I wish my own children had received the teaching and guidance of a coach like Geoff Goodman of the Princeton Posse. In a nearly 2 hour conversation in our home, I sensed that his values and coaching style can have a positive, life changing impact on his young players. He had caught my attention earlier when he sent 2 star players to the Osoyoos Coyotes, coached by Ken Law, to give them an opportunity to showcase their talents with a team that would go farther in the playoffs.
Geoff started with the Posse on May 15, 2015, after being an assistant to Law. It was a difficult time for the team. Before departing, the previous coach had sent most of the players to other teams. Only 5 remained. Geoff chose to view this predicament optimistically. “We began rebuilding from scratch, mostly with players from the midget level.”
Reflecting back on the season in which the team won only 9 games, he says, “for several weeks we had 8 regulars unable to play due to injuries. The guys didn’t stop trying. They continued to practise hard and they grew tight as a team.” It is evident he is proud of his team’s stalwart character.
“The town gave us phenomenal support,” he said. “We didn’t win often, but we still had an average of 160-170 people at our games. Even when we lost, the fans sometimes gave the team a standing ovation. The mayor spoke at our year end banquet.”
A lot of work, including an ongoing bottle drive, is done by volunteers. Geoff is grateful for the diligence of all those who strive to make the team a success. “We could use a few more volunteers,” he said. It seems like a great opportunity to play a role in a vibrant organization.
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The Posse, a Junior B team, plays in the 20 team Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Geoff’s own hockey experience includes playing for the Dunville Mudcats, a Senior Triple A team. “At every game, after ‘O Canada’, someone threw a dead catfish onto the ice,” he said, smiling at the memory. He still retains his robust, athletic physique.
In addition to his coaching role, Geoff has a full-time job as a sales rep. He lives in Summerland and works in the Okanagan Valley. It’s a long trek to Princeton for practises and games. “I want to be a positive role model,” he said. “It’s important that the players are convinced I’m totally committed.”
Winning games is important to Geoff, but he has a broader perspective. “I want to influence the way they live,” he said. “I show respect for them. I seek to instil a diligent work ethic and a sense of pride.”
He still receives notes on facebook from players he coached in the past. One called to say, “I’ve got a job and I’m a dad now”. Ken Law, who had accompanied Geoff to the interview, shares similar goals and values. “Years later former players send us notification of the births of their children.”
The players, ages 16 to 20, come from various communities in B.C. and other provinces. Several have come from the U.S. including Colorado. “Some are a long way from home and it’s important that they trust us,” Geoff said. “They come to us with girl issues, when they’re lonely, or need a job, etc.”
The team has 23 players on its roster, each of whom pays $3,000 for the privilege of playing. The team provides billets, food, transportation, uniforms and much more.
“Our emphasis is on developing their potential as players and as people. We want them to learn social skills. This happens in the dressing room by interacting with each other, learning to work through interpersonal issues. They also learn to accept instruction from the coaches. We arrange for them to help in the senior’s centre. They read to children in schools and play with them.
In all sports, serious players seek out coaches with a reputation for player development. Arranging for stars like Stephen Heslop and Drew Carter to show case their talents elsewhere was a courageous, selfless decision. This style of putting a player’s development ahead of his personal ambitions probably accounts for the 65 player turnout at the Posse’s recent spring camp.
When I asked if he’d be interested in coaching the Canucks, he said, “I like this age group. There are fewer egos to stroke.” It will be fascinating to stand on the sidelines and watch Geoff Goodman continue to build an exciting Princeton Posse team.