You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Confessions of a Shortboarder

I need to get something out in the open. I am nearly 42 years old and I snow blade. I can't help myself. Let me explain.

Quite simply, I love to ski. I've tried snowboarding, but I simply found it was way too much work. Skiing can be plenty of work when the snow is deep, but it is FAR less demanding than riding a mini surfboard on snow. I gave snowboarding an honest shot a few years ago. I'm not an old dog, but I was not ready for a new trick. Skiing is more natural and more fun. Ultimately, fun is one of the main reasons I ski. Hopefully, this post will help you understand the other reasons why I ski.

I played hockey all of my life and have skied for half of my life. As a kid, I got the chance to cross-country ski, but never strapped on downhill skis until much later in life. One of my wife's greatest contributions to who I am was introducing me to the absolute joy of spending the day at a ski hill.

Our first trip was to Jasper's Marmot Basin and it remains one of my favourite holidays ever. I borrowed skis for this trip and I skied like a hockey player. Legs shoulder width apart, knees bent, elbows up. It didn't take me long to notice that the people in the fancy SunIce jackets and stretchy pants didn't ski like me. They actually turned around their poles. Their knees seemed glued together, even when they were mashing through moguls. I didn't let my lack of ski style get in the way of having fun. I found out very early that when I ski, I like to ski fast. Really fast. On the verge of catching an edge, yard sale, Todd Brooker cartwheeling to a lacerated rectum fast. I may not have looked great, but so long as the slope was wide open, I loved to reel off big, wide, ski chattering Super GS turns.

The first pair of skis I owned were a beautiful, brand new pair of K2's. They were bright white with early 90's neon accents. They were gorgeous and I felt like a rock star when I wore them to the ski hill. I was dejected when they got stolen from our local ski area when I was supervising our school's ski club, but my replacements were equally amazing. Salomon Evolution 9000 - over 200 cm of rocketship skis that were incredibly stable at high speeds. Again , when i strapped these boards on, my ski esteem went up immeasurably. Sadly, these skis also had a shorter than expected life. A rocky run at Fernie blew up one of my boards and the cost of the repair would have been the same as a new pair.

Even though I had cutting edge gear, it was the simple act of heading to the hill that consolidated how much I loved skiing. As a beginning teacher, I got to supervise our weekly ski club, which meant a dozen evenings at our local hill, plus multiple adventures with my colleagues. I can honestly say that it was our trips to Canyon and points unknown that helped make my first years of teaching so enjoyable.

For a year after I blew up my Salomons, I rented and borrowed. With my wife on maternity leave, a young family and limited opportunity to hit the slopes, I was content with this arrangement. During this time, a buddy let me borrow his snow blades and my ski life changed. With these mini skis, the hill opened up for me. I could pop through bumps, weave through trees and glide through deep powder. My legs stayed glued together and I could still fly down the hill when I needed to. When a fellow teacher won a brand new pair of Salomon blades at a ski show, I gladly bought them. I was without my own boards and he sold them to me for a third of what a new pair of skis would have run me.

For me, skiing has never been about style. My clothes are functional. I switched from Eddie Bauer basic blue to MEC basic black about 12 years ago. My boots are the same Salomon rear entry boots I purchased when I got my original K2s. My helmet is expired and the same pair of goggles have been strapped to them for the life of the helmet. People give me odd looks in lift lines and people I ski with shake their heads when they see my blades. What they don't know is that I don't really care, so long as I am on a ski hill.

Skiing is, bar none, my favorite outdoor winter activity. It is a fantastic way to spend the day with my family. As my boys have grown up, we have enjoyed many amazing days. Part of the joy of skiing comes from spending time in the mountains. Being outdoors in beautiful places like Big White, Castle, Fernie, Kicking Horse, Kimberley, Lake Louise, Mount Norquay, Revelstoke and Sunshine is truly special. Watching my kids gain confidence and skill is incredibly fulfilling. My boys have turned me on to glade skiing and I have taken them down double black diamond runs. The immense sense of fun and pride we all feel when we tackle something challenging is my favorite feeling.

Best of all, skiing is the one activity everyone in my family can take part in together. It can be an expensive sport, but the opportunity for all of us to be outside, get some exercise and spend time with one another is priceless. Make no mistake - my snow blades are a big part of my enjoyment. They help me follow my kids through the trees and around moguls the
size of Smart Cars.

A few years ago, we were skiing at Revelstoke on a HUGE powder day. Revy is a challenge on the best of days, but in the spring, waist deep Selkirk powder can really test your endurance. I rented a big fat pair of powder skis that day and left my blades in the truck. I'm glad I had the big boards to help me push through the thick stuff, but it wasn't the same. I enjoyed the day with my snowboarding friend who lives in Revelstoke, but it was not the same. My wife and kids got too tired and went home after lunch. My old legs struggled to keep those big skis together. I kept up, but the day lacked the things I love most about a day at the hill.

I love the striking contrast of white snow and blue sky. I love riding a lift through the clouds and taking in the panorama of what looks like a lake of clouds with snow capped peaks in the distance. I love listening to the sounds my younger son makes - the "oh God" when he hits some bumps and his giggles when he crashes. I love watching my older son pick his way through the trees. I love linking a bunch of turns together, stopping to rest and visit with my friends and family.

For me, skiing and fly fishing share the same essential qualities. I get to spend my time outside in beautiful places. I am constantly thinking, planning and problem solving. Best of all, I get to share the experience with the people who mean the most to me. If I had the time and the means, I could spend all day, every day on a ski slope or on a river. Some day...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Australian Friends



As a young man, I can honestly say that impression of Australians was formed by popular culture, particularly music. As a Cub Scout, I first learned the words "billabong" and "kookaburra" while singing campfire songs like "Kookaburra" and "Waltzing Matilda". When Men at Work released their album Business as Usual, I learned words like "vegemite" and "down under". As I grew older, my impressions moved past the strange words to a rougher vision. I somehow believed that everyone in Australia was the descendant of criminals. I listened to AC/DC and watched the Mad Max series of movies. In the late 1980s, I watched Australian rules football and films like Crocodile Dundee. Through my university years, I gained a much deeper appreciation for Australian culture through the music of Midnight Oil. I watched films like Gallipoli and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Recently, an Aussie friend let me read Albert Facey's A Fortunate Life and I watched the film Rabbit Proof Fence. Despite all of these influences, it wasn't until my third year of teaching that I met my first "real live" Aussie.

