Since moving to Wilcox, Sask. at 14 years old to attend Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, a hockey academy, Bryce Cockburn has being working to up his game.
At first it was hockey. After finishing high school Cockburn played for the Nanaimo Clippers. In his final year with the team he got a scholarship to play for a division one university in northern Michigan.
From there he played on the East Coast, with what he called “a little bit of a call up to the AHL.” Then it was off to Germany to play for a year and another year playing in the States.
Though he attended an Ottawa Senators camp, he realized, 14 years after moving away from home, that he wasn’t going to make it to the NHL.
So he moved back to Campbell River to start a family, and up his game as a coach.
Cockburn started Next Level Coaching eight years ago.
“(It) Just started small to give back to the community where I grew up and I learned from ex-players,” he said.
And it grew from there.
Last June, working full time as a salesperson became too much to handle alongside Next Level Training, so Cockburn transitioned to coaching full time.
“I chose the one I loved,” he said.
This winter Cockburn is working primarily with Campbell River Minor hockey. He is on the ice around 12 times a week with seven to 14 year olds. He also works with coaches and writes practice plans for the atom and peewee house teams.
“Minor hockey here they are really good,” he said. “They take the initiative. They are looking ahead and they want to do what is best for the players and the community…You can already see…it’s not just skill development, you are also building confidence in these young kids too.”
When minor hockey doesn’t have the ice booked, such as during Christmas break and in the summer, Cockburn runs hockey camps.
He said his ideal instructor to skater ratio is one coach for every four kids.
“The development in any player is done in practice, it is not done in games,” he said. “For them to get better more practice time equals more improvement.”
Cockburn hasn’t given up practicing either. At the moment he is completing the Hockey Canada Skills Coaches program.
This summer he was one of 18 applicant accepted to the program. He spend 14 hour days on the ice in Calgary learning from the best of the best alongside people who coach in the CHL as well as other full-time skills coaches.
After that initial phase he had to complete a set of 20 tasks throughout the year to finish his certification.
At the moment he is on task 18.
The tasks range from making videos on working with kids on specific skills to writing articles about topics such as “developing young defencemen.”
This Spring Cockburn plans on running a camp, as well as a few spring teams, who will practice 18-20 times and play four or five games. Then he rolls into summer camps.