This year, our team decided that in order to have some fun and spend some time together, we would have a virtual jeopardy game. All of the players were asked to contribute a few questions and answers about themselves and coaches also contributed the same. Our amazing social committee then organized the team members and the questions so we could play a virtual jeopardy game. We had almost 100 percent participation from all players, with players only missing if they were working. The coaches and team had a lot of fun and got to learn a lot about one another. Teams played against one another and loved having the competition to try and beat one another.
As a coach, I believe it is a privilege for players to be able to play hockey at this level. I want to instill in my players that privilege but also the importance of giving back to others. For the past two years, the Kitchener AA Midget Team has been connected with Stuffin’ Stockings, a non-profit organization run in Woolwich that collects items for children in need and provides stockings full of goodies. They work with community partners and schools to get the stockings to families who may otherwise not have items under the tree for their children. We have been blessed with the generosity of our team and families to support this and we as a staff were truly moved by the player engagement.
Our team has a game ball (football) that is given to the best player or most hard working player of the game. Initially, the player to receive the ball is chosen by the coaching staff, however, beyond that, the player who earned the ball from the previous game is the one who gets to choose either individually or alongside his teammates who has earned the ball from that day’s game. This only further helps to create and develop teamwork and camaraderie among the players.
The last game before Christmas break, I encouraged all the players and coaching staff to dress in ugly Christmas sweaters. The players then vote for the first place and second place players who are wearing the ugliest sweater. The players had a lot of fun with this and had some really great sweaters, including a twin santa/elf sweater that was worn by two players. The winners got a small gift card to show our appreciation of showing team spirit and always doing their best to participate in all team activities.
Playing Midget is always bittersweet as for many, this is their last organized hockey activity they participate in as they become young adults and begin to move onto other opportunities and men’s late night pick up hockey in many cases. Due to this, I have always tried to recognize the players that are “graduating” from their last year of Midget hockey. The team has a ceremony after a game that includes all graduates sweaters hung along the glass and opportunities for photos with players and families. The players also deliver a rose to an important person to them who has supported them throughout their hockey career to thank them for all of their support both financially, emotionally and physically throughout the years. Tears are often evident during this ceremony as these players recognize their lives are changing and they are growing up.
I believe that you will see more virtual team meetings in the future. It is a great way for coaches to stay connected with their players and for everyone to get to know each other. We have learned over the past year that virtual meetings are one of the best ways to connect when we are not able to connect in person. This year, we would have also had virtual team meetings on systems, reviewing game video, and chats before playoffs etc. if we were playing games against other teams. We have still found value using virtual meetings to stay connected through these challenging times and the players have voiced that they enjoy having this connection even if they are not playing.
Head Coach - U18 Tier 2