Over the years, I have been very fortunate to get to know many Australians. I have never been "down under", but I now know enough people that a trip to Australia will be very important to me. The vast majority of the people I have met are teachers who have come to Red Deer on exchange. I can say with absolute clarity that the experience has been amazing for our schools, for my family, and for the Aussies who have uprooted their lives to spend a year in the Great White North.

I am writing this blog for many reasons. The most pressing reason is because I want to express to the Simpson family how much they have enriched my life and the life of my family. Jo and John hail from Adelaide and have spent the past year embracing life in Canada. Their children, Rhiannon and Toby, have attended our school and have certainly made our school a better place. It has been an amazing year. The Simpsons are incredible people. They are kind, thoughtful, humble and appreciative. They have certainly made the most of their time in Red Deer. Their family is particularly special to me because my son is the same age as their children and we have enjoyed many great times together. Sledding, camping, skating, skiing, snowshoeing, picnics, water fights, roasting marshmallows and numerous social gatherings have allowed us to get to know one another in a very special way. I feel that we have all formed lifelong friendships and I am truly looking forward to having our paths cross again. The fact that the lives of my children have been enriched by the kindness of the Simpson family fills my heart with gratitude.

The theme of lasting friendships is another reason to write this blog. Of the four Aussie exchange families I met prior to Jon and Joanne, I have remained connected with four of them. In fact, three of the families have made return visits to Canada. The Ball family and the Garland family have actually done two exchanges. The Collins family made a return visit to Red Deer this summer and it was one of the highlights of my holiday. I have a tight group of friends that have been connected since we were teenagers - something I wrote about in a previous post called Stand by Me. Whenever we connect, we pick up where we left off. I feel very much the same about the people I have met through the exchange program. When our lives crossed paths, it made a lasting impact and I truly feel like I have gained many new friends for life.

Another theme is lasting memories. Some examples include
  • Skiing at Lake Louise with Milton Williams, the Ball family and a group of fifty grade students from Eastview Middle School. 
  • Paul Ball asking me how cold it should be before you wear gloves (he had just finished shovelling his driveway and sidewalk in -30 temperatures.) 
  • Watching brave Aussie teachers Paul Ball, Chis Collins, and Brian Garland learn to ski, skate and play hockey. The moment when Brian Garland finally scored a goal in our Wednesday Teacher Hockey is one of my favorite hockey memories.
  • Going ice fishing with Chris Collins on a beautiful December day when there was no snow on the lake. It was like walking on a frozen fishbowl, complete with cracking ice and the eerie hum of ice heaving. The day ended with an extended visit to the lounge of the Caroline Hotel, where smoke and meat draws competed equally with dead things on the wall and a shrine to figure skater Kurt Browning.
  • Taking John Mitchell to an Edmonton Eskimos/Saskatchewan Roughriders football game where a Saskatchewan fan literally gave John the jersey off his back.
  • Watching Toby Simpson play in our annual Grandview Staff-Student Hockey Game.
  • Crossing the finish line with Joanne, Rhiannon and Toby Simpson in the Red Deer Public Schools Ski Loppet
Australian exchange teachers helped create some of my absolute fondest memories of teaching. Watching Joanne Simpson teach her grade one class the Alberta curriculum with absolute mastery while exposing them to Australian songs and literature has been nothing short of amazing. Listening to Chris Collins speak passionately about the history of his country gave me an incredible appreciation for the similarities between Canadians and our southern counterparts. Spending time in the outdoors and discussing sport with Paul Ball and Brian Garland have fostered a whole new appreciation for the place we live and the games we play. I can say with absolute certainty that each of these teachers has made a positive impact on the schools they worked at. I can say with equal certainty that they have made our community a better place.

It is true that we don't permanently say goodbye. It has been nice to keep in touch through mail, e-mail, social media and return visits. Even though my heart is heavy that the Joanne, Jon, Rhiannon and Toby are leaving our school community, I know our paths will cross again.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Game


For me, "The Game" is hockey. I have played and coached many different sports in my life, but ice hockey is my first love. I have written and thought carefully about the importance of hockey in my life. Some of my previous posts, notably The Game I Love and Riding the Coaching Rollercoaster have explored the role hockey plays in who I am and how I approach my life.

Recently, I came across this post on Facebook:

Hockey for 5 year olds is just that-for 5 year olds. It is about learning to be part of a team, building confidence, developing skills, and having fun. It isn't about trying out for the WHL or NHL. Feeling bad for a little boy that had his first hockey team experience in TinyMites crushed when his dad was told they had to let one kid go, and he was the weakest link. Also nice that the dad was informed with the child standing right there. I don't think that is what a first year hockey experience is about for FIVE YEAR OLDS! Maybe I'm wrong or a big sappy mother, but that seems like a sure fire way to hurt feelings and stomp on self esteem while turning a child off of team sport activities. Glad it wasn't my little boy:(

When I hear things like this, it makes me sad and incredibly pissed off. Stories like this taint the reputation of minor hockey. The comments that followed this post had two themes. The first theme was "There is no way this should happen in minor hockey." The second theme was "That is exactly why minor hockey is flawed."

I have a difficult time understanding how people can be so incredibly stupid about hockey. How can one child be let go from a 5 year old hockey team? I can imagine the counter arguments - ice time, number of jerseys, minor hockey guidelines, but none of them should get in the way of the dreams of a little boy.

At this age level, kids develop at very different rates. Any adult who "cuts" a 5 year old should have NOTHING to do with the development of young hockey players. At this age, making cuts and exclusions reflects a desire for team success ahead of individual development. Anyone who coaches young athletes with an eye for team success ahead of individual progress needs a serious reality check.

I can say with absolute certainty that Hockey Canada, Hockey Alberta, and anyone with a shred of common sense and decency would consider this situation an abomination. Anyone who coaches young hockey players should do everything they can to make kids love the game. Period.

I would love to have a conversation with any coach who "cut" a five year old child. Even better, I would love to go one on one with him on the rink and see what a hero he really is.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why I Do What I Do


I was looking back though my posts and the themes are fairly consistent. I write about the things that are most important to me because they are easy things to write about. Some of my earliest posts like Lessons in Film and Take Time talk exclusively about what I do for a living. My life as a teacher and school administrator is evident in most of my posts, but I have yet to explore why I am so content with the career path I have chosen.

My name is Ted and I am a teacher. I wear lots of hats and occupy many different roles in my life. When I think very carefully about all of these roles, there is no doubt that teaching is at the heart of most of them. As parents, my wife and I are my children's primary and most important teachers. As a coach, I believe it is my job to teach my players the skills and tactics necessary to make them a better member of the team. As a school admininstrator, I get to teach adults how to make our school the best place it can be. As a university instructor, I got the chance to teach pre-service teachers. The absolute best part of any day at school is my time in the classroom. Here is why...

