Karen_LevinKaren Levin will lead the Women’s Barrie team next weekend at the World Outdoor Ballhockey Championships in Canada.  Karen played on the Women’s USA team that traveled to Switzerland earlier this year so she knows the preparation needed to be successful at the international level.  A native of Skokie, IL, Karen played ice hockey for 23 years and has 5 years of ball hockey experience.  Best of luck next weekend coach.

01. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a coach? 
My strengths are in hockey knowledge and my willingness to involve the players in the direction the team should move.  My players are probably sick of doing surveys, but it helps me get a feel for where most players think we need to improve.  We have a team of really knowledgeable, wonderful women and they have been driving the direction in which our team is growing.  My weaknesses are in pre-game speeches!  I’m very matter of fact and struggle to get inspirational.  Luckily, I think my fellow coaches and captains will fill that void quite easily.

02. Who are your role models in coaching and why? 
My coaches in college were amazing.  I played ice hockey and golf.  Those three coaches taught me a lot about how to build a team atmosphere and how to hold players accountable for making a team great.  For example, one ice hockey motto was ‘do the little things right’ meaning all the small battles you win in a game add up to a much bigger win.  Or, ‘control the controllables’ meant you have to focus only on the things you can change in your game/life and can’t focus on what is out of your control.  Or ‘leave it across the street’ meant that when you step foot in the rink you found a way to forget any outside issues going on in your life and just focus on hockey.  In addition, during a j-term coaching class I was instructed to read John Wooden’s ‘You Haven’t Taught Until they Have Learned.’  That book helped shape my core values as a high school teacher and coach.

03. What is the main thing you took away from your experience in Zug, Switzerland with the Women’s USA team that you can use coaching this team in Barrie?
Good question.  I took away just how special it is to wear a USA jersey and to represent your country.  That is a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I brought that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity feeling to this team and I’m working with my players to make this experience fun, memorable, and an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

04. What person and or event have had the most influence on your life? Why?
My parents have had the most influence on me in my life.  They provided me all the opportunities a girl could wish for!  They allowed me to play hockey when there were very few girls doing so.  They supported me and took me around to rinks for 13 years growing up.  That’s a lot of games/practices! And they continue to be my biggest fans in my work, personal, and athletic life.  It’s amazing.

05. What characteristics are important to you in an assistant coach?
I want my assistant coaches to be extremely prepared for the role each one needs to play.  We have a great group of coaches, each with a unique set of specialties.  Each assistant coach needs to stay focused on their role and play their part in making this experience great for our team.

06. How do measure and define success within your program?
I measure success in how much each player has learned throughout the process.  We have been together for a year and a half if you count tryouts. I was named head coach in January and since then we have made a lot of progress.  I have seen the girls come together and grow as a group.  They are looking to each other to make good passes, communicating on the floor, and asking amazing questions when they are confused.  I want each player to walk away having learned new things about the game of hockey, about their teammates, and about themselves.

07. What is your coaching style?  Why do you coach the way you do?
That is a tough question.  I would say my style is using small games to help players develop their skills.  I like to blow the play dead during practices in order to identify things we need to work on as a group.  I think I am a supportive coach and try to make it clear that every opportunity is a learning opportunity.  I try to create a positive atmosphere for my players and make it clear that I want to hear the questions my players have so we can learn and grow together.  On the bench, I’m a quiet observer.  I like to pull players aside to share a positive comment or something to work on.  But mostly, the learning opportunities happen during practice.  We have practiced hard together as a team and I have full faith that when we step out on the floor next weekend we will be ready to play.  A famous John Wooden quote is ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’  We have prepped hard for this tournament and I think we are ready to go!