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Monday, May 20, 2024
Sports: U15s learn success is about more than winning
Coaches Mario Kotsanis, left, and Scott Wagar with U15 rep team award winners, Holden Powell (most sportsmanlike), Boyd Hopkins (most Improved player), Levi Bayne (team MVP) and Nolan Rappitt (most dedicated player). GRAY POWELL

Tania Fera-VanGent
Special to The Lake Report

For Mario Kotsanis, coaching is all about heart.

Although not handed a team that won often on the ice this season, Kotsanis and his coaching staff helped inspire the Niagara-on-the-Lake Wolves U15 rep team to its own special victory.

“Coaching is more than hockey. It is about teaching kids to be respectful and to be good citizens,” says Kotsanis.

When he’s on the bench, those players are like his own kids, he says.

And his coaching philosophy reaches beyond sport.

He wants the players to be respectful and hard-working, to know that they are not entitled and to exhibit exemplary behaviour that makes their community proud.

The U15 coach, with Scott Wagar, whom he regards as his co-coach and rock, feels it is important to teach the kids life lessons.

For instance, at the start of the year, Kotsanis said about 70 per cent of the team hadn’t yet played contact hockey.

The players had to develop the confidence and ability to play with contact even though sometimes they were intimidated about both giving and receiving bodychecks, Kotsanis says.

He is grateful to the team’s trainer, Ray Hunter, for helping the boys adapt and grow.

Fortunately for the U15s, Ontario Minor Hockey Association representative Chris Berube approached NOTL hockey Peter Flynn to ask if the team would drop down from Tier 1 to Tier 3 based on results in the OMHA playdowns.

When the U15s were moved to a more competitive level, they flourished.

And in their final game, a March 21 semifinal against Plattsville, with only nine skaters available, they lost 3-2 in overtime — one goal away from a trip to the OMHA finals that take place in Halton Hills this weekend.

With the help of the coaches, the team had grown and bonded.

For Kotsanis, “kids’ development is 90 per cent practice and believing in themselves. I am just really proud of the way these boys developed, played hard and became a team.”

The team closed out its season last week with some special awards.

Levi Bayne was named most valuable player, Nolan Rappitt was most dedicated, Boyd Hopkins was most improved player and Holden Powell earned the best sportsmanship award.

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