One of my favourite things is that teaching is a creative process. I am always trying to think of a better way to help kids learn and that takes careful thought. For the last four months of this school year, I got the opportunity to teach grade three for the first time. I had to really think about how to approach my new class and it was absolutely refreshing to me. I also had the chance to teach math for the first time in my career, so I was forced out of my comfort zone. I had to work hard, not so much to understand the concepts, but to understand how to best present them to the kids in my class.

I love what I do because I get to play around all day long. My teaching style is not conventional. On the first day with a new class, I always tell them that I hope my class is the best one they have ever been in.  I get to tell jokes and make terrible puns. I come up with nicknames for my students, stand on desks, lay on the floor, and use different accents depending on my mood, the day and the subject matter. I have fun and I try really hard to ensure the students have fun, too. I know that no single teacher is perfect for every student in a class and I respect that some kids think I am genuinely weird. Overall, I'm OK with that. The teachers I remember best were definitely the ones who marched to a different beat. I have a poster of purple sheep in my classroom that says "I was normal once. I didn't like it." That poster has hung in every home room I have taught in because it says a lot about how I approach my job.

Though this seems like stating the obvious, I love to teach because I love to teach. By teach, I mean that get to directly influence how other people do things. I'm not big on quotes, but Henry Adams once said, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." When you think about it, this is a massive responsibility. Any teacher who does not realize what a significant influence they have needs to give their head a shake. I love the "lightbulb" moments of teaching, the moments when a child's eyes widen and smile creeps across their face because they have just made a connection that did not exist a moment earlier. I love it when 20 hands simultaneously shoot skyward to answer a question because every one of them know the answer to my question. More than anything, I love it when grown men and women come up to me in public and take the time to tell me much they enjoyed having me for a teacher. The ultimate compliment came from a young lady who now teaches in our school district because, in her words, she wanted to be just like me.

Another thing that keeps me coming back year after year is that every day brings something different. You never know who is going to walk through your door or what is going to happen next. The unpredictable nature of teaching does make it difficult at times, but I can recall very few days in my career where I was bored to death and waiting for the day to end. Time flies in a school and before you know it, the school year has ended and you get to start all over again. 

Teaching may not have huge financial rewards, but it has profound human rewards. I hope that I am making my world a better place. It gives me great pride to see my students succeed. I have been in my community long enough that I am now teaching the children of former students. There are very few places in Red Deer where I do not run into someone I know due to the work I do. To be honest, I would not have it any other way.

At the end of the school year, I usually get gifts and cards from students, and this year was no different. Two of them stand out to me. One was a chocolate bar from a little girl whose family was not happy with our school and will be moving to another school next year. She attached a small note using a piece of scrap paper, thanking me for being her teacher. I'm quite certain she either bought it with her own money or snuck it out of the house, but I was touched that she took the time to acknowledge me. My favorite, though, was a card from a boy who must have been listening carefully on the first day of classes.


That, folks, is the essence of why I do what I do.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Great Canadian Gordons


There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run
When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun
Long before the white man and long before the wheel
When the green dark forest was too silent to be real

I am fervently proud to be Canadian. I have one tattoo, a maple leaf, and I can't think of anything else I want to permanently etch on my body. By the time I have finished writing this post, I may be ready to get GORDON as my second tattoo. It is interesting that three great Canadians and many great Canadian things are linked to the name Gordon. In no particular order, here they are...

Gordon Downie
Gord Downie is best known as the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, my favorite Canadian band. Their music is laced with references to Canadian culture. Hockey themes abound, most notably "Fireworks" celebration of the 1972 Summit Series, the disappearance of Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Bill Barilko in "Fifty Mission Cap" and a dirge about being a goaltender in "The Lonely End of the Rink". Their lyrics celebrate notable Canadians like Bobby Orr, Pierre Trudeau and David Milgaard. Distinctly Canadian terms like toonie, CBC, prime minister and the "crown" pepper their lyrics. Even Donald S. Cherry makes an appearance as a chicken delivery man in the video for "The Darkest One".

The Hip's songs tend to mention Canadian places. Niagara Falls, Bobcaygeon, Toronton, Kingston, Cape Spear, Clayoquot Sound, Sault Ste Marie, Northumberland Strait, Churchill, Thompson, Lake Memphragog, Isle Aux Morts. I'm not completely sure, but I have a feeling that "The Paris of the Prairies" mentioned in "Wheat Kings" may be Saskatoon. I am certain that many essays and perhaps Master's theses have been written about the Hip's connection to Canada through music. Beyond the stage, Downie and the band have had cameos in uniquely Canadian television shows like Corner Gas and Trailer Park Boys.

For me, though, the quintessential Gordon Downie moment is the role he plays in Michael McGowan's film, One Week. The film is profoundly Canadian as it follows its protagonist, who has terminal cancer, on a motorcycle pilgrimage from Toronto to Tofino. Downie has a brief role as a man who meets the doomed Tyler and shares his experience of battling cancer. When I think of Canadian icons, people who have helped develop my generation's Canadian identity, I think of people like Terry Fox and Rick Hansen. When it comes to people who reaffirmed my love of all things Canadian, I cannot think of a more iconic figure than Gordon Downie.

Gordon Lightfoot
When I was a young boy, very few of my parent's record albums interested me. Albums like John Denver's Greatest Hits and Creedence Clearwater Revival's Green River that contained songs I liked to play. It was Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown, however, that fascinated me more than anything. I'm not sure if it was the cover photo of a very healthy looking, curly haired and bearded Lightfoot sitting cross legged. It was one of the few albums my parents owned that included lyrics and I loved to read them over and over again. Most likely, I was drawn in to the stories the album told. I played the title track repeatedly and sang loudly when my parents were in a different room, "Sundown, you better take care/If I find you've been creeping round my back stairs".

I include Gordon Lightfoot on this list because he is one of the most successful Canadian singer/songwriters, ever. Sundown was number one on the Billboard charts and his music has a following across the world. To me, his most impressive songs are the ones that chronicle Canadian stories. "Canadian Railway Trilogy" is Canada's definitive epic poem because it tells the tale of a watershed event in our culture. Like the epic poems of the Greeks, Lightfoots's song celebrates the heroic contributions of the men who gave their lives to fulfills Sir John A Macdonald's dream. Any song that is commissioned by the CBC to commemorate Canada's centennial has to be special!

