“It was just time,” said Fitzpatrick, who will retain a position as general manager while the league undergoes reconstruction. “I found last year, with my travel schedule with work and other commitments, it was a drain.”
Rob Way, assistant coach for the 2012-2013 season, is stepping into the position, and Fitzpatrick said he’s the right man for the job.
“The biggest thing I saw him bring this year was his enthusiasm,” said Fitzpatrick. “I’ve known Rob for a long time. We played Junior B together – that’s a long time ago. He really wanted to take over as head coach … and I think he’ll do a great job. He knows the system, he knows what the team is about.”
“It was a very participatory coaching staff,” said Rob Way. “Kevin was always seeking input and allowed me free reign working with the defensemen.
Fitzpatrick intends to remain as GM while the Ontario Hockey Association realigns the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League to merge with the equivalent from Niagara District. Next season, the Jacks will play in a division with teams from Delhi, Norwich, Woodstock, Paris, Ayr, Tavistock, and New Hamburg.
“That’s going to be a huge change for us, and the local rivalry with New Hamburg should be interesting,” said Fitzpatrick.
Way spent years prior to his association with the Jacks coaching Waterloo Minor Hockey, and the past year has prepared him for the Junior league’s new challenges.
“The biggest thing to understand is, these kids at this point in life have other things – university, home, girlfriends,” said Way. “When they’re in minor hockey when they’re growing up, they’re pretty focused on hockey and that sort of life. As they get older and they get to college or university, that’s a juggling act for them.
Not that it’s always a challenge. Currently finalizing the rest of his coaching staff, Way is using last year’s positive experiences to outline goals for the 2013-2014 season.
“We want to continue to bring in great quality kids,” Way said. “We had a great dressing room atmosphere last year, and I really believe you can take a bunch of kids who get along really well and have a common goal, and as a total make them better than they might be individually.
“We really did a lot of that last year, and I think we need to build on that this year.”
Pushing students to swim, bike and run for glory, the Tinman Triathlon is a time-honoured tradition at Elmira District Secondary School. Organizers are gearing up again for May 28.
“We’re still getting entries in, but we are hoping to have about the same as last year, which was about 450 [students],” said EDSS phys ed. teacher Laurie Murray.The event will make use of the pool at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. After that, athletes will move to a transition area at the back of the WMC before riding their bikes along Snyder Avenue to the Kissing Bridge Trail. Cyclists will make a right turn and ride to Northfield Avenue before turning around and racing to Floradale Drive and back to the WMC. Participants then drop their bikes and start to race on foot starting from Snyder Avenue, past Sugar King Drive and Bluebird Place, then to First Street and Barnswallow Drive and Lions Park. The racers will circle back and end the race on the EDSS home field.
Last year EDSS hosted 18 different schools from Waterloo and Wellington counties for the one-day event consisting of a 375-metre swim, a 15-km bike ride and a 5-km run.
EDSS students fared well last year, with a junior boys second-place triathlon winner (Brandon Berchtold) coming in at 1:04:22 and a fifth place in the senior boys category (Keith Weber) at 1:05:21. For the girls senior Jenny Norris took sixth place clocking in at 1:14:02, and in the triathlon relay category, EDSS students Keenan Courtis, Morgan McPhee and Matt Bannon clocked in at 52:44 taking first place.
“We’re the only ones crazy enough to run it,” Murray joked when asked why EDSS hosts the event every year.
“In the country, there is not as much traffic, I think that’s part of it. It’s easier to get a permit for it when you are in a smaller town and the fact that we have the Kissing Bridge Trail just down the road is one of the reasons we get the permit for it because the bikers are not on the streets.”
As for the training involved, Murray said some students are more serious about the competition than others.
“A lot of kids do relay so they only have to do one of the events. But the kids that do the full thing, many of them train fairly hard for it. I know that some of them are already coming to the pool every morning, or to practice before their event on lunch hours,” she said.
The students and staff participants are split into categories ranging from junior girls and boys singles, staff singles and junior and senior girls singles. There are also junior and senior boys and girls relay teams that compete in single events, an open mixed relay for both boys and girls and a staff relay team. First place winners in each category receive medals, and ribbons are given out to teams finishing in the second to sixth places.
