Arizona Rubber

Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Grant money to enhance Flagstaff coaching skills



It’s no secret that players excel and grow through strong coaching, but last summer, a question popped up in Flagstaff.

Who coaches the coaches?

“A lot of the time, what you have is well-meaning parents,” said Nick Karastamantis, head coach of the Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association’s (FYHA) Pee Wee travel team. “And while that’s great, but how do we get them the development they need at the various levels?”

Thanks to a $15,000 grant awarded to the organization in August through the Arizona Coyotes Foundation, Flagstaff’s coaches are getting a crash course in coaching pointers over the next few months.

“I had played for years and knew the game,” Karastamantis said. “But how do you teach it? You’d think it’d be a pretty seamless transition from playing to coaching, but it’s difficult.”

Over the summer, Karastamantis gathered more than a dozen FYHA coaches in a room and asked them to write down issues or coaching tactics they felt they could improve on. The 45-minute meeting produced more than 50 topics.

“Someone said they had trouble teaching crossovers or the correct stride, so we grouped those under power skating,” Karastamantis said. “We grouped shooting, stick handling and those types of things under skill development.”

The end result will has already come to fruition, as Harry Mahood, the founder of the Phoenix Polar Bears, came to Flagstaff on Nov. 12 to talk about crisp practice planning. Other coaching clinics scheduled include how to help a young goaltender progress and tips for power skating drills.

While the coaches will surely glean their own knowledge, Karastamantis said all of this will eventually benefit the ones who matter the most.

“We’re trying to give coaches the knowledge to be effective,” he said. “But ultimately, it’s not for them, it’s for the kids.”

— Eric Smith