Perhaps my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." It tells a true story of a ship that sinks on Lake Superior, the big lake the Chippewa once called Gitche Gumee. Many people, including Gordon Lightfoot himself, feel that this is his best-written song ever. It is a haunting tale and a tribute to the courage of people who sail the Great Lakes for a living.

Gordon Howe
I have a signed poster of Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky in my basement. It is one of my favorite pieces of hockey memorabilia because it is actually signed by Mr. Hockey and #99 themselves. The photo was taken at the WHA All Star Game in 1978. I love this photo because it captures the end and beginning of two distinct eras in hockey. It was taken in the twilight of the upstart WHA. In 1979, both Howe and Gretzky moved on the NHL. Gordie's amazing career ended with a final year in the NHL and Gretzky's Oilers began a hockey dynasty that would change the game forever.

Gordie Howe is the consummate Canadian. He was born in a small town, grew up in the Paris of the Prairies and learned the value of a hard day's work from his father. He left home at 16 to pursue his career. He played in the NHL during five different decades, won four Stanley Cups, and played in more professional hockey games than anyone ever will play. He set a personal best for points when he was 40 years old. He got the chance to play on a line with two of his sons (a dream I hope to fulfill when my boys get older).

Gordie Howe was tough, skilled, and humble beyond belief. The first professional hockey games I got to watch were WHA games in Edmonton. At first, I wanted to cheer against him because I was an Oilers fan. As the game wore on, though, I was amazed at how good the old guy with the grey hair was. I had no idea that he was actually playing in his 31st consecutive season of professional hockey. When I think about it now, I am absolutely amazed. Gordie Howe's story is a real life storybook for many Canadian kids. Throughout his career, he was an incredible ambassador for our country and an impeccable role model.

There are some honorable mentions to this list. Gordon Pinsent, Gordon's Canadian Gin, Gord Bamford, Gordon from Sesame Street and the Barenaked Ladies first album, Gordon all deserve mention (and perhaps further exploration).

Canada is a vast country full of inspirational people. For me, these three men represent so much of what is great about Canada. Do yourself a favor this Canada Day. Listen to a little Lightfoot, rock out to a lot of Hip and try your own version of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick - score a goal, help out and play hard. When you are done playing, drink some beer to celebrate your country and your accomplishments.

You'll be happy you did!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Unplug. Play. Repeat.



Not long ago, we had a great family visit that reminded me exactly why we all need to unplug.

We went to deliver a baby gift to friends who have a 10 week old and a three year old. My boys are ten and twelve and, to be honest, screen time is usually a part of their day. We restrict the XBox to weekends, but between iPods, the family laptop, the PVR and our extended cable package, there is usually some sort of electronic component to their day. This visit, and some of the other visits I will describe later on, reinforce to me the importance of conversation, imagination and play.

We visited for a couple of hours. Visited. No electronics. No TV. The adults had a conversation (between efforts to keep the little one happy by rocking, talking and snuggling her.) The kids played with toys that require no batteries. Trains, mini stick hockey and playing a miniature piano managed to keep them entertained for the first hour of our visit. Then, the real fun began when they started to pull blankets out of the linen closet to make forts. Naturally, a round of hide and seek, jumping, rolling and squeals of joy ensued. It was SO refreshing to watch kids do the things I remember doing when I was young.

Tonight, both of my boys are having sleepovers. The older boys are at our house and the younger ones are 5 minutes away, but they managed to play together. On XBox Live, they can chat with each other while they play whatever game they are playing. I don't mind this. It is typical of their generation and I would be unnecessarily overprotective if I curtailed this type of behaviour. I think it is OK for kids, in moderation.

Our visit, however, reinforced the importance of balance and the need to unplug. Kids need to explore, create and solve problems in the real world. They need to navigate slippery log arches over creeks. Kids need to find amazing hiding spots. Chasing insects or playing with a pet can make hours pass by. My most vivid childhood memories involve visiting my friends, riding my bike, trying to climb trees, capturing frogs and being outdoors. On the last day of school this week, I asked my students what they were looking forward to this summer. I was thrilled and surprised that so many of them told me they were looking forward to things like camping, swimming, fishing and water fights.

When we go camping, it fills my heart with joy to watch my boys. They build forts, chop wood, and make fires. We ride bikes, go fishing and play cards. My absolute favorite moments of camping come when I watch my children create their own fun. Kids need to be kids. They don't need a parent hovering, coddling or berating. Children need to opportunity to define their own limits and push those limits. Sometimes, they will make mistakes. Sometimes, they will hurt themselves. Sometimes, they will spend hours engrossed in pure uninterrupted play.

Today marks the beginning of my summer holidays and I am already excited at our prospects for being unplugged for extended periods of time. They can have lots of fun indoors, but make sure to take your kids outside, folks. It's one of the greatest things you can do for them.

To learn a bit more about this topic, check out this site - Take Me Outside

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Things I've Learned (From People I Admire)


I am the sum of many parts.

Who I am is a complicated story of nature and nurture. Early in my teaching career, nature versus nurture was a major concept in Alberta Health curriculum, and as usual, I turned to a film to help my students understand the concept. Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It addresses the concept so clearly. As I mused two years ago in Lessons in Film , the story hits close to home for me. Alcoholism, parenting, high expectations and fly fishing are all topics that strike close to home. Redford's masterpiece effectively captures the story of two brothers, who turn out in dramatically different ways despite growing up in a stable household in a frontier community. I have many reasons to reflect on this topic, so here is my best attempt to give credit to the people who have made me who I am. In somewhat chronological order, here are some of the best lessons I have learned.

1. Mantiens le Droit (Uphold the Right) - Charles Theodore Alexander (CTA) Hutchings
I am the first male Hutchings in four generations to NOT be employed by the military or police.  As a young boy, my world was vigilantly defined by rules, schedules, promptness, respect and family history.  Whenever I would get too rambunctious, Granddad Hutchings would bellow, “CEASE and DESIST!!!”  When necessary, I still possess a tone of voice that is simply part of being a Hutchings.  As a vice principal, I get many opportunities to fulfill the RCMP mandate to Mantiens le Droit and try hard to make sure that things are done in an orderly manner.

2. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade - Harry Link
While childhood visits to my Granny and Granddad Hutchings meant lessons in history, police lore, boxing, nature and travel; visits to my maternal grandparents meant education.  Grandma and Grandpa Link had a set of Audobon Society encyclopedias that I loved to read.  My Grandma Link was teacher in her youth, but it was Grandpa, a brand inspector for the Alberta government, who taught me so many things:  catching, kicking, billiards, snowman building, and cribbage.  I also learned abstract concepts like determination and courage from Grandpa, who struggled with arthritis and ultimately succumbed to cancer.  My first encounter with death was the death of my Grandpa.  I brim with pride when my relatives tell me that I remind them of Grandpa Link.  When he lost his hair to chemotherapy, I will never forget what he told me. There was no sadness or self-pity. Instead, he leaned over in his bed at the Cross Cancer Clinic, took off his hat and said "I look pretty good with no hair - my head is really smooth!"

3. I Will Always Be There for You - Stewart Hutchings
When I began to play hockey, my coaches assumed a greater role in my life. My father was one of my first coaches and he was one of the first people who pointed me toward my potential. Dad was (and continues to be) a very successful volunteer, both as a coach and manager. He knew how to deal with difficult people, he listened, and he kept me focused on success. I remember very clearly standing in a sports store, getting fitted for a pair of Bauer 100 skates (the absolute best you could buy at the time). Dad turned to me and told me that he would support me, regardless of the time or cost required, so long as I wanted to pursue hockey. Dad's support propelled me farther in hockey than many young Canadians and I am eternally grateful for his belief in me.

4. Don't Think - Gary Williams and Ken Hodge
Gary Williams was another of my first coaches. When I was nine years old, I made my first serious leap as a hockey player. I made the Fultonvale Firebirds, an Atom "A" team that experienced a great deal of success. Two players from our roster played in the Western Hockey League. Two players earned NCAA scholarships. Two played in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. One earned an NCAA golf scholarship. Most of our players continued through minor hockey and finished up playing the game they love in Junior B. Gary's son, Warren, was my defense partner and our leading scorer. My job was to stay at home and not mess up. Gary always told me, "Ted, if you have to think, don't do it." In sports, it is one of the best lessons I ever learned. When I finally made it to the WHL, the message was very similar. Coach Hodge told me "Teddy, pass the puck to the first person you see open. And make sure you pass it HARD." Simple words, but words that helped me be my best. I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet both Mr. Williams and Coach Hodge as an adult. It was incredibly rewarding for me to share my life with them because they are people I respected and learned a great deal from.

5. The Power of Positive Reinforcement - Dave Cutler and Rusty Climie
My favorite coaches were the ones who took a personal interest in me. Every time I spoke to them, they made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. They built me up and made me believe in myself through the power of positive reinforcement. In hockey, Rusty Climie and Dave Cutler were the people I looked up to the most. In my early years of hockey, they coached our dreaded rivals, the Ardrossan Bisons. However, they always took the time to seek me out after a game with words of encouragement or congratulations. When they became my coaches, I can't imagine people better suited to making a young athlete more confident. In particular, Mr. Climie always took time to pump my tires and encourage me to take chances. I will never forget a tournament we played in Taber when I was twelve years old. We were in the final against a tough team from Trail, B.C. The first period was extremely tight and with about a minute left in the first frame, I wound up for one of my typical rushes. I picked up the puck on my side of the ice, drove around our net and bulldozed my way up the boards before I cut to the net, faked backhand and went around the goalie to make it 1-0. When we got into the dressing room, Mr. Climie told the boys, "Big Ted put the team on his back to score that goal. Now its your turn to help him out." It didn't hurt that we had future NHL star Ray Whitney in the lineup, but I scored another goal and we won the game 6-1. From that game forward, every time I played in an important hockey game, I wanted to be on the ice and I wanted to make a difference. It was an amazing lesson in the power of positive reinforcement that I will never forget.

6. Great Teachers Give Lessons That Last Forever - So Many Great Teachers
Throughout my school years, I had some incredible teachers. In elementary school, Mr. Milner shared his knowledge of and love for Alberta's natural history. Mr. Werenka, who always backed my athletics and academics.

In junior high, Mr. Bachinsky, Mr. Bushkowsky, and Mr. Dixon, who fostered my passion for reading, writing and literature. Mr. Fildes, Mr. Fleming and Mr. Harbourne, who encouraged me to participate in school athletics.

It was in high school that I found my most powerful role models. Mr. Sproule inspired my love of history. Mr. Barron helped push me in both French and English. Mr. Souster always backed me abilities as an athlete and was one of my biggest supporters when I left school to pursue hockey. More than anyone, though, Mr. John Phelan left an impression on me that I will never forget. He was an accomplished multi sport athlete who hustled you out of the gym into whatever sport he wanted. Mr. Phelan was solely responsible for  turning me and most of my friends on to rugby. Even though he never coached our team, he was always around, providing support and encouragement. I got to play a few games for Mr. Phelan as a JV player and I will never forget his intensity and passion for the game. When I moved to Red Deer and learned more about his legacy in his home town, my respect for him was secured permanently.

7. Every Conversation Is Important - Barrie Wilson
Barrie was my first principal and to this day, he is one of my biggest heroes in education. In my books, he ranks with John Dewey, Howard Gardner and Elliot Eisner. He is an amazing, energetic, inspiring man. The biggest lesson I learned from Barrie was the importance of taking time to speak with (and listen to) people. Barrie would always ask me about my life away from the school. Even more important, he remembered what  we talked about and followed up on it. As a beginning teacher, I spent many hours in the school on the weekend and it seemed that Barrie was usually there. He ALWAYS took time to have a quick conversation about what was going on in my life. Today, I know how important it is to acknowledge the people I spend my day with. I'm no Barrie, but I can always aspire to be like him.

8. Passion is Power - Jerry Simonsen
Jerry was my second principal at Eastview Middle School. He is also the man I can blame and thank for pushing me to become an administrator. Like Barrie Wilson and so many of the people who coached me, Jerry believed in me. Jerry is incredibly passionate about many things - athletics, fishing, fitness, underdogs and students who fall through the cracks in the system. When Jerry believes in something, he does everything he can to make sure it is successful. Jerry's belief that I could and should be a leader in our school changed my life forever.

9. Work Hard, Play Hard, Laugh Lots - Rita Di Placido
For the past five years, I have worked with Rita at Grandview Elementary School. As a teacher, administrator, parent and member of our school council, I have grown to respect "Mrs. D" in the most profound way possible. Nobody in our building works harder than Rita. She is often the first person at school and the last person to leave. If she isn't in the building, there is a good chance she is doing something related to our school. Rita's intense pride and love of what happens at Grandview is evident in everything she does. One of the greatest things about Rita is that she extends her passion to having fun. She never misses a dress up day or a staff party. Rita partakes in opportunities to play and laugh with exactly the same fervor that she approaches the "work" of being our school's principal. She is an amazing role model.

