a lot of things in hockey.  When it comes to this conversation, though, the triangle-ish shape I draw on paper shows a kzillion little kids at the base.  They’re needed to support and feed the upper levels of a rink’s programs, be they in ice hockey, figure skating, whatever.

If you can visualize what I’m describing here, little ones should be relatively easy to attract — partly because a beginners’ program can be dirt-cheap and accessible to many local families.  Hooking them — or keeping them so that they’ll move onto a higher level program — is the next real challenge.  (I’ve written quite a lot on this subject over on my CoachChic.com website, including the way I’ve managed nearly a 100% success rate in keeping the little ones coming back.)

The reason my sketch tapers towards its top is that skaters are generally lost for a myriad of reasons, as they get older and move up through more challenging levels.  Such attrition can be for a lot of  very good reasons, including lost interest, the parents inability to keep up financially, and so on.  Again, it’s a natural thing, and something to be expected.  The answer is to start with the broad feeder program, give regulars plenty of reasons to stay, and then have enticing reasons for new players to join the higher levels from elsewhere.

About the only other unusual element of my pyramid has a rather exclusive type team at its peak.  In hockey, that might be an elite-like under-16 team, and eventually either an under-20 or Junior team.  Why is something rather elite so important?  My feeling is that all the kids at the lower levels need something to look up to and to aim for.  Dreams of playing in college or in the pros are factors in young kids sticking with their game, and so might those things be in the backs of the parents’ minds.  However, that local elite team is the obvious nearby stepping stone, and one that should be within reach for the better homegrown players.

If you can picture the opposite here, it’s that — absent a higher level team in one rink, the parents of young teens start looking elsewhere.  Worse yet, they just might leave the first rink a year or two early, just to get their foot in the door at another rink.

As it so happens, an organization I used to do a lot of work for is planning to build a new rink complex up on the east coast.  The man in charge touches base with me once in awhile, maybe to pick my brain, but more probably because he knows I enjoy talking about such things.  One concern I’ve pointed out to him — beyond what I’ve already mentioned here — is the importance of structuring ice-time in a special way.  I mean, the majority of successful rinks have certain groups skating in similar time slots for very good reasons.  I mention this because I’ve noticed some rinks going again the grain in this regard.  What I’m hinting at is that they’re painting themselves in a corner when it comes to growing certain programs, purely because the unused ice isn’t where it should be.

Then, as I watch Florida rinks make announcements for their various team tryouts, I have to shake my head once again.  What could they be thinking, if they’re not trying to one-up other rinks, or trying to attract more players to their own organizations?

I usually love Kevin Costner movies, and I especially loved “Field of Dreams”.  At the same time, most business types will tell you that the movie’s “build it and they will come” theme doesn’t work in real life.  Naw, you have to have a promotional plan in place, and then you have to very carefully execute that plan.

My gut tells me that a number of the rinks I’ve visited lately long ago built their shiny new facilities, opened their doors, and then declared, “Here we are!”  Management may have armed themselves with the right ideas back then, but they later relaxed into a “they will come” mentality.  Of course, I’m here to tell them that they will not necessarily come, or at least in the numbers most rinks want.

I may be 108-years old, but I get the feeling I’m more “with it” than a lot of rink owners or managers half my age.  I mean, I investigate everything new that comes along, and they should, too…

I’m not only big into social media (boasting 15,000+ connections), but I know how to use it.  In fact, a lot of business types ask this old hockey coach for advice on the subject.  With that, I believe every rink nowadays ought to have a social media person (other than a niece or nephew) keeping its brand constantly before customers’ eyes (and in their minds).  And new deals ought to be flowing on a weekly basis.

QR Code

Then, here’s a freebie tip…  QR codes are easy to generate, and they’d be awesome to use on posters displayed around a rink.  Anyone who has ever printed posters, knows they’d love to include more info, but that just makes the poster look cluttered.  The answer is to encourage customers to “Scan this code to discover a whole lot more!”  (You’d be surprised how many customers already have code scanning apps on their smart phones.)  The scanned code can take the customer to a website where an on-line signup or printable application form can be found.

Here’s yet another freebie…  Have your top coaches (in any sport) create a simple ebook loaded with some simple tips.  Offer the ebook on the rink’s website as a free gift in exchange for the customer’s name and email address.  The entire process is simple to automate, and a rink can make some friends while its email list grows — completely unattended.

Winding down here, what I’ve been saying doesn’t necessarily go for all local rinks.  In fact, in between the rinks that aren’t keeping up are those that are thinking outside the box — or at least thinking — and stealing the others’ customers.

Does any of the above sound like rocket science?  It shouldn’t.  For the most part, everything I’ve mentioned above is really a matter of common sense.

Have I meant to direct any criticisms toward a single rink?  Naw.  All rinks have their strengths and shortcomings.  And even the best deal with the likes of dead ice; they’re simply among the best because they’ve taken the time to identify the problems, and they continue to look for creative solutions.

As for me, I really just needed to give my mind some exercise today, and I also needed to clear out a rather cluttered email inbox of all those hockey school, clinic and tournament ads.

One last minute thought…  I’ll be the first to admit that I make as many mistakes as the next guy  (or gal).  What I hope I do better than most is to not make the same mistake twice.  I say this because the rinks I’ve kinda criticized here look like they have a track record for doing the wrong things — or perhaps doing nothing — on a regular basis.

What Naysayers Have In Common

June 18, 2013

THE FREE Dictionary defines “naysay” as “To oppose, deny, or take a pessimistic or negative view of…”

Ya, that about does it for me, because I’m mainly talking about those who take a pessimistic or negative view about something, most of the time with an argument that is so far off base it makes the naysayer look foolish.

Okay, so I always try to make it a point to let my friends know what set me off lately.  (I also always promise that posts here aren’t totally about my profession, but also about work experiences in general.)  For this one it’s easy, though, if you’ll allow me to explain a little history…

After experiencing what I’d gone through with the demise of the Tropical Elite Hockey League, I spent plenty of time reflecting on the whole affair.  I’m not talking about sulking, however, because I’d done enough of that in the first month or so after I was left stranded here in Florida.

What I got kinda psyched about were the things I learned during the TEHL’s brief existence.  For sure, I’d seen plenty of things done wrongly, but that was actually good — I mean seeing what didn’t work, and then coming up with remedies I sensed would.  Actually, I knew in my heart that I could have saved the league had I been given the chance to replace the — take your pick:  either inept or corrupt — league commissioner.

What non-hockey or non-Junior level folks should know is that there are few Junior teams across the US that don’t charge their players to play.  In other words, they work a lot like youth hockey, whereby the players pay for the opportunity to play.

