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Players learn there's more to life than hockey

Coaches introduce players to Indigenous history, culture and importance of unity
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Retired OPP officer George Couchie played a drum and sang songs to celebrate life and to honour women as part of a team-building exercise for the Mid-Ontario Disposal major peewees. Coach Gary Maracle said being a coach isn’t just about developing hockey skills, but to help instill characteristics that will help a person succeed in life. Supplied photo


The Mid-Ontario Disposal major peewee Terriers had an incredible first round Ontario Minor Hockey Association series against Richmond Hill that saw three out of the five games go to overtime.  Unfortunately, despite being unbeaten in the final three games of the series, the Terriers lost the series 6 points to 4.   

This series loss resulted in the Terriers dropping back into the York Simcoe Hockey Association playdowns, in a three-way series with Aurora and Barrie Blue. Although the Terriers won the first three games of the round-robin format, the level of intensity was not where it had been.

“It is always a challenge to keep the players motivated after an emotional series like the one we had with Richmond Hill,” said Coach Gary Maracle.

The coaching staff was looking for a unique team-building event that would focus on positive thoughts and energy. On Monday evening the team and parents met at the OPP Heliport. Sgt. Scott Ross, a pilot with the OPP, talked about his role, the capabilities of the aircraft and the importance of a positive team environment. The ability to be a team member is very important later in life as well, the kids learned.    

Maracle, the Unit Commander of OPP Aviation Services, shared with the players some Indigenous history, culture and the importance of unity. The players and parents participated in a traditional smudge, each taking turns drawing the positive energy from burning sage to their bodies and minds to help them think, feel and say good things. Each of the players also smudged their game sticks.

During this traditional teaching/ceremony, retired OPP officer George Couchie played a hand drum and sang songs to celebrate life and to honour the women in our lives.  He said it was important for them to learn at a young age how to treat and respect the women in their lives now as it will shape the way they do so in the future.

“Developing hockey skills is only a small portion of what a coaching staff does,” said Maracle. “Parents trust us to help instill the characteristics required to succeed in sports but, more importantly, in life as well. If we have the opportunity to teach players life skills and expose them to diversity and culture then we should.”

With clear minds and a renewed energy, the Terriers went on to win Game 4, giving them a clean sweep of Round 2 and ensuring a spot in the Final 4 of the York Simcoe Championships.