Hockey coaches help build on-ice ability, off-ice character
Young players urged to develop skills while having fun
By Cam Tait, Edmonton Journal
January 18, 2012
Hockey players and battered knuckles just seem to go together.
For players on the SE434 Raiders novice team, knuckles could very well be sore after games - but for all the right reasons.
"After every game, I go around the room and give a knuckle punch to each of the kids or give them a high five and tell them, 'Good game,' " said Raiders coach Dean Stefanic. "I feel that if you can level off the intensity of sports and the fun that children can have in sports, they will all become good sports.
"Poor sports are created through the negativity of losing."
Stefanic's words embody the spirit of Quikcard Minor Hockey Week, now in its 49th year, as it heads into the home stretch with finals this weekend. The theme of the annual extravaganza is sportsmanship and fair play.
In the novice division, players are seven and eight years old, with a huge appetite for learning. Stefanic is one of hundreds of minor hockey coaches who work to ensure their players develop new skills while having fun.
Edmonton Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal knows the importance of coaches at the novice level.
"Coaches are very important, as they are the first teachers of hockey that teach the basic skills to the kids," said Laxdal.
"A coach has to focus on the fundamentals of hockey and coach on the teaching basis of repetition, repetition, repetition."
Laxdal also said minor hockey coaches must have fun with their players.
Stefanic believes it begins with the players' approach to the game.
"If we really think about it, if you have a positive outlook on anything, you can accomplish anything," said Stefanic.
"Basically, being positive is winning. Positive thoughts equal positive results."
Very few 10-year-olds grow up to play in the National Hockey League, but they do grow up.
Stefanic hopes his coaching will help his players become good people.
"First and foremost, I would like to create great humans who become good hockey players," he said.
That process works both ways. Stefanic has been coaching minor hockey for more than 20 years. He says the experience has helped make him a better person.
"It has forced me to reflect in my own life the teachings that I try to instil in all my hockey players. Taking a look at yourself in the mirror will always make you a better person," he says.
Stefanic, who works at RedTail Landing Golf Club as a chef, has coached age groups from novice all the way to midget. He knows gaining his players' trust is key.
"As soon as you gain their trust they will do anything for you," he said. "If you lose their trust, it will be an uphill battle the whole way."
The Raiders lost a heartbreaker Monday night and were eliminated from Minor Hockey Week.
Still, Stefanic knows there are a few more months of hockey - and a few more opportunities to make a difference.
"If I'm able to put one child on track in life, it's the greatest accomplishment that I could possibly get from coaching," said Stefanic.
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