Trail’s Mike Mondin, coach of the Canadian Sledge Hockey team, wll be honoured with the prestigious Petro-Canada coaching award at the Coaching Association of Canada’s (CAC) annual Sports Leadership Award Ceremony in Calgary, Nov. 8.
The award recognizes excellence of national team coaches who have dedicated their time and efforts to ensure athletes reach their potential on the national stage, and have medalled at the World championships, Olympics, Paralympics, or Special Olympic Games.
“I was really taken by surprise, I mean I didn’t expect it at all,” said Mondin after returning from the team’s training camp in Nova Scotia Sunday. “I mean it’s a real feeling of pride but at the same time it’s really humbling. There’s so many people that this should be shared with.”
Mondin has been involved with the sledge team since 2007 – first as a guest coach, then the assistant coach, before taking up the head-coach reins in 2011. A teacher since 1981 in Trail, he coached at all levels of BC Hockey’s Best Ever Program from 1994 to 2006, and was named BC Hockey Coach of the Year in 1999. A former long-time assistant coach of the Trail Smoke Eaters, Mondin is among a select group of coaches who have had success at the international level.
In September, he coached the Canadian sledge hockey team to gold at the Four-Nations Tournament in Sochi, a primer for the Paralympic Games in February, and is coming off a gold-medal performance at the IPC World Sledge Hockey Championships in South Korea last April. It was a huge win for a team that had to settle for bronze at the Worlds in 2012 after losing to the U.S. in a 2-1 semifinal shootout.
It was the third World championship for Team Canada, but the first for Mondin as head coach, and a highlight of his coaching career.
“Last year, winning the world champion was quite a moment,” said Mondin. “But you know when I reflect back on my childhood and even coaching, when you win a championship coaching an Atom House team it’s the same feeling of accomplishment, it’s the same feeling of pride, you face the goal as a team and it’s a special thing.”
Team Canada’s recent success has Mondin and the players confident, yet, cautious in their preparation for Sochi, as the team looks to improve on a disappointing fourth-place finish at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.
“It’s a different team now,” added Mondin. “The guys are confident but they are also training really hard to be at the top of the game when we get there. But we’ve learnt some lessons in the past few years, getting past the semifinal game, and it’s not to look forward, but it’s to be in that moment.”
Mondin began his coaching career at the tender age of 16-years-old, coaching a Babe Ruth team with Jim Oliver, and hasn’t looked back.
“After that I just kept coaching. Whenever I had an opportunity to help a team. I was injured at one point playing junior so I went out for extra ice-time and just helped the juvenile coach. Everywhere I went, I ended up coaching. I did a lot of high-school sport when I first started teaching. It’s all a great experience and was always a lot of fun.”
While Mondin will reach the pinnacle of his coaching career when he leads the team to the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014, the self-effacing coach can’t help but credit the people who showed him the ropes, his mentors and coaches in Trail.
“You reflect back on from where I started with Andy Bilesky, Addie Tambellini, and Marcel Proulx, it’s a real humbling experience,” said Mondin.
Coaching has consumed much of Mondin’s life, but no matter what sport or what level the J. L. Crowe teacher is involved, he says there remains one constant.
“There is always the spirit of competition, said Mondin. “A lot of the preparation is the same with the physical and mental side of it . . . but the spirit of the competition certainly has never changed.”
Petro-Canada is the corporate sponsor of the CAC which is recognized as a world leader in the development of coach education and training, is committed to serving the needs of Canada’s coaches and to strengthening Canada’s sport system.
Through its programs, the CAC provides coaches with the necessary foundation of skills, knowledge, and attitudes to foster excellence in sport.