Saskatoon coach from Ochapowace named Coach of the Year
- Chelsea Laskowski | June 03, 2018
Hockey has been good to Courage Bear, so he’s good to it. That’s the driving force behind the Ochapawace-raised Saskatoon man’s decision to coach not one, but three teams this year.
Bear coaches the city’s Bantam Flyer Warriors, Midget AAA Contacts, and is a coach taking Team Sask to the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in early May.
The mentality behind Bear’s current coaching schedule is two-fold: as a parent coach for two teams, he said he’d be in the arena anyways to support his kids and if he has something to offer he might as well get involved, and as a non-parent coach he said “I owe it to the game.”
This year the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association (SMHA) is naming Bear the city’s Coach of the Year. By virtue of that win, he is up for nomination at the provincial level later this year. The SMHA win had nothing to do with how many wins Bear’s teams tally up, said the association’s executive director Kelly Boes. Parents of kids on Courage’s teams made a large number of submissions to support his win.
“What they almost all speak to is how much of a good, positive influence he is about life, not just hockey, but general life. And being a positive role model and being there for the kids on and off the ice,” Boes said.
Bear moved to Saskatoon for university long ago, and he started his 13-plus years of coaching because he always enjoyed working with kids. He cares about his players, asking them how they are doing in school and what they want to do in life, he said.
“At the end of the day you’re just coaching people and they want to be treated as people,” he said. “X’s and O’s are part of it, and strategy and tactical stuff are all part of it, but unless your kids you coach believe you care about them as a person then they’re not going to perform at their optimal state.”
The time he invests in his players pays back, as they keep in touch with him when they get older, going from being athletes to becoming his friends. Some stop by to visit with Bear when they’re in the city, or he keeps up with them from afar on social media.
“If an individual had success obviously they had lots of influences in their life, but hopefully you had some sort of a lasting impact in a positive way,” Bear said.
Bear received his SMHA honour on April 24 at the association’s annual general meeting. As a man who credits his ability to do what he does to his supportive partner and workplace, where he knows leaving work early for practice or a game is alright and that his partner will cart his kids around when he’s away, Bear was not ready to be in the spotlight. He describes his reaction to going up on stage to be recognized as “sheepishly embarrassed.”
He said the coaching he does comes because of the mentors and positive influences he’s had in hockey over the years and doesn’t want to take sole credit for the work he does now.
In fact, he said he is constantly learning, not just from coaches, but from the very athletes he works with on a daily basis.