Earlier in the month we asked for nominations of deserving coaches for the OMHA Coach of the Month presented by The Coaches Site. After much deliberation, Ray Nieminen of the Ajax Knights Novice AA was selected as the Coach of the Month for December.
Here's his story as told by his nomination:
Coach Ray is fantastic with the kids, he's able to push them to work very hard while always finding the way to joke with them and make them smile. With tremendous patience and countless hours of positive reinforcement, he's developing young athletes who love the game of hockey as much as each other's company. On Ray's team, no one is above anyone else and teamwork always receives more praise than individual plays. Ray's team is a family, where siblings are welcome to join practices and never forgotten during team parties. While always very humble, Coach Ray is making a big impact in his community and I feel very fortunate to have my eight-year-old son playing on his team.
We spoke to Coach Ray about what being a coach means to him. He grew up playing street and schoolyard hockey and has always had a passion for the game. He started coaching 18 years ago as an assistant on his son’s house league team, becoming the Head Coach in his Minor Bantam year. He is now the Head Coach of his youngest son’s team, the Ajax Knights Novice AA. Ray credits his team's coaching and administrative staff and team manager for helping lead to his team's success on the ice.
You have to listen to everybody. I go to coaches clinics. You always have to keep learning. The game is changing. You can’t stand in front of the net anymore for two and a half minutes. It’s more of a speed game, short shifts. Definitely learning from a lot of other people.
I’m a lot different of a coach now than I was 15 years ago. I kind of fine-tune how I think the game should be played, in my mind. There’s no right or wrong way. Every coach has their way, and it’s my job to motivate my kids to play my way. I’m not saying it’s the best way, it’s just that’s all I know and what I think works the best.
The one for me is just work hard. Be polite to everybody and treat everyone with respect. Hard work would be the number one though, as far as hockey. It’ll take you far in life too. I’ve had the comment many times that we’re a hard working team. We may not always be the best team but we’re always the hardest working.
I’ve kind of figured out, you can make them skate in the beginning but if you put a shot on a goalie at the end of a drill, they love it. That’s what I’ve figured out. My team, they love shooting. All the drills have some skating and then a shot at the end or with a pass.
Every practice I start the first five minutes is just free time and it ends up with a scrimmage or shootout or some sort of a game. You can tell, if they have smiles on their faces, you know you’re doing something right.
They’re a lot more disciplined now. I don’t want them running around the rink like a playground. They walk in, they get ready for hockey. A big thing is there’s a time and a place for everything. They are getting better, they’re skating better. My biggest thing is skating, that’s come along, and stickhandling and the shot. We’re actually really starting to pass it well now, for eight year olds it’s pretty good.
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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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