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On The Whistle Podcast | The Culture of Coaching

October 20, 2020

Gary Goldberg

As a mentor, a coach, or a leader, you get what you get. It's up to you to build around what you get. On the inaugural episode of the On the Whistle podcast, I talk with Babson hockey coach Jamie Rice about his journey to coaching and what's made him successful in sports leadership. What I talk with Jamie about:

When the skates went on and the puck dropped in Jamie's journey to Babson hockey What it means that kids don't have as much free time as they did in the past How to teach ethics and morality while you're teaching hockey Who a leader really is on and off the rink ...And the journey to becoming a college hockey coach

 

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Episode Transcript

Gary Goldberg:

Thanks everybody for tuning in this week. We're excited to welcome Jamie Rice from Babson hockey, head coach Babson hockey, to the show. Jamie, or Coach, I don't know what you prefer. I prefer Coach.

Jamie Rice:

I've been called all things in between or worse, so you don't [crosstalk 00:00:31] offend me.

Gary Goldberg:

So I'm going to call you Coach. Coach is on his 16th season at Babson hockey, starting in 2004. Has brought the team to handful if not more VCAC tournament championships, nine all-Americans according to your record. And full disclosure and most importantly, Coach Rice has my son involved in its program currently. So I've had a little bit of a behind the scenes look at the culture of his team and the culture of his coaching, which has been a huge plus for my son, and a tremendous experience for me as a parent.

Gary Goldberg:

But really what we want to dive into is understanding your journey to getting into coaching, and what's made you successful, and also perhaps you could share with us some of your failures along the way too, because no one gets to the top of the mountain without slipping a few times here and there, right?

Jamie Rice:

Sure, absolutely. [crosstalk 00:01:30]

Gary Goldberg:

So Coach ... Yeah, no, I am too. So Coach, super excited to have you on, thanks for joining us.

Jamie Rice:

Thank you very much for having me, and it's actually 17th year, although I'm not sure what we're currently counting this COVID situation as. So we hope it's 17, but this is the start of 17 years.

Gary Goldberg:

Good.

Jamie Rice:

So it really is, it's been 31 years as a college coach, it's the only thing I've ever done, it's what I fill out on my year end tax forms, so I'm blessed to be able to do what I've done.

Gary Goldberg:

Well, I think the kids have been blessed to have you as a coach. I'd love to start off a little bit at the beginning. At some point in your life you played hockey. I know you played for Babson, is that correct?

Jamie Rice:

Yes it is.

Gary Goldberg:

But there must have been a long journey to get to Babson as a hockey player. So when did the skates go on, and when did the puck drop, so to speak?

Jamie Rice:

I grew up actually in a family of basketball players. I was the only person involved in hockey. My father was a Boston University graduate, had season hockey tickets, he played a little basketball there, played in the military when he was in Korea. He coached my sister in junior high and high school, summer basketball. So I really grew up in and around basketball much more. But he had BU season hockey tickets and we used to go to all of the games. I think it was, there were, we had four tickets and it was probably $9 for the four of us to go to each game, so it was a different day and age.

Jamie Rice:

That certainly peaked my curiosity and interest a little bit. Obviously I'm growing up in a time, I was born 1967, so the Boston Bruins were kind of a big deal like they are now for these kids, Bobby Orr and the big bad Bruins, and the number of rinks that sprouted up in the area with certainly the Bruins, and BU having some real success in and around that time, the local college hockey team, BC was very good, Harvard was excellent. So hockey was a New England thing, just outside of my family.

Jamie Rice:

One of my youngest babysitters, her son was a year older than me and we played youth hockey together. But she was a figure skating teacher. And probably five or six years old, it was, "Either bring a pair of skates and get on the ice while I'm giving my skating lessons or sit in the stands and watch." And that was my start, so I started in youth hockey. Different day and age it was all town based youth hockey. I played youth hockey all the way through bantams, was really fortunate to have a lot of different coaches who were really not only good coaches, because I think as a youth player you don't understand the difference what makes a great coach, they were really good coaches. They knew the game, they instilled a love of the game in us, they made it fun, they were dads, a lot like they are today, but they were all really good coaches. And I think the biggest compliment I can give any of them was none of them ever snuffed out the fire. None of them ever made it so I didn't want to go back the next day, the next game, the next week, the next month, the next year.