10. Don't Sweat the Petty Things (and Don't Pet the Sweaty Things) - Jeremy Spink
Jeremy is one of my very best friends. He is also the world's most relaxed organism. Very few things rattle him and he is always calm and positive. People love Jeremy because he is so nice and even-keeled. Whenever I need to be talked off the ledge, Jeremy is the man. We have worked together, played hockey, coached hockey, gone to school, stood up for one another and been roommates. We've shared vehicles, tents, trailers, hotel rooms and beds. Simply, he is the man and I'm glad I we are friends.

This list is far from complete, but this is a good place to start.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Time for a Rant



I try hard to make sure that this blog is a postive place. I have so much to be thankful for and I have very little to complain about in my life. Recently, my uncle passed away and I chronicled his his influence on me in Homage. My uncle was not afraid to express his opinion. He was a brilliant man and it was difficult to aruge with him because he was so passionate and so intelligent.

This post is, in some ways, a tribute to my uncle. There are many many things that drive me crazy. I'm not saying I'm perfect. I have my faults - you need only talk to my lovely wife, children, students or colleagues to find them out. Sometimes, however, it is important to express your opinion in no uncertain terms. This one is for you, Uncle Hutch.

As I mentioned, I'm not perfect. I may well be guilty of some of the transgressions outlined below. Either way, I hope that people read this and reflect. If you're not guilty, my apologies for wasting your time and I hope you laugh. If you are guilty of some of these faux pas, well, now you know how I feel. In no particular order, here are some of the things that make me furious.

Let's start with people who are incapable of blaming themselves. You know what? I screw up all the time and I'm the first to admit it. Hello? Here are my thoughts for the parent who complains that the school has failed your child even though she has accumluated 150 absences in grade 1, 2 and 3. Get your kid to school. Read with her. Do the work your teacher sends home. Ask questions. Attend parent teacher conferences. Don't call a teacher with 25 years experience and ruin her day by threatening to phone the Mayor. Never mind the superintendent, just call the Mayor because he will march right to the school and fix things because you are a taxpayer and therefore the indirect boss of all public servants. That is some pretty quick thinking on your part.

People who do not see their children for who they really are equally frustrating. Often, I feel like saying
"I was unaware that the sun emanates from your child's rectum. Little did I know." I have also been tempted to mention "I had no idea a person's excrement could be odorless? What a blessing." It seems that these people whose vision is corrected by rose lenses are the same people who cannot stand to see their children fail.

Children need to fail. They need to be independent. Children need to solve their own problems. Parents who wade into organizing play dates, call other parents to arrange their child's social calendar and live their lives vicariously through their children are sad. I know that my kids are not perfect. I see them realistically. I hope that they learn to deal with failure and difficult situations. I refuse to be a rescue helicopter.

I am equally appalled at parents who won't discipline their own children. These are the people who let their kids wander, talk and whine during public performances, school assemblies and church services. When I was kid, I didn't dare move when I was a member of an audience or congregation. My parents reinforced that by staying still, listening and paying attention, I was doing the right thing. They didn't threaten to punish or reprimand me because they didn't have to. I sat still because it was the right thing to do.

It drives me out of my mind when one of my kids' teams goes out for a team meal (which is another rant unto itself) and the kids are acting like idiots because they are sucking back jugs of pop and downing sugar packets like they are shooters. Add to this the fact that the service is slow because we decided to bring 40 people to a restaurant at once to eat. What a stroke of genius. I can't imagine why the kids are bored spitless because it took them 30 minutes to get a drink and 60 minutes for an order of pizza bread. Oh, but since I am the coach of the team, somehow I'm responsible for the kids' conduct, regardless of where we are. So, when your future first round draft pick is using his spoon to fling creamers across Denny's at little old ladies with blue hairpieces, it's my job to tell them to stop because I've volunteered to be their coach? Uh huh.

I have a whole litany of traffic-related pecadillos. It seems to me that many people think the only reason for traffic laws is to make people work hard to pass their driver's test. Once people have their license, why would they bother using a signal light? How silly. Why on earth would anyone on the road want to know which way a vehicle is going to travel? For that matter, why would anyone want to read simple signs like "Slower Traffic Keep Right"? Heaven forbid you should move out the left lane when there is a line of 30 vehicles behind them on the Friday of a long weekend? I mean, we all own the road if we pay taxes, don't we?

My final target? People who play out their live's trials and tribulations on Facebook. I don't need to know you have menstrual cramps and I couldn't care less. I'm pretty sure you won't die. Most days, it hurts me to get out of bed, too. That's because I'm getting old and I really don't take care of my body. It's my fault. So, Facebook whiner, the way you feel is likely within your control and if it is that bad, why do you want everyone to know? I look at people like Terry Fox who ran 26 miles a day on one leg with great admiration. People who live in nice homes and have full bellies but still need to spew pathos on their social media need a profound reality check.

Enough. I have a whole litany of topics to address in future rants. I'm tired and grumpy. I better go to bed.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Homage



One of my favorite people passed away too soon. It makes me incredibly sad and I need to write about it.

Lawrence Hutchings was a complex man, to say the least. He occupied many roles during his life. Son. Brother. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Uncle. Great Uncle. Hippie. Lawyer. Bartender. Teacher. Author. Pundit. Activist. Business owner. Actor. Director. Mentor. Inspiration.

As a boy, I quickly learned to love my uncle. He was funny. He had a false tooth and ring he claimed was the eye from a real tiger. He had a big bushy beard and told me he was a hippy. He smoked long brown American cigarettes and made me giggle so hard I would actually pee my pants. Uncle Hutch lived far away but every time he came to visit, I wished he would never leave.

As I grew older, I learned to love him on a whole new level. He lived at the foot of the Rockies, just outside of Canmore, and we made frequent visits during the summer. When he left his career in law, he opened Hutch's Pizza in Canmore and gave me another reason to idolize him. Uncle Hutch told stupid jokes. He told funny jokes. He told dirty jokes. He had an endless supply of one-liners that I use to this day. The witty bantering and exchange of puns between my Dad, Auntie Lee and Uncle Hutch rank amongst my favorite childhood memories. He had a sense of humor like few people I know and always left a lasting impression.

