Coach’s Corner With Eric Riedstra
A math teacher, and graduate of Brock University, Riedstra currently coaches ice hockey and field hockey at Medway High School in London. In the past, Riedstra also coached basketball for Arthur Voaden Secondary School.
Recently, Riedstra coached his Medway girl’s hockey team to a TVRA city title, a WOSAA gold, and OFSAA bronze medal, and also won the TVRA title in field hockey the last two seasons.
Below are Eric Riedstra’s answers to CKSN’s Coach’s Corner questions:
1. What is your career coaching highlight/top memory?
I would have to say this past hockey season, where our girls team at Medway won the bronze medal at the AAA/AAAA OFSAA tournament. We finished the season with only two losses this year. While unfortunately one of them came in the semi-final at OFSAA, I couldn’t be more proud of this group of girls for the way they competed all season long. It is hard to imagine coaching another team that will work as tireless and relentlessly as these girls did while trying to achieve the lofty goals they set prior to the season. The most impressive thing about this season was the way they competed at the OFSAA tournament. At the worst possible time of the year, a flu went through our entire team while they were cooped up in hotel rooms in Sudbury – but not a single girl complained or made excuses. Not when they got sick before (and during) games, not when they were trying to keep food and fluids down, and not when they simply had nothing left to give. Our team wasn’t able to play their very best games of the year on the biggest stage, but they went out and gave absolutely everything they had, coming away with an amazing accomplishment: a bronze medal in the highest level of girls high school hockey competition in Ontario.
2. What is the biggest challenge you face as a coach?
I think the biggest challenge that any coach faces is keeping all of the players on your team motivated to perform their very best every time they are on the ice, field or court. We all like to think that a person can and will motivate themselves to perform, but not everyone can be so highly self-motivated all of the time. Motivation can be hard to come by in many situations: when a team is not finding success, when a team plays inferior competition, or when players are focused on issues outside their sport. But if you break it down, motivation is most often lost when players aren’t able to identify value in what they are doing.
3. Why did you get into coaching? And what keeps you coaching?
I got into coaching hockey because of my own experience playing throughout high school. Coaching basketball came along because the school I was teaching at had no one to coach the team, and students kept asking me to be a part of it (in spite of my protests that I had no idea how to coach a basketball team!). Getting involved with field hockey was initially a way to get to know some of the students who would be playing on my ice hockey team the following season. I thought “it kind of looks like a mix of hockey and soccer, how hard could that be?” Boy, was I wrong about that! It’s been a great experience though – the players were eager to learn a new sport, and I’ve worked with an exceptional coaching staff. Not only have I learned a lot about a sport I knew nothing about, but I’ve learned a great deal about coaching in general.
I continue coaching because the student athletes that I coach are so passionate about their sports. I love working with the other coaches involved with my teams, but nothing compares to ending each work day with such great groups of players that are eager to learn, compete and have a great time!
4. Who was your favourite coach? Why?
My favourite coach growing up was my high school hockey coach, Mr. Shane O’Donohue. He was great at keeping the game simple and enjoyable, and he made sure all of us understood our role and the value we brought to the team.
In terms of current coaches, my favourite has to be Mike Babcock. This is difficult to admit, as a Leafs fan, but I admire the way that Babcock builds his teams both in Detroit and for team Canada. He defines roles so well for his players, achieving maximum results from everyone on his teams. I also think he is exceptional at building consensus amongst his coaching staff. While he always takes ownership of his final decisions as head coach, he seems willing to take input from all possible sources before making his decisions.
5. If you could give one piece of advice to other coaches, or prospective coaches, what would it be?
If I could give one piece of advice to other prospective coaches, it would relate to motivating players. When it comes time to motivate players, a coach has a variety of ways to do this, and identifying when and how to push your players to succeed is no easy task. Most important in creating a team culture with intrinsic motivation is making sure every player knows and understands that they are valuable to the team. The most difficult role on any team is the player who gets less playing time than their peers, but has to be ready and able to go at a moment’s notice (often being cold from inactivity on the bench). The role of the “fourth line grinder” often comes with little fanfare, but these players are no less important to team success than the top scorers. Communicating with players, identifying their role and what makes them a valued part of their team, and establishing what they can do to earn an even bigger role in the future, will go a long way toward keeping players motivated and, ultimately, successful.
Coach’s Corner is a weekly feature on CKSN, where one local coach will be highlighted, answering questions about their career highlights, and their coaching philosophy. If you’d like to participate in coaches corner, or know a coach we should feature, email firstname.lastname@example.org.