Yesterday I arrived in SLC, for those of you who don’t know, its what ‘people in the know’ call Salt Lake City, Utah. My reason for being out in here is pretty clear, check out an elite organization and see if I would be a good fit as a coach. The most intriguing part of this opportunity is it gives me a chance to assist in building a business and developing the brand.
The philosophy of the team is nothing short of progressive with strict emphasis on creating talent and developing skills. The wins and losses in this organization really don’t matter as long as the skill development continues to improve. This was evident in the director’s reaction towards one of the teams winning a tournament in California against weaker opponent compared with going 1-3 the following weekend against a more formidable competitor. The director was more impressed with the team winning one game against stiff competition over winning a weak tournament.
The philosophy was also on display the first practice that I attended last night. It was a combined practice where both PeeWee teams and the Squirt team shared the ice and ran the same drills for the duration of the practice.
The practice was one of the more intense practices I have seen. The way the kids responded to criticism even from me was remarkable. I would venture to say that 80% of the players out there were constantly pushing themselves past their ‘comfort zone.’ When I told the director I was impressed by this, he admitted that this didn’t happen overnight and it took some time for the kids to get to this point. Either way, I was still amazed at how responsive and dedicated these players were.
During the up tempo practice there were minimal stoppages during a drill, except to scold the group as a whole, the consequence 15 pushups. This was a calculated ploy by the coach (the director led the practice) and the kids immediately found a second wind and continued to push themselves harder.
The structure of the practice was great. The way the Squirts were pushed to be like the PeeWees and compete with them was evident. The way the stronger PeeWee players ‘bought’ into the system provided for a goal to strive for and a role model for the younger players. At the end of practice, the two PeeWee teams and Squirt teams divided up respectively and performed small ‘battle’ drills in the corner. As it had been all practice, the players were pushing themselves beyond exertion. The dedication level was as intense as the coach’s orders to continue fighting for the puck. Once the player had the puck, control was key as the goal was to keep possession while two of his teammates tried to take the puck away.
The director asked me my thoughts on our way back to his house. I told him the philosophy of the program was clearly defined and displayed. In one hour and 30 minutes, I had witnessed a practice that you would typically see at the Minor/Major Midget level. Every kid left the ice with soaking wet hair and were loving it.
We talked about a few players that I had picked out. To my surprise the majority of the ones I gave accolades to for their skating or stick handling technique, were ones he admitted had improved immensely over the season. With that said, I think it is safe to say the philosophy, determination and systems developed in the association are going to create several skilled players in the SLC area. It made me excited for the possibility of being a part of this progression and help build a program that fosters talent.