When my cousins Kris and Greg were born, I saw a whole new Uncle Hutch. I saw a devoted father who loved his children more than anything. He teased, played with and loved his boys to the end of the earth. I knew how good he made them feel because he always made me feel the same way.

It seemed like I reserved some of my best hockey games for the times he, Auntie Heath and the boys came to watch. They may not remember, but I sure do. I was eight or nine years old and I had been selected as the MVP in a game in the Lake Bonavista tournament in Calgary. I was nearly bursting the buttons of my jacket when I got to see them after the game. A few years later, I was selected top defenceman in another Calgary tournament, and sure enough, Uncle Hutch was there to watch. It meant so much that he took the time to watch me play.

As I grew older, I learned to love my Uncle on a much deeper level. I spent a great deal of time with my Auntie Lee as a teenager. Our family gatherings tended to be at her home. It was a neutral ground where all of the families gathered. It was during these years that I learned more about the tension between Uncle Hutch and my Grandfather. When my uncle went from lawyer to restaurant owner, I thought it was incredibly cool. I had no idea what a rift it created between him and his father. As a teen, I loved our family gatherings at Auntie Lee's. I loved the Canmore Hutchings because they brought a special spark. Wine flowed as freely as the puns and plays on words. It was the early 80s, so we played games like Trivial Pursuit even though Uncle Hutch had memorized all of the answers. He was impossible to beat and equally impossible to avoid looking up to.

His pizza place was a short-lived venture and it was somewhat fitting that we both became teachers in the early 1990s. I know that our shared professional experience pulled us closer during my first years of teaching. Every summer, I went on an extended backpacking trip with my dad. One year, Uncle Hutch joined us and it remains a cherished memory. We warmed up with a hike into Floe Lake in Kootenay National Park, then spent five days in the Skoki Valley. My dad is incredibly fit, so it was a struggle for us to keep up. Every time we stopped to gather the group and gather our strength, Uncle Hutch would fuel up from a seemingly endless supply of surreptitiously stashed chocolate. It was a magical experience to spend that time with two of my biggest influences in life.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the mountains. When I really think about it, my great mountain memories are like a quilt assembled by a team of people I love. My parents, my wife and kids, my sister and my friends have created a tapestry of fantastic thoughts and emotions. Uncle Hutch, Auntie Heath, Kris and Greg are at the absolute center of so many of those great memories. Regardless of where they were living and how things were going in their world, the Canmore Hutchings welcomed us with open arms. We golfed, walked, hiked, drank, ate, laughed, played, watched sports and whiled away countless hours at the kitchen table. From Lac Des Arcs to Railway Avenue to Cougar Court, the location was secondary to the love I felt from my Aunt and Uncle.

In the last several years, we did not spend nearly as much time together. Health issues, along with family dynamics and commitments combined to limit our contact. Regardless of the situation, however, I am so glad that we stayed in contact. I loved stopping in for lunch or poking around The Second Story. I loved watching him perform with the Pine Tree Players. It made me so happy to hear about the trips he and Auntie Heath made to B.C., the Maritimes and Maui. When I finally caved in and created a Facebook account, Uncle Hutch was one of my first friends who regularly commented (in his own inimitable fashion.)

The last time I saw Uncle Hutch was at the end of April. We went for lunch at the golf course and it was so great that we were joined by Kris and his daughter Maile. Uncle Hutch looked great and was at his absolute best - politically irreverent, excited about his involvement with the Pine Tree Players, reminiscing about Maui and doting on his beloved granddaughter. As I headed home with a colleague from school, I made note that it was really important for me to always take time to call or connect with my Uncle when we were in Canmore. To me, the greatest testament to his character has been the reaction to his passing. My boys were crestfallen. Anyone I know who spent time with Uncle Hutch has taken the time to contact me. He left a profound impact that is very clear in the kind phone calls, e-mails and messages I have received in the last few days.

My heart is heavy and my eyes are brimming. It is sad and tragic that my Uncle's heart could not extend his life. Perhaps it was too full of love, happiness and contentment.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Don't Get It



Note: This is an older piece of writing - probably one of my first forays into writing for pleasure. I think my style has changed in the last ten years, but this is still one of my favorite stories from the classroom and I hope you enjoy it.
In many ways, students who say "I don't get it" are a teacher's raison d'ĂȘtre. We help students to "get it," whether "it" refers to understanding the major events leading to Confederation or learning to cross the street safely. We need students to tell us when they do not understand a concept, because when they "don't get it" and don't tell us, major problems develop. Sometimes, student misconceptions provide much needed comic relief.
Several years ago, my Grade 7 class was studying First Nations culture. Specifically, we were discussing the importance of bison to the Blackfoot. In general, seventh grade boys are fascinated with killing things, so naturally, our discussion turned to the actual techniques of the buffalo hunt. Many students were aware of the importance of the buffalo jump—Dry Island Buffalo Jump is located less than an hour east of Red Deer and most of them had heard of the world-famous and (to them) well-named Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. I was dramatically demonstrating to the class how the hunt worked. I asked them to envision an enormous herd of beasts in full stampede while I rode behind them on my wild pony (actually, a metre-stick with a horse head duct taped to it). I explained that eventually the mighty bison would run out of prairie and plummet over the edge of the buffalo jump to a horrible death. Although my students were captivated by the drama and horror of the whole event, a hand shot up in the middle of my presentation.
"Yes, Kelly?" I said. I was ready to demonstrate my full understanding of this important part of Canada's cultural heritage, but I wasn't ready for the question that followed.
"I don't get it," Kelly said.
"Don't get what?" I asked, still ready, still eager, still wanting to dazzle.
"How would stampeding buffalo over a cliff kill them?"
"They fall a great distance to the ground, which caused serious injury or death," I replied.
"But, wouldn't the buffalo just fly?" he asked.
"No?!"
"But don't buffalo have wings?" he asked. "You know, buffalo wings?"
He was dead serious. Keep in mind that this was the mid 1990s, long before Jessica Simpson made the same, but much more publicized, mistake.
Like everyone else in our classroom, I was floored. Incredulous stares and shoulder shrugs filled the room. Finally, one of my more creative students said, "It's like a Bugs Bunny cartoon—this huge buffalo has tiny little wings that it flaps madly, but it can't fly." Somehow, Billy had an image in his head that buffalo couldn't possibly die because they had wings (which are tasty and come in different flavours). I tried to explain that Buffalo wings were actually chicken wings prepared according to a recipe that originated in Buffalo, New York. I'm not sure he "got it", but I tried.
As teachers, we really don't know what is going on in our students' heads. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why thinking aloud is such a powerful teaching strategy. Nonetheless, though I hear things like this every week, I've never forgotten the comic image of buffalo desperately flapping tiny wings as they flew over a cliff.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Being There


As a school administrator, I have many things to be thankful for. I love my job. Each day brings a new highlight, insight or challenge. I get to help people teach and learn. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be paid for the work I do.

