top of page


Jiří Ryžuk

Life with sport

It is happiness when sport, or the mere joy of movement, becomes a lifelong love. I believe that because it happened to me like this in my life. And I am very grateful to all those who were my role model, inspiration and support.


My memories of childhood in the small town of Březová near Sokolov are associated with many experiences from various physical activities. The spectrum of our then sports competition and wrestling was really very wide. Most often it was hockey, which we called bends, and they played it, just like football, all year round and wherever possible. Also, tennis, initially with bats carved from wood, on a not very flat sand court with a stretched clothesline instead of a net. Or a window, a chased, football skill triathlon called head-knee-legs, bike or sleigh races, discharges, various athletic competitions or ski jumps on the bridge, which we carefully adjusted on the side behind the town when the snow fell. All this, and God knows what else, could be played practically anywhere and whenever there was a taste for it. And she was constantly.


Competitiveness and sports passion were aroused in us at that time and were also developed by our amazing gymnast at the local ZDŠka, Mr. Kročák, who also led the athletics team in Březno's TJ Olympia. Like most of my classmates, I was always looking forward to his school hours and afternoon volunteer sports games. As well as training with Mr. Procházka, who was our great coach in the football team.


The inspiration and great role models for us, of course, were also the successful athletes of the time, whom we knew from television. Outside, we played, for example, the hockey world champions Brothers Holíky, the famous football player, the scorer of the winning penalty from the Belgrade European Championships, Antonín Panenka or the Wimbledon winner Jan Kodeš. And to many other famous athletes of that time.


But my family certainly had the biggest influence on my warm relationship with sports and exercise. Dad was, and still is, a big sports fan in his eighties. He also played hockey and football on an amateur level. I went with him to watch not only hockey and football matches, but also volleyball, boxing or the track. He worked as a coach in the hockey team of Sokolov's Baník for almost forty years. He always did it after work. You went through all the categories. During those years, he trained the preparation, pupils, adolescents and the second league student. Dad's hockey enthusiasm certainly had the biggest impact on me winning hockey.


Although my mother and grandmother were never big fans of hockey, they took great care of all the home facilities and always lovingly supported my sports. In the beginning, when I was still carrying all the equipment home at the age of seven, my grandmother accompanied me to trainings and always had a thermos with hot tea and a snack with me. Although my grandfather was not an active athlete, he also influenced my positive attitude towards movement. My grandfather and my father and I drove many, many kilometers in the surrounding hills while mushrooming. The natural gym was also cutting wood or various other work in my grandfather's garden.


I also remember my organized sports activities at the time in Baník (hockey) in Sokolov and in Olympia in Březov (football). Nobody ever pushed me into anything. As a child, my dad sometimes let me skate on ice while training students. I liked how older boys can play hockey. So, I begged to participate in the recruitment of mining products. I remember that day very well. Together with the boys who were included in the club with me, we took it as a great success. I remember that one of my future teammates, who was a year younger, complained about his disapproval. And when I signed up for Březov football, ours didn't even know it.


I was looking forward to hockey and football trainings mainly because the atmosphere in the teams was very pleasant for me and we always played well in training. We were happy with the winnings, the coaches did not curse us for the defeats.


I had a slightly different experience with tennis. Once, when my friends and I were fighting a fierce tennis battle on a Březov volleyball court, we were watched by the father of a boy who was already playing tennis competitively in Sokolov. At that time, we already had wooden rackets with string, a volleyball net and we only lacked the keys to the court gate. So, we had to climb it. The gentleman didn't mind. He was an official of Sokolov tennis and asked us, tennis self-taught, if we wanted to play for his club. Of course, we agreed and were looking forward to soon playing on a real court with a net that the ball won't pass through. On our first visit to the tennis club, we were taken over by a coach, who ended the short welcome with the information that we must first complete the prescribed part-time hours. We fulfilled them after several visits to the club and were looking forward to the game with each round of clay. However, it turned out that the next step in the coach's methodological series was collecting training. We three fighters, who fought battles for Wimbledon trophies at the Březov court, spent training time rolling the balls on the lines. However, the chance to show our tennis skills to the coach came. The moment he let us practice collecting balls again, this time without his supervision, one of the courts relaxed. We immediately took the chance and started playing right away. Two against one. We thought our game didn't look bad at all. But the coach did not think so. He quickly brought us back to the original "training" activity and "motivated" us by the fact that next time we will be able to hit the wall. On the way home by city bus to Březová, we said to ourselves that we were returning to the home court and we ended our several weeks in the tennis club. We then enjoyed tennis in the future and each of us enjoyed a lot of competitive matches in the sport, where the coaches let us play in training. We didn't have a problem with them for many more years. One of the two friends, who was also the jumping and sprinting support of our school athletics team, later scored many goals for the football player Baník and in his foreign engagement in the lower competition in Germany. The other one, who stood out from us with his figure, and probably also for that reason he caught for our Březov football team, later he made it to the national team with basketball. And I went to the Škoda in Pilsen after hockey. But about that a little later.