And, make no mistake about it, teams in pay-to-play leagues live or die on having full rosters.  Operating costs are high for running a Junior hockey program — what with the practice and game ice costs, long distance travel expenses, equipment, front office and coaching salaries, and much, much more.

Actually, I’d done better than any other TEHL GM/coach when it came to recruiting, but I still didn’t come close to a full roster.  The problem, at least as I saw it, was that the players were out there — somewhere, I and the other league teams needed more players, but I’ll be darned if we ever got to connect.

The latter was one reason I decided last fall to form the Junior Hockey Scouting Service.  I’d gather tons of young guys interested in playing Junior hockey, and then I’d connect them with teams in need of players.

Junior Hockey Scouting ServiceThe second part of the equation had to do with deciding which side should pay for the service.  And I believe my decision was a first for this kind of service, because I allowed the players to enroll for free.  I further reasoned that a paying player was worth a lot to a team in need, usually representing at least $8000 (in tuition) per player.

I wouldn’t make teams pay per player, though.  Actually, I arranged a far better deal that’s so low it’s almost a no-brainer.

Okay, so now that you have the gist of how things work with my JHSS, I’ll leave it at that and get on to those naysayers.

Well, as I so often do, a few weeks ago I mentioned the JHSS in a few social media posts.  Suddenly, I get kind of a punch in the ear by a young guy on Twitter.  His gripe was that I was trying to pull young high school kids away from home.  ???  I tried to explain that that wasn’t my aim, and I wished that I could have explained better within Twitter’s “140 Rule” how I actually turned away a couple of star players at the TEHL tryout camp.  Yup.  As good as they were, I told their parents that I preferred they go back home and finish their last 2-years of high school before returning to see me.

This aside…  First, I advertise the JHSS to all Junior eligible players, which means it’s open to guys from 16- through 20-years old, just as dictated by the two ruling hockey federations.  Secondly, I’m not about to tell players and parents what they can and can’t do, as long as the kids are eligible.

As it turned out, the couple of young, future stars I mentioned earlier — and turned away — just went and found another Junior team.  Grrrrrrrrr…  So much for good intentions, huh?

The young Twitter naysayer didn’t give up, though, and I sensed he was attempting to embarrass me and my program in front of his handful of followers (it’s true, that few hockey people were even following the guy, which suggested to me the amount of clout he actually had).  Stay tuned, however, and I’ll tell you more about that jerk a little later.

Now, you have to understand that I spend a lot of time in social media; that’s a big part of what I do.  And, while I tweet and post about a lot of different topics — including the escapades of my little pooch, Raggs, I generally let friends know about the JHSS a couple of times per day.  That in mind, I felt those posts had been pretty well received when only one other naysayer muddied my Twitter stream the other day.

Ya, it was another shot in my ear, with this guy announcing to the world that, “There are too many Junior teams!”  (Obviously not a rocket scientist, that’s something I’ve read a few times in articles penned by other Pessimistic Petes.)

What does one say to that, because I have my feelings on the subject — and it’s just an opinion, while he’d be hard pressed to really defend his stance, either.  What the guy really meant was that, he feels there aren’t enough great players to fill all the teams in existence.

Oh, boy, do I have some feelings when it comes to that one…  You see, humans mature at drastically different rates, which means that a late bloomer at one point could ultimately out shine a lot of previously noteworthy players.  In fact, with what we know about the sciences nowadays, a kid who suddenly gets motivated can, given a little time, blow right by the player who supposedly has all the talent.

Knowing that numbskull is from the Boston area, I pointed out the story of Daniel Nava, who is currently starring with the Boston Red Sox.  By all rights, Nava should be paying his way into pro baseball games, because just a few years ago he was buried on a who-cares, low, low minor league team.  Nava just wouldn’t quit, however, someone within the Red Sox organization gave him a chance, and the rest is becoming basball history.  Actually, though, Nava wasn’t even an instant hit in the Red Sox system, experiencing a few highs and enough lows to make most guys quit.  He wouldn’t quit, however, but instead kept working his butt off until he was able this spring to earn a regular spot on the Sox’ Major League roster.  And, he’s not just hanging on by his thumbs, but instead having Boston-area fans saying he deserves to make the American League All-star team.  Amazing, huh?

Of course, the latest naysayer tweeted something to the effect that Nava is a one-in-a-million story.  My feeling?  I’m in the game for the sake of guys like Nava, and it’s stories like that one that keep me feeling that a lot of players deserve a chance to hang on a little longer, to get a little more good coaching, and to give their bodies and minds a chance to mature just a little bit more.

Naysayer Number Two and I went back and forth exchanging insults for even longer than did Number One and I.

I always get a kick out of guys who use as their argument things that are totally unrelated and really off the wall.  This guy evidently thought name dropping gave his case more validity, but I laughed and thought to myself that I probably taught or coached the guys he looks up to.  At the least, they’ve probably followed my writings.

Before leaving this dummy, I feel the need to even better explain our disagreement, as well as some of what I said just a while ago…

He seems to feel as though a kid who doesn’t show some real promise at maybe 18-ish years old should be told so, and sent home to play in some adult rec league.  I, on the other hand, have that “players mature at different times” mentality, and I’m always willing to give a good kid just one more chance.

Okay, so I’ve promised to share with you my thoughts on the things the typical naysayers have in common.  In other words, why would someone take the time or expend the energy to argue a given point — in public, no less?

Of course, you and I probably see lots of posts travel through our streams that cause us to shake our heads.  Most of the time we dismiss them with a mumbled expletive, and most often decide that an argument isn’t worth the effort.

That’s why I’ve come to realize that there has to be a real driving force behind anyone who ultimately chooses to engage in a negative way.  I have to think that there’s a selfish reason they’re doing it, too, and I’ve hardly ever been disappointed with that one.

This line of thinking goes way back to my earliest years in coaching…  I mean, back as far as the late-1970’s and long before the JHSS came along, I was pioneering new training methods, promoting some new scientific principles, selling hockey books or training manuals, and even getting word out about a new hockey training invention.  Ya, those were times when naysayers seemed to come out of the woodwork.  And those were also the times when I started seeing a connection.

As an example…  When I returned from Moscow of the old USSR, I was psyched to show hockey folks around New England new and better ways to train, and most often without even needing costly ice-time.  Those who listened to me got to discover — probably 15-years in advance of others — how to use plyometrics and how to get faster with over-speed training.  As I hinted at above, though, there certainly were detractors — and how.  Why?  Hmmmmmm…

The sale of my “You Can Teach A Basic Hockey System” manual was another one that caused quite a stir.  The digital version hit the market at about the same time USA Hockey put forth their ADM Program.  A number of youth coaches started screaming bloody blue murder that I’d encourage the teaching of X’s and O’s to young players.  At this point, some readers might believe the naysaying should have been expected, in that my manual does go against prevailing USA Hockey preachings.  On the other hand, I’m going to ultimately suggest something quite different.

