More than a coach
by Kelsey Chadwick
Without a coach, any sport is difficult. It’s a coach’s job to teach an athlete how to perfect their sport, and while there may not be a lack of coaches, there’s usually a lack of great coaches. Great coaches will not only teach you about a sport but they will inspire you to be a better person. Mount Royal’s men’s hockey team was fortunate enough to acquire one of those great coaches last season when Jean LaForest stepped in behind the bench.
Now, LaForest is in his second season as head coach and has received the honour of ACAC men’s hockey coach of the year, chosen by his peers. “It’s extremely rewarding and it’s an honour because they see you work from day to day,” explained LaForest. “It’s not based on your win-loss record; they get to see us in action from the beginning of the season to the end.”
his coaching peers in the ACAC but is also highly respected by his players. Gaining respect and connecting to young student athletes can be difficult, yet LaForest’s team seems to agree that he has a certain charisma about him that makes it easy to follow his style of hockey.
“The presence about him, it makes you lead and makes you focus on your own personal goals,” explained Ernie Stewart, a fourth-year veteran.
“Definitely one of the strongest coaches I’ve had.”
One can only assume that coaching is a difficult thing, especially
at a competitive level, and many coaches focus strictly on the game and winning. Other coaches, like LaForest focus on bettering the team both on and off the ice.
“I challenge my guys, not to just be better athletes but better students and better people by being part of our program,” he explained.
“I don’t know if a lot of programs
have that goal in mind, but I like that multi-faceted approach
where it’s a process and we’re creating better people.”
There is also the obstacle of coaching at a scholarly level where the players and coaching staff have to incorporate academics
as well as power plays and penalty kills.
Academics aren’t something LaForest takes lightly as he himself has a bachelor’s degree in both sociology and kinesiology
from McMaster University in Hamilton Ont, as well as a bachelor’s degree in education and a masters of arts and science degree in coaching from the University of Western Ontario.
“He’s always checking up on us and seeing how we are doing,”
said Jordon Harrison, first-year forward.
“If we aren’t doing well he makes us pull up our weight.”
LaForest has coached with several
teams throughout Canada and the United States, including
an assistant coaching job with the University of Western Ontario, head coach at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and head coach with the WPHL Shreveport Louisiana.
While he seems to enjoy his field of work and knows that coaching is what he wants to do with his career, he does believe that in some way the field of coaching chose him.
“It’s a personality thing; it’s a good fit. Coaching is what I like but I’ve got some attributes that obviously lend themselves for being successful in the coaching realm,” he said.
“I’m just thankful that I get to go to a job everyday that I enjoy. It’s not something I have to labour
myself to show up; I want to be there.”
This year, the men’s hockey squad finished with an impressive
21-5-0-2 record before heading
into the playoffs. They also had an 84 per cent penalty kill rate and scored 22 more goals than last season.
The team was currently in a best of five series with Concordia College. With Concordia is leading
two games to nothing at the time of publication.
Yes this season has been a successful one on the ice but LaForest doesn’t just measure success by his player’s performances
but how they conduct themselves in the community. With a goal to guide and inspire his players, there is no doubt that LaForest is more than just a hockey coach; he’s a strong role model as well.
“I hope that they gain something
valuable, yes athletically but more than that,” he said.
“I would be disappointed in our student athletes if our program
simply looked at it as an athletic venture; really it’s a personal
process that encompasses a lot more than athletics.”