Maybe one of us could have been successful in tennis. I think the three of us really loved the game back then. But fortunately, we had other options to realize our sports passions.


In addition to these two friends, several other boys grew up with us, who were later, in various sports, successful at the top level. Including the national team. And also, many others who still like sports, even if they have not become representatives.


This relatively carefree sports childhood ended at the age of fifteen with a transfer to Pilsen. Whoever wanted to succeed there had to undergo a tough competitive fight and fight for a place in the team. It was not really easy for a Škoda teenager from a small town at the time of the Škoda puppy. At first, I was surprised. In addition, I was not optimally prepared for fitness. And the transition from elementary school to demanding study of construction engineering with a boarding school.


But somehow, I got through those beginnings and gradually got used to the new environment. The reward, among other things, was that I could be part of the teams with which we gradually won three national championships.


Many of my teammates at the time later played a significant role in the top adult league. I just peeked into her. Of course, I can't blame myself for not getting through it. In my last youth year, the then coach of the "A" Škoda recommended that I go to "hunt" for the hockey war to the then "B" of Dukla Trenčín in Topoľčany after graduation. But at that time, I already had completely different plans.


I was helped by one of my, a little older, hockey friends from Sokolov, with whom we sometimes traveled by bus to Pilsen. He had previously prematurely completed his medical studies and literally wrote poems about how he now enjoys studying physical education at the Faculty of Education. He told me how they only played sports there at school all day. In addition, they have trips to ski, hiking or boating courses. When I remembered our Březov gymnast, Mr. Kročák, during his story, I knew right on that bus that I also wanted to study gymnastics.


A small complication at the time was the momentary disapproval of my mother, who had already agreed with my class professor at the construction site that construction would certainly be the best field of study for me, construction at the Czech Technical University in Prague. However, I did not let anyone talk about my plan. Škoda's coach placed me in the cadre, who has not yet been discouraged. And I tried to combine a full-time study of TV-ON approval on the ground with hockey at the highest national level. It did not work. I did both halfway. The coach blamed me for missing my training and I was blamed at school for not going to seminars.


Some players from A were solving the combination of hockey-study with an individual plan and the distribution of grades. I didn't feel like a professional career at the time, and since the second year, I've preferred school. That's why I moved back to Sokolov, where I used to commute to play the second, and later the third, league while studying in Pilsen. Together with my friend Míra Přerost, at that time we studied "hockey" together and began to plan joint future, teacher-coaching, activities in sports classes in Baník, Sokolov. We didn't train much in the hockey team at that time, but we really enjoyed the student life of the gym to the fullest. In addition to playing hockey and all-sports practice at school, we also regularly chased trips to Šumava for skiing or football matches of the eleven of our gymnastics club in Borský park. And during the university, we became the academic champions of the republic with the hockey team of our faculty. And twice in a row. I never regretted my decision to prioritize school over hockey later. The student years were truly wonderful. After finishing school, together with my friend Míra, we also managed to work together in the third-league military TJ in Klatovy. We were lucky there that we could play for several months under a real coaching legend, Mr. Vlastimil Sýkora. The father, later a very successful coach, Marek Sýkora, significantly strengthened our already strong passion for sports and hockey. And he inspired us to coach. Immediately after the end of the season, I moved to VTJ Sušice as a coach for the rest of the war, and Míra remained, as a coach, together with Mr. Sýkora, even after the war in Klatovy. Thanks to this, but not only because, our planned joint activities in Sokolov's sports classes did not materialize in the end.


I started this right after the war with another, similarly sports-enthusiastic friend from my studies, and a former hockey teammate from the youth of Sokolov's Baník, Jirka Sviták. Then, for several years, we trained boys in hockey sports classes with great gusto and taught them at school. We really enjoyed the work at the time. Mainly because most boys loved hockey and other sports. Just like us. We motivated each other. I am glad that even during our coaching inexperience at the time, some of those boys fulfilled their dreams and became very successful players. The names Tomáš Vokoun, David Hruška, Václav Benák and Radek Duda are well known in the hockey environment. And I'm extremely pleased that Václav Eismann, another of those guys, is a very successful coach. After studying and playing in the 2nd and 3rd leagues, he started working for young people in Karlovy Vary and went through the categories from first grade to junior. He won the title of Czech champions with an older junior. We are now completing our seventeenth joint season at the club. For several years now, Venca has also been the head coach of the Academy and also the head coach of the Czech U17 national team, with whom he won a bronze medal at the 2019 Unofficial World Championships in this category in Canada.


