Longtime Team Canada coach Melody Davidson on developing the person versus the athlete

Patrick Johnston

A former teacher, Patrick covers the Vancouver Canucks for Postmedia and is the Vancouver chapter chair for the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

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"People have to know you care before they want to know what you know."

Count Melody Davidson yet another coach who points to her experiences outside of hockey as having been essential to her success inside hockey.

The two-time Olympic gold medal-winning coach wasn’t always a hockey coach.

“Growing up I coached hockey, baseball, volleyball, basketball, swimming. I played it or did it, I ended up coaching it,” she said with a chuckle.

“Every sport has a little bit different personality, the athlete and their families have a little bit different personalities.”

In her long experience, understanding how to motivate your athletes comes down to your own flexibility in understanding them. Thus, expose yourself to other sports, you’ll find all kinds of lessons.

“Teaching the technical of anything is still about motivation, and teaching a sport is about motivating. You can always find people that could teach technical, but understanding the people that has definitely helped me tremendously.”

Davidson, who is currently serving as Hockey Canada’s women’s program head scout, first started coaching hockey three decades ago. She coached Canada to Olympic gold in 2006 and 2010, and served as general manager in 2014 — another gold for Canada — and 2018. She coached at Cornell University from 2003 to 2006 and has coached various age grade teams for Hockey Canada and in Alberta.

Her many years of service and success saw her inducted into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017, a ceremony she said fit well with her cross-sport background.

“One of the things that really made it special was that the people attending for me, on my behalf and supporting me, were from various sports, not just hockey. And that’s continually been a theme the last few years,” she said.

“There is an old phrase that people have to know you care before they want to know what you know. That really is huge. Preparation: you go through lots of experiences and you win or you lose or you fail or succeed and then when you’ve been in it long enough you start to see your athletes grow up into young adults and parents and professionals, and you start to realize that when they talk to you the impact you had on them, good or bad. You start to really think about, subconsciously I always thought about this, but as my career went on, definitely, about developing the person versus the athlete. You know that’s first and foremost and I learned that, I think, from all the sports I was in.”

Paying attention to all of life’s lessons is another of Davidson’s messages.

“Every experience you have, whether it’s changing a flat tire, raking a lawn or coaching a young person, you learn something about yourself and about the people around you or about the environment. And it’s all relevant when you’re coaching,” she said.

Her hockey coaching career has seen her make a lot of stops. She’s coached women and men, young and old.

When we were young, everyone played whatever sport was in season. The move in recent years towards more specialized play isn’t a trend Davidson has liked — but she has seen a bit of a shift back towards multi-sport play.

There’s no better way to build athleticism than to get out of your training comfort-zone and the current pandemic is forcing athletes to re-think how they develop their skills.

“I think we’re starting to see that in Canadian sport. A lot of sharing. There’s a lot of talk around cross-sport and multi-sport. Still, we don’t necessarily walk the talk. But, for multi-sport, this is a great opportunity right now. You know, nobody can be on the ice, nobody can be on the ball diamonds, nobody can be in the pool. Now’s a great time to build some athleticism.”

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