Weekly Feature

2015-03-12 / Sports

Frontier/OP’s McCarthy tabbed Coach of the Year

Jim McCarthy Jim McCarthy Frontier/Orchard Park girls hockey coach Jim McCarthy has come a long way from his early days as a hockey coach.

After a playing career that left him as enthralled with winning as any competitive athlete is, McCarthy still had the “win, win, win” philosophy at the forefront of his mind when he made the transition to coaching the game 23 years ago. And though he still finds it nice to add marks to the win column, McCarthy by no means places anywhere near as much emphasis on obtaining victory.

These days, the biggest win McCarthy’s players can achieve is personal growth — as hockey players and as young women. Helping his players improve themselves in every aspect possible means more to Mc- Carthy than any victory or any title ever could, which might explain why his fellow Western New York Girls Federation Hockey League coaching colleagues voted him just the second-ever All-Bee Girls Hockey Team Coach of the Year.

“For me, it’s about the time we spend together, practicing at 5 a.m., and just watching the girls grow as hockey players and as young women,” McCarthy said. “It’s been extremely rewarding. I want to win as much as anyone else, but watching the growth of the players and seeing their progression as players from year to year, that’s what it’s all about. I know it sounds corny but I really take pride in the development process.

“I always wanted my girls to understand that there’s more to it than winning and losing; I want every single girl, from the start to the finish, to feel that they have had a hand in each practice and each game no matter what the outcome is.”

With the talent that perennial contenders like Kenmore and Monsignor Martin bring to the table, it’s been tough for McCarthy and his squad to add a second title to the one Frontier/Orchard Park claimed during the league’s inaugural season. McCarthy joked that “when you win the title in your first year, it’s all down hill from there,” but in all seriousness, Frontier/Orchard Park has enjoyed great deals of success even if it can’t be tangibly observed via a collection of titles.

His squad got a huge scare from Williamsville in this year’s Section VI semifinals before ultimately losing in overtime, 4-3, with that setback coming off a four-overtime triumph over West Seneca/Hamburg in the previous round. Frontier/Orchard Park, which went 6-4-1-1 in league play, saw its season officially come to an end with its 3-2 loss to Lancaster/ Iroquois in the Federation quarterfinals.

But, even tougher for the only coach the team has known is the fact that he’ll be losing seven seniors off of this year’s squad who have been with him since day one — along with one who has been with the team for four years, and a two-year player as well.

“Watching them all grow over the years, it’s bittersweet now that it’s time for them to move on,” McCarthy said. “When I came to Frontier five years ago and they said they were starting a girls hockey team, it was great being picked to coach it, especially since I didn’t have the chance to coach in Buffalo while I was teaching there. Coaching hockey is something I’m extremely passionate about. Before I stopped playing, coaching is something I never would have thought would be more rewarding than playing — but coaching has been absolutely awesome. I’m very thankful to Frontier for having me be the team’s coach, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”

McCarthy knows a thing or two about being serious.

As he got older and became more in tune with what really matters, McCarthy saw his coaching philosophy shift towards where it is today. Being there as he watched his sister die from HIV and feeling helpless while his son was in a hospital intensive care unit for 11 days a few years ago “made me step back and realize that hockey is just a game.”

“Once you become a teacher and have your own personal kids, things change in the way you approach coaching — and that doesn’t even include watching the personal struggles my sister went through,” McCarthy said. “That period in time definitely helped put things in perspective for me. It made me look at myself and say, ‘Is winning a game really that important?’ No, it’s not. What’s really important is how do my players feel for having contact with me.

“The big picture is trying to help my players become better people, and I’m happy to be helping them in other areas of their lives beyond the ice,” McCarthy continued. “Hockey is just the guts that holds everything together. Hockey is something they do, not who they are. I hope that the girls know that I care about them; I’m not going to crucify them if they make a mistake.”

McCarthy still keeps up on the ever-changing world of coaching hockey — and girls hockey specifically — by attending clinics. McCarthy believes that if you’re going to compete at the highest possible level, working at all of the little things — especially in the skills department — is the most crucial component, which is why he said 80 to 90 percent of every practice he holds is dedicated to working on players’ individual skills.

“I was fortunate to do some good things in the game as a player, so I want to help the girls get the most out of their participation in hockey like I did,” Mc- Carthy said. “I want the girls’ parents to understand what, why and how I do things. They might not like the answer to my question, but everything I do is an attempt to make their daughters better players and better people.

“I always want to feel that I did everything I could for the girls on any given day,” McCarthy added. “Coaches are not perfect, but if I did the best I could for my girls, I’m happy.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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