After returning from the war, I stopped playing. My wife Marcela and I planned a family and agreed that learning with training and I could do without playing would suffice. So that I have some time left for family activities as well. At the time when the totalitarian regime ended in our country, our son Jirka was born and thanks to the open borders I had the opportunity of a foreign coaching engagement. My whole family and I moved to the south of Germany. I worked at a small club near Munich and lived with my family for six years. At that time, I also completed coaching license A at FTVS UK in Prague. And then I joined for another four years in the border Weiden. But we lived in Březová again, the son started going to a Czech school and the wife returned to her profession as a teacher at the 1st grade of the local elementary school. I could commute from home. During my ten years in Germany, where hockey is not known to be nearly as popular as in our country, I went through all the youth categories and I always led more teams in parallel as head coach. It was a great school. I learned a lot and met many interesting people. My meeting with Tomáš Pacina, who emigrated to Germany with his mother and grandmother in the early 1980s and proved to be a youth coach in Erding at the time of our first meeting, proved to be crucial for the future. We quickly realized that we look at hockey things, and others, very similarly, and we became great friends. Tomas left for Canada soon after, and thanks to him, I was able to complete my first internships in the cradle of hockey. My view of coaching work was significantly affected by these experiences. Above all, I understood at the time how important his psyche is for the player and for the success of the team.


Influenced by overseas hockey, and all previous sports experience, during my first German engagement and study at a coaching school in Prague, I got the idea to establish an international summer hockey academy. I wanted to offer young players from different countries such a meeting with hockey, which would be a great experience for them and strengthen their relationship to hockey and sports in general. From my previous playing and coaching experience, I knew very well that the effectiveness of training during the training camp is several times higher than the effectiveness of normal club training at home. For this reason, I went to various camps with all my teams very regularly and as often as possible. I offered cooperation on this project to my friends Míra Přerost and Tomáš Pacina, whom I trusted very much. And I was very happy that they both went with me. In addition to shifting the motivation of players, we set teamwork as the second goal. We wanted to help all participants (i.e. children, assistant coaches and parent group leaders) to understand how important teamwork is to success. The first two years in 1995 and 1996 took place in Mariánské Lázně under the name MS INTERNATIONAL ICE HOCKEY CAMP. Also, because Martin Straka, who was just starting in the NHL at the time, and Marek Sýkora, at that time already a very successful extra-league coach, took part as guests. That's why the two letters at the beginning of the name. But also, for the importance of Mental Strength and optimal conditions in the Mariánské Lázně Sports Center. And TEAM's motto Together Everyone Achieves More has become our main motto. The start of the academy was very demanding, but the feedback from the participants and their parents confirmed the correctness of the intentions. Since the third year in 1997, we have renamed the event PRO HOCKEY ACADEMY. Míra Přerost, whose hockey journey led in a different direction, was no longer there. He then very successfully used his coaching talent in youth and adult hockey at home and abroad. Tomáš Pacina, who played a fundamental role in the creation of the philosophy and content of the PHA, did not participate regularly later due to his work duties in overseas hockey. During the following years, however, there were many other great coaches, and other assistants, from different countries, who also became involved in the work of the PHA with great enthusiasm. We also regularly succeeded in involving hockey personalities from the Czech Republic and abroad. I want to name one of them for all of them here. He is a legend of Czech hockey, Robert Reichel, who took part in fourteen years, ten of them together with his son Kristián. Robert first arrived in 1997. When asked, "How will the Czech national team do at the Nagano Olympics?", Robert replied: "If we play as a team, we have a chance of success."


Thanks to all these amazing people, the academy was able to start its second quarter of a century in 2020. Over the years, we have welcomed several thousand young players, mostly their parents, and hundreds of coaches and other helpers from around the world. For me, this summer international meeting of related hockey souls has become a great passion and an integral part of my professional life.


Now a little more about my next club work. After returning from Germany, I helped with the youth for another three years in my parent club in Sokolov. Since 2004 I have been working in the youth section of HC Energie in Karlovy Vary. From 2006 to the present as the head coach of youth. Working in this position gave me a great opportunity to perceive hockey events, and especially work with young people, from a different perspective. Until then, I was always inside the hockey team for decades. First as a player, later as a coach. Now I am in a position where I can observe everything from a certain vantage point. I am very grateful for this opportunity. Working with coaches, as well as other colleagues in the club, makes me very happy and gives me a lot of energy, which I then return to work for Energy. Observing the performances of our young players of all categories is always a great experience for me.


