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Guest Commentary...In defense of Coach Esse

I am a hockey parent of two boys, who have both played for Coach Esse and I'm writing in response to the Letter to the Editor published in the Pine Journal on April 4.

I am a hockey parent of two boys, who have both played for Coach Esse and I'm writing in response to the Letter to the Editor published in the Pine Journal on April 4.

First, a little background. As a hockey parent, I have been a board member in the Twig hockey association and, after we moved to Colorado, for a large hockey association in the Denver area. In Colorado, I was a regional athletic scout for a national high school scouting service working with high school athletes looking to play at the next level. I had contact and observed many youth and high school coaches in almost every male and female sport.

For me old habits are hard to break. As a former athletic scout, I not only watched games, I attended practices. Unlike most parents, I still attend the majority of practices of the CEC boys hockey team.

Yes, Coach Esse has rules. Yes, he tries to teach the young men to respect our national flag and our nation, respect the game, respect the coaches/teachers, respect teammates, and respect the competition. Yes, the coaches can be stern when needed and they discipline players for poor/repeated mistakes or behavior/attitude that is detrimental to the overall team.

On the other hand, I see a caring coaching staff at practices that care about the players' education, health, athletic skill and development. I see the coaches praising, tapping the helmet or shoulder and high-fiving the players for hard work or finally getting back on track. But discipline has always been followed up with positive reinforcement from the coaches. That's the way good coaches work.

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We all have to remember we are dealing with young men, not young boys. These young men need to prepare for their future and understand this is not an entitlement society. It is sometimes hard as parents to watch our kids go through and learn from these experiences. Success and rewards come from hard work and following the rules. The players who work hard in the off-season and come prepared to follow the rules and work hard and compete will be rewarded. The players who don't work hard, who come with the attitude of being entitled because of grade level or family name and who assume seniority alone is good enough to secure their spot -- or playing time -- on the team, is RIDICULOUS!

I, too, as a parent have criticized every coach that my sons have played for. It's a trap we all fall into as parents when standing around discussing and critiquing the game. But that is just garage talk and should not be construed as destroying one's reputation and character. In reality, we are not the coach and do not always know what is behind the decisions being made. Those decisions should be discussed between the players and the coach.

I know Coach Esse has always been willing to discuss issues with my sons and with me when it pertains to my boys. Yes, it can be intimidating for a young man to approach a coach and discuss concerns. That is another lesson on communication for the young men to learn and Coach Esse encourages. Yes my boys were intimidated and scared at first. It's natural. But the more they did it the more they matured and knew that the coaches were not the bad guys. Sometimes, it is hard to hear the coach's reasons but they matured, understood and sometimes just have to accept it. With some players, accepting personal responsibly is not in their nature and it is much easier to distort the truth of the information given to their parents in order to pass the blame.

Coach Esse is part of the reason we moved back to Cloquet. After traveling the U.S. and Canada attending camps and tournaments, my wife and I decided to give our youngest son the opportunity to move back to Cloquet to experience the tradition of Cloquet hockey. The decision was easily made after attending Coach Esse summer camps and seen how he treated us as parents and his ability to improve my son's skills on the ice.

We have not been disappointed.

Writer and Cloquet resident Randy Newgren has served on two different hockey association boards and was a regional athletic scout in Colorado for a national high school scouting service working with high school athletes looking to play at the next level.

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