Jamie Rivers is a former Blues player, and owner of Synergy Hockey, where he works to improve athletes' skill-sets, tactical understanding and physical fitness, bringing it all together for the shared goal of realizing the potential of every player. Synergy Hockey is composed of pro and semi-pro hockey players and coaches, all with a strong desire to provide youth hockey players with a fun, productive environment for skill development. Learn more about Coach Rivers' program strategies and keys to success!
You can read an overview of the interview with Jamie Rivers or listen to the podcast below for the full interview.
Q: What is the vision and mission behind Synergy Hockey & how did you get started?
A: A lot of sports such as football and baseball, some of those ones, have been ahead of the curve with some of their skill development for the kids. And here in St Louis especially where I guess not that we are further behind some of the northern states or even Canada for that matter, but we are a little bit behind on ice hockey skills and certainly development. so when we have the opportunity to start Synergy Hockey Skills, we really wanted to to get them from the first time they touch the ice and continue to work with these kids developing their skills all the way up until, who knows, we actually have some clients who come and work with us till that are adult league players, we have NHL players we have college players… but our main focus to start off was to really develop the youngsters to help them enjoy the game, to work hard, to get better every time they touch the ice. Just like anything else if you see the results that you're getting better it's going to be a lot more fun to do on a regular basis.
Q: What do you think has been the key to your success that other coaches could learn from?
A: You know I really think it's the attention to detail. You know you see a lot of times with various sports and different coaches that it's difficult to correct kids. Nobody really wants the kids to feel like oh they're not doing it right or, that they don't enjoy it, or that the coach doesn't like them for some reason. So we kind of have a really good process where we correct them, but we are always trying to be positive and motivating, so that you're not losing that kids interest. He's still excited about learning, and then the parents who are watching, they realize that the coaches aren't just out there pushing pucks around or clock watching, they’re involved…
Q: How do you adapt your approach to correcting and coaching different players based on their learning styles?
A: Look every player is, just like any kind of student you have in school, they all react differently to different kinds of teaching and the best way to figure that out is to have interaction with them. To make sure that even when they're doing things correctly, that you give them the reinforcement... and what you're doing is you pull information from those kids, you see their reactions to basically how you’re teaching and they react to it. And for me I think it's important that all of our coaches interact with the kids a lot so that they get to know their personalities and then when they're giving corrections one at that point there is always interaction so it doesn't feel like an “oh my goodness he's mad at me, he's talking to me,” it's more of a “yeah I get it coach.” And the kids feel like they're invested at the same time as the coach, you know it's like a team, we're in this together type of thing. So I think it's important for my coaches to get to know the kids to gain that trust when they're teaching, so the kids believe in what they're learning.
Q: Tell us a story about one of your proudest moments in your coaching career?
A: I guess from an overall standpoint, when you look at a couple years ago the NHL draft, we had four kids that are affiliated with Synergy Hockey, that got drafted in the first round of the NHL draft. And that's a huge moment for us, and for everyone in St. Louis for that matter. And trust me I'm not laying claim to do everything for those kids, but we were a part of their skill development in their learning process as they moved on from St. Louis to the National program, and now most of them are playing in the NHL. And so it's quite a proud moment when jersey after jersey being put on at the NHL draft is kids that you've had an impact on.
Q: Tell us a story about some of the challenges you faced in your coaching career and how you overcame them, or maybe you still are?
A: I think the biggest challenge is for the recreational player that is looking to get better, except it's not at all cost. And the challenge that presents itself there is, you want to teach them you want to develop them, but you have to take a different route. Certainly your approach to the corrections and the information that you give them, has to be customized or tapered because they are not going to absorb, nor are they going to want to hear the same things as a top caliber player, who is striving to become college or pro. And it's okay for these kids to not have aspirations to play pro hockey, because that's not the case with everyone, and we understand that. But when they work within the group and you maybe have one player that is operating at a higher level, and one that is a little bit lower and not interested in being at the highest level, then you have to find a way to change your approach, to make it fun, yet not compromise the program. And I think that that's still an ongoing challenge...
Q: How do you think technology is changing the way you work and coach?
A: Well there's so much access now to video, and I find that today's athletes in general, they crave information. And you see it at the top leagues in the NHL, and the other pro leagues where the video component has become so important to showing them systems and strategies and things like that, that from the skill standpoint it's almost the same way… What better way to show someone that they're doing something right or what they're doing wrong, or how they can adjust it, then to be able to use video and technology where you can overlay player on player and show them the difference between how their technique is with skating, or shooting, or passing...