Once the in-line craze hit North America, I unveiled some things I’d already been doing behind the scenes with some of my students.  It was awesome, really, knowing that most hockey players could suddenly have access to a new tool that promised some gains even beyond what could be done on the ice.  Enter the naysayers, however.  And, even though I explained how certain negative training effects could be avoided with slight adaptations to training, the boo-birds persisted and persisted.  Why?  Ugh…

Then, you should have heard the screaming when my invention, the Skater’s Rhythm-bar, started selling around the world.  Wow.  Guys and gals who hadn’t a clue about the sciences claimed it went against all that was known about skating mechanics.  The fact is, that device is totally based on what’s known about skating.  Newton’s Laws are involved, as are the studies by numerous PhDs who make a living analyzing physical movements.  Yet, there were pert, little former figure skaters and telephone linemen — who moonlighted as “powerskating coaches” — telling anyone who would listen that the Rhythm-bar would hurt a player’s stride.  Why?  Geeeeeeeeeze…

What I ultimately realized was that guys (and gals) with their own very strong agendas were nearly always the culprits when it came to beating down a good idea.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think I ever met a naysayer who wasn’t thinking about his or her pocketbook, first and foremost.  They weren’t thinking about kids, and they weren’t thinking at all about the betterment of our game.  No, almost everything I encountered from those Negative Nellies came from pure selfishness.

In reference to the downing of my training manual, a few guys knocked it because they had their own books or videos on the market.  Not all of the pooh-poohers were thinking about their pocketbooks, however.  Naw, a number of them had found safety within the ADM program, which quite nicely makes it possible for any idiot to conduct something at least close to an effective practice.  So again, those guys weren’t concerned so much about financial gains as they were in preserving a system of “teaching” that required them to do little more than toss a puck out onto the ice.

In most instances, egos also came into play when the handfuls of negative feedback came my way.  I can’ blame the likes of noted powerskating instructors for having their noses out of joint as I began gaining some attention.  For sure, they didn’t want their students looking to off-ice training if all they knew about was on-ice stuff.  I’m guessing they were also panicking that my Skater’s Rhythm-bar was going to render a lot of their teachings as archaic.

And this all brings me back to a grand total of two Twitter members who want to tell the world that there’s something evil about my Junior Hockey Scouting Service.  Hmmmmmm…  I see only a couple of possible answers to this one:  that they are totally right, or that they have a hidden agenda — be it ego- or money-related.  Again, hmmmm…

Naysayer One’s concerns for young kids leaving home might seem innocent enough on the surface; and don’t forget that I kinda agree with that.  Still, he did “protesteth tooooo much” after our initial exchange, and that’s a dead giveaway to me, that there is a very strong agenda lurking in the background.  About all I could discover is that he’s a high school hockey coach in Massachusetts, which leads me to believe he’s probably seen his team lose some good players to Junior hockey.  Where that might suggest his ego was in play, a closer look at his profile shows that he’s also involved in something pretty close to Junior hockey, suggesting to me that his purse might also be taking a hit.  As a matter of fact, I can sense from his bio that it would likely hurt both his ego and his wallet if Junior hockey teams lured players away.

Now, I didn’t have the time to check further but, I found it very interesting that Naysayer Two works in the same vicinity as Number One, right around the north-of-Boston area.  So, are they connected?  No matter, that guy showed his true colors by suggesting that no kids deserve the chance to extend their careers longer if they’re not ready by some arbitrary date.  Of course, his name dropping and other spoutings tell me the ego was a huge factor in his stance.  As for the pocketbook issue, can you believe that guy told me I’m only running the JHSS for the money?  Jeepers, I’m hoping anyone reading this gets paid for what he or she does.  Better yet, since that guy is supposedly a high profile coach, I wish I had the time to ask if he is getting paid to do that job?  (Sometimes guys say stupid things just to hear themselves talk.  :/ )

Oh, that last guy did let his hair down at one point, moaning something about all the work it takes to sort through talent and assemble a team.  Surprise, surprise, huh?  And that brings me to one other reason a naysayer might do what he or she does…  Laziness is what I’m talking about here.  God, it is hard work putting together a new team each year.  And, while I might sympathize, I’m not about to sacrifice any teen players just to make his job easier.  Nor am I going to tell a community that might be willing to support a Junior team that there are already too many teams out there looking to help kids advance in the game.

So there you have it, Coach Chic’s theory on why naysayers do what they do, or the few traits they typically have in common — from concerns for money to fragile egos to a tad bit of laziness to the distinct possibility they’re kinda stupid.

All we can do is keep plodding along, keep dealing with folks as honestly as we can, and keep hoping that we have more friends than naysayers when all is said and done.

We Live, We Learn, We Move Forward – Part 2

December 12, 2012

Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to read Part 1 in this two-part series.  (Is there a chance there’ll be a Part 3?  Hmmmmm…)  Trust me, though, that the earlier post is relevant to what I’m about to say. 

No matter, this very brief recap…

In a nutshell — and at the urging of others, I came to the realization that I had to stop dwelling on the negatives that so dominated the last several months of my professional and personal life, I had to do a fair accounting of what I had going for me (and against me), and then I needed to start plotting a new course for the rest of my life.

Thankfully, I could list a ton of things working in my favor…  A long history and a pretty good reputation in hockey has to rank high on that list.  There’s no taking away my 40+ years in coaching every level in the game — up through high school, Juniors and college, as well as my steering hundreds of young players towards the NHL and other high levels.  There’s my God given ability to just keep churning out hockey advice articles, manuals and instructional videos.  No stranger to Internet marketing, I own over 100 websites, highlighted by CoachChic.com, my Tips & Tricks Store, and this more personal blog — “Coach Chic’s Hockey Diary”.  Then, at least in the hockey world, I have to be close to the king of social media, with lots of fairly high level folks even seeking my advice.

Lastly, a couple of things I failed to mention in my previous entry…  1) Noting my desire to remain here in Florida, gazes out across palms remind me daily that my dad seemed to wish I’d eventually settle here.  (Darn, but he’s buried about 90-minutes away from me, and he’d enticed me for years to “come on down” prior to his passing.)  2) Totally separate from my outside professional work, I was able to help guide and then follow my son through a relatively successful pro playing career, and my grandson through a record-breaking college career.  And, trust me:  Every step along the way was a learning experience, for them and for me.

This somewhat humorous reflection…  Many years ago, I won a fairly lucrative contract to run skills clinics for a MA-based youth organization in what I thought was an interesting way.  As it was related to me after that program’s closed meeting, I guess that a board member ultimately stood and said her piece:  “All of these applicants have big names, yet they can’t even teach their own kids how to play, while Dennis has taught his son well enough to be the best player in the region!”  (I’m chuckling as I type that, having to delete a whole bunch of expletives I understand were sprinkled throughout her real speech.)