But I also gain strength through my own sports. I prefer movement in nature. Only in very bad weather do I sit on a bicycle at home. I have long included cross-country skiing among my favorite activities. Year-round. In winter on classic skis, in summer on roller skis. We run this sport, and regular regeneration in the sauna, together with two friends, classmates from Březov, very regularly. Once a year, another group of friends-classmates join us and together we go on a trip around the Czech Republic or abroad on bicycle trips and other forms of tourism. This is our twentieth time. Sport has been strengthening our friendships for many decades.


I prefer to supplement the necessary life energy with outdoor sports. The challenges are not diminishing. On the contrary. The world today is different from the time I described at the beginning of this post. All of us who work with children in sports organizations know very well how much most current children lack daily spontaneous physical activity. How to help children? This is a common question on coaching boards and various seminars. The search for answers is in progress. There are many ideas. Finding a really effective solution to this problem is certainly not easy. I believe that this publication will also help.


In this context, I offer my, perhaps too ordinary, way of life with sports in this context, because it can help to be satisfied and healthy. Despite the fact that it is not lined with crowds of fans, extraordinary media interest and medals from the World Cup. Of course, I also dreamed of them in my youth. And I believe that we must support children in their dreams. But playing the extra league, the NHL, or even winning the Olympics is definitely not the way for everyone. The reality is that it is only suitable for a negligible percentage of children who are new to sports and can be, thanks to it, satisfied in life and successful in their profession. Personally, I perceive professional success primarily as an opportunity to do work every day that I look forward to, that is beneficial to someone and that I enjoy. This is my experience. My truth. I understand and accept that not everyone has to agree.


For the parents and coaches of today's young athletes, in my opinion, the answers to the following three questions are important. Here is my version of the answers:


1. WHY is the child's free choice so decisive in choosing a sport?


Because only when this basic condition is met for a child is there a good chance that he will really "immerse" himself in this activity and become his passion.


And for a child to make the right choice, he needs plenty of opportunities. Creating this offer is currently the task of parents. When a small child tries a sport, his parents are usually there. Or at least one of them. As for the preparation of the sports club, there is also a coach. Alternatively, a teacher, or more often a teacher, if it is sports at school or kindergarten. At that time, it is very important that adults observe well whether this is an activity that attracts and delights the child. If this happens over a period of time, for example for several months, it will most likely be the right sport for the child. If this is not the case, nothing happens. The search process will continue elsewhere. A common mistake of parents is to try to manipulate the child into sports according to their ideas. Despite the fact that the child does not show much interest in him.


Former hockey representative and coaching colleague Jirka Neubauer, who experienced the Olympic winner Martin Strak many years ago as an elephant in the Pilsen training, told me a beautiful story about him. The smallest Škoda team then finished the last training session of the season and a summer was waiting for them without joint training on the ice. All the children were gone and only little Martin remained on the switch. He cried. Jirka approached him and asked him what had happened to him. Martin replied that he was sad because the hockey season had just ended and he would not be able to go on the ice for very long. Sometimes, however, we see children crying in the preparations because they do not want to go to the ice at all. And parents or coaches don't respond. Or it even forces them to go on the ice.


Former world number one tennis player, Russian Marat Safin, admitted in his recent confession: "I never wanted to play tennis, I never enjoyed it. I was not feeling well and I was suffering under the pressure of all those duties. My passion was football. ”During his career, which he ended at the age of less than thirty due to knee problems, he angrily destroyed more than 1,000 rackets. He now lives alone, surrounded only by cats. And he doesn't even receive any visits. What a huge difference to another brilliant tennis player, Roger Federer. At the age of thirty-eight, he still plays tennis at the highest level and obviously enjoys it. His autobiography (by René Stauffer) is very inspiring. I recommend.


If we want a child to be happy in their sport for a long time and to form a lasting relationship with it, they must have freedom of choice. Sometimes his parents say: When he doesn't like anything. And I ask: Isn't that a mistake in us adults in that case? Aren't we too fixated on our ideas and expectations? Do we offer the right opportunities? Are we willing to accept that our son will play the piano rather than hockey?


2. HOW can parents best support their child in his sports activities?


A highly effective educational method is a personal example. This, in my opinion, applies to all areas of education. And when a parent is a good example to his offspring in the approach to sports, he gives him a great chance to take this approach. When a child finds positive role models that he imitates and wants to match them, he is on the right track. Older siblings tend to have a significant influence. If they are inflamed, they usually infect the younger one and he wants to match them. I have experienced this countless of times in my coaching practice. A beautiful example is the phenomenal sprinter Usain Bolt, who constantly caught up with his older siblings as a child.