The event is also promoted through a video linked to the EDSS website. Created by students Tyler Seguin and Scott Carerre, it shows an EDSS athlete going through the motions before and during the competition.
The Elmira Sugar Kings’ new head coach got a good look at some young players with a shot at making the team next season, as the hockey club held its spring prospect camp at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
Four squads of 20 prospects took to the ice throughout the day on April 20 and April 21 while coaching staff looked on. For new head coach Jeff Flanagan, the goal is to find players who work well together and exhibit key skills.
“The best players come in any shape or form. We’re looking for players that, number one, are the best personality types for the Sugar Kings organization and really want to be a member of the Sugar Kings. And, second, we’re looking for players, both forwards and defence, that have various skills, from being scorers or great passers to players who are not afraid to go into tough areas to be successful,” he said.After a first-round exit from the playoffs to cap the 2012-13 season, with losses largely chalked up to a slew of late-season injuries, the Kings execs chose Flanagan to lead the charge next fall. He is looking for determination and a team attitude in prospective players who showed up to the camp. As well, staff are looking to scout during future tournament games.
So far coaches have a ghost roster of 18 possible returning players, some of whom are still sorting out their plans for post-secondary education and other options, Flanagan said.
On the ice over the weekend staff were presented with a large number of younger players. The prospect camp invites players from the 1997 birth year (16-years-old) up to and including 20-year-olds who may have played for Junior C teams in previous years. But the large turnout of the youngest players will make the decision tough on both coaching staff and Sugar King hopefuls.
“Some of them were OHL draft picks, some of them were free agents and unfortunately for us at our level we are only allowed to sign two 16-year-olds, so it’s a very difficult position,” Flanagan said.
Coaches also saw a lot of potential talent that might be gracing the ice this coming season, most of it coming from the area, including Woolwich, Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph.
Flanagan added, “We definitely saw some players who could end up playing in our league, either for the Sugar Kings or another team this year, and definitely some players who we’ll keep our eye on for next year. It makes our decision extremely hard, but it’s also good to know that we’ve got a lot of talent to choose from and talent that’s going to be available for the future.”
With 18 eligible returning players it’s too early to tell what form the team will take, and coaches are going to take their time making difficult decisions on the right players.
A number of standouts from last weekend were invited to the Sugar Kings’ main camp in August. In the meantime, the team’s scouts will be attending a number of upcoming tournaments in search of prospects.
All prospective players, new and returning, were instructed to come to camp in top shape, as the coaching staff will be expecting them to work hard, whether they’re fighting for a spot on the team or working to retain one.
“That keeps everybody on their toes and hopefully striving to be the best they can be.”
Flanagan was happy with what he saw last weekend.
“We’re glad to see that there’s going to be some tough decisions for us, because it shows the talent of our local players and looks to be a good future on the way.”
More EDSS athletes are shaking off the winter’s inactivity after soccer took off for both girls and boys this week. As coaches work toward a good start to the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletics Association games, they will be working on different aspects of the game respectively.
A relatively young team on the girls’ side will have coaches focusing on skill-building and teamwork, while a strong showing of senior players for the boys has coaches setting their sights higher at WCSSAA.
“We have a fairly young team so I think it will certainly be a building season,” said Lisa Bauman one of the coaches of the girls’ team.
“There are a few girls returning from previous years but we have a lot of new Grade 9s that are joining this year.”Girls had their first WCSSAA game on April 17 against Eastwood Collegiate.
EDSS lost 1-0 when Eastwood managed to score late in the game.
Neither team had opportunity to participate in exhibition games prior to WCSSAA due to scheduling conflicts, Bauman said. But in going straight to the regular season this year, coaches are seeing good numbers, with about 18 players on the girls’ team and the same expected on the boys’ roster. Encouraged by last year’s results, boys’ coaches are hoping for a strong showing after the last cuts on April 16.
Last year’s team went undefeated in the regular season, said boys’ head coach Gord Maier, but the EDSS boys finally fell in the playoffs. This year the team is going into the competition with a solid core of senior players, he added.
“This is my first year coaching the school team, [though] I’ve coached locally before. Last year we had a very strong season but until we start playing we’re not exactly sure what we are going to be facing out there. I’m hoping for a winning season, a positive time with the kids.”