I ended the previous post by mentioning that my son is now staying with Raggs and me for a time, as he attempts to put together a new Junior hockey team just around the corner from where I’m living.  Trust me, that this plays no small part in what is to follow…

Part 2 – What I REALLY Want to Do!

Ya, I forgot that message to the left, too, because I’m only a man, and I’ve never claimed to be able to do anything without help.

Okay, so I headed down here to Florida from Massachusetts during the mid-summer, but I’d actually started what I saw as my dream job much earlier.  I was no stranger to either the Junior level — having run an experimental program for USA Hockey many years ago, or recruiting — having head coached in college for 7-seasons.  I’d also seen the best and worst of that process, having watched Mike and Tony Chic go through similar experiences as teens.

Anyway, starting my new GM/coaching duties back in May, I’m going to suggest that I haven’t really left that job at all.  From Day One I began plotting my strategies towards building a “real program”, I’d started the recruiting process, and I’d also started putting together a scouting network that spans the entire hockey world — yes, I said the entire hockey world.  I’m even into some scouting services most folks in the business don’t even know about.  And don’t forget my social media contacts, because each of my 15,000-ish friends has friends of friends of friends.

Lest you think that my work ended when I left the St Cloud job, think again.  At that time, I’d already recruited more players than any other TEHL GM, and I still had a number of them on the way (some later funneled to my son’s team in Daytona Beach).  At the time, I was able to still keep a pulse on league goings on.  And, within days of the Tropical Elite Hockey League’s ultimate collapse, I proposed to my former owner a way that I might help her still make a success of her organization for years to come.  (Here I go chuckling to myself again, because shortly after telling me that she could do it on her own, she folded the Thunder’s tent and limped on back to Alaska.  Geeeeeeeze…)

I mentioned in that last paragraph about helping my former owner build an organization that would be successful for years to come.  I can’t help it, I guess, but that’s how I’m built — a delayed gratification kind of guy, who isn’t just looking for a quick fix.  Pay some dues now, don’t take any needless shortcuts, and it’s possible to have something truly worthwhile down the road.

I must admit that the whole TEHL thing was a nightmare to those of us who put our faith in one man and a special concept.  And, in a way, my son and I were probably torched as badly as anyone involved.  At the same time, there’s the chance we’ll both do much better in the end, mainly because we have staying power.  True enough, that I was close to ruined, and I’m sure my son feels no better off.  Yet, no one can take away the hockey knowledge in our heads, nor the passion in our hearts.  (I’m always reminded of a line from an old football movie, whereby a smaller guy looks up at a giant and warns, “You may beat me, but you’d better bring your lunch!”)

As I just hinted, a number of teams attempted to make it on their own as independents once the TEHL folded.  I predicted in an earlier blog post the kind of future I foresaw for each of the seven teams, and I think I was dead-on with all but one of them (and I was right about the St Cloud team’s chances, based on whether they brought me back or not).

Hardly breaking stride, I switched from my Thunder job to helping my son behind the scenes with his Daytona Beach team.  Not a lot changed, either, because I was helping Mike by doing special assignments, scouting, and trying to beat the bushes for some new recruits.  I also continued to keep a pulse on Junior hockey, from AAU happenings to USA Hockey procedures to what was going on in most of the Junior hockey leagues across North America.

You might find it interesting that I also never stopped gathering information.  In other words, I kept working as if I was still a Junior team GM, or in charge of a Junior team’s hockey operations.  I am an incessant hockey information gather, ya know, and my files and folders on all the related topics have just grown and grown, right through this morning.

Let me also share a bit of advice with anyone who is a professional — at anything…  Never limit yourself to studies having to do with just your own special field.  In fact, little innovation ever comes about in that way.  I learned that in my earliest years, studying the likes of great coaches, great businessmen, and great military leaders.  In one of my favorite hockey books of all-time, “Road to Olympus“, the late and great Soviet ice hockey coach, Anatoli Tarasov, cites more famous people from the theater than those in hockey.  In fact, you might borrow one of Tarasov’s favorite lines — and one that has been a guiding force for me, in that “To follow someone else is to always be second best.”

So, while I’ve been leaving no stone unturned in studying the right ways to put together a winning hockey operation, I believe I’ve been wise enough to also grab some slightly related ideas — from other kinds of recruiters, other business types, etc.  (I have a lady friend who is trained in Human Resources, and it’s just a matter of time before I start picking her brain, and maybe even asking if she recalls any suggested readings from her college days.)  The other day I downloaded and saved two different approaches from a publication every business thought leader has nearly memorized, and I also watched a documentary on that same classic, “The Art of War“.

So again, while it’s absolutely necessary to know your own field exceedingly well, you’re not likely to be tops in your profession without venturing outside for some new and innovative ideas.

Now, having perhaps beaten to death the idea that I’ve yet to really leave my job as a Junior hockey exec, here’s a bit more on that…  As I mentioned earlier, my son is now staying with Raggs and me, and it should come as no surprise that we constantly talk hockey.  Hey, it’s something we both know as well as anyone, and it’s something we never tire in discussing.  Our conversations might start over morning coffee, they’ll likely continue with the many phone calls that go in and out — with recruits, league or federation execs, or other GMs or coaches, and they’ll often pick up again late at night when Mike returns from his duties at the local rink.  Oh, those duties:   He’s Director of Hockey Operations for the one remaining TEHL team.  The fact that his organization is basically a startup, and wrought with all the challenges and craziness that comes with such, I’ll suggest that it’s the best kind of training he could ever get, and it’s the best stuff I could ever observe.  (Ya, my son is likely to get some gray hairs as he deals with all that can happen in a first season, but I’m thinking he’s learning more right now than could ever be found in a college text.  Come to think of it, that goes for me, as well.)

In most instances, I’m doing all the listening, and I’ll only on occasion offer my thoughts on a given subject.  Hey, it’s Mike’s neck in the noose, and he has to deal with things in ways that help him sleep at night.  I’m still feeling I’m on the job, though, as the discussions go from recruiting to fundraising to roster moves to dealing with ownership to the selection of team coaches and other staff.

Trust me, that I quiz Mike an awful lot…   And one recurring question has had to do with how many of the challenges — and especially the annoyances — could be avoided as a second-year organization, or under different circumstances.  From my observations, a lot of the things he has to endure are huge distractions, or they take away from his ability to deal with the most important matters.

Mike and I have also bantered around visions of the ideal organization.  And, since good players make up a huge part of a successful Junior program, we’ve attempted to list all those things that appeal to the decision makers — meaning the players and their parents.  (Trust me on that one, too, in that players and parents have some very different concerns, which means that the wisely run organization is going to touch all of those bases).

