"Passion is your greatest love. Passion is the thing that will help you create the highest expression of your talent."
- Larry Smith
For the past 4 years I have had the pleasure of coaching 4-8 year olds in Chester, Nova Scotia. I've been coaching for over 20 years total but it wasn't until my oldest daughter, Ceili started playing that I gave the Hockey Canada Initiation Program a try. What I discovered (among many kids' stotty noses) were kids who loved to be on the ice and would do anything to skate,stickhandle, chase pucks, play games, give awesome high 5s (complain about their best friend butting in line) and smile, despite Chester having one of the coldest arenas in the province. Is this where passion comes from? Will these kids who clearly love the game now be obsessed and calculated about it when they are in their 30s and 40s? Was I like these snot-bubble blowing hockey tykes? The answer to that question is definitely - no!
Anyone who knows me well knows my memory for life details really isn't the best. I can't remember any of my teachers or classmates from age 5 to about 11. If I didn't have pictures of hockey teams I wouldn't remember much of that either. I do remember Saturday morning cartoons though! Oh how I loved to watch cartoons on Saturday morning. It was the highlight of my week for sure. That is, except between October to March because my mom and dad signed me up for hockey, which I wasn't pleased about at all. I think I cried every single day when I couldn't watch the Sylvester, Tweety, Daffy and Speedy Show. My dad also took me to watch my older brothers play all the time too. As a 5 year old I escaped from the arena and hopped onto a train. This is true. My parents used to tell me that story. It happened more than once. When I was on the ice I spent more time studying the ceiling and structure of the rink, and wiping my nose no doubt.
I don't know where my passion came from, but I definitely have it now. Around the age of 11 my parents started putting me in hockey schools. One that I remember very well was called Yerxa Hockey Clinics. The camps were well organized and run mainly by hockey coaches who are also teachers. I learned to skate well from these camps. I put the work in day after day, year after year. What I found was my skating really improved and I learned to like the game more. A few years later I was an instructor at these camps too and I demonstrated drills almost every day all summer. By the end of high school the sport was an obsession. My connections, friends, thoughts, dreams all centered around hockey. If I wasn't going to play the sport I'd be happy to coach it too. I'd rent hockey instruction videos (does anyone remember The Shooter's Edge with the Courtnall brothers? I watched it - many many times. I took notes too.) and I'd attend conferences and talk to Development Coordinators several times a week at the Hockey Canada Atlantic Regional Centre. I wanted to not only be immersed in hockey, but also to be really really good at it.
As I started teaching I figured it was time to give hockey a back seat. I had a good career. I thought teaching was going to give me the same satisfaction that coaching would. For 11 years I've been searching for that same passion. While I'm interested in teaching I have never found a passion for it. I love seeing the students each day. I love having my own space in the school and room to develop my programs. Certainly there are things I like about teaching that are similar to hockey, but it still isn't hockey (I love chicken. If someone gives me turkey I'll like it and eat it, but it's not chicken. Teaching to coaching is like that for me).
I've been coaching everything from minor hockey to boys high school to DalhousieUniversity and been somewhat involved in the National female U-18program and provincial High Performance Programs. I've also served as a Hockey Nova Scotia Female Council Regional Director for 3 years. Hockey has taken me many wonderful places, which is fantastic. I can never repay the game for this. I've discovered I don't want the game of hockey to take me places though. I want hockey to be my journey. I want it to be my career.
I come back to the question: How did we get here? The answer is simple. I want my 3 daughters (Ceili, Alice and Isla) to be inspired by seeing their dad pursue his passion, despite possible odds. I want them to pursue their passions too, so they will need an example of someone who tried. That's how we arrived at Apollo Hockey Development.
What is your passion? What do you want out of hockey or your own sport or activity?