Picture this: You are the assistant coach for your national team, which has just won its World Championship group with a clean sweep earned promotion to the next level. During the five games the team defeated tournament favourites who were hoping to go back up and also the host nation as well.
This is what happened to Andras Horvath, who worked as an assistant coach on the Hungarian U20 national team that earned promotion from at the U20 World Championship Division I Group B in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to move to the Division I Group A for next winter.
What is next? Most coaches would hope to be back the next season with the coaching staff and continue to work hard and develop at the next level. However, Horvath will not be back as the assistant coach because he has been promoted to head coach as previous head coach Marton Vas became the new general manager for the Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation.
“He is a very professional person, the worth ethic that he has is very exemplary,” said Vas when asked about what qualities as a person led Vas to hire Horvath.
Horvath is an experienced coach both with the U20 age group and with the Hungarian national team youth system. He was an assistant coach with the Hungarian U17, U18, U19 and U20 national teams and was the head coach for the U15 national team during the past five seasons as well as being the U18 and U20 head coach for Hungarian club Vasas.
Just like his predecessor on the bench of the U20 national team, Horvath also represented Hungary on the international stage. He was a member of the national team that won promotion in 2008 to play at the top-level 2009 Worlds for the first time in 70 years. The coaches that he played for both at the club and international level had a great influence on his coaching style and philosophy.
"I believe that for a coach, to be a great coach they have to be able to pick up every day’s situations, take the lessons from that and be able to implement that as a tool for their team,” said Horvath. “There have been a number of coaches that I have been able to work with. I have been fortunate enough to have had a long playing career that has also covered a wide spectrum. I played in 19 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship tournaments ranging from the old C-Pool, through the B-Pool and playing at the top division as well for coaches from all over the world. I have had Hungarian, Slovak, Swedish, Finnish, American and Canadian coaches, where I have been able to learn something from all of them, from some more than others. I had coaches where I was able to pick up the mental preparation aspect of coaching and others the off-ice conditioning. With all these informational experiences I was able to collect I have tried to create my own coaching style and philosophy.”
Since they had played and coached together in the past, Vas had a clear picture on what he was getting in Horvath when he made his choice. “With Andras I knew how he works and what his hockey philosophy is. He has the same value system that I am also looking for in the sport of hockey. He wants to help the players make the jump from U20 to the professional level, which I have seen in him during the past two seasons when we worked together. I like the way he works and he is very organized and very professional,” Vas explained.
“Andras was my teammate both at the club level and with the Hungarian national team for a number of years but I did not look at that when I chose him to be on my staff two seasons ago. I looked at his coaching knowledge and I knew what I was getting with him as a person as well. I know him as a person and a coach, these were the two aspects that I was looking at.”
Horvath will elaborate on what he is looking for and what responsibilities each staff member will have. “I would like to have an experienced coach who is well respected in the locker room and on the bench and could help me set the tone, basically be my right hand. With my other assistant coach I would like him to be responsible for the defencemen and the defending aspect of the game. For my goalie coach I would like someone who I can lean on with the area of goaltending, also be responsible for the video work and statics for the coaching staff.”
Horvath also shed light on how he got into coaching after retiring as a professional hockey player: “Towards the end of my career I decided that I would try coaching after I retire from being an active player. Throughout my career I always thought that I would not get into coaching once I finished up as a player. This was because I knew what sacrifices I had made to be a professional hockey player and I didn’t know if I would like to continue this. However, I realized that hockey had been a part of almost all of my life and I would not be able to get away from hockey so instead of running from this I should embrace the idea of becoming a coach and spend the rest of my life in something that I love. As soon as I received my coaching licence I started coaching hockey.”
Anytime a team moves up to the next World Championship level there are new challenges to face, on top of this Horvath will be making the move to head coach, which brings new responsibilities. “A head coach has different responsibilities than an assistant coach,” he said. “I have been a head coach in the past both at the club level and in the national youth development program. I do not feel that making this jump will be a challenge for me. With regards to moving up from Division IB to Division IA, I had been on the coaching staff with the Hungarian U18 national team at the Division IA level where unfortunately we were not able to win a game and we were relegated. This level where we will be competing at will be a faster and more technical group compared to one below it. I do not feel it is impossible for us to make history and stay in the group,” said Horvath.
The 44-year-old coach also mentioned what has been his favourite memory of his national team coaching career up to now. For anyone who has been following Hungarian hockey in recent years and more specifically the national junior teams might not be surprised. “As a coach with the national team I would have to say this past year’s U20 World Championship Division IB in Kyiv where we gained promotion to the Division IA. However, a very close second place is the U18 World Championship Division IB in 2016 in Asiago. It was my first year coaching with that national team and we won the group as we went undefeated.”
Horvath also opened up about what it means to him to be working as not only as the head coach of the Hungarian U20 national team but also to be in and around the national team program both as a player and a coach. “I was very happy during my career to be with the national team program, it always felt great. As a player in the old days the resources were limited, but once we were in the national team training camp the surroundings were always a bit better. We would always run into friends who maybe the week before we had played against. Because of this great atmosphere and comradery, which has always been in the national team, I was happy to be hired as the head coach and have the opportunity to continue to work in this environment.”
Anytime someone has great memories about a particular situation they will not have the need to find extra motivation to do their best in a new position. With this in mind it is clear to see why Vas and the Hungarian Ice Hockey Federation are confident and know that they made the right decision in hiring Andras Horvath as the new Hungarian U20 national team head coach.
Hungary is scheduled to play Kazakhstan, Latvia, Belarus, Norway and host Denmark at the IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A next winter in Horsholm.