An EDSS boys’ team was added to the original schedules posted by WCSSAA after Maier and a parent volunteer agreed to take over coaching duties this week following a strong student demand for the sport.
“It was a very late start. We had a parent volunteer step up and then I got asked to help out and I kind of volunteered at the last minute. We had the kids asking and I wanted to make it happen for them,” he said.
The first game for the boys took place at RIM Park against Galt Collegiate Institute on April 18, with a first home game scheduled for May 2. The girls host Preston High School on April 24 at Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Fans of the Elmira Sugar Kings will recall that our local GOJHL team shares with the Listowel Cyclones a rivalry nearly as dramatic and eternal as that of Valjean and Javert. Now, bearing that in mind, a question for Jeff Flanagan, the Elmira team’s newly-minted coach: is transitioning from being coach of the Cyclones to the coach of the Kings a challenge?
“It is a little bit, because with the Cyclones, we certainly built a rivalry, and the players and coaches really get onboard with it,” laughed Flanagan. “Essentially, they’ve been attacking each other for years upon years, right?”
But for Flanagan – who is stepping into departing coach Dean DeSilva’s shoes for the Elmira team’s 2013-14 season – to focus on such saber-rattling misses the point. “Both are excellent organizations. I’ve been around, and in Canada and the U.S., they’re two of the best organizations that I’ve seen from a management standpoint and community support.”
And, over the years, Flanagan has certainly accumulated enough hockey experience to make that judgment with authority. Prior to serving a year with the Cyclones, Flanagan led the Guelph Hurricanes and the University of Guelph’s Gryphons men’s hockey team. He also led hockey clubs in Johnstown and Italy.
“When you’re a player, you’re predominately focused on your own skills,” said Flanagan. “From a coaching perspective, we are responsible for 20 to 25 players at a time.
“We’re dealing with skill development, but we’re also dealing with the personal lives of the players, and helping them out – issues at schools, career paths, and any issues they might have. It’s certainly a bigger job on the mental side.”
All those games across from the Kings have given Flanagan opportunity to study the Elmira team. While Flanagan and his newly-selected assistant coach, Matt Desmeules, are early in the process, some goals have already been outlined.
“I think we’ll have to find some more scoring to replace Brady Campbell and Jake Weidner,” said Flanagan, referring to last year’s top-scorers, both drafted by the NCAA. “I’m excited to work with some of the leaders that are coming up. … Just focusing on the team aspect, and making sure we have the right players that are all-in on being Sugar Kings, being the best that they can be.”
Turning a hockey player into a Sugar King is the job of an effective coach. What are some of the other qualities that a good hockey coach needs to have?
“Obviously, they need to know the game, and be able to adjust in an in-game situation,” said Flanagan. “I also think that communication is certainly one of the biggest things that a coach needs to have.
“They need to be able to get to know the players – what kind of personalities they have, what kinds of things motivate them, and how to communicate with them to achieve their goals. There are a lot of situations where players might not be playing as they should be, and a coach needs to manage those in a positive manner and help them see where they can be better. Also, when they do things well, there needs to be recognition.”
Flanagan’s first opportunity for praise and guidance will come at the team’s annual prospects camp, at which aspiring players will try to convince coaching staff they’ve got what it takes to be Sugar Kings. The application period closed April 10, and those who applied on time will hit the ice on April 20 at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.
Though teachers’ unions have officially dropped the job action that killed extracurricular activities for most of the school year, the return to regular after-school schedules has been slow. Many students have seen their favourite sports go by the wayside, with no hope of reclaiming the season.That is not the case for all local students, however, as four brimming teams of Elmira’s high school badminton players (eight players each for junior and senior girls and boys) prepare for the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association (WCSSAA) games.
“This year we have a full team. I’ve been coaching this now for about 15 years and this is the first time where I’ve had a totally full slate, which is fantastic. It’s a great response from the students,” said badminton coach Mark Carlin.
Though this is by far the largest EDSS turnout in many years, Carlin is not surprised to have a full roster of 16 junior and 16 senior players this season.
“Because the extracurriculars were not running there was sort of a pent-up demand. When we did finally offer this we got a very big response.”
