Coaching Package: Tom Terrific

After Hanging Up His Spikes, Hall Of Fame Pitcher Tom Glavine Is Making His Mark As A Youth Hockey Coach
Brian Lester

Listening to Tom Glavine talk about hockey, it’s easy to forget about everything he accomplished during a Hall of Fame career in Major League Baseball.

It’s easy to forget he is one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. That he won more than 300 games in his career with the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. It’s easy to forget that he won the Cy Young Award twice and was the 1995 World Series MVP.

Glavine sounds like a regular youth hockey coach, talking about everything from coaching philosophy to the ways the game has changed over the years. He is as down to Earth as it gets.

He’s also enjoying life as a coach with the Atlanta Fire. He started off coaching his stepson, Jonathan, who played for the Fire’s 18 & Under team, and now coaches his sons Peyton and Mason, who are 1999-born and 2000-born players for the Fire.

“It just kind of evolved into something I did because my kids were playing,” said Glavine, who said he first got into coaching while still playing baseball.

“I loved playing as a kid. There is nothing like being around the game.”

Coaching hockey is a chance for Glavine to return to his roots. He played the game as a boy in Billerica, Mass., scoring 232 points and 111 goals in his high school career.

He was good enough to receive a scholarship offer from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell but turned it down to focus on baseball. He was also selected 69th overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, two rounds ahead of Brett Hull and five rounds ahead of Luc Robitaille (both 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees). That same year, he was taken 47th overall by the Atlanta Braves in the MLB draft.

“Even though I decided to play baseball, I never stopped watching hockey,” said Glavine, who signed a one-day contract with the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL after retiring from baseball.

“It’s a great game. Being able to coach and teach kids about the game is an opportunity I enjoy a great deal. I’m having a great time doing it.”

Hockey has grown significantly in the southern part of the country, particularly in Atlanta when the NHL’s Thrashers started playing during the 1999-2000 season. The team was sold in 2011 and moved to Winnipeg.

A longtime resident of the area, Glavine said the jury is still out on how the move of the Thrashers will impact the popularity of hockey in the area.

“It will be interesting to see what kind of impact the loss of the Thrashers has because a lot of kids started playing when the team came here,” he said.

“The numbers have gone up and the game has become a lot more popular in the southeast. And the level of play has gotten better, too. Kids are seeing that if they are good enough, they will get opportunities to play Junior hockey or play in college.”

Glavine admits the game has changed since his playing days, including the offseason becoming virtually nonexistent.

“The big thing I’ve seen is there is more of a year-round commitment to the sport at a young age, and that goes for all sports, not just hockey,” said the Level 4 coach.

“I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not, but it is what it is. I also think the players are a lot faster and stronger. They also get more creative with scoring chances.”

Aside from changes, there are also challenges when it comes to teams in the south finding competition. Glavine said the shortest trip is three hours away. His team plays opponents in cities such as Nashville, Raleigh and Charlotte.

Then there are the longer trips to other parts of the country.

“We make about four or five plane trips a year to play games,” he said. “We’ve gone to places like Boston, Minneapolis, Chicago and South Bend [Ind.]. They are challenging trips because we are playing against some very good teams. It’s good for our players to see what kind of competition is out there and to be challenged. Our guys always compete hard and do a good job of holding their own.”

While effort is never an issue, depth can be a problem.

“Teams up there have 100 or more kids try out and we get about 30,” Glavine said. “You can usually get five or six players who are really good and can help you hang with the good teams. But it drops off after that and that presents a challenge.”

Yet, there is no question that Glavine is up for the challenge. His approach to coaching involves teaching versatility.

“It’s a great game.  Being able to coach and teach kids about the game is an opportunity I enjoy a great deal.” —Tom glavine

“As a player, I wanted to know every position. It made me a better player,” he said. “I take that same approach with my team. I want our guys to understand every position, not just the one they play. I want them to be ready to step in and play a different position if we need them to.”

Glavine also teaches the importance of hard work and putting forth the best effort possible. He is living proof that it pays off as you don’t get drafted in two different sports and go on to be one of the all-time baseball greats by accident.

“You can have all of the systems in the world in place and have a lot of knowledge of how to play the game, but if you don’t work hard, you won’t be successful,” he said. “I always tell the player it’s important to have that compete factor and the best way to win games is to outwork and outsmart your opponents.”

As a former pro athlete, Glavine knows all too well about the ups and downs of sports. He knows that success can offer the temptation of complacency while the sting of defeat can either keep you down or motivate you to work even harder.

“I do try to teach those life lessons to my players,” Glavine said. “Sometimes you can have a difficult loss even though you felt like you gave it your all. It happens. You have to deal with it and pick yourself back up. I prefer a team that is around the .500 mark because it’s easier to understand how important hard work is. If you are out there killing everyone, it’s easy to lose your willingness to work hard.”

Glavine said that while he enjoys teaching the game of hockey and sharing his experiences in the game he also loves to learn. He is always talking with other coaches in an effort to increase his coaching

Once a player with his own dream of being a pro, he is now helping players work to achieve their dreams.

“I tell the kids that you don’t get to the pro level by playing video games all of the time,” Glavine said. “You have to work out and use your free time to improve yourself as a player. It’s good to have goals and dreams, but if it doesn’t work out, I tell my players I don’t want them looking back and saying ‘if only I had worked harder at it, maybe things would be different.’ As long as you can look back and realize you gave it everything you had, it’s not a bad thing.”

Glavine isn’t sure what his future holds as a coach. But as long as he has children involved in the game, he will stick with it.

“It’s all about my kids. When they are done playing, I’m not sure what I’ll do. I might stay in it, although my wife may have something to say about that,” Glavine said with a laugh.

“I have a younger son who is 5 and if he plays, I’d like to still coach. For now, I’m enjoying my experience and getting a lot out of it.”

Brian Lester is a freelance writer based out of Pensacola, Fla.


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