Bob Caldwell has come full circle.
Over 30 years after coaching his six-year-old son Ryan in Deloraine, the lifelong Manitoban will help guide the Initiation team in Hartney featuring his six-year-old grandson Alec Morrison. Alec is a nephew to Ryan.
This fall won't be the first on-ice session between grandfather and grandson, though, as Caldwell routinely takes young Alec to the rink to work on skill development.
“When you take a four-year-old on the ice, you just watch him,” says Caldwell, who is 67 years young. “I probably learned more from him than he did from me just on what he’s doing and how we can look at it, tinker it and correct it.”
The on-ice sessions have been so illuminating for Caldwell that it inspired a presentation, titled What My Grandson Taught Me About Skating, which he delivered at a Hockey Manitoba season-opening event in fall 2018.
Most of the lessons Caldwell shared during the seminar were philosophical. The coach stressed the importance of allowing kids to learn through failure, self-discovery, repetition and, most importantly, fun.
Caldwell will be putting those values into action this fall with the Hartney team, and with the breakfast club and hockey school programs he operates in Deloraine.
Bernie Reichardt, director of hockey development for Hockey Manitoba, says the kids will learn a lot because his longtime colleague has an innate ability to teach players at any level.
“There are few people that know how to talk with the youngest players and oldest players and be respected by all of them,” says Reichardt, who has worked with Caldwell to develop coach-mentoring and skills development programs in Manitoba for over two decades. “You get some great guys that are good with the young kids, and then you get some great guys at the high-performance level. But to be able to transition between both seamlessly is a unique ability.”
Caldwell has transitioned through many levels of his game during his more than four decades as a hockey coach: He has coached Midget AAA, led skills sessions at Canada’s national under-17 development camp, mentored coaches in Poland, Romania and Russia, drove the formation of Hockey Canada’s Coach Mentorship Program, and served as an assistant with Western Michigan University.
Reichardt says his friend, colleague and mentor has excelled with instilling integrity and authenticity into the players, parents, coaches and volunteers he has worked with at these various stops, and that Caldwell teaches those lessons through example.
“He wants to make the game better,” says Reichardt. “That’s what you need to know about Bob. He seeks no recognition, he has no hidden agenda, he wants to make hockey better for as many people as he possibly can.”
Caldwell says creating a fun atmosphere will be pivotal in making the game better for kids. Exhibiting patience is also paramount.
“My teaching is done when the kid understands,” he says. “My teaching isn’t done when I am done blurting out the material. You have to be patient, and you must give them time. It is so important at the (Initiation Program) level.”
Skating skills at the Initiation/Novice levels have been such a focus point for Caldwell the last couple of years that he developed the Instructional Stream – Initiation/Novice Skating clinic in Manitoba to advise coaches on how to provide players eight years old and younger the best foundation in skating possible.
Caldwell is eager to share these on-ice lessons and learn more himself during the upcoming season.
He enters the campaign with the same goals as any other minor hockey coach.
“If you start the year out with 12 players you want to have the same 12 players in Peewee. You want them to have fun and enjoy it.”
For more information on how to become a coach and to access Hockey Canada’s coaching resources visit HockeyCanada.ca/Coaching.