One of the keys to the success of the GTHL are the coaches and their coaching staff. The coaches excel at combining fun and learning while running a competitive hockey team.
I have been around the hockey rinks for 15 years. During my time in the GTHL, I won Silver Sticks, championships, and MVP awards, but none of that really matters to me. Looking back, I realize that the one thing that is most important is the coaches I played for. My GTHL coaches created an enjoyable environment that made winning obsolete. Because of these coaches, I became more concerned about having as much fun as possible and learning as much as I could – all while playing the game of hockey.
The most influential person behind this was my coach, Will Carson. I had the privilege to be coached by Will for two years. My first season playing for Will and the Toronto City Blues was a rough one for us all. We were a below .500 team that just missed the playoffs. Despite our losing streak, every time I walked out of the dressing room, I would have a smile on my face. Coach Will instilled a series of values and beliefs that I still follow today. Every time we stepped into the dressing room, Coach Will would remind out team that “positive energy brings positive results.”
“Having fun is the number one priority in any sport – if you are having fun, you will want to practice, learn and as a result improvements will follow mentally and physically,” said Carson. “As a coach, it is important to provide an environment that the players can appreciate their enjoyment of the sport and feel appreciated individually. By doing this, you can bring a collective group together on and especially off the ice. “
Every year since 2005, the GTHL gives out an award called the Herb Ebisuzaki Coaching Award that recognizes an outstanding minor hockey coach. For the 2015 – 2016 season, the GTHL awarded Rich Brewda for his work with the North Toronto Hockey Association. Rich’s secret? Combining fun and learning in competitive hockey.
“Winning the Herb Ebisuzaki Coaching Award meant more than I can tell you. This was definitely the biggest personal honour that I’ve had in hockey – between playing and coaching,” said Brewda. “Winning is important, but not the top priority. My priority is to build an environment for our players to make friends, learn discipline and have fun. Once this type of culture is established the winning seems to come with it.”
Brewda added that his approach seems to be very prominent around the GTHL, with many coaches working to keep things fun first and foremost.
Coaching is the process of helping and developing a person – both on and off the ice. I feel the GTHL does a tremendous job not only providing competitive and a motivating environment for inspiring their hockey players, but also an arena for helping young boys and girls develop into men and women. The memories, the friendships, and learning experiences one can get from playing hockey are insurmountable – I should know!