For this week’s four questions we have the University of Alberta Golden Bears head coach Serge Lajoie. As a player Serge patrolled the blue line for the Golden Bears for 5 years winning a national title in 1992 and was named the Canada West defenseman of the year in 1993. He returned to the team as an assistant coach in 2005 and took part in two national titles (2006 & 2008) before taking over as the Head Coach for NAIT’s men’s hockey program. Carrying on his winning ways he coached the Ooks to ACAC championships in 2013 and 2015, and was named ACAC coach of the year in 2014 and 2015. He was named the 24th head coach in Golden Bears history in July of 2015 and has just finished up the first half of the season with an impressive record. We are very fortunate to have Serge for our four questions piece and thank him for his time. Enjoy!
1. What have you found to be the biggest difference between the CIS and the ACAC, and has this had any effect on your coaching style?
The biggest difference I have found between the CIS and ACAC would be the depth of skill each team possesses. I have not had to change my coaching style since we wanted to play the game “Fast” at NAIT and that has remained our philosophy here at the U of A; however, during games I have had to pay closer attention to line match ups because each team in our league has a highly skilled first line and you don’t want to have the wrong players on the ice and give them the advantage.
2. Give us an idea of how you evaluate players at the university level.
It depends on what you mean by evaluate. When recruiting, we look for players that will come into our Program and be contributors to our culture. We look for players who demonstrate first and foremost strong character traits of work ethic, determination, resiliency and enthusiasm. We then evaluate their skating ability and lastly their overall skill level. For us, it is most important to enlist players who demonstrate the potential to become better players and better people through the character traits mentioned above.
Once we have these players in our Program, we continually evaluate their performances on and off the ice. We assess each player and create an inventory of strengths and weaknesses. Once we have identified areas to work on, we evaluate players during practices and games and assist them in reaching their performances goals. It is an ongoing process throughout their athletic career at the U of A.
3. Do you implement testing and how does this tie into the evaluation process?
We test our players 3 times during the competitive season: September, December and again in April. These tests allow us to hold our players accountable to a fitness standard of excellence we have established in our Program. Our expectations are that our players reach a high level of fitness that will allow us to play our fast pace style of game and compete at a high intensity level in practices and in games. We expect our players to demonstrate discipline and commitment to fitness throughout the competitive season. Should a player’s performance or execution fall below our expectations during games or practices, we will always consult the testing data collected in order to get a better picture of areas we could focus on as coaches to help him elevate his game.
4. When a player is finishing their time in the Junior ranks whatshould they consider when deciding what team and school to join?
They should spend a considerable amount of time figuring out which academic program might be of interest to them. Once they have a better understanding of the various programs offered by an institution, they should look closely at the current and past success of the hockey program and get as much background information on the coaching staff. It is important for any hockey player looking at pursuing an education while playing hockey at a post-secondary institution to realize that this is a very big decision. It is imperative to gather as much information possible about the school and the hockey program because this decision will have a huge impact on their lives. A decision made solely based on hockey will not ensure a positive student-athlete experience.
More on the Unitversity of Alberta Golden Bears Mens Hockey Team
The University of Alberta Golden Bears Hockey team is widely considered one of the best men’s hockey programs in the CIS. Last season they hoisted the CIS national championship for the second year in a row and it was the 15th time in their history. The Golden Bears enter the Christmas break with a 12-3-1 record and are currently ranked 3rd in the country. They open up the new year with games in Winnipeg against the U of M Bisons and then come back home for games against UBC on January 17th and 18th. Head to the Clare Drake and check out some of the best hockey in Edmonton!
More on Competitive Thread
Competitive Thread is located in Sherwood Park, Alberta and is Western Canada’s leader in athlete testing and hockey development. They have worked with teams and athletes in the National Hockey League, the Canadian Hockey League and Minor Hockey teams and players across Western Canada. They take a holistic and balanced approach to development and aim to positively contribute to the individual growth of each athlete both on and off the ice. For more information visit www.competitvethread.com or call us at 780-267-5795.