Jamie Rice:

They really put me on that path of this is a great game, all my best friends played, we were fortunate to have really good teams. So it was fun going to the rink, it was fun being around it. A lot of them were BC kids who grew up, whose parents had gone to BC, a few of them had played at BC, one had played at Norwich, Paul Buckley. So they were hockey people, and I got swept up in the stream coming from this basketball family.

Jamie Rice:

But again, the biggest thing is they never killed my passion. I just loved it.

Gary Goldberg:

Did your dad want you to play hockey, or was he like, "Jamie, why aren't you grabbing the basketball and playing with the other kids in the family?"

Jamie Rice:

Yeah, I loved to play everything, and my parents were great, they let me explore and push my own journey as far as what interested me. I played baseball, I played a little bit of basketball, it was modified CYO I guess you could call it at the Newton Y. I tried soccer, I tried lacrosse. But hockey was the thing that really stuck with me. I was, I don't know. People ask me a lot [inaudible 00:05:33] I grew up a Bruins fan. I really didn't. I grew up a college hockey fan. BU hockey to me was the be all and end all. It was where the world started and ended as far as hockey. So I think in some respects, my path was really not I want to play in the NHL, my path was I want to play at BU. And maybe more so than for a kid who wants to grow up to play in the NHL, there's a little bit more clear path to how you have to, what you have to do to get to be a college hockey player. It's certainly hard and arduous, and when you're eight or nine or 10 or 14 years old it's still a big challenge.

Jamie Rice:

But that was really, for me it was like the end game. I want to play college hockey, and then I'm 13 years old, or 12 at the time, the '80 team wins the Olympics, they had four BU players. So it was like for me that was probably the pinnacle, 1978 BU wins the national championship, 1980 they have the four guys at the Olympics, that was the pinnacle of my hockey, this has me hook, line and sinker. It's really sunk its teeth into me. This is what I want to do, this is what I love.

Jamie Rice:

But I loved baseball just as much. I played football in high school. I was fortunate enough to be pretty good in all three where I played a fair bit and was captain of teams and had, actually had opportunities in all three sports to play in college, but hockey was just the one I guess that really had its deepest grip. We'd joke all the time at our house, if you grow up in and around this area of New England, you got to learn to swim, you got to learn to read, you got to learn to skate. Hockey's a part of [crosstalk 00:07:01]

Gary Goldberg:

That's funny.

Jamie Rice:

... New England. And so it really sunk its teeth in. But my youth coaches were great, and that they and my teammates, we had a great number of kids who were successful, we had very successful teams. The kids loved it, we were fortunate to have this place called The Cove in Newton. Because it wasn't like today where you had all these practices. I think we practiced one and a half times. So we practiced every Tuesday, let's say, and then every other Saturday we might practice. But it wasn't like it is today, where the kids are going to the rink three or four times for their club team.

Jamie Rice:

So we spent a lot of time at the pond, we spent a lot of time playing street hockey, and I had neighbors and friends, you could always find a street hockey game, or in the winter a pickup game on the pond. So it was really a part of the fabric.

Gary Goldberg:

Bobby Orr talks a lot about that in his book that I read, the nature of playing for play as opposed to being regimented and rigorous and having all the structure. I think there's a little bit of a gap today in terms of playing for fun. My kids didn't grow up ... I grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts, and a stick and a pinky ball turned into dozens of different games. We invented games. We all met out in the street, and then my mom said, "When the streetlights come on, check in or come home."

Gary Goldberg:

My kids didn't do that, didn't have the opportunity necessarily to do so much just play in the streets stuff. I think that a little bit of a gap today. Just curious what your thoughts are on that.

Jamie Rice:

Yeah, I mean now they get driven in a car to some exotic location and play a showcase, a tournament, a practice. It really dawned on me when my son started playing youth hockey. He's now 18, but when he started in our town in Walpole, King Philip Walpole is our youth hockey organization, we had a great group of kids, and in his elementary school, I think there were seven or eight of the kids were on his team. When they got to be nine, my son included, they wound up on like six different club teams. So your neighborhood street hockey game, when everyone plays in their town, is really easy to organize because everybody who's eight years old is practicing at 6:00 in the evening on Tuesday and that's it.

Jamie Rice:

All of a sudden you go to a club team and maybe you're practicing two or three times, but chances are that everyone has a different day. So the River Rats are practicing on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the South Shore Kings have Tuesdays and Fridays, and the [inaudible 00:09:25] Boys are Wednesdays and Thursdays. So all of a sudden, the group of eight or 10 or 12 kids when you start to account for ages on either side become a little bit harder to get together and have them play, because they're all in a car going someplace to practice as opposed to having that free time to play. And I don't think there's any question about that.

