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A Goalie Gives Back

By Mike Toth

There are pros and cons to most things in life. Believe it or not, that's even true about a world-wide pandemic.

The pros?

With COVID-19 shutting down a lot of activities humans once took for granted, at least we have plenty of time to sit and think.

The cons?

With so much time on our hands, we spend way too much time sitting around and thinking.

So, decide for yourself if the following thought belongs in the pro or con file - a thought that's been rolling around in my head for awhile.

When did kids sports become a money-making enterprise?

Paid coaches, elite programs and private lessons have become a huge staple of youth sports.

  • Hired guns coaching two or three teams at the same time so they can actually make a living coaching a bunch of kids.

  • Elite programs and private sports schools charging thousands of dollars for "specialized" instruction.

  • One-on-one coaching, which features yet another "tips for cash" transaction.

But what happened to the idea of sharing your time and knowledge completely free of charge and giving back to the game you love?

As a young hockey goalie growing up in small town Alberta, (Hello Bassano!) I was fortunate to have an outstanding mentor. Lee Pickett was his name - a hometown netminder who went on to play junior and college hockey. Whenever Lee came home for a few days off, he'd jump on the ice with me to pass on a few pointers - completely cash-free.

What a thrill!

Whenever we'd get the chance, my dad and I would hop in our old '73 Chevy and head down the snowy highway to watch Lee play. I still remember Lee standing on his head with the WHL Lethbridge Broncos and stealing a huge  play-off win against the Calgary Wranglers. Knowing that the guy stopping all those pucks was my personal goalie coach made the whole experience even more exciting.

In the years that followed, I graduated to the junior and college ranks myself - although I wasn't half the goalie Lee was. But I still took a page out of my hero's book, coming home to help out the young goalies and, like Lee, doing it for free.

Fast forward 40 years later and my 13-year old son is now a young goalie. (For the record, I never wanted my son to grow up to be a goalie; something only an old puckstopper or a goalie parent would understand. But that's a story for another day.) I took a stab at serving as my son's goalie coach, but that experiment lasted for about five minutes. Frustrated by the "I knooowww, Dad!" refrain that's familiar to a lot of fathers who try to coach their own sons, I skated off the ice and turned the coaching reins over to a parade of goalie instructors over the years. Many of these goalie gurus have a boat load of knowledge, but each and every one of them also comes with a price tag.

There's nothing wrong with a guy making a buck, I guess. But in my opinion, there's too many of these so-called youth sports experts who often see dollar signs instead of kids. Sure, some of them know a thing or two about a thing or two. 

But ask yourself this question?

If these guys have all the answers, why didn't THEY make it to the big leagues and become multi-millionaire pro athletes? Come to think of it, it's too bad they didn't. At least there would be a few less scammers preying on the wallets of starry-eyed parents who believe their child is just a few magical tips away from making "The Show".

Fortunately, there are still people in today's sports world that are willing to donate their time and expertise to kids completely free of charge. So, to all the coaches out there who don't view youth sports as a license to print money, I salute you.

More importantly?

I guarantee that kids will remember you - just like a young goalie-turned old goalie parent remembers a great guy and a great coach named Lee Pickett.

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