If we feel that the child has made the right choice, is happy in his sport and wants to improve and be successful in it, then let's give him the best possible support. However, we must accept the fact that club programs cannot be relied upon to create the necessary foundation for versatility and special skills for a given sport. Even the best organizations do not have the capacity to include everything they need. Neither time nor personnel. At present, the family must help to really run children's sports. Frequent, and if possible very varied, joint family activities, associated with a stay in nature, are extremely important for a young athlete. A suitable selection of additional sports is also very beneficial. Furthermore, it is necessary to look for ways for the child to experience purely spontaneous, unorganized by adults, games and sports. So to look for an alternative to "slips", which will never have the influence that "children of the computer age" had on us. At the same time, lead the child to take responsibility. Not to be those systematic controllers and supervisors. And if lonely training becomes a game for a child, we usually win. Hockey coach and mental coach Marián Jelínek used this equation at one of his lectures, which took place here in Karlovy Vary and was intended primarily for youth coaches and parents of young athletes: V (Performance) = P (Potential) - Bv (Braking influences) . Excessive control is a very strong braking effect. In our sport, I often perceive parents who do not miss a single training of their offspring. They comment on everything and often overly critically evaluate it. He speaks of his child's sports in the first person plural: "Today we cannot train, we are sick." This approach, in which a parent takes his child's sports too personally, whether it is success or failure, is one of the very strong obstacles to development. children's potential.


Jaromír Jágr, an amazing role model for thousands of young athletes in our country, repeatedly mentions his parents and grandparents in his first biographical book (authored by Jan Šmíd), how they positively influenced him in many ways with their personal example. Or also his training in individual techniques, when as a little boy he played in the backyard with a hockey stick and a ball, which tried to constantly take his dog. And also, the incident from the World Cup in Prague in 1985, where his father took him as a thirteen-year-old at the match of our national team with Canada. Jaromír found his great role model at this championship. Mario Lemieux, then very young, became him. Jaromír said to himself that he wanted to be like him. And when he met with him on the same team in his first year in the NHL, Jágr further describes in his book, and at times, as a rookie, he sat on the switch more than he played, using those moments to observe his great teacher's game.


3. WHAT can coaches and sports organizations do for a young athlete?


Above all, they should offer an environment where the child feels safe. The environment in which, after fulfilling his school duties, he comes to play with gusto and without fear.


Furthermore, from the youngest categories, to offer the most versatile, I would say multisport, program. One in which the variety of game forms dominates.


At the same time, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the skill equipment for a given specialization needs to be purposefully created from the beginning, in parallel with the development of versatility. Without it, it is very difficult to reach the top level later and the necessary grace and economy of movement. This is sometimes forgotten as part of the "fight against early specialization". It is necessary to look for the golden mean.


And if these foundations are laid correctly, it is possible to offer a large training volume during puberty, which is absolutely crucial for the future of an athlete in top sport. In this period, it is necessary not to prefer the current results, but to look to the future. So, to see an athlete as he could be. The phrase "What is neglected in this period, we will never catch up with in adulthood", I heard about the need for a large training volume with lower intensity in athletes in puberty, and shortly after, recently heard from an experienced sports doctor, and an excellent sports expert. training, MUDr. Jiří Dostal from the Prague Center for Sports Medicine. This claim is based on many years of research in this area. Such training significantly increases the overall endurance of the athlete's body towards the future. And it also significantly affects the health of athletes after the end of their careers. Thus, for example, even in the period of late adulthood, a person can, quite significantly, benefit from his stronger health thanks to the fact that he underwent quality training in his youth. I really recommend listening to or reading the opinions of this top expert to anyone who cares about young athletes. In that case, do not hesitate to contact me. I'm happy to forward the links.


And there is another, extremely important, condition. If a youth coach is to really help children to develop optimally, he must first and foremost be a kind of serviceman to his charges. By that I mean the ability to really care about your athletes and be there for them. Do not put yourself in the main role of the whole event. The pretended interest recognizes the child and does not cooperate as needed for his optimal development.


In addition, of course, great attention needs to be paid to the individualization of training, compensatory activities, regeneration, the development of good lifestyle habits, the training of parents and many other things.


