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I’ve been fortunate enough to have some wonderful teachers and coaches over the course of my life. Here are a few that stick out and what I remember about them: 


My Grade 8 Science teacher, Mr. Burgess: He was a FUNNY man. I remember always being engaged in his class, because his energy was contagious. In the back closet of his classroom, he kept 2 dozen ukuleles. On days when we finished our work early, we would get in line to grab a ukulele, hop on top of our desks, and he would slide a chord sheet onto the projector screen. He taught us all of the basics about playing the ukulele, and by the end of the school year, we were singing and playing “Hound Dog,” and “King of the Road” by memory… and it even sounded decent! To this day, any time I hear either of those songs, I think of him and that class. 


My Grade 8 Music teacher, Mr. Baker: He was always wearing colourful shirts and stylish glasses that matched his vibrant personality. He was passionate about music, and went to great lengths to compile an incredible song medley for our grade 8 graduation ceremony, comprised of many Broadway hits. To this day I can recall most of it! Any time I see a musical, I’m reminded of him and his passion for theatre. 


My learn-to-skate hockey coach, Karen: I was eight years old when I enrolled in learn-to-skate hockey. The majority of my counterparts in the class were four or five, and I was the only girl (it was small town Ontario after all). Seriously, in the team picture from that season, I look like one of the instructors. I was shocked to see a woman in a vibrant wind suit sporting figure skates jump onto the ice and tell us that she was our coach, but geeze was I happy to see her! Over the course of that season, she brought so much energy and positivity. She always made me feel included, praised my ability to learn quickly and continuously acknowledged my strengths. It was her support, inclusivity and encouragement that planted the seed for my love of the game, which eventually took me to Princeton University where I was able to play as part of the varsity program. Karen’s belief in me was the catalyst for my self-confidence and growth for years to come. I don’t think I ever would have made it that far without her influence during that first year. 


My minor hockey coach, Ron Vandehogan: He gave me the chance to play boy’s travel hockey so that I could compete at the highest level possible. In the face of potential backlash and judgement (he had to cut a boy who had played on the team the prior year to make room for me) he did what he believed is right and took who he believed was the best person for the role (regardless of gender). I developed a lot under his guidance and am grateful for the opportunity he provided me. He was a quiet man but had strong morals and values that guided our team to great success.


My junior hockey coach, Dave Moore: He took me on his team as a 14 year old (when the majority of the girls were 18-19 years old). He not only signed me, but he gave me fair and equitable opportunities to play and succeed under his guidance. What I remember most, is that we were the first women’s junior hockey program in Ontario to have our own team dressing room. He landed us a gatorade sponsorship, our own skate sharpener, and all of the supplies we could possibly need. He genuinely cared about the growth of women’s hockey, our team, and doing what he could to make our experience as enjoyable and professional as possible. He also fundraised to take our team on year end trips, which to this day are some of the most memorable moments of my life. 


Lastly, Professor Linda Colley: I was fortunate enough to take 2 of her courses on ‘The Rise and Fall of the British Empire’ in my time at Princeton. I remember how captivating and engaging her lectures were. She spoke in a way that you couldn’t help but listen and want to hear more. Her passion for the topic is what I remember the most. It was contagious. 


I could go on for days, but I won’t.


I share this with you not to inform you of my life story, but to highlight what we tend to remember most about the people who have the greatest impact on us. 


There is no talk of expertise, or always knowing the answers. 


There is no talk about intimidation or being in control. 


But there is a lot of talk about empowerment, inclusivity, creativity (or thinking outside of the box), engagement, passion, values and JOY. 


Sometimes we get so caught up in what we think we need to do as a leader, that we lose sight of the things that mean the most (and that impact our people the most). 


Ask yourself, who were your favourite teachers, instructors or coaches growing up, and why? 


I’d love to hear what you come up with and how your answer resonates with you! 


Share your findings with me on Linked in or by email at 


Thanks, and happy coaching folks!


– Coach MJ

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