Monday, September 30, 2013

Getting Ready for Memphis

Finding my old UNB scribbler... "lotsa work to do!"
Happy to say that my previous blog title, "Jumping Off the Ivory Tower", followed by a tough blowout loss did not lead to my jumping off any tall buildings (besides the $230.00/month apartment rental, the best part of not living in New York is how this is much easier to avoid). The score line was... "what it was" and I knew we might be in trouble in warm up. On a night we lost 8-1, it is hard to believe there was a moment that we were up 1-0. As for the atmosphere... the fans didn’t stop the whole game. Even harder to believe is that in Kentucky, it was on a night when we lost badly, I was involved in some of the best atmosphere I have ever seen as a coach. No exaggerating!

It was still tough on the ego despite the great noise from our fans. By time I was licking my wounds on Sunday, I had the sound off the TV watching NFL football. I had plenty of time and much to reflect upon last Sunday. In my "real job", class discussions have focused a lot on lately on how recruiting impacts coaching as a whole no matter what the sport is. I can only say that I buried my soul into the 5 weeks leading into the first game. The best part has been re-finding my UNB scribbler (the same scribble I found after 18 months in storage in Massachusetts last year). Mike Johnston's PHE 2283 class still has some "cutting edge" stuff in it that a lot of coaches still haven't picked up on 20 years later. We'll continue to work with what we've got: Good kids who work hard.

I am also happy to note that, despite the insanity of my schedule last week, I was able to get my second year self-evaluation porfolio done and handed in on time on Friday. My portfolio can be summed up in one word: "Grateful". It doesn't take re-reading my blog for some of the hidden meanings in my past writings to know this. However, I do think the current Volleyball Graduate Assistant summed it all up better than any thank you message I received and included in my portfolio: Great to be a Colonel!

Speaking with hashtags is a new thing these days when communicating on Twitter. While it would be nice to #beatmemphis, I am merely hoping for a great weekend. Practice tonight, dry land tomorrow night, and a big practice on Wednesday before getting ready for travel on Friday. If the guys are as ready as their coach, it should be a great weekend. The process continues.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Jumping Off "The Ivory Tower" and Back into Coaching

36 hours until the return of Coach Joel
Where was it? Somewhere around the time I was walking back from the market one day in 2012 during the the cold winter of Ottawa and I said, “It’s time to get back to our passion… coaching hockey.” I missed New York (still do) and it was my focal point for a long time, but when it failed to come back into my life, I knew the logical step.

But first, there was an adventure still yet to happen since I last wrote on here. By time Neil Diamond’s “Spring became the summer” in 2012, I needed a full-time position and the interview tour of United States began in April. Still being wrongly labeled in my career (not in writing), late in the summer of 2012 there were some changes that happened in my previous place of employment allowing for my name to be cleared. After 9 campus visits, there was only interview left. With my name finally cleared, I got an offer on the table during the interview from Eastern Kentucky University.

And so I went to Kentucky, and with much relief, back on the tenure track. Knowing my story, some may say getting a tenure track position was a comeback. I am not so sure. As aspiring writers, we all search for superlatives when the conversation turns to extraordinary deeds involving comebacks (paraphrasing here... loved that line by a writer* describing the 1999 Treble won by Manchester United). In sport, a big part of my life, I recall the cold-eyed overtime winning instinct of the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, the aforementioned Manchester United’s never-say-die comeback in 1999, and the Pownal Red Devils, the never-say-die hockey team I coached to an Atlantic Championship in 2004; recalling each and every one of these instances often gives me hope that anything is possible. The doctoral dissertation to finally capture my Ph.D. was a personal solitary battle but it didn’t involve coming from behind the way I did. From now I will also recall the day I got the job offer at EKU but only knowing it wasn't a comeback as it swept beyond the limitations of that term. It was a resurrection. But I wasn’t finished, yet.

Socially, it was a tough first year in Kentucky. Culture shock aside, anywhere after New York living was going to be an adjustment. In my effort to avoid going stale, more comebacks have come along. And keeping that promise I made to myself on that cold winter's day, I am now back pursuing my passion again as the Head Coach of the Eastern Kentucky University club hockey team... the same level I coached when I began this blog in 2005. Besides my usual teaching at the undergrad level, I am now also teaching graduate classes in Marketing and Finance. Things that just wouldn’t have happened without my time in New York. In an epic battle, you don't look for external rewards through other people or careers. But what a reward I was giving in 2010. Interesting that I have been indirectly invited me back to teach a class next summer in Massachusetts. I plan on writing this all down. It’s probably a best seller... under a pseudo author name!

The thing that I forgot about coaching? Time consumption was known ahead of time. So it wasn’t the drives to the rink, the practice planning, the late hours or even the dedication to recruiting. It was how it consumes your soul. I totally forgot since my last game in New Mexico in 2006 just how much coaching hockey was part of my “raison d’etre”.

Besides the renewed passion, the one thing that I am liking about coaching 7 years later? Group communication much simpler now (group text to let people know practice time changes much better than a "phone tree") and teaching hockey systems with a classroom with access to youtube and instructional graphics. How did I not do this before?

So I am back officially tomorrow behind the bench, yes, a midnight Saturday game, back behind the bench and back on this blog getting ready for EKU Vs. Cincinnati. Hopefully finding that hope and beauty... not at a New York City piano bar but in a ice hockey rink in Lexington.

*James Lawton Daily Express as quoted via