It is extremely difficult to fulfill all this. It requires a large investment. Time, financial, energy. And quality cooperation with the athlete's family. The ideal situation for a young athlete is when he has optimal support from the family (every parent can influence this directly) and from the club (the parent, for the most part, will not directly affect it). However, we all know that coaches and organizations sometimes do not work optimally. At that moment, the child's parent must respond. If he has doubts about the work of a coach or organization, he must enter into communication with the coach or the management of the organization. If his doubts and mistrust persist for a long time, he should find another organization for his child. By leaving his child in an environment he does not trust and which he constantly criticizes, the parent harms not only his child and himself, but also all others involved.


And a few more ideas in conclusion.


WHY? WHAT? HOW? In this way, we should constantly ask questions about children's sports as parents, coaches and teachers. Personally, I don't like working with people who already "know everything" and have simple solutions for everything. Education and learning is a process of continuous search and discovery. And it is also a huge responsibility.


Free choice, the right role models, a safe environment, plenty of suitable opportunities, empathetic and passionate coaches, teachers… And an unconditionally loving parent. This is the way for a child to catch fire for his sport and run it with passion. Only then will every training exercise be carried out really thoroughly and with gusto. Practicing will become a game for him and the learning process will be many times more efficient. Playing with love, or playing with fear, makes a huge difference!


In my role as the parent of a young athlete, I, like every parent, have certainly made a number of mistakes. However, my wife and I have always tried to ensure that our son has freedom of choice in his sports and does not feel that he has to, because we want it. At the same time, as a father, athlete and coach, I wanted to be a good role model in his approach to sports, sometimes a mentor, sometimes a sparring partner, sometimes a motivator. Jirka played hockey from an early age, just like me. He started with him when he was four years old in Germany during my first engagement. There he also went to kindergarten and to the first school class. After returning home, he continued with him in Sokolov and Karlovy Vary until the end of the multi-year Sokolov grammar school. Before completing it, he also completed one season in the Canadian Junior WHL. After graduation, he did not yet know which professional path he wanted to take. He therefore decided to study English and German at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. It seemed like a meaningful choice to our parents as well, when he still didn't know what he would like to do one day. At that time he was commuting to Germany to play a lower competition. He also earned extra money for his studies. Even after graduating from college, he still didn't quite know which way to go. So he decided to continue playing in Germany, start helping to train children and take a coaching course. And a few years ago, the time came when he decided to send his CV to hockey clubs that could find a young professional coach for young people. Several offers came back to him. He chose the Italian Merano. Among other things, also because he is a passionate fisherman-fly fisherman. He enjoyed working in a beautiful alpine resort for three years and liked the South Tyrolean mentality very much. He approached home this year. He recently began his engagement with young people in Regensburg, Germany. When we watch him now, as an adult and alone, with his wife and his grandparents, we are happy with him. Not only because he goes the same way in his life as I did. But mainly because we see that he is found in what he does. And he does it with enthusiasm and love.


Each of us parents want only the best for our child, quite naturally. However, the best thing is not always what we, as parents, are convinced of. What never works is certainly undue pressure on the outcome. What does excessive pressure mean? For example, when a parent shows negative emotions repeatedly and for a long time in case of "failure". In this case, there is a huge danger! The fear of failure, which cannot be played well, becomes chronic. The child will believe that he is loved by the parent only if his result is good. And sooner or later this pressure will not withstand. Seventy-eight percent of such children suffer from burnout and end their sport before the age of eighteen. Seventy-four percent of them have a negative attitude towards any sports activities for life. And there is a risk of other psychological damage. These overwhelming numbers, which are the result of studies conducted in the United States, are presented by the excellent sports psychologist Michal Šafář, Dean of FTK University of Olomouc, in his presentation "Do you really want to have a champion at home?". A few years ago, I also invited Michal to our place in Karlovy Vary to lecture on this topic to coaches and parents of children of our hockey club. The presentation under the same name can be searched on YouTube. I also highly recommend this expert to all interested parties. If we want to avoid this danger, let us allow our children to play sports and, above all, to live with love. Let's be good role models for them.


At the very end of my post, there is also an insight into the "Rules of fair play", which we expect from parents in our hockey club:


The basis is fun and a positive environment.

Teach yourself and your child to have emotions under control.

Allow coaches and children to be creative.

You don't know how many times your child missed or fired badly, it's a learning process.

Through training, children learn to play.

The ice rink should be a place to rest. Keep an eye on your child.

You do not deal with coaches or referees with other parents.

Do not rate your child's teammates.

Do not compare your child with others.

Support your child, highlight fun and teamwork.

Appreciate diligence, commitment and discipline.

Listen and support your child.

Never doubt your child.

Don't defeat the referee.

There are more important things than hockey.

