RED DEER – Hockey Alberta is announcing four coaches who are deserving of the recognition of Coach of the Month, presented by Players Bench Team Apparel.
This season’s Coaches of the Month are Russ Glover, Darcy Gulbraa, Shannon Humphrey and Ryan Robbins.
Russ Glover - of the Vulcan U11 Hawks - has coached for six years.
“When my kids started playing I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get involved,” said Glover. “It’s a great way to pay it forward to the next generation and give kids the skills they can use to enjoy hockey for a lifetime.”
Glover’s philosophy is simple – work hard, have a good attitude and show up for your team. And he understands that everyone has a role to play.
“We have a player who likes to announce the kids’ names and numbers in the dressing room before each game, just like a professional announcer,” said Glover. “It’s become a pregame tradition for us. At the end, the rest of the team joins in together to announce him so he’s not left out.”
Throughout the season, Glover finds the rewards in watching each of his players succeed and progress. He sees their individual wins as team wins.
“Seeing kids hit their individual milestones over the season is inspiring,” said Glover. “Our team has been on a mission to make sure each kid scored this year. When the last player got his, the whole team lost it!”
When he’s not at the rink, you can find Glover with his family on the farm, camping, kayaking, biking and playing ball in the yard.
When his son’s team needed a coach, Darcy Gulbraa stepped up and 12 years later he is still behind the bench.
A volunteer coach with the Irma Aces U11 Male and U13 Female teams, Gulbraa believes in the importance of a positive atmosphere.
“I once heard the job of a minor hockey coach is to help kids to love the game more when they leave the rink than when they got there,” said Gulbraa.
Some of Gulbraa’s most memorable moments come from watching his players grow their love of the game – for example, when a player scores their first goal or a team qualifies for a provincial championship.
“One of the biggest things I enjoy is watching the players develop from the start of the year to the end of the season,” said Gulbraa. “In a lot of cases it’s hard to believe they are the same player.”
Gulbraa cherishes the relationships he’s made, including those with the great coaches he had throughout his hockey career.
“If they wouldn’t have taken time out of their lives to coach, who knows if I would be on the ice doing it,” said Gulbraa.
Playing hockey their whole life, Shannon Humphrey wanted to be around the game. Now that Humphrey’s kids love hockey, coaching is the favourite way to hang out with them.
“I’m a goalie coach by choice and a head coach by necessity,” said Humphrey. “I was empowered by my association to step into the role and every day I’m reminded that the kids are the reason I do what I do.”
Humphrey has coached hockey for five years. With years of coaching experience in soccer, roller derby, baseball and curling, Humphrey had a lot to offer.
“I had some pretty great coaches growing up who taught me to love the game,” said Humphrey. “I’m simply passing on their teachings and building on the foundation those coaches built for me.”
Aside from the coaching role, Humphrey works with Blackfalds Minor Hockey Association’s Board of Directors as director for equity, diversity and inclusion.
“This season our team has learned how to stand up for each other, create visibility, and be very strong allies for all diverse identities,” said Humphrey. “They’ve sent the message that hockey is intended to be a safe space for everyone regardless of their identity.”
Humphrey’s passion for hockey shines through the pride shown for the players and the game.
“Not only are we all learning to love and respect the game, we are learning to love and respect each other on and off the ice,” said Humphrey. “It’s my job as a coach to make sure each player feels seen, heard, and empowered. This is their game, their team and their safe space. I’m just here to facilitate it.”
For 15 years Ryan Robbins has volunteered his time to coaching. Currently the coach of Stettler’s U11 Female and U9 Oilers, Robbins also volunteers with the East Central Hockey School.
With over a decade of experience, locals know who to turn to when a coach is needed.
“One year, I wasn’t planning on coaching, but I helped with evaluations and after they were done the team didn’t have a coach,” said Robbins. “I was asked to take them on, which turned out to be an excellent opportunity. They were a great group of kids and we ended up winning provincials.”
Having good mentors, Robbins took an interest in coaching and officiating at a young age.
“My father coached me through the years, which laid some excellent groundwork for me now,” said Robbins. “But we had some really great recreation directors to learn from too.”
Robbins coaching philosophy is always moving forward, both in skills and athletes game play. As players move forward, Robbins enjoys watching the kids grow in their abilities as well as people.