When it comes to coaching minor hockey, experience isn’t always a matter of age. For Breslau’s Kyle Holtom, not being far removed from the system helps him show the ropes to kids in Woolwich Minor Hockey.At 29, he’s one of half a dozen coaches involved in the league even though they don’t have kids in the system. He falls into a minority in coaching ranks made up mostly of players’ parents and family members.
He doesn’t have kids of his own playing, but has other motivations for getting involved.
“You’re really a role model for these guys. When I signed up to be a coach, I was just hoping to be behind the bench and run the lines and be there as a volunteer. However, you really become close with the kids. The most enjoyable, important part for me is that I’m able to be a role model for them and have them look up to me almost like an older brother. They’re only 12, so they are not really that far away in age group,” said the coach of the boys’ PeeWee AE rep team.
In his second year as coach in the division, Holtom has noticed many changes since he was a Kitchener Star (now Junior Rangers) playing through the Midget level. He said younger coaches can sometimes assist in bringing new ideas into the league.
“The hitting has been taken out of the PeeWee loop and a lot of times what happens is, practice plans kind of stay the same. I think with the rules changing and with the way the players are brought up, what they expect from a coach has changed. Younger coaches are able to bring in a new voice and bring in new practice plans.
“There’s basically not too much of an age gap between myself and them, so from my point of view it’s very easy to empathize with them because I was there not that long ago.”
In Holtom, WMHA president Rob Waters sees a positive connection to the far reaches of the township.
“We really like to get young former players to give back, take a team and coach in our association. It’s great to get young guys involved, they are not that far removed – they played the game,” he said this week.
It seems having a child on the team is not the only motivating factor among coaching volunteers, and Waters says it’s good to see that young former hockey players are still dedicated to the sport and the community.
After a long day at work it’s not uncommon for Holtom to spend hours working on game plans for the team, his dedication as a coach stemming from the positive influence of his own past coaches and mentors, said his wife, Alana Holtom.
“Almost every day he is either at the rink coaching, at home in Breslau working on game plans, or muddling through the vast amount of league-required administrative tasks. It is a commitment of time, but also a labour of love. The 12- and 13-year-old boys on his team adore him.”
Most minor hockey coaches, he said, would say the job has many rewards, whether staying for their kids or a pure love of the game. His most important goal is to contribute a fresh outlook and help players improve.
“The international teams seem to be getting better and better and Canadian teams are kind of staying put. I think the new coaches that are going to be assisting with getting our players to be better and to become better as a nation within hockey. I’m happy I’ve put my time and effort into it. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”