There are other differences from previous years, he added. Despite students flocking for the chance to get on the court, there were no opportunities to set up matches between schools. Instead, competition this season is reserved for the WCSSAA games starting April 8 and April 9 for juniors and seniors respectively.
“Normally we would have a few mini-meets with other schools, but we didn’t get that organized as a county this year so we’ve only been practicing and playing amongst ourselves.”
Badminton remains the only WCSSAA-scheduled sport so far, with 15 schools participating at Conestoga College in Kitchener. The finals are taking place at Huron Heights Collegiate Institute April 11.
Though many students on the team are avid badminton players returning from previous seasons, others can agree that any sport is better than no school sports at all.
“Because the sports were cancelled, a lot of people were eager to join the team,” said EDSS student Victoria Frey.
Carlin’s teams began practice three weeks before the March Break holiday and have been meeting after school for a total of six weeks.
“I would say we have a few teams that we’re going to be entering, doubles teams that should do quite well, should go fairly deep into the draw,” Carlin said of his teams.
After an up-and-down season that saw the Sugar Kings off the ice after the first round of GOJHL playoffs, changes are underway for the Elmira team’s coaching staff.
Dean DeSilva, who served as head coach for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, will move to the Kitchener Minor Hockey Association for 2013-14, where he will coach the Midget Minor AAA team. General manager Paul Jennings and director of hockey operation Keith Stewart are seeking applicants for the head coach position.“Dean’s a good coach. We’re making a coaching change – he’s taken on another job … but Dean was good. He worked hard,” said Stewart.
“Things didn’t work out, it was time for a change maybe, and we’re going to see what happens going forward.”
The team’s staff is accepting applications until April 10, with more details available at the Kings’ website.
“Our general manager, Paul Jennings, is doing some interviews over the next couple of weeks, and we’d like to have somebody in place by our rookie camp,” said Stewart, referring to the Kings’ April 21 spring prospects camp.
After a stint coaching the Waterloo Siskins Junior B team, DeSilva joined the Sugar Kings as head coach in May 2011, replacing Geoff Haddaway. Previously, DeSilva was on the Elmira team’s staff in 2007 as an assistant coach.
DeSilva, who was absent from the team’s awards banquet on March 23, declined to explain the circumstances behind his departure, but had warm words for the team.
“The reaction I’ve received from the players, who have all contacted me since that announcement, certainly touched me more than those players will ever know,” DeSilva said. “And it shows really how much of an impact we have on these young men, as coaches and mentors and parents.”
He added of the team, “They’ve got tremendous values, tremendous character, tremendous work ethic. … This team has probably had more impact on me personally, in a good way, than any other team I’ve had.”
“Dean did a good job,” added Stewart. “He did everything that was asked of him.”
With negotiations at a stalemate between teachers’ unions and the Ontario government, it seems increasingly likely that Waterloo Region elementary school students will not see extracurricular activities return this year. However, that didn’t stop a parent at Floradale Public School from launching his own after-school basketball team for students in Grades 6, 7 and 8.
But Eric Schwindt, the parent who spearheaded the initiative, is disappointed that the Waterloo Region District School Board hasn’t offered more of a helping hand.
“They weren’t in a hurry to encourage us, because they were afraid of offending the teachers’ union. They asked me, ‘Oh, give us one more week,’ ‘Give us a couple more weeks,’ ‘We think there’s something coming down, peace might be made.’ And obviously, nothing came down the pipeline, and eventually we went ahead.”He added, “They’re taking a hands-off approach. They don’t want any responsibility. Instead of trying to facilitate these types of activities … they’re trying to just not do anything.”
After much negotiation, Schwindt belatedly launched an after-school basketball program at the end of January. On Mondays at 3:45 p.m., an average of 12 to 13 students participated in basketball drills and scrimmages in the Floradale PS gymnasium, which Schwindt was able to rent on a non-sanctioned community group basis. Scheduled to run for five weeks, the program was cut to four because of a snow day.
“My approach was: even a five-week season is better than nothing,” said Schwindt. “In a rural school, we don’t have the options that a lot of city students do.”
Schwindt was encouraged by the appreciative response from fellow parents.
“Parents were very supportive,” he said. “I had a lot of ‘thank you for organizing’ comments, and I think with more lead time there would have been more parents willing to be involved.”