This post, however, is about the time I spend away from school. At times, work does pull me away from home and my family. Overall, working in a school has allowed me the luxury of "being there." I get to be there to coach my children. I get to drive them to whatever activities they are involved in. Best of all, when my boys are not in school, I get to be there with them.

Our holidays are truly special times for our family. In the past year, we spent nearly 30 nights in our trailer. We went to the World Junior Hockey Championships. Most recently, we spent our spring break in Maui. The memories our family has created in the last year are incredible. I honestly cannot pin down a single defining moment because there have been too many highlights.

More than anything, traveling together has allowed our family the opportunity to spend quality time with one another. Camping, hiking, cycling, swimming, geocaching, beach walking, skiing, making fires, riding roller coasters, visiting huge cities, attending world class sporting events, boogie boarding, ziplining, snorkeling. Even though we have participated in so many unique activities, the things we have done are like individual frames that make up a powerful film.

The most incredible part of the time we have spent together is the chance to watch my boys change and grow up. When we traveled to Olympic National Park last summer, my older son was extremely tentative when it came to the ocean. He is cerebral and literal, so his impression of rip tides made him overly cautious on the beach. Even his first forays into Napili Bay and Big Beach met with mixed success. He got hammered by waves and developed a sand rash from playing in the water. By the end of our Hawaii trip, it was impossible to get him out of the water. Watching Connor don a snorkel and plunge into the ocean to swim with turtles made me proud in a way that is difficult to put into words.

Travelling with my younger son confirms exactly who he is - a gregarious risk taker, full of joy and adventure. From firing rocks into every body of water possible to diving headfirst into huge waves to picking up banana slugs on Whidbey Island to having supper with Dad at Hooter's, my boy is not afraid to try anything. Jeff is the type of person who loves to be around people as much as they love to be around them. He is so different from his brother, and so special in just as many ways.

It is not possible or realistic for us to spend all of our holidays away from home, and home time is equally important. We get the chance to read, to talk, to play games. Even doing things around the house and in the yard allows me to spend quality time with my family. When I think about my favorite childhood memories, I am drawn to a lake, a canoe and a fishing rod. More importanly, I think about camping with my mom, dad and sister. I think about our family's trips to Quebec City and Disneyland.

I am lucky to have a job that provides me with the financial means and the time to make so many memories. I can only hope that they resonate for my sons the way my childhood memories have remained with me.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Riding the Coaching Rollercoaster


I spend most of the winter (and a significant portion of my summer) in a hockey rink. It has been this way since I was seven years old and I would not trade it for anything. As I noted in The Game I Love, hockey is a huge part of who I am. For the past several years, I have not walked into the arena sporting only a bag slung over my shoulder and a stick in the other hand.

As a coach, I walk in with both hands full. Depending on the day and my reason for being there, I might carry a bag of pucks, my hockey stick, a mug of coffee, my coaching bag (skates, gloves, helmet), a black binder full of things I think I need but usually don't get to, a dry-erase marker, a white board, lost and found items from the last game or practice, fundraising forms and money, to name a few things.

The gear I bring to the rink has changed, but my reason for being there really has not. I love hockey. I don't come to the rink to win championships, pad my ego or live vicariously through my kids. I hope that every player I coach wants to play hockey for the rest of their life. I hope my players learn something about themselves. I hope they improve their skills and at the end of the season, I hope they miss our team because every team should be something special.

It takes courage to coach a team. Ultimately, a team's success reflects directly on its coach. I love the tongue in cheek adage "I coached great. The team played lousy!" However, it rarely plays out this way. Good coaches are willing to take all of the blame and deflect all of the praise. When things go poorly for a team, people want answers. I firmly believe that no one begins a game hoping to lose. Some days, the team is not good enough. Other days, the puck simply does not bounce the way it should. Occasionally, your team can do no wrong. The outcome of most games has little to do with what a coach puts into the game. As a season progresses, however, the success of the team has to reflect upon the coach. Even though a team's success (or lack therof) might have nothing to do with coaching, the coach ultimately faces questions, second guesses and criticism.

I am a teacher and I believe in teaching the game to my players. Basic skills take precedence over team tactics. I have coached every level from initiation to college and I can guarantee that any team capable of executing basic skills (skating, passing, shooting) at a high level of speed and accuracy will do well against any opponent. I know that there is usually an implementation dip or delayed reward, which means that most of my teams take a while to excel. For me, it's a worthwhile tradeoff because developing basic skills benefits all players.

Most of what I have addressed so far has to do with the science of coaching. I really believe that it is important for coaches to be able to pass on the correct techniques and skills to their players. That said, there is a definite art to coaching that cannot be overlooked. When I think of the best coaches I had in minor hockey, the thing that stands out is their ability to say the right thing at the right time.
Not only did they know how to make individual players feel good, they knew what to say to the team to motivate them. The lessons I learned from men like my dad, Rusty Climie and Gary Williams stick with me to this day. These men always mixed positive reinforcement with correction. Today, my approach to individual players and the entire team is always guided by these amazing role models. I was fortunate to have the best coaching of my hockey career when I was in Pee Wee and Bantam. The lessons I learned from those coaches have remained with me, not just in hockey, but in life.

The rewards of coaching are immense. When I hear young players call "Hi, Coach Ted" several years after I was their coach, it truly fills my heart. My basement is full of pictures, hockey sticks and cards signed by the teams I have coached. I have coached a few very successful teams and a few that could not find the formula for success. Regardless of a team's record, I look back on the memories from each season with great pleasure.

As much as I remember the great things, the not-so-great things stick with me, too. Coaching stays with a person. It can keep you up at night, distract you from your work and affect your personal life. At the worst of times, coaching makes selfless people question themselves. There is a downside that can be unsettling and heartbreaking.

The hockey season is drawing to a close, and I think it is really important to reach out to anyone who  gives their free time to coaching a team. I have been incredibly fortunate in Red Deer Minor Hockey to have amazing assistant coaches and managers. My opposing coaches have, with very few exceptions, been tremendous colleagues. If you have not already done so, take a moment to personally thank your team's coaches. They willingly get on a roller coaster three or four days a week and ask for nothing in return.