Jamie Rice:

And I think it's every sport. How many times you drive by a Little League field now on a weekend and it's empty, not because kids aren't playing baseball but because maybe they're not playing in your town, they're playing for a AU or a Select or a Cal Ripken team, whatever it may be. But they're not playing in Fall River, they're not playing in Walpole. Or if they are, it's almost become a secondary team to them, because that club team, that whatever ... And I'm not down on that at all, it's just the reality of where things are. I joke a lot at coaching things that I speak at. I came home on my mom's lap, I think she was smoking a cigarette from the hospital, and I was on her lap in the front seat of the car. Now you get locked into a childproof seat that could be dropped from the moon. So things have changed a little bit. But I certainly think there is-

Gary Goldberg:

A little bit?

Jamie Rice:

There's less free play. There's less intuitive free play. And part of it is, I think you could even say quite honestly, you look at the schools. Recess has decreased, gym has decreased. What you can do at those events, Mike, between the time my son graduated ... Graduated. Left elementary school and my daughters went, you could no longer bring a ball to recess, because something happened, I don't know what it was. And I think about recess, like you said with your neighborhood, whatever you had, if someone brought a NERF ball, great, if someone brought a football, great, a kickball, if you found a softball under the jungle gym, great. The monkey bars, whatever it is. You just played whatever. And you played different things with different kids all the time. I don't even think there's that necessarily.

Jamie Rice:

They have less ability I think to figure things out because one, maybe we as adults don't allow them to in every avenue, it's not just playing club youth sports or playing more youth sports, but it's other areas where, who rides their bike anymore? The old baseball, I throw the glove on the handlebar and bike down to the local field, and whoever was there you played, and it could have been a 16 year old kid and a seven year old kid, you figured it out. Now, I sit here during COVID looking out my office for the last seven months, which is my living room, I maybe see three kids ride by on a bike in a week. And I think when I was a kid, maybe for yourself too, you felt like a bike, that was like, you know.

Gary Goldberg:

It was every day. Either that or my skateboard.

Jamie Rice:

It wasn't only transportation, it was just a way of life.

Gary Goldberg:

And I knew how to fix it too. And build it, change the tires, the whole thing. I loved my bike. It was everything to me.

Jamie Rice:

I think I know I played more street hockey than my children do. I know I skated on the pond more. And we have a backyard rink that I built, and part of this to me is to recreate that same thing for my kids that I had, because it's even harder, you can't just show up at the local pond anymore and skate, because there's signs, and there's someone patrolling it, and you got to join the club, whatever it may be. So it's not all bad, it's not all negative, I think it is just the reality of the way things are compared to when I grew up and it was play anything everywhere, every, all the time.

Jamie Rice:

We used to play on, as you go up Conn Ave, we used to play on the grass area that separates the carriage lane from Conn Ave as you go up through Newton. And we would play football on that. And it was never a thought that you might fall off the curb and get hit by a car. We used to play whiffle ball there. There was never the thought that you might hit the ball into the street and never get it back, it was like okay, this is where we play, this is how we do it. Now, I'm not sure a parent would let their child do that. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't let my kids do that. But even if you did, the town might not let you do it. Or I see signs at the Little League field, that maybe they were up when I was a kid, but you can't go on the field now unless you have a permit, unless it's a scheduled practice. If you walk into a rink, how many times is there actually open ice?

Jamie Rice:

Some of it maybe we don't have the ability to do in our current state and day and time.

Gary Goldberg:

Coach, talk to me a little bit about how you ended up playing college hockey. Who was your high school hockey coach, and then how has that transitioned to college hockey, and did you see it change in expectations for you as a player? How did your coach get you to that place of accomplishment, transitioning from high school to college? The act of actually coaching Jamie Rice, what was that like? Were you a pliable kid, were you a kid that had to be taught something and then go figure it out on his own, did you get it quickly? I mean all three of my kids are different learners, totally different learners. So what was your learning style, and what coaching style worked for you?

Jamie Rice:

Well I was ... I actually, I went to Rivers, I had two coaches at Rivers, Pete Brock and Joe Finnegan. Two completely different guys, both very good coaches, both very successful. But Joe Finnegan, my coach my junior and senior year, we won the New Englands at Rivers, it was the first time they had ever won anything really in hockey. This was back in the days we didn't have the rink they have now, we played at Natick Arena, West Suburban Arena. And then I did a post graduate year at Hotchkiss, and I played for a gentleman by the name of Jeff [Kosack 00:15:03].

