The headline for University of Rhode Island men’s hockey coach Joe Augustine is reaching the 1,000 games coached milestone. But think of the other numbers it took to get there — approximately 4,000 practices over his 30 years at URI.
Coaching the Rams has consumed nearly all of Augustine’s professional career.
“[Coaching 1,000 games] was brought to my attention coming into the season and I had a couple of people ask about it,” explained Augustine. “You don’t really pay attention to it and it’s just one of those things. When you enjoy something it just kind of sneaks up on you.
“Every day is a new day and you get ready for practice and you get ready for that next game. It’s just short periods all the time. It’s your daily goals to meet the larger goal.”
When considering the number of practices and breaking down the milestone in finer details, Augustine laughed and said, “You don’t want to break it down too far, you will get tired.”
Augustine achieved the 1,000-game milestone on Jan. 22.
After playing professional hockey and coaching at the high school and NCAA Division I levels, Augustine joined the Rams, in Division I of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, in 1989.
During Augustine’s tenure, the Rams won an ACHA Division I National Championship in 2006, and as of the 1,000-game mark, the Chicago native had a record of 633-304-63.
“All teams have a bond, but when you win a national championship, there is always that special bond,” Augustine said. “Those kids had some good runs for three of four years. It was special for everyone.
“We run our program like [an NCAA] Division I varsity level and that’s the philosophy our medical staff, coaching staff and trainers have. We want the experience for our guys to be the best they can have,” said Augustine.
“Joe has done a phenomenal job there,” said USA Hockey ADM regional manager Roger Grillo, who was on hand for a jersey presentation at the 1,000th game. “He started the program from scratch and has given the community an opportunity to watch good college hockey.”
As a coach, Augustine wholeheartedly accepts the responsibilities that are incumbent on coaches teaching not only hockey, but imparting lessons that will provide his players useful skills in their post-playing days.
“Everyone is held accountable on and off the ice,” Augustine said. “You are representing your school, our program and your family.
“I think we are an extension of their parents. We try to treat those young men they way their parents would want them treated and I am responsible for them. Hopefully we get them in the groove so when they leave in four years, they won’t be in for a culture shock.”
“His commitment to the school and the kids is amazing,” offered Grillo. “It speaks volumes to the character, passion and dedication he has had to the program. To have quality guys like Joe running these programs is just an amazing thing.”
During more than three decades of coaching hockey, Augustine has noted the difference in the players arriving on the URI campus.
“A lot of it stems from the differences in youth hockey,” he said. “Being a travel player used to be a special thing, and sometimes I think there is a false sense … everybody is not special. Whatever you get you have to earn and that is another thing we try to get across.”
As a result of the affiliation between the ACHA and USA Hockey, Augustine had the privilege of coaching Team USA in the 2009 World University Games in China.
“I went to Italy as an assistant in 2007 and was the head coach in China,” he said. “Both trips were eye-openers not only for the culture, but the hockey was really good. You have your work cut out for you when you go over there.”
Many successful people have a routine they complete prior to performing their job or daily tasks, and Augustine likes to refer to such behaviors as trigger mechanisms for players and coaches as well.
“I think for me, and I try to explain to my guys, there are trigger mechanisms for your brain; we wear suits and ties. That is a trigger mechanism for them that when they are home getting dressed, they know they are going somewhere special and they have to prepare themselves to play.
“I think the mental preparation is a huge thing. Guys don’t know how to prepare, and they need things like that.”
The Rams coach shares credit for his longevity and success with the more than 400 players who have skated for the program.
“It’s a testament to them too. They know what they need to do, and they do it. We are proud of all the guys that have come through our program. Your program is your players. They represent your program all the time.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.