With the Coach is a weekly series featuring a conversation with a local coach.
Coach: Ammar Naek, 26-yearold Pierrefonds resident and hockey trainer
Team: Deux Rives bantam BB Barracudas
Years coached: 8
Playing experience: Deux Rives midget AA
Best coaching tip: Be a coach, not a friend.
How did you get started coaching minor hockey?
Ammar Naek: I started coaching eight years ago in Lakeshore as an assistant with Nick Orlando. We had an atom A team our first year and worked our way up to peewee AA. Then we coached bantam AA together in Dollard. Now, I’m with Deux Rives.
Have you noticed a difference between associations?
Naek: When it comes down to it, each association has their own uniqueness, but it’s pretty much the same everywhere in the West Island. When it comes to individual players, there’s a difference.
How would you improve West Island hockey?
Naek: I would suggest associations focus more on the development of every team. The main contention is that a lot associations focus on their highest teams, their AAs or BBs. They tend to forget about the CCs, the As and Bs. But everybody is there to play hockey; everybody wants to get better. So I personally think if they had development for everybody that would improve the whole region.
How many first-years players are on your roster?
Naek: Quite a few, actually. Both my goalies are first-years; five out of six defencemen and three forwards are first-years. That’s 10 of 18 players.
How have they adjusted to hitting in double-letters?
Naek: Well, most of them played AAA during the summer, which is played under contact rules, so most of them are okay with it. I did a couple of contact clinics at the beginning of the year. They’re getting adjusted, but they just have to learn not to be so timid when going into the corners. A lot of them, I won’t say are afraid, but they don’t want to get hurt. There are a lot of concussions and that stuff. But I’m proud of my team for adjusting well.
What’s your coaching style?
Naek: I’m all about work ethic, but I’m also about fun. The biggest thing for any young coach is that you have to be their coach first. You can still joke around with them sometimes. But when it comes down to it, you have to be their coach, not their friend.
Where do you draw that line?
Naek: When we’re at the rink, it’s all about hockey, it’s about business. But the second we leave the rink I can be your friend and talk about any problems you have. A lot of young coaches go in there and act like they’re friends. They’re not really coaching, they’re more your buddy.
How do you like being a head coach?
Naek: I love it. It’s a little different in that people come to you with their complaints but so far there haven’t been any. Long term, I want to be a full-time hockey trainer.