As he indicates, however, this was something of a one-man operation, with Schwindt paying out of pocket to rent the gymnasium from the school. He remains disappointed that the school board wasn’t cooperative.
“I’m very disappointed that there was no attitude of, ‘How can we work together?’ It was very much, ‘We’re hands off,’” said Schwindt.
Barring an unexpected breakthrough in province/union negotiations, Schwindt intends to continue the program next year, hoping that with a successful model in place and more lead time, he will be able to organize more volunteers and activities for September. Another hope is to set up exhibition games with teams from non-WRDSB schools, such as St. Teresa in Elmira.
Still, it must be said: the teachers are protesting for a reason. Extracurriculars are important to the student experience, but non-sanctioned volunteer groups like Schwindt’s weaken teachers’ bargaining position. How does Schwindt reconcile these two realities?
“I think the teachers’ unions have got to decide about extracurricular activities: either it’s part of their job description, or it’s not,” he said.
“If it is part of their job description, they’re taking full paycheques – let’s start offering these programs again. Or if it’s not … why would they be offended if other people offer up volunteer hours?”
If you ask three Elmira doctors how they won this year’s invitational curling tournament, they’d tell you that they’ve been a stone’s throw away from the trophy for years.
“Our particular team, we’ve come in second for about three or four years in a row so we were due to win it, just a matter of time and this is our year,” joked Dr. Scott Morlock of the Elmira Medical Centre this week.
The four-man team from Elmira is part of the annual Dr. Jim Stevens Invitational Bonspiel organized by and the Kitchener-Waterloo Academy of Medicine. This year with one team member out of the running, it was up to doctors Scott Morlock, Frank Onuska and John Craig to sweep in the first place trophy for the first time in the Elmira team’s history.Despite claiming bragging rights and the impressive trophy, the tournament is more about fun than showcasing the players’ prowess, said Onuska.
Organized by a retired surgeon Dr. Jim Stevens, the tournament has drawn area doctors to hit the ice for more than 30 years of friendly competitions, with some participants more experienced in the art of curling than others.
Morlock is a veteran curler at the Westmount Curling Club in Waterloo, while Onuska and Craig play loyally once a year at the tournament. This year the team name will be added to the trophy that saw six teams compete.
It just goes to show that not even blistering cold and brutal snowfalls can keep the Woolwich Gymnastics Club away from the ol’ bars and beams. On March 2 and 3, the girls travelled to Niagara Falls to compete in the annual Lightning by the Falls Invitational competition. This was the first competition of the year for most of the girls, and judging by how many medals they accumulated, the falls certainly shed no tears.
For head coach Maria Code, competition season (lasting roughly January to May) is when the many hours of hard work pay off.“They’ve been training since September, six hours a week,” said Code. “They’re there every week, throughout Christmas and the breaks, getting ready for their competitions. That’s what they look forward to every year.”
The awards garnered last week include: 1st place on beam and 3rd on bars for Madelyn Halstead; 3rd place on bars for Fiona Bevan; 2nd place on bars for Kara Dietrich; 2nd place on vault and 3rd all around for Camryn Goodall; 3rd place on vault, bars, beam and floor for Shawntanna Atkinson; 3rd place on floor for Alison Saulesleja; 1st place on beam for Natalie Mayer; 3rd place on bars and all around for Kayla Frey; 2nd place on vault for Trinity Barnes, and 1st on vault and beam for Julia Code.
And, in case that wasn’t enough hardware, the Level 3 team walked away with a 2nd place team award.
That’s plenty of work for girls ranging from ages 7 to 14. Are they easy to work with? “They’re girls,” laughed Code. “They’re a lot of fun to work with. We have our days, but they try hard, they work hard, they’re focused when they’re in the gym and they’re a great bunch of girls.”
Aside from its obvious recreational pleasures, the sport offers plenty of practical benefits to the up-and-coming grade-school athlete.
“Gymnastics is a huge foundational sport. It works on your strength, it works on your balance, it works on your coordination, and grows motor skills.”
She continued, “So many kids do it at such a young age because it helps them develop into other sports as well. They can always be stronger and more flexible, and that’s beneficial for any sport, not just gymnastics.”
For the Woolwich Gymnastics Club, the next stop is Orangeville, where they will hit the beams for a competition April 26-27.