VIERUMÄKI – Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime. In the hockey version of the Lao Tzu proverb, the IIHF is now coaching the coaches, hoping that the quality of international women’s hockey will improve.
Enter the coach mentors at the High Performance Camp. Coach mentors like Henrik Cedegren from Sweden. The Quebec Nordiques’s seventh-round draft pick (141st overall) in 1984 is currently the head coach of Sweden’s under-18 women’s national team, and even more recently, the mentor coach of Team Olympus at the camp held in Vierumäki.
“I guess the idea of having national team coaches here as mentors is simply to make it a truly high performance camp. I was in Slovakia last year, and I felt that I, too, wanted to develop further, and this mentorship is a part of my development process,” he says.
“And hopefully I can help somebody else take a few steps forward,” he adds, as he takes a short breather between a goalie practice he was a part of, and Olympus’s next practice.
The team has been up since six in the morning so even a mentor feels the afternoon dip come on.
Olympus’s coaches are Sean Alderson and Vytas Lukosevicius, from the UK and Ireland, respectively. Two nations that are not known as hockey hotbeds. The goalie coach, Seánna Conway, is also from Ireland.
“I ask them a lot of questions about their process, what they think about and what they want to achieve with certain drills. We plan the practices together, but they’re the ones putting it all together,” says Cedegren.
“All three are really passionate and knowledgable. But, we all can learn new things, and sometimes all it takes is just a new angle on things,” he adds.
Last year, Cedegren was at the camp as a coach.
“My mentor was Jari Risku, the assistant coach of Team Finland, and he was fantastic. I’d actually like to be just like him. He asked good questions, and didn’t interfere too much with the coaches’ work, forcing us to learn,” he says.
“I’m sure Swedes know hockey just as well as the Canadians. We just don’t have the resources, the money or the number of players that they do, and that’s the problem,” says Cedegren.
He’s been impressed by the quality of players at the camp, even from countries that aren’t famous for hockey.
“All countries have great players, but not all of them have enough great players. You see a great player from a small nation here, and instinctively you think that they must have a great team, but maybe the girls here are all they have,” he says.
Cedegren acknowledges the fact that a lot of work still lays ahead for women’s hockey but as a national team coach he also knows that camps like this one can also have a more direct effect on things.
“We have to get better at basic skills, and generally speaking, the players still aren’t physically in as good a shape as they should be, which means that the game won’t be as fast as it should, as when the U.S. and Canada play against each other,” he says.
“But I have ten Swedish girls here, and if they make the under-18 national team next time, the tournament will be played here, and they’ve been here. They know how things work, and they have a little more experience,” he adds.
As for the mentor coach himself, seeing the passion the coaches on his team have for the game recharges his batteries.
“I’ll go back home with some new ideas from here, but I’ll also take with me their enthusiasm, and joy of getting to work with hockey,” says Cedegren, who hopes that some of his experience will help the coaches he’s mentoring.
“I hope that they’ll think of the big picture. If you don’t train and work out, it doesn’t matter how skilled you are. If you don’t eat well, and rest, you’ll get injured. I hope they’ll remember that everything is connected,” he adds.