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  • Writer's pictureDave Veale

A Surprising way to Communicate and Connect at Work and at the Rink

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

Liam & Kelly

Liam & Coach Kelly

People assume, because I’m a business coach and I once played competitive hockey, that I’d be a good hockey coach.

Those people would be wrong.

I’m quickly learning that coaching 8 & 9 year olds is a daunting task. I’ve mustered up the courage to be an assistant coach this year for my son’s hockey team and I’m paying very close attention to my son’s head coach, Kelly VanBuskirk.

What I’m learning from Kelly is how to use hockey as a vehicle to effectively teach, communicate and connect with kids and help them develop confidence in acquiring new skills and working in a team environment. How does he accomplish this? He adds competition and fun to his drills. He alternates between drills and games to keep the practices varied and he offers tons of encouragement. But, ultimately, it’s Kelly’s ability to relate to these kids through storytelling that I find most impressive.

He uses vivid metaphors in his stories to help the kids with their positioning on the ice.  Does this really work? I have lots of evidence that it does. In fact, my son recently reminded me about the importance of  “Staying in the train tracks” (center of the ice) and “Staying in your room” (playing your position in our end of the ice) or keeping the mouse (puck) on the outside of the house (along the boards) and out of the fridge (the net).

It’s a more cerebral approach to the game that I thought may be lost on the kids   – was I ever wrong. The stories and metaphors resonate with them and I’m guessing will stay with these players for years to come.

It has been a gentle reminder of the power of storytelling for leaders.

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” – Dr. Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard University, and Author of Leading Minds

In my role as an executive coach I know that storytelling is useful in far more situations than most leaders realize. Telling stories is effective in inspiring your organization, setting your vision, teaching important lessons and describing what you believe and who you are.  It turns out that storytelling can be just as effective at the rink.

Do you have a story to share that has helped you inspire your organization or maybe your child’s team? I’d love to hear it. Share it in the comments!


Liam, Kelly & Dave

Liam, Coach Kelly and me.

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at or follow him on twitter @dave_veale.

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