For those looking to develop a coaching philosophy, build a team culture or gain experience in age-appropriate training, the USA Hockey Intern Coach Program at the Girls Player Development Camps is a stepping stone to success.
The Girls Intern Coach Program offers professional development opportunities for coaches at different stages of their careers. Interns work with top coaches from different levels of girls and women’s hockey during the USA Hockey Girls National Camps in St. Cloud, Minn. each summer.
Kristi Kehoe participated in the Intern Coach Program in 2013. She currently works as Program Director/Head Coach of U19 for the Boston Shamrocks of the JWHL, and also is the Director of Girls Player Development for USA Hockey’s New England District.
Nearly every summer, Kehoe comes back to the place that helped shape her coaching career. While she typically acts as a skills coach or on-ice assistant director — this year Kehoe is one of two mentor coaches for the intern program.
A former intern herself, we caught up with Kehoe to learn how her own experiences have helped prepare her for this role, what the program entails and how special it is to work alongside top coaches and staff.
USA Hockey: You jumped into the coaching world as an assistant women’s hockey coach at SUNY Cortland, became head coach of women’s hockey at New England College and even helped coach the Hockey China U18 team for the 2018 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Poland. How did the Intern Coach Program help prepare you for those opportunities?
Kristi Kehoe: It was a huge learning opportunity and it was great to meet a lot of coaches. I knew of some of them from being a player at Northeastern, but I think it was good for me to be able to network and get to know coaches on the other side. It was great to build those relationships and get feedback from them on what it takes to be successful and to grow as a coach.
I’ve had a lot of different experiences throughout my time, and I think the intern program was a big piece of that because it helped me make those connections. To now be on the flip side of it is pretty awesome. I get to share those experiences and hopefully help these other coaches grow and learn from their own experiences.
USA Hockey: What are the primary responsibilities for interns within the program?
Kehoe: They have the opportunity to come in early for a full day of classroom experience. We go through presentations with USA Hockey on the American Development Model — the purpose behind what they’re doing, how it works and why. Then we transition from that hockey piece to focus on the coaches and help them understand why they’re here. We talk about their coaching philosophies and bring everything together to figure out why it’s important and why do we do what we do.
We work on anything from the art of communication to figuring out how to draw drills to dealing with conflict. We really try to make it a full day of professional development. They learn a little about the Coaching Education Program with USA Hockey and how they can get involved with it. It really is meant to help inspire them to be able to grow in these different avenues and be able to leave here and feel like they can help out.
Once camp starts, they get involved with coaching and they’re a part of a team’s coaching staff. They’re involved in practice planning, running practices, and they get that real experience with being in front of the national team staff and working in front of these college coaches who they maybe have or haven’t worked with before. They have the opportunity to gain some confidence in talking in front of these people, getting feedback from them and hopefully creating those honest relationships where they feel like they have people they can rely on.
USA Hockey: How rewarding is it for interns to not only gain valuable coaching experience, but to learn from some of the top coaches and staff from different levels of hockey?
Kehoe: It’s awesome — the variety of experience they get and the different pathways they can explore. That’s something we focus on as well — just how every coach has a different path they go down and the different coaching avenues, whether it’s high school, college or youth. Everybody has something to bring to the table. The other coach that’s working with me as a mentor coach — we feel like we gain just as much as they do out of it, because we give a lot of opportunities for them to talk about their experiences and work it out together. For me, being on the flip side, it’s been awesome to be able to give back.
USA Hockey: Any advice for aspiring coaches?
Kehoe: I think the Intern Coach Program is absolutely worth applying and getting into. The confidence you’re going to gain, what you’re going to learn about yourself and the people you’re going to meet are invaluable. There’s nothing close to what this program brings to the table for these young coaches. We have some coaches that have been around for a long time that are in the program that are using this as an experience to refresh on new philosophies and different ways of doing things. It’s great because it doesn’t matter where you are in your coaching career.
We actually have someone who’s going to be a senior in college this year who is a current player, and then we have one who has been coaching for about 15 years now that’s in the program. It’s a great variety. And that’s the best part of it is everyone can learn something. It’s a really great way to have a positive experience and feel like you’re growing not just as a person, but also as a coach.
The USA Hockey Intern Coach Program at the Girls Player Development Camps is a stepping stone for aspiring coaches.