CAO’s all new Empowering Stories from Behind the Bench – January 2022
“As a coach, the positive impact you have and leave on a young person’s life should be something way beyond the game. My feeling is that you’re in the wrong business, if it’s just about victories.”
By David Grossman
This might come as a surprise, maybe even a shock, but minor hockey coach Craig Campbell doesn’t count success by championship banners and trophies.
He might very well fit the description of the typical parent, caring for his family, offering fatherly advice, committed to doing what he can, dedicated, and so much more. But Campbell, when it comes to the important obligation in coaching, looks far beyond the wins and losses.
“Young people are impressionable and it gives people like me, coaches, a moral responsibility of going beyond the ice rink – offering sound advice that they will learn and, hopefully, put to good use in their lives,” said Campbell, who has coached 15 years in the Waterloo Minor Hockey Association.
There are many definitions of the word “coach”, but Campbell has a gift of stretching that term, to be more than just improving performance and maximizing the potential in the sport. He deals with youngsters, those adapting with a thirst for knowledge and others who may often think they’ve learned it all.
“As a coach, the positive impact you have and leave on a young person’s life should be something way beyond the game,” said Campbell. “My feeling is that you’re in the wrong business, if it’s just about victories.”
Campbell was also the recipient of the prestigious honor given to him by the Coaches Association of Ontario – the 2020 Ontario Coaching Excellence award as Male Grassroots Coach.
For him, coaching started like many others. He got hooked on the gig a few years after his son took to the ice for the first time.
“Call it parent involvement at the time, I had coached baseball and made a commitment to the Waterloo Wolves,” said Campbell, who has coaching credentials through Hockey Canada. “Look, I love to win and we all have a passion, but at the end of the day I want to know that my focus on kids is for the right reasons.”
Campbell knows all about societal responsibilities and public involvement. He is Executive Director of the Kitchener Rangers Community Fund, Rangers Reach. Coaching minors, Campbell is adamant that he returns his players to their families as better people.
“Improvement is not only in skill and hockey development, but there is an obligation to educate these young people by opening them to opportunities with teammates and others,” he said.
Respect, accountability and community are key words emphasized by Campbell to every member of his team. Players are involved in a variety of community events including trips to volunteer at local food banks.
“As a hockey coach, I know there are always challenges for kids who, often, do things in their own way and seem to be empowered with their mobile devices,” he said. “At the end of the day, I do what’s best for 17 players, not one. If I have a chance to deliver key messages, I will deliver them. I also have no hesitation telling parents that, too.”
While the dynamics of many things have changed, and keep changing, that also goes for hockey and coaching. Campbell knows his players are not getting drafted right away to the National Hockey League.
“As a coach, it should not be about one player and, yes, there are always exceptions,” he added. “We build positive relationships that have a bigger impact on a young person than trophies and banners.”
Campbell likes to share his story of the “bubble gum bucket” that goes with the team from arena to arena. It’s about accountability, performance and more. Players know if they have given their best, they get to dip in to the canister.
“It‘s also about awareness and they learn a great deal about themselves,” he said. “To make decisions and to be aware of how they have done, experiences and learn more about commitment and life.”
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.
“My feeling is that you’re in the wrong business, if it’s just about victories.”
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