Interestingly, the cost cutting measures I’m hearing about down here for some Junior programs were used in my summer hockey schools a kzillion years ago.  As a matter of fact, I sense that few hockey guys in Florida have dealt as creatively with ice-time, scheduling and very large staffs in the way I learned to do.

At this stage of the game, I’ve seen an entire league go under, and I’ve had the chance to watch at least 7-teams deal with varying degrees of adversity.  (See my post on the House of Cards for a few of my thoughts in that area.)  Mentioning earlier my stabs at predicting which teams would fail and which ones had the chance to succeed, I believe I now know what it takes to build a Junior organization for the long haul.

And that brings me back to the reason I gave up just about everything back home to relocate so far away…  Of course, I saw the chance to develop a new Junior hockey organization as my dream job.  Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I’m the creative type, and that I can get kinda possessed when taking on a really worthwhile challenge. That mindset started the night I was hired by the Thunder — back in May, and it hasn’t subsided all that much while I’ve been on the sidelines.  I hardly slept a wink that first night on the job, or on many subsequent nights thereafter.  Actually, I haven’t had any set “work hours” in probably 40-ish years; I mean, I love what I do, and the job is only done when it’s done.

So, what is it I REALLY want to do with the rest of my life?  I want another crack at that dream job, and I want the chance to develop as good a Junior hockey organization as anyone has ever seen.  Would I coach?  Only if it helped the organization.  Would I want to GM, or be in charge of hockey ops?  Ya, that’s what I’m talking about, a chance to put a program on the map.

The truth is, I do have a VERY DESIRABLE location in mind, and one that projects to be a huge success, both in the short and long term.  Again, read my post concerning the House of Cards, to gain an understanding of why so many TEHL teams failed.  Down the road, maybe Mike Chic can also ultimately share his thoughts on why some startup hockey operations might more than struggle in the beginning.

I will let friends in on one secret, however…  Time is of the essence.  One HUGE mistake made by the TEHL Commissioner had to do with the short window given before all teams had to be in full swing — like 4-months for the earliest members, and closer to a couple of months for the later arrivals.  Not fair, and not right.  In reality, time is needed to put an organization in place, to establish an identity for the organization, and to start entertaining players — exactly in that order.  New players and their parents are looking for tangibles, and they’re not likely to make the commitment a club asks without sensing that club can produce all it’s promised.  (In my mind, it’s getting late already, because no one does any job rightly when they’re having to rush important steps.)

Yet another aside…  As I got around the recruiting circuit this past summer, I discovered a wide array of offerings by different Junior programs, with just as wide a difference in what they’re charging their players.  Perhaps the “going rate” for a basic program might be in the vicinity of $8000 for a season.  However, would you believe I came across one organization that charges $25,000 to their members, and they were supposedly turning players away?  You can spell the difference:  A-M-E-N-I-T-I-E-S, plus the reputation for keeping its promises.

Okay, so I’ve sorta been dreaming out loud or musing through most of this entry.  Ya, because if there’s anything wrong with all I’ve said to this point, it’s that I couldn’t possibly undertake my dream job on my own.  Oh, I can definitely design a plan that will work.  And, I can definitely carry out that plan — right to the first puck-drop, and ultimately to the hoisting of a championship banner.  What I’m no longer in a position to do (sigh) is fund such an undertaking.

What I’m getting at is the need for an investor, or more likely a group of investors.  Given the time — and resources, a new organization can step into a prestigious playing schedule, an upbeat city, and a welcoming arena.

Do I have a Plan B and a Plan C?  For sure.  But, at least for the next few weeks — or until the window of opportunity appears to be closing for my plan, why settle for anything less than my dream job?

We Live, We Learn, We Move Forward – Part 1

November 25, 2012

There’s no doubt I’ve been through a lot over the past 7-months — feeling I’d been lied to, used, ditched and abused.  (Not that I didn’t make my own mistakes along the way; truly, I did — in fact, I made a bunch of them.)  That stuff is documented pretty well in my last two posts, though, if you need to play some catch-up (“House of Cards” and “Yup, I’ve Been Fired!“).

Personally, I’ve turned a cheek on most of those events in the time that’s passed — mainly because dwelling on them seems to suit no useful purpose.  Earlier today, I caught an on-line lecture by a business coach, his main message suggesting that we ought not allow ourselves to be crippled by acting the victim.  (Think about that one, dear friends.)  I also saw the wisdom in the adjoining old adage, urging us to not quit.*

Now, describing my recent transition is likely to require a lot of ‘splaining — 😉 .  So, I’ll cover it in two parts, beginning today with my need to assess where I am, and what I have to work with…

Part 1 – Ya, don’t quit…

Ever felt the urge to, though — I mean, like in ending it all?  Don’t lie; I have to believe that it’s crossed the mind of every grownup at one time or another.  You’re still here reading this, though — and I’m still typing, which suggests to me that we both ultimately came around to another, better alternative.  In my case, I frequently get my first kick in the pants from something like this…

“You are a poor specimen if you can’t stand
the pressure of adversity.” ~ Proverbs, 24-10

Ha…  It’s almost as if King Solomon knew I was coming — thousands of years later.

That aside, I sense that we all have our own ways of dealing with adversity, overwhelm, frustration, what have you.  When I was younger, I did the usual — like pumping some iron, going for a run, or punching a piano.  (Ha, again, because I aged rather quickly with that last one, discovering uprights don’t budge a bit, while all the small bones in the human hand surely do.  Ugh.)

Lucky for me, I found yet another outlet some 20-odd years ago.  That’s when I was asked to write an advice oriented column for a popular hockey magazine (a few years later I also started writing for a second one).  Before the birth of CoachChic.com, I was able to address reader questions in hardcopy print.  Trust me, that it was an awesome forum in which to vent — about the things I saw wrong in hockey, about some slightly related pet peeves, and about the solutions I proposed for all of those.  (Interestingly, many of the ideas I shared in that long running column did influence the game around North America.  How do I know?  It’s because I saw the right kinds of changes gradually happening, and I was also told so by a number of higher-ups in our game.)

Of course, the two mags I wrote for have since gone the way of the dinosaurs, so I’m thankful I can continue influencing my favorite sport in digital format.  CoachChic.com is where I can deal with the way things ought to be when it comes to hockey skills, tactics, strategies and so much more.  Only in recent years did I see the need for a slightly related website — the one you’re now reading, where I can share with friends what it’s like to be me on a day to day basis.

So yes, I still have my writing to run to when it seems I’m stalled on other fronts.