Tomáš Pacina

Pacina trained Crosby and Iginla.
Don't protect children from losing, he says

His father Václav was the iconic author of MF DNES. From the age of three, he used to take his son Tomáš to big hockey matches at the Prague Sports Arena as well as hockey interviews. Family friends were, for example, Luděk Bukač, Jiří Holík, Karel Gut or Ivan Hlinka. "My dad taught me to love hockey," admits Tomáš Pacina.

Tomáš Pacina emigrated with his mother to Germany at the age of fifteen, where he began training at the age of twenty. First with the children, to later move overseas and as a skills hockey coach he made it to the NHL. "I remember taking a shower in the locker room of Montreal, and there's a huge Canadiens logo on the tiles. I suddenly realized that I really made it somewhere. "

His clients included Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Patrick Kane and John Tavares. Now 51-year-old Pacina has come to the Czech Republic, where - as he says - he passes on his experience with coaching children to local coaches.


How should children be trained?

With love!


But how do you keep your love when you curb twenty wild boys?

Children cherish love, but also discipline. They like to know what the exercise will look like and that there are consequences: when something is done, something happens. But we as parents now allow children everything, and they do not know the consequences. Therefore, they are not ready for life. For me, the children always knew what to expect from me. When I know what to expect from a coach, I feel safe. When he is unpredictable, the child does not feel safe and does not want to learn. He concentrates on hiding his emotions.


Is there a guide on how to get their attention?

No. But various sports have to be done, such as playing football or handball on ice, to keep the children entertained. That is the big task of a coach. They have to organize it so that children learn without knowing that they are learning. The children will not stand in the crowd for long. They all have to have a puck and move. A coach is not a police officer who manages traffic during training, but our job is to make sure that basic things are done correctly.


There are many experts who say that children under the age of twelve should not play for results.

This is a new approach with which I strongly disagree. I think kids count it anyway. Receiving a diploma for fifth place is not a preparation for life. Then they come to university, write a 49 percent exam, and aren't ready to deal with failure. And there is coming for everyone in life. Coaches and parents have a duty to prepare them for failure, not to protect them from it. Sure, we don't have to keep score for six-year-olds, but kids need to know that they have to work every day to improve. When we tell them that we will not count anything, that they are all winners, then that is not the reality of life.


How much have the children changed in the thirty years you train?

Entirely! They are different than they were ten years ago, which is a big problem for society. I don't know how it is here, but overseas we have children who are just expecting. They are not able to realize that there is work first, and only then do the results come. They think they are entitled to the results right away. They are led to have no responsibility. And when there is a problem at school, hockey, parents automatically blame the teacher or coach. They never look critically because Pepíček does not play in the first line because he did not train.


I think we are dealing with similar problems here. What is it?

Because parents work a lot and feel guilty for not spending enough time with their children. Their compensation is that they allow everything. But even with NHL players, the work is different than it was ten or fifteen years ago. They come and have only expectations, because they are used to having a personal coach from the age of ten. They are the center, so they come and say: What can you offer me? What will you do for me? And if not, I'm going elsewhere. Long-term loyalty and cooperation are disappearing. It's all about what and who will do it for me now.


I sometimes feel that parents perceive sports clubs as a service. They pay, they bring the child, they pick them up and you take care.

They look at it as babysitting. They put it down here and want NHL players out of them. If we don't, they'll go to another club. This is a worldwide problem. They automatically expect the child to have results, but they forget that he still has to work at home. And that the results are related to their character.

And are there ambitious parents of hockey players in America?

300 to 400 thousand dollars is the cost before a ten-year-old boy gets into the NHL, which is an average of 50 thousand dollars a year.


Is hockey just for the rich?

Yes, it's hard for middle-class people to tighten it up. When I started as a skills coach in 1994, the profession did not exist. There are thousands of them overseas now, and it's a huge business. Today, there is no young player in America who has any chance of getting higher without having a private skills coach. They work on shooting, on deceptive movements, on skating. The camps run all year round, there are private academies. I'm working on one and the contribution is $ 38,000 a year. Yes, it's with school, lodging and food, but it's money, like going to study Harvard. And we still have eight teams of 20 children.


You started coaching children in Germany, how did you get to Canada to coach the best players from there?

With love!


Does it really help that way?

I always had a dream to train in Canada, so in 1994 I agreed to be an assistant to a youth team in Calgary. I went to watch the Flames training, where Sláva Lener, who knew my father, was. And he taught me every day. Before long, I started working with the national women's team. Tom Renney, who was the head coach of the men's Canadian national team at the time, saw me there and gave me my first chance. I came before training and worked with players on individual skills. Soon after, he got a job at the New York Rangers and I was part of his team.