Jamie Rice:

Not slighting Pete Brock or no offense meant, but Joe Finnegan really tapped into my personal accountability. Be accountable for myself, being on time, being responsible, being a good teammate. He was a good hockey coach, he was a better human being, and a fantastic teacher. And I think he really instilled in me a lot of the things that people probably don't, when they think of a coach, I think we all tend to think it's X's and O's, or the Rudy speech, who can get up and give that. And I really do think it is the environment and the expectations you uphold as much as it is the actual knowledge. And you have to have knowledge, you have to be good at what you do. But Joe Finnegan was really somebody who tapped into, this is what it means to be a captain, a leader, a player, a member of a team. These are our expectations, this is what you personally are accountable for.

Jamie Rice:

I broke my leg as a junior, spent 26 days in a hospital bed.

Gary Goldberg:

Wow.

Jamie Rice:

So I missed a large portion ... I was young. I was 17 years, a high school graduate, so I did a postgraduate year at Hotchkiss. And there I played for Jeff Kosack. And Jeff was a Dartmouth grad, a fabulous player athletically. And he was a fantastic coach, and he really pushed the next level of it, which was a deeper understanding.

Jamie Rice:

I loved to play, and I was always pretty good. I was always fortunate enough to be a pretty good player. But I loved to play, so I think coaching was easy, because as much as I loved to play, I love to compete. I just love to ... Backyard basketball, 21, get on the goal line, you want to race? I loved to play, I loved to compete as a kid, so I think I was fairly easy to coach that way, and there wasn't a lot of need to motivate me. I was probably hard to coach because I loved to play and I loved to compete. I wanted to be on the ice every second. I wanted to play another game. If we lost, I took it terribly. If we won I was probably a little overzealous in my winning.

Jamie Rice:

But they both, in different ways, Joe and Jeff, I think rounded me out to the point where I could become a college hockey player. Both as a man, as an adult, as a person morally and ethically, and then actually hockey wise, I think Jeff Kosack really put some finishing touches on my game, which helped me flourish and get to a point where college hockey became a viable option.

Jamie Rice:

But as I said, I had an opportunity to play college football, I had an opportunity to play college baseball. I actually did play baseball in addition to hockey at Babson. But as far as the hockey only piece, those two guys gave me the completion of whatever I was, I was a raw piece of clay, I was a thin raw piece of clay. I think I was 170 pounds and 18 years old. But they gave me both the internal, hey, this is who I need to be and what I need to do and what's important and what is valued by a coach and a team. And then hey, these are some things that as a player, if you can excel at these things it'll help you go a long way.

Gary Goldberg:

You said morally and ethically. Those are two pretty heavy words. When you think about young adults coming up in the world, and joining the world of citizenry really, you think about ethics and morality as huge components to a community or society that cares for people and creates value collectively. But I don't necessarily think that a lot of parents see their kids going into programs to become more or less, or people involved in ethics. I believe it's a huge and important missing piece, and I'm a huge believer in moral and ethics. But how did someone teach you moral and ethics while they're teaching you hockey? That seems like a pretty big divide. And one that not necessarily tied to winning in a hockey game. Or is it?

Jamie Rice:

Yeah, I think one of the benefits of a private school environment is these people are you're coaches, they're your teachers, they're your advisors. They certainly are your mentors, but I think they become your mentors because they have a much deeper reach because you're seeing them ... I was at Rivers, I had Joe Finnegan in football and hockey. He was my advisor, he was my math teacher for two years, I'd see him in the lunch room, I'd see him when I had a problem, I'd see him when he had a problem with me. It went both ways.

Jamie Rice:

And then at Hotchkiss with Jeff Kosack, I didn't have him in class, he wasn't my advisor, but I saw him in the dorms, I saw him at dinner, I saw him with his family, I played golf with him.

Jamie Rice:

I think it wasn't a lesson like you would think about someone teaching as far as here's the white board, let me write it down for you, you go home and study it, come back, tell me what you think. It really was teaching me by observation and how they carried themselves and how they conducted themselves. And there were little things, like I said, Joe Finnegan, being on time. I grew up the son of an Army person, so it was instilled in me early, but it was reinforced. Being on time, treating other people well. We always left our locker room exceptionally clean. It wasn't acceptable to throw tape on the ground or not put it in the barrel. It wasn't acceptable, like I said that at Rivers we played at Natick, it wasn't acceptable to walk into another town's rink and not treat it well. It wasn't acceptable to get off the bus and have the bus look crap house. Now granted, it was a lot less, there was no family meals on it, if you brought a Snickers bar out of the vending machine, you were doing okay.