Nowadays, I also have social media…  I’ll bet you didn’t know that I was one of the first on LinkedIn — back when new members had to be invited; I was one of the early birds on Twitter (pun intended 😉 ); I was invited to test Google+ when that first started; yet I was actually a fairly late arriver to Facebook (where I’ve quickly caught up and garnered around 4200 friends).  My point:  With upwards of 15,000 social media contacts today, there’s no shortage of people for me to interact with.

Here’s some food for thought…  Today, there is a growing number of folks working from home — I call us “soloists”.  And, while the lifestyle can be nice — including the 10-second commutes from our beds to our desks, it surely can be lonely.  So, for us, a preferred social media site often acts as our water cooler.  In my case, I find several sites unbelievable for both help and friendship.  For example, lacking an IT department in my “office”, I frequently find that kind of help — sometimes  in an instant — via on-line friends like Mike Mahony, Deb Kolaras and Tracey Thorpe Tarrant.  And, while I often spend long stretches of time engrossed in writing or producing a video, it’s comforting to know that I can even get a cyber hug just about any time I need one.

You’re wondering where I’m going with all this, huh?  Well, it’s all a part of the self-assessment I felt necessary before I could determine a new direction.  In a way, I felt I had to list all I have going for me — and even against me — as I ready to plot a new course.  And, quite obviously, I thought I’d give you a little background to the decisions I’ll ultimately be making.

My friends in social media know that I bring my laptop and a cup of coffee with me to the back patio each morning, and I basically marvel at the view before me — including the palm trees, the small pond, its beautiful water fountain, and a host of wildlife not seen back in Massachusetts.  My trusted buddy Raggs usually falls asleep at my feet, each of us providing more than a little comfort for the other, just knowing our best friend is close by.  Not long after all the craziness happened, I let the people running this complex know that the league I’d come down here for had folded, and I’d lost my job.  Asked what I planned to do, all I could say was, “I love it right here, and I hope to stay for a long, long time.”

So, that’s one of the givens:  that I plan on staying, and fighting.  There was no need to tell my landlord that I’d spent nearly every cent I had —  recruiting for my former team; getting myself, Raggs and our belongings down here; and trying to arrange the right conditions so I could get my work done well.  (In other words, just paying the rent and feeding Raggs and me is going to be a challenge.)  I say those things now, however, because they’re also part of the givens, or the current reality.

I won’t bore you with my resume, except to say that I worked pretty near year-round at hockey for over 40-years.  I head coached a team for just about every one of the winters included in that span, I’d run my own clinics on off winter days or nights, and then I’d run some of the largest hockey clinics and schools in New England during the spring and summer months.  And, while some coaches prefer one age group over another, I’ve always considered myself lucky to have worked with every level — from toddlers to college guys, and even getting the chance to train a good many pros during their off-seasons.

In a way, I think the latter has put me ahead of some of the biggest names in the game.  I mean, the pro and college coaches might know how to select the world’s top talents, and they even know what to do with them once they’re on the roster.  What few of them can do — and what I can do exceedingly well — is solve the problems of younger players so that they ultimately meet elite level requirements.

Anyway, yet another reality — or given — is that I’m virtually unknown here in the Sunshine State.  Some folks back home in New England might say that I’m one of the tops in the world when it comes to doing what I do, but it’s doubtful anyone here even knows I exist, or that I might be just down the road from them.  Oh, trust me, that I’ve done some sulking over that.  However, as I’ve come to realize in recent days, self pity serves no useful purpose whatsoever.

“Any enterprise is built by wise planning,
becomes strong through common sense,
and profits wonderfully by keeping
abreast of the facts.” ~ Proverbs, 24 – 3, 4

Sooooooo…  When it finally came to the facts — or that self-analysis, I included my power within social media as one of them.  Right along with that is my CoachChic. membership site, with friends there from all over the world.  Our interactions tend to serve an awesome dual purpose:   I know I help my members a lot by quickly dealing with their questions, while I also keep the cutting edge advice pouring into that site for them.  Selfishly, though, the chance to interact keeps me very much alive, and constantly thinking about the game.

Perhaps you didn’t know that I have an on-line hockey store, that featuring many products you wouldn’t find anywhere else.  To be honest, though, I haven’t done that site justice lately, which means that this whole self-analysis thing was long overdue.  Upon realizing that, I immediately joined forces with another hockey guy to launch Black Weekend (or an extended version of the current Black Friday craze).

What some might not know is that I’ve published quite a few hockey training manuals, and — having worked with video since 1980, I’ve more recently produced at least 20 instructional videos that are scattered between my membership site and my on-line store.  Could I do more?  😀  In my sleep.

Enter my son, Michael…  Actually, of all the people who were supposed to take part in the new Junior league down here, Mike and I are the only ones remaining.  (Interesting, huh?  I think at least part of the reason is that we probably believed in the league’s concepts more than some others, while we both probably also have a lot more dedication to the game.)  Anyway, Mike is staying with Raggs and me for the time being, as he attempts to put together a new team playing out of the local Ice Factory.  My guess is that most hockey folks would love to be a fly on the wall as we discuss the  game nearly 24/7.  Trust me, that those conversations hold some meaning to all this.  So, while I won’t be giving you any details on those talks, I promise that they will have a huge bearing on what I plan to tell you in Part 2.

Finally, as far as that last graphic just above goes, it was a recent gift from my good friend and favorite cheerleader, Brenda V.  As it suggests, I’m kinda banking on the chance to look back on recent events, and having myself a really good laugh.

See you all within a day or so, on where I hope to be pretty shortly.

I (Also) Had A Dream (or Two)

May 31, 2012

I know I haven’t posted much recently.  Trust me, that it isn’t because nothing has been going on in my hockey or personal life.  To the contrary, there’s been far too much for me to keep up with in type.  That said, I will have some updates for you within this and my next few diary entries.  Promise.

Yes, I also dream plenty, just like you…  Actually, the first one I want to mention took place back in the early 1980’s.

I can’t really recall now how I connected with a young guy who was the Secretary of the Australian Ice Hockey Federation.  It most likely came about from one of the hockey magazines I wrote for back then.

Anyway, can you imagine my excitement at being considered for a head coaching position within that country’s National Hockey League?  Aaaah, just picture the fun.

Which reminds me of something a long-time friend, Dave Purdy, once told me, in that I should “Never take a job that comes with too many keys!”  :D  Dave is a funny guy, but he was right-on with that observation.  What he meant, of course, is that we might not want a job that includes too many responsibilities (which also reminds me of my then 5-year old grandson telling his grandmother, “I don’t like ‘sponsibilities”).

So, what happens?  The first job offer I get from an Australian pro team is to be their Head Coach and Arena Manager.  Hmmmmmmmm…  Too many keys?

