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The First Coach of the Month of the Season is...

By The Coaches Site, 10/23/23, 11:15AM EDT


Coach of the Month presented by The Coaches Site

This season marks the sixth year of the OMHA Coach of the Month presented by The Coaches Site. We asked for nominations of deserving coaches and after much deliberation, Matt Potwarka of the Napanee U18 LL 2 team was selected as the Coach of the Month for October.

Here's his story as told by his nomination:

Matt stepped up this year to coach my team when we were having a difficult time finding a coach. He had never coached hockey before and decided to take the OMHA coaching training to become a coach for our team.

When Matt is not on the ice coaching he is working full time as a instructor in the armed forces. The same way he is devoted to his country through with integrity, loyalty, duty, honour and respect he instills the same devotion into our team. He motivates us by being positive and enthusiastic about the game. He teaches the importance of self discipline and helps us achieve goals. He is dedicated to us like he is dedicated to serving his country. When we are practicing or playing a game we are his country and he wants to ensure the best for us!

Coach Matt started playing hockey at age five in Kitchener. He developed his hockey skills by starting first in house league then moving on to more competitive hockey. He currently plays for the Canadian Forces School of Communication and Electronics in their inter-league play. As a new coach, his goal is to use my past experiences in hockey and the military to be a coach that fosters a positive attitude, welcome players by name, keep the players active and engaged while stressing the importance of having fun while working as a team.

The team needed a coach and you stepped up having never coached before. Why did you do it and how have the first few weeks of the season been for you?

I love to help and serve others with my skills and experiences. I wanted to help the team pursue a higher purpose by aligning hard work with values. I enjoy watching others thrive and achieve their goals. I’m not going to lie, the first few weeks of the season have been challenging. Coaching is demanding and it requires a lot of hard work and dedication. The challenges are the same in everyday life. People are different and they can act differently towards each other depending on the situation. I’ve been challenged on being able to demonstrate authority without coming across as overbearing and setting boundaries to establish and maintain relationships. I’ve had to find ways to motivate the team and sometimes overcome their negative attitudes when they feel defeated.

As a U18 team this could be the final year of minor hockey for some players. How are you trying to make it memorable?

I want to instill how much we love the game whether it be on or off the ice. I want the team to know that off the ice needs and developments are just as important during the off season. There are often humorous tales that we can share about the game and situations that help solidify relationships. Let’s have fun at games and practices. I am a strong advocate of equal playing time to ensure all players feel valued and can communicate in an open and positive way. Hockey should be viewed as a fun competition that instills personal development and lifelong growth.

What are some of the traits you’ve learned as a member of the Armed Forces that can translate to coaching hockey?

Hockey and the military have a lot in common. Strategy, discipline and commitment all contribute to a winning team. In the military I work with a variety of people from diverse cultures, demographics and personalities. We communicate frequently to complete objectives and missions which translates into communicating more conversely with players and facilitating strategy and goal setting in hockey. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and with a military background I am more adaptive to change and obstacles that may get in the way during coaching. In the military when you put on that uniform you are required to follow an honourable moral code to the service and your country the same goes for when you put on a hockey jersey you show your commitment and integrity to that team. In the military very few takes are undertaken alone thusly being a coach I am highly involved in creating healthy teamwork and dedication.

On the other hand, what are some similarities in the life skills you learn playing hockey and the Armed Forces?

As a child playing hockey I learned discipline of attending games and practices and studying the strategies of the game that led me to be more disciplined and organized in the military. I learned respect on how to treat people whether they were on the same team or not. Teamwork as a child playing hockey I had at least a dozen or more teammates that I learned to work together with. Every goal scored/assisted or every new development was a result of working together as a team.


Please note that all previous submissions are still eligible for upcoming Coach of the Month awards and do not need to be resubmitted.

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The Coaches Site is comprised of individuals who have first hand experience in hockey as players, coaches, managers and parents from minor hockey, to junior hockey, international competition and all the way to the NHL. The Coaches Site offers a platform that supports coaches and a positive competitive culture at rinks around the world.

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