In what role?

I did development camps for beginners. Later I worked for the main team of Florida, where I was in charge of starting the trainings. Then he moved to Montreal. I remember taking a shower in the locker room and the tiles have a huge Canadiens logo. And I realized I really made it somewhere.


You've also been on the team in Pittsburgh, and you've been running a pre-season camp for the biggest NHL stars for years. What are you teaching Crosby?

The right word is to perfecting, not to teaching. It's not that Tomas Pacina teaches Crosby, but Tomas Pacina is having fun with Crosby. Something arises from that discussion. And I know from experience that the better the players, the more open they are, because they understand that even the smallest details can decide whether or not to extend the contract. For example, Jarome Iginla, with whom I worked one-on-one for four years, said that thanks to our cooperation, he made a new four-year contract worth $16 million.


Does Crosby listen?

You can advise him something and he will try it right away. Then he says it works, or that it doesn't suit him. But there's no way he'd tell me you've never played the NHL, so what are you going to teach me here. No! They know that if I can help them in one little thing, they will learn from it. No one in America asks you if you won the Stanley Cup. There they ask if you are a good teacher, coach. They judge you by how many players you helped jump up the league.


Again, guys from the NHL know that the club will not let a fool join them. Now you teach coaches in the Czech Republic, or ...

I pass on experiences. I'm here to tell the boys how I did it, I'm not forcing them to do anything. Every coach has its own style. I argue that there are only two ways - up or down. There is no stagnation, because if I don't get better, I get worse. Crosby does hockey very well, but he's still getting better. Matthews is one of the top scorers in the NHL and improved his shot last year as well. Yes, I had coaches at the lecture explaining something to them, and they said to me: I know, I played it. Or others would come and said first, "You know, I didn't play that much. So what? The main thing is how you work now. How you love children, how much time you spend educating. After all, you have to go on the ice with those children, tell them that they have a long protector, kneel down to them. And not to drink coffee somewhere and say I used to play hockey.


Try to say, why did the train miss us, why are we no longer at the top?

I'll start differently - I was incredibly surprised by the fantastic conditions we have here. We have professional trainers, academies, two ice surfaces available in most winter stadiums, gyms, videos, equipment. I lived in Sweden, spent years in Finland, where my ex-wife played, I train in America, Canada, and to be honest, we have the best conditions in the world in the Czech Republic.



Really! It is nonsense to say that we need more. But we have to deal with the details. Someone has to go on ice and solve the details and basics of hockey with children. Where and in what situations should he have a hockey stick, how to transfer weight, how exactly to skate. How should the skates be properly sharpened, how big should they be. Then we give the children the opportunity to compete with others, because now they are very handicapped that no one solves the details of the equipment with them.


Aren't we doing that?

For example, in Scandinavia, sharpening the skates is a science, here everyone does it. Sometimes it is necessary to shorten the stick. We have well-educated coaches, they are passionate, but we have to pay attention to details so that the player can get into the right hockey position. Then his skills will grow. As if you had never written an article and I would suddenly send you to an European contest to compete. You'd be feeling like a fool.


I admit, you surprised me.

The worst thing is to say that we didn't do such things thirty years ago, and great players grew up here anyway. This is no longer considered overseas. It goes there according to what the latest trend is, what really works. I myself have changed my mind about training techniques eight times in thirty years.


Are Czechs conservative?

No! We are scared. I think communism has left a great shadow on our soul. The communist soul is a soul full of fear. Fear of new knowledge, fear of leaving comfort and learning new things. We have talented people, we are smart, but we are afraid of change. And as I said at the beginning about children, when you are afraid, you do not develop. Fear closes you.


On the other hand, the generation of the thirties did not know socialism.

It will get better, but it is necessary for the boys to go out for an internship for a year or two, not for a week.


One more question, although it is a topic from which there could be another conversation. You are close to women's hockey for years. You've trained women, but in the Czech Republic we often ask ourselves the question: Is hockey for women?

It sure is! Canada has 60,000 female players, which is the same number as we have in the Czech Republic. It is the future. I have seen Czech girls play at the World Cup and they were fantastic. They had excellent skills and played smart Czech hockey. If we work with them, they'll have a great chance for a medal, not just a bronze one.


Is there still smart Czech hockey?

I noticed it with them. For men, it has disappeared because most countries skate much better. We are never the first with the puck, so all we have to do is defend. But it would be a mistake to be conservative. The NHL women's hockey will take over in a year or two. There will be a professional league and I think we should hop on this train.


Author: Robert Sára


bottom of page