Now, before some young coach tells me that he’d have jumped all over that job, I want folks to appreciate that I was married, I owned a beautiful house in my hometown, and my one child, a son, was on track to enter one of the US’s top hockey playing high schools in the fall.  Would I have taken the job if I was single, or if we didn’t have real roots here in tiny Whitman, Massachusetts?  In a heartbeat.  However, I feared giving up all that, moving to a somewhat strange land about halfway around the world, and then discovering I hated the rink manager’s part of that job.

As it turned out, another job offer came on the heels of the one I’d just turned down.  This one, believe it or not, included coaching another NHL team, while also being the manager for their rink based restaurant.  (Geeeeeeeze!)

Now, could I have made either of those jobs work for me?  I mean, could I have hired a good enough assistant to get me out of most of the rink manager’s or restaurant manger’s duties?  It’s quite possible.  At the same time, picture the risk of uprooting my family with that kind of uncertainty hanging over my head.  Gulp.

Quite obviously, I eventually grabbed the telephone to let the federation’s secretary know why I was turning down those jobs.  With that, my dream job started coming into view.  My Australian friend said that he’d for years had an idea that placed someone of my qualifications in charge of all hockey development within a given state.  (A lot of years have passed by but, I think it was for New South Wales.)

Man, talk about my mind racing…  I was still only a few years removed from visiting Moscow and studying the development of Soviet athletes.  And I was also nearing the completion of my Physical Education Degree.  Ya, my mind was racing.

As another aside here…   I’m a pretty demanding guy — if you work for me or play for me.  At the same time, I think I’m a caring guy, and I’m pretty understanding when it come to certain situations.  As it pertains to what the secretary told me, I’d have to overcome a shortage of ice-time there.  Hmmmmmm…  I understood completely, and I vowed to myself that I could make things work without a lot of ice-time.  Actually, who better could they get to substitute a kzillion off-ice training routines and still have their players grow in leaps and bounds?

Oh, did I have a dream…  As I awaited word from Australia, I doodled and doodled and researched and researched.  And, even though I was doing that stuff in my spare time here in Whitman, I was gradually putting together a program that would ultimately put Australian hockey on the map.  I even recall moving around in my livingroom one morning, performing what would later become a program now called the “Goaler’s Dance”.  Yup, I arrived at that and numerous other ideas as I dreamed about that job.

Quite obviously, there’s a reason I don’t talk funny today, or drive on the wrong side of the street.  😉  Darn, but my friend couldn’t get the funding he’d hoped for, and the job never did materialize.

Oh, that dream…  I’ve always known my stuff when it comes to physical movements, and I can troubleshoot skill problems with the best in the world.  So, I just knew that the model I devised for one state would ultimately be taken on by the entire Australian Ice Hockey Federation.

I’m kinda shaking my head when I think about all this in relationship to hockey here in the US.  I mean, could USA Hockey (or AHAUS back then) have used my model just as well?  LOL…  In actuality, I’d have given them something pretty dawgoned close to their modern day ADM program, only about 20-years earlier.  In truth, USA Hockey is laden with politics, so not unlike our Congress, it takes them a good many years to try and fail, try and fail, try and…

Anyway, all the work I did in preparation for that overseas job wasn’t for naught.  I put it all to use in my own local programs, and I’ve been pouring out talented young players for all the years since.

Come to think of it, if I had moved away, I would have never gotten involved with Roland Lacey of MediaRight Technologies or the M.I.T. women’s hockey team, and I’d have never been dragged (kicking and screaming, by the way) onto the Internet.

For sure, I’d have never run a site like CoachChic.com, where I have the privilege of helping hockey parents, coaches and adult players with the game.

Actually, I’d have probably never gotten into Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or LinkedIn, which means I wouldn’t have been able to call folks like you my friend.  And, if it wasn’t for social media, I’d have never met a guy named Mike Mahony, who helped me build my on-line hockey store.

Ya, it surely would have been a blast doing that Aussie job, but I would have likely missed a lot, too, including the thousands of great players and hockey families I’ve met closer to home over the past 30-years.

All that said, you have to be wondering why that old dream suddenly came to mind today.  Well, it’s because there’s something new on the horizon for me now, and it might just explain my absence here over recent months.

You see, awhile back, there were hints that new job opportunities were going to be opening for me in a number of small cities along the eastern seaboard.  As I heard bits and pieces, it appeared hockey folks in those areas were starving for better guidance, and that’s something I’ve always felt God put me on this earth to provide.   The best part was that I likely wouldn’t have to relocate, and I could continue helping local kids grow their game.

Over time, however, the group heading the above hinted at operation began to change their focus.  Oh, did they ever…

Yup, a few months ago, I was asked to become involved in a new Junior “A” league forming in Florida.  Oh, I’ve for years been joking — especially during harsh New England winters — that I’m looking for a rink with palm trees hanging overhead.  If there was a problem with the new league’s offer, it was that I’d had enough of long road trips.  (Again, some young guy or gal would tell me that I’m crazy, and that he or she would die for the chance I was getting.  Long bus rides can get tiresome, though.  Trust me.)

My counter offer was that I’d go down to the Sunshine State but, rather than GM and coach a team, I’d work for the whole league, and do community relations stuff with the six member rinks.  In other words, I’d show the players, parents and coaches Coach Chic’s way of doing things.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  I mean, I honestly think nighttime dreams are his way of helping us deal with daytime challenges.

For, what happened next was that I attended a local coaches’ meeting.  And, as fate (or God?) might have it, I had to constantly look up and view a movie poster on the far meetingroom wall.  Ugh.  That poster depicted a character that was almost me!  True story…  In real life, lots of years ago, the team featured in that movie was going to fire their coach, and I was to fly in overnight to be introduced the next morning as the new coach.  It never happened but, it surely didn’t prevent me from asking myself several times during the meeting, “What the heck am I doing here?”  In fact, that had to have played on my mind all that night as I tried to sleep, because I awoke with a start the next morning and told myself, “I have to do that!”

Of course “that” was to GM and coach a team in the new Florida league.  Geeeeeeeze…  Bus rides?  I’ve kinda missed ’em, actually, and I also missed the closeness a coach can feel with his players when making those long treks.

A funny thing…  I’ve always acted the way I did as I awaited word from Australia, in that I always get psyched about a new undertaking, and I start to scribble ideas as they pop into my head.   The only difference nowadays is that more stuff gets saved on my laptop than on scraps of paper, and research can be more easily done over the Internet.  Trust me, though, that the excitement is still the same.

With the TEHL currently being in start-up mode, you can be sure things change from day to day (if not hour by hour or minute by minute).  Only a day ago I discovered my own personal assignment, as GM/coach of the St Cloud Thunder.  (Has a nice ring, doesn’t it?)

