This season marks the fifth year of the OMHA Coach of the Month presented by The Coaches Site. We asked for nominations of deserving coaches and after much deliberation, Ryan Blair of the Riverside U14 team was selected as the Coach of the Month for March and the final one for this season.
Here's his story as told by his nomination:
Coach Ryan is everything a parent and a player wants in their coach. He emphasizes hard work and fair play. In the years he’s been a coach he has developed a character program where the players learn how to embody these character traits on and off the ice. Some character traits that the players have seen over the years are: commitment, humility, communication, hard work, dedication, trust, desire and focus. He really works with the players to make sure they work as a team and that they pick each other up when they need too. Through wins and losses he’s been there for these players in more ways then one. His hard work off the ice before and after practices and games ensures that the players develop their skills and that practices are full of fun and engaging skill activities. He makes sure to include the other coaches in decisions and really embodies the term “teamwork”.
Coach Ryan deserves Coach of the Month because he is what all coaches should be. A great man, who has dedicated years to not just coach hockey skills, but to make sure the players love the game, learn some valuable life skills and overcome their obstacles. I can think of no coach more deserving than this man.
Coach Ryan grew up playing Windsor Minor Hockey and won #RedHats with his U18 team. After a stint in junior hockey, Ryan attended the University of Windsor's Engineering program. He got involved with Riverside in 2013 and has been coaching ever since. His staff consists of Denis Miron, Mike Palamides, Jeremy Campbell and Jenny West.
Collaboration is king, each member of the staff has something to offer and it's important to enable those contributions. It's really important to recognize when someone is trying to help or when it's time to attempt something different. We plan ahead, talk about practice content well in advance and distribute the plan before the event. Ice time is precious, we make sure we use every minute of it.
When things aren't going to plan, we try to be objective about what needs to improve. It's difficult to see all of the details from behind the bench during a game and so, we've relied on video. It's time consuming but the details matter, the sessions help the kids and the observations migrate into our practice planning, we try to teach and explain, enabling a shift in tactics and trends. We try to generate a sense of high energy and emotion before games, focused efforts at practice. It's important and always challenging to figure out the balance between accountability and positivity. We're very simplistic and consistent with our messaging, as well.
Several years ago, I started a Ranger Character Program and did so to identify leadership attributes for the kids to understand, which lead to success on and off the ice. I've mirrored the program onto the ball diamond (Riverside Royals Character Program). We've made banners that are hung in the room and in the past, helmet stickers were awarded with explanation. The reason for that was twofold: first - key contributions can be made by a player during a practice or a game, which don't end up on a score sheet and second - when the kids are finished with their minor sports careers, mastering these attributes will correlate to their success in high school and beyond.
Coaching is a process of self reflection, it drives you to reflect on what you've done to help your staff, your team and determine if you've done the very most to prepare for competition. You're not allowed to stand still. Your own mistakes resonate (there have been many), especially near the end of the season, you never stop learning and I suppose, advancing, too. The thrill of the competition is incredible. Creating an environment that prepares the team for advancement in their academic life is a massive priority and one on and off the ice that allows the team to understand the importance of being a team is a key too. Lastly, I've found that all of this correlates to my career as well. I receive great coaching from my boss and I try to pay it forward with my great team, as well.
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