Coaching Association of Canada

Meet Mike Mondin, Head Coach of Canada’s sledge hockey team

December 14, 2011

Mike Mondin is the head coach of the Canadian sledge hockey team that just won the gold medal at the World Sledge Hockey Challenge held in Calgary, AB. A Level 3 certified hockey coach, and a Learning Facilitator for the sport in BC, he has been involved with the sledge team since 2007 – first as a guest coach, then the assistant coach, then taking up the head coach reins in 2011. A teacher since 1981 in Trail, BC, Mike coached at all levels of BC Hockey’s Best Ever Program from 1994 to 2006, and was named BC Hockey Coach of the Year in 1999. We spoke to Mike right after the team’s gold medal win on December 4, 2011.

What was your key to success at this last competition?

The key to our success in the World Sledge Hockey Challenge recently held in Calgary, AB was our team work ethic. Sledge hockey is no different than able-bodied hockey when it comes to success on the ice. The top ranked teams in international level sledge hockey have very skilled players.  Generally, the team that works harder than their opponent succeeds at this level.

What is the next step? Next competition?

Our next event is the Four Nations Cup hosted by the Japanese Sledge Hockey Association that will be held in Nagano, Japan in mid-January.  Our schedule continues with an exhibition series versus the USA in February in Buffalo, NY. Our final event is the International Paralympic Committee’s World Sledge Hockey Championship that will be held in Hamar, Norway at the end of March.

How do you keep the players motivated between competitions?

That question is often asked because our team is not centrally located. Our team is spread throughout Canada with a majority of the players living in Ontario. I admire our players because they are highly motivated and very focused high performance athletes. When our team is not at an event, our players train with other players that live close by, or with non-national team players. We track their training by monitoring their weekly training logs with feedback from the coaching staff, and provide tasks to assist with preparation for competition. 

Photo: Hockey Canada)

What are the major differences between coaching Paralympic athletes and able-bodied athletes?

Definitely there are differences between coaching Para athletes and able-bodied athletes. One would think that the differences would be major but in the spirit of competition, the differences are quite subtle. The difference in coaching these players is sport based -- that being the skill and tactical differences with stand-up players. One major difference in the basic skating skill set is that sledge hockey players do not skate backwards but that is not to say they are unable to defend a one-on-one. They effectively defend with timing and open-ice angling. For a coach, these athletes are hockey players and want to be coached as such. As with any athlete, it is not how much the coach knows, but how much he genuinely respects and supports his players.

What have these athletes taught YOU as a coach?

I have learned a great deal from coaching these players.  A former national sledge player often said that he is only disabled by society’s standards and not by his. After four seasons working with our players, I have experienced this first-hand to be true. Our players are genuine hockey players, high performance athletes and most importantly true gentlemen.  As ambassadors for our country they represent the character of true Canadians. It is an honour to be associated with each of them.

What tips would you give to a first-time Paralympic coach?

At first this might seem like a tough question to answer but actually it is the opposite. The first coaching tip that I would give a first-time Paralympic coach is to be yourself and demonstrate to your athletes that you are genuinely supportive to allow them every opportunity to succeed. Paralympic athletes strive for excellence as any able-bodied athlete does. Therefore, it is crucial for a coach to not compromise their coaching style or values.

How has your NCCP training helped you as a coach?

The NCCP has been very beneficial to me as a coach and also as a high school teacher. The NCCP assisted me in developing an effective coaching skill set to teach, organize and lead players in several sports that I have coached over the years. I may have been able to coach without any formal training but I believe that the lessons and resources through the NCCP have refined my coaching abilities. I also believe that the experiences as an NCCP coach and as an NCCP Learning Facilitator provided me invaluable professional development that has been a benefit to me as a high school teacher.

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