People on the ground in Florida right now have their work cut out for them, arranging rink lease agreements for six teams, plotting practice and game night ice,  ordering equipment, having new team logos designed, and so much more,

Of course, guys like me all the while are dreaming…  Ya, I want my players…

Over the past decade plus, I can’t tell you how much I envied my buddies who are local high school and college coaches, and awaiting their first practices.  Not that I often wished I was them, except for that one special night of the year.  I mean, the adrenalin used to pump so much in me that I could hardly sleep.

Okay, as I said moments ago, things are changing rapidly with the new league, so I’m guessing I’ll soon have a lot more to tell you about my latest dream job.

Before leaving, though, let me share something that fascinates me more than anything else when it comes to the TEHL…

From the onset, the league’s founder has talked about putting the league first, along with it’s main objective.  That objective?  It’s to help move every single one of our players on to a good college.  Championships are nice but, the measure of each coach’s success is really going to be in how many players he helps towards that end.

Better yet, I just got off the phone with another coach, and we both agreed that we have to be willing to help each others players.  For sure, we’ll try to beat one another on any given game night.  In the end, though, we’re going to be pulling for all the kids on all of the teams.

That said, I’m hoping that players from (literally) around the world get themselves to our first tryout camp — it’s approaching fast.  Good players are assured of making a roster if they’re seen early.

Gaining the (Hockey and Business) Skills

July 26, 2011

Just in case my current readers don’t know, I began this blog as sort of a supplement (or is it as a compliment) to my CoachChic.com website.

Why did I do that?  It’s because that other site — the love of my life — is mainly focused on sharing important training information for hockey players, their parents, and their coaches.  It’s hockey specific, and it tends to be geared more towards technical or how-to stuff.

Frankly, this old coach also needed an outlet — or a place to sometimes vent  🙂 — in areas that are only slightly related to hockey.  More I thought it a good idea to share with “outsiders” what the life of a hockey coach might be like, as well as share some thoughts on how our two worlds might actually be very much alike.

With that, let me talk a little here about having the skills to do our jobs well…

The spark for this entry really stems from some thinking I’ve been doing about my two hockey teams.

Each head coach in our Boston Bandits organization is given 10 summer practice sessions to ready his or her team for the start of the regular season (sometime shortly after the US’s Labor Day).  I’m not too worried about my littlest team of mainly 6-year olds — as I’ve said often in the past, they’re so mold-able it’ll be easy to ready them.  Where my worries do lie is with my older Bantam team (ugh).

In contrast to real young ones, it gets harder and harder and harder to change the playing abilities of older athletes, with the adult player’s die pretty much casted.  That’s not to say that my older kids — at around 12- to 14-years old — can’t be changed.  It’s just that changes take more time (than with little ones), and they’re not going to be as drastic (as they can be with my young Mites).

Anyway, I’d mentioned in my previous post about that older team struggling in a tournament, and I’d also said I’d taken a ton of notes from my in-game observations.  I believe I also shared with readers what I told my kids:  in that I can help them close the gap on some of the teams that thumped us, but it’s going to take a lot of work — and a true commitment — on every player’s part.

If the latter caused a problem in my previous plans, it’s that I had really hoped to show the kids some high level strategies to use against future opponents, but…  Ya, but…

In all my teaching and in all I’ve ever written to other coaches and hockey parents, the true secret to development is knowing where to begin the process.  In other words, a coach doesn’t start a first-time skater with hard “hockey stops”, but he should instead ease the youngster into things with something like an easy-to-do “snowplow stop”.

The same holds true with more advanced players, though…  I mean, if I want to get a player (or group of players) to Point L in a given skill, it is quite likely that I’ll have to go back to somewhere around Point D or E as a starting place.  Older players can usually lop-off the earlier progressions pretty quickly, so it’s probable that such a group could fast go through Points E, F, G, H and I, and then have to stay at that last point for awhile until it’s mastered.

The reason I went into that stuff is because my notes told me a story quite different from what I’d plan.  Ya, while I was hoping to teach them all those fancy X’s and O’s, what I realized was that my kids had to first be helped with some very basic skills.

And that brings to mind something else I’m always talking and writing about, in that we coaches can’t really look at those stupid letters or numbers as mere marks to be moved around on paper or on a greaseboard.  No, those X’s and O’s represent human beings (in this case young teens) who are being asked to perform some tricky on-ice tasks.  And, looking at things that way, I (and any other adult out there) should further realize that unbelievable skills will be required to execute those tricky tasks.

Yup, most of the notes I took during those tournament maulings had to do with my kids’ need for drastically improved skills.  And that brings me to something I cringe about, but nonetheless feel the need to address…

Whenever I observe a group (or individual) as I’ve just described, I can’t help blaming those who came before me.  I mean, many of my current kids have been let down through the years, being allowed to reach this level without having key skills in place.

Honest to God, I could write a book on this subject (or maybe I already have).  I mean, a lot of coaches run what I’ve heard described as “vanilla drills” (the kind that might look good but have almost no teaching value whatsoever), a lot of coaches take positions without accepting the corresponding responsibilities, and a lot of coaches feel their shortcomings in the teaching department will be taken care of by the kids’ next coaches.  (Ha — on that last point!  There’s a good chance the next coach and the next isn’t going to be any more effective or caring.)

While I’m on this rant, let me say that the kids’ coaches from just last year are not mainly to blame for their shortcomings.  Naw, the types of skill deficiencies I’m seeing stem from neglect when my players were beginners, Mites and Squirts (or during their earliest, formative years).

Oh, and the parents aren’t blameless here, because there had to be plenty of opportunities through those earliest years when they could have gotten their kids some outside help.

If some of my players or their parents (or other organization folks) happen to read this, have no fear…  I am NOT abandoning my plans for teaching the high level team play stuff.  What I do plan, however, is to go backwards for a brief time (to Point E?), so that the X’s and O’s will ultimately be easier for my kids to negotiate.  And, it is quite likely what I aim to help them with will serve each well as he strives for higher levels of the game.  (Darn, but someone has to do it; it just would have been better if someone did it a number of years ago!)

Hockey aside, I wonder how many of my faithful readers are responsible for other workers within their profession.  For, a lot of what I’ve said to this point applies within a work force, just as much as it does to a sport team.  A worker who struggles quite likely was let down previously — be it in school, or by other managers.  My thinking:  Stop the problem now (as I’m attempting to do), and start helping with some earlier progressions in the necessary skills.

Then, relating all the above on a personal level…  What’s the chance you find yourself short on something that’s affecting your work performance?  (And the same goes for me.)  Every job requires a number of background skills — be it as a goaltender, a defenseman, a mechanic or an IT exec.  Fundamentals are the key to proper execution, whether on the ice, in the office, or in the shop.