We sat down with USA Hockey’s newest Coaches-in-Chief, Cosmo Clarke of the Rocky Mountain District and Mike Mulligan of the Southeastern District.
USA Hockey: How did you each get started in hockey?
Cosmo Clarke: My parents are originally from Jamaica and moved to England where my brother and sister were born, and then eventually to Canada where I was born. From there, I followed in my brother’s footsteps, playing on Canadian select teams, juniors, university and six years in the minors. I wound up in Dallas, met my wife and started my life here with teaching, coaching and getting involved in various hockey schools and education.
Mike Mulligan: I’m originally from Canada as well, so I’m a displaced northerner in Maryland. I played Division II hockey in the 70s (when Division II existed) and then professionally for two years and then went to law school and proceeded into becoming a lawyer in the Army. My son is a 1995 birth year, so when he was introduced to hockey in 2000, we started the family tradition of playing hockey. I got certified to coach his team and that’s really how I began with USA Hockey and coaching education.
USA Hockey: What led you to this new leadership post?
Cosmo Clarke: I will say coaching was definitely something I was always interested in doing. It was always something I wanted to do. I loved teaching, both at the university and high school teaching gym classes.
Mike Mulligan: I’m a 30-year Army colonel and being the Coach-in-Chief is like I missed the command to step back and everyone stepped back and I found myself in front. I never aspired to be the Coach-in-Chief. We had a great Coach-in-Chief here, Ty Newberry, for over 10 years and he stepped aside and I looked around and thought, maybe it’s something I should consider and at least I’ll apply for it and go from there.
USA Hockey: The ADM is great for players and growing the game. How does it impact coaches?
Cosmo Clarke: It’s such a great model. I’ve been involved with clubs down here in Dallas, including the McKinney North Stars who have embraced practices and work stations and sharing the ice. It’s what we’ve been teaching at hockey schools for quite a bit now – the same type of concept. I just love the idea of station work and getting the most out of your ice time and your players. Not to mention, it translates to different sports, too.
On the coaching aspect, it’s helped with long-term athlete development, and you see coaches and players really embracing that to help make hockey in the U.S. better, too.
Mike Mulligan: Hockey is alive and well in the south, thanks in large part to NHL expansion and Stanley Cup victories, but also because of the emphasis USA Hockey has put on the ADM and the athletes. The ADM has helped fuel the success of our junior teams and the talent and quality of the game here in the U.S. While that’s a credit to the players without question, it’s also a credit to the coaches helping one another and learning and implementing this model. You have to have effective coaching to make the model work, and I think the Coaching Education Program curriculum has helped develop those players; it’s a trickledown effect.
USA Hockey: What aspects of the Coaching Education Program have helped you the most?
Cosmo Clarke: The Coaching Education Program as a whole is a really great thing. You look back and there are some things you have the chance to go back and learn or try a different approach. It goes back to the ability to learn something at every age level, even if it’s just coaching and teaching an extra pass here or an extra stop there. You help stay on par with a player’s progression, even just by tweaking little things.
Mike Mulligan: I strongly believe in the Coaching Education Program mission and I believe in the education for coaches. Again, you go back to the ADM and how coaches have embraced that in developing and learning, I really want to see that continue – and I have no doubt it will.
USA Hockey: Do you have any goals for your respective districts?
Cosmo Clarke: I really want to help the kids in my district graduate, move on, come back and take something they learned and give it back. That’s one goal and tradition I’d love to keep going.
Mike Mulligan: I’m blessed that there are four affiliates in the district, so I have an associate in each that can help me get familiar with each district. My goal is to get out and be more visible in the southern affiliates and just make coaching education and the ease and access to coaching education easy for the coaches. I want to be a facilitator and not a barrier to coaching education. The new products and curriculum we’re developing and the COVID crisis has really helped us move forward in online and non-traditional learning. I look forward to moving the coaching education forward through the use of technology and distance learning.
USA Hockey: Any final thoughts on your new position?
Cosmo Clarke: I’m just excited about this opportunity to work with great hockey minds. I’ve had a chance to work with a lot of them at various coaching clinics, but now I’m even more excited to take on that larger role. Overall, I look forward to sharing my love for the game with kids, coaches and parents alike.
Mike Mulligan: I’m an old hockey player that came back to the game and once I came back, I’ve been here to stay. I’m very happy to be involved.