KALAMAZOO, MI - The Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) has proven its commitment to providing members with a development staff that's nearly unrivaled in youth hockey to help lead the 17/18 season. The most recent addition is a homecoming, of sorts. After spending eight years on WMU's coaching staff, Tom Newton headed to East Lansing where he spent 27 years behind the bench for the Spartans.
"I have always seen myself as a teacher. I enjoy working with kids of all ages and this is a good way for me to try and give something back. It also fulfills a need I have to still be part of the game I love! That need is still very strong because it's the people that make the game fun!" Newton said. "I'm looking forward to getting to know the players and coaches of KOHA. With some, it will be meeting them for the first time, others it will be getting to know them on a more personal level, and with a few it will be renewing old relationships."
Newton spent Monday, October 2nd with KOHA coaches and the Skill Development Team while USA Hockey's Bob Mancini conducted an on- and off-ice skating-focused coaches clinic, "I was very impressed with the passion for the game and the buy-in to the ADM by the Coaches. I think I can help reinforce the philosophy of the ADM, and after many years of coaching, I think I can help these young Coaches with their messaging to players. It doesn't matter what level you Coach, you get from players what you celebrate in practice and games. We will be celebrating the process of effort and learning big time!"
Matt Kakabeeke, KOHA's Interim Hockey Director, is ecstatic to have Coach Newton on board with KOHA this season, "I have no shame in asking quality guys like Tom Newton to work with us and help make KOHA a destination for youth hockey - the worst they can do is say 'no'. Thankfully, Tom is as excited to work with our players and coaches as our staff is at having him available to us."
WMU Bronco Hockey Associate Head Coach, Dave Shyiak - in his 20th season behind the bench for a Division I college hockey program - has two sons in KOHA's program, "KOHA has been doing some great things for youth hockey in our area. They're clearly committed to player development and have amassed an impressive Skills Team. Having an opportunity for a guy like Tom Newton to be on the ice mentoring our coaches and supporting player development efforts, it's priceless. He's not only a terrific hockey mind, but he is a quality guy with a passion for teaching the game the right way," says Shyiak.
Coach Nick Bootland, in his ninth season at the helm for the Kalamazoo Wings (and a professional career that spanned 10 years), has been around KOHA for a long time, "I can't say enough about how ecstatic I am at the things KOHA is doing on the ice with respect to player development and coaching education. They're focusing on the right things, at the right ages, led by quality hockey guys. My son has played with KOHA for 7 years, and this year brings new excitement. From the on-ice Skills Team, to the off-ice training with Mark (Olson) and his team at Athletic Mentors - it's just fantastic. All of it. And now, to add a person like Coach Newton to the mix to help mentor the coaches on how to break drills down for our youth players while helping to motivate our kids to play the game the right way, for the right reasons - it's unbelievable. Our membership is fortunate to have a board and staff committed to being a destination for youth hockey," said Bootland.
Having a career as extensive as Coach Newton's, there are opportunities to work with some of the best talent in our sport. When asked to describe what characteristics are consistent in his favorite players to coach over the years, he said, "My favorite players to coach were the kids that were "team first" kids. Healey, Gagne, Dorian, Ryan Miller, Liles, Krug, Abdelkader are all big "team first" guys. It is not about your skill level, it is about your attitude. First line or Fourth line, it's the attitude that the player brings daily that makes him (or her) a joy to coach."
Coach Newton has had the opportunity to talk with youth hockey parents over the years, too, "My advice to parents is to support your player in a positive way, remembering that they are on their own time table of maturity and advancement. Remember we get our kids involved in athletics to teach work habits, discipline and teamwork."
Newton and his wife of 37 years, Eve, have lived in Okemos since moving there from Portage. They have 2 children, Ted (31), Tournament Director for Golf Association of Michigan, and Emma (27), kindergarten teacher at Cole Academy in Lansing.
When you see Coach newton around the rink, please help us welcome him to our KOHA family!