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Introducing December's Coach of the Month

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 01/04/19, 10:00AM EST


Coach of the Month presented by The Coaches Site

This season we launched the second year of the OMHA Coach of the Month presented by The Coaches Site and asked for nominations of deserving coaches. After much deliberation, Curtis Livingstone of the Muskoka Rock Novice team was selected as the Coach of the Month for December.

Here's his story as told by his nomination:

Coach Curtis keeps a watchful eye on all the players. Not only does he make sure they remain physically okay, he monitors their emotional state. He is a teacher, showing players how to personally improve their own skill level, while pointing out fundamental points of the game before introducing the game’s strategic systems. Curtis watches with pride as his players keep getting better as the season progresses. He pats them on the back, tells them how far they’ve come, and offers more encouragement to get even stronger, faster, and smarter. He instills strong work ethic, reminding players that, when they put a strong effort in, numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the game are secondary … that holding your head high after a game is a most noble thing.

My son is new to the Muskoka Rock hockey community and the Novice team. He joined the team with limited hockey skills and abilities. The reason I felt a need to write this note is to recognize the development of my son as a result of the excellent coaching staff. It became apparent this evening during a fun and positive skills competition, set up by Coach Curtis that my son had progressed dramatically and his skill base is much more developed than when he started this season. My son feels very proud of his performance and takes a sense of pride in his abilities. I appreciate the effort and time then Curtis spends constantly creating positive, friendly and fun team building activities for our team. The confidence instilled in these children from the support and encouragement from our Coach has impacted them and will continue to impact them greatly.  

Coaches like Curtis are the bloodline of minor sports. Without their involvement, practices and games would never happen, never mind the life lessons countless of young kids learn. A fun and a positive environment is the key ingredient to minor sports.

We spoke to Coach Curtis about what being a coach means to him and his background in the sport. Entering the sport later in life than most kids, Curtis quickly learned that hard work and a team approach were very important attributes to achieve my hockey objectives. His experiences showed him that it takes a positive environment and encouragement from a good role model to develop the confidence kids need to be successful not only on but also off the ice. Most of the coaching staff have been involved with the same group of players since the initiation level and wanted to continue to build on the foundation they started with this group.

How is coaching Novice players and those newer to the sport unique?

Novice level hockey offers some challenges. All of the kids are unique little individuals that want to work hard to become the best they can be. The challenges coaches face is that not all kids are at the same development level. For example, on our team we have some kids that have skated and played competitive hockey since they could put on a skate and others that are new to the sport this year. It is very important to establish an environment where the kids encourage each other and you promote the positive development of all players. We strive to make sure our kids are all pulling for each other in the same direction and above all, have fun on and off the ice.

This age level can be quite entertaining to coach as well, as each player is developing their own unique personality. As they learn new skills, develop their game, and interact with coaches teammates and opponents, the personalities start to emerge. It is great to see them emerge as unique individuals within the team as the season progresses. It is important to develop and manage these personalities at this level to instill positive attributes they can use moving forward. I have not yet coached an older group but I imagine they may be less impressionable. I can imagine that the focus would be more on systems and game play rather than the fundamentals. I enjoy this age as you can have a lot fun with the kids while teaching positive lessons.

“The kids are realizing that if they put a real effort into the drill, the practice, the team, they get real results in return. we hope that they will build on and draw from the positive lessons they are learning in minor hockey.”

How important is player development over the course of a season and how do you help make it happen?

Player development is very important at this level. We focus primarily on skating and puck handling early in the season and add in some aspects of game play and positioning scenarios to give the kids something to think about. We have allowed kids to try different positions and have fun. We really promote the kids to encourage each other and strive to complete each drill to the best of their ability. Our coaches have been excellent in assisting with all players, ensuring they are completing drills properly and assisting and correcting when necessary. It was very rewarding to see, following a mock skills competition we held, the players recognizing their own improvements and the confidence beginning to blossom. We seldom take the game scores to heart and look at the games as development opportunities to work on what we learned at practice.

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What are some of the life lessons you try to teach your players?

We really try to teach the kids to be respectful of themselves, their teammates, their parents and their coaches. We strive to promote effort, inclusivity, encouraging others and team work. Sportsmanship is also paramount. We have learned to draw from and build on a loss, to keep our heads high and to win or lose as a group. The kids are realizing that if they put a real effort into the drill, the practice, the team, they get real results in return. These kids are going to grow up and enter the world someday and we hope that they will build on and draw from the positive lessons they are learning in minor hockey. 

How have you seen your players improve over the season so far?

It has been very rewarding to see the kids grow as a team and develop confidence in their abilities. Kids that were learning to skate at the start of the season are now scoring goals and will not be denied in a puck battle. Other players have built on outstanding individual talents to develop into multi positional playing, team first players. We have also had a few emerge as future goaltenders! The kids are learning to not be selfish and put your team and teammates first. This is emphasized by kids opting to play out of their natural positions to allow their fellow teammate an opportunity. It really is something to regard and I am very proud of what our group has become and where they are going.

Curtis would like to share the credit for this award amongst his fellow coaches and bench staff Trevor Coulter, Scott Lucas, Tom Chambers, Seth Harder and Kristin Livingstone and the players families who have all worked hard to share the duties and promote a positive environment for the team.

Submit Your Coach of the Month

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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