Jamie Rice:

Then I get to Hotchkiss and Jeff Kosack, the same way, we got on the bus ... We drove vans everywhere. We never took buses. And I remember I sat in the front seat the first trip, he turned off the radio, we stopped at this little store in Sharon, Connecticut, down the road from Hotchkiss on our way out of town. He bought the New York Times, handed it to me and said, "Read it and let's talk about it." I'm 18 years old, and I'm like, "Read the New York what?" I didn't know what it was. What is this strange writing? It's not the Globe.

Jamie Rice:

And that was our van rides. And there were eight of us in there, and we were talking about things that we were reading in the New York Times. And he was telling us things. And we learned that he played at Dartmouth, and played professionally in France, things that you'd kind of, oh, Jeff Kosack was a good player. You just had conversations. So I think it really was, it was moral and ethic development and growth and learning as a product of the environment. And these two men created really incredible environments. And I think that's probably what I took with me coaching that I didn't realize when I started coaching from them was that the environment is really the key.

Jamie Rice:

I tell this story all the time, it kind of came full circle. Nature and nurture are something I think coaches always try to define or try to find which one really it is. And I have twins, I have twin daughters. And nature kicks the hell out of nurture. So you get what you get, and then it's up to you to build around it. I guess that's my long way of saying it. So I take, my twin daughters are a great example of they are completely different people, but the environment we try to put them in is the same so that they can hopefully develop within their individual styles and abilities, a commonality and a framework that my wife and I think is important. So I really think that Jeff and Joe, the moral, the ethics, the good citizenry, the good teammate, the good leadership, I was fortunate to be captain of both those teams and not, hey look at me, but hey ... There were certain expectations that they never had to say to me, that you could just kind of feel, whether it be a glance or a look.

Jamie Rice:

My kids all say, "Dad, you have this look you give us," and it probably goes back to them. And even my dad would, sometimes the unspoken word is more powerful than the spoken word. So I think when you see these men who are ... And we had fantastic teams at both places with really a lot of good players, you kind of get a sense for how it's going well and when it's not, when they look at you you kind of get a sense like okay, we're straying maybe a little bit from why it goes well. So I think I was pliable in that I was able to pick up on that. And I'm not sure at the time I could've spoken to it like I can now 35, 36, 37 years later from that [crosstalk 00:23:43]. But I do think that it's a good lesson as a coach or as a teacher, as an adult. Everything you say is important, but how you say it, your emotions, what you say, how you relay it, how you walk into a room, are you upbeat, are you downtrodden, "How you doing?" "I'm okay." "How you doing?" "I'm great, thanks."

Jamie Rice:

All these things that I think are maybe even the verbal and nonverbal cues that are not quote-unquote "the coach speak," are picked up upon a lot more than we realize.

Gary Goldberg:

I think that's leadership.

Jamie Rice:

Yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

That's leadership. And incumbent upon the leader to know how to do those things to whom at what time with what consistency or what volume. I have over, right now, about 115 employees, and depending on which employee, which department, which manager, I have to conduct myself [inaudible 00:24:36] in a way that maximizes their potential at every turn. And I can see some people need to be picked up, some people sometimes need to be settled down. Those are two opposing forces, right? But as a leader, I believe your sense is that you know how to adjust your own behavior to maximize the output of the person you are trying to mentor.

Jamie Rice:

Yeah. And I agree 100%, and I also think at the end of the day you have to be true to yourself. And I think again, Jeff, and Joe, that was them, they were who they were. Joe Finnegan was a college football player who played hockey in high school but not in college, and we won [inaudible 00:25:13] New Englands. At Rivers. Jeff Kosack was a captain, a phenomenal player at Dartmouth when they were just great, and then a successful college coach. Two completely different people, but they were both really comfortable in their own skin. They weren't trying to be something they weren't.

Jamie Rice:

I think for me, that's probably been the biggest thing that I ... I am what I am, and you get what you get with me. I'm kind of translucent that way in that I love kids, I love hockey, I love to compete, I still love the game, I am not a Rhodes scholar, I am not a wiz at a lot of other things. But I am what I am, and I hold myself to the same hopeful ideals and goals that I do our players, not because I think I need to hold them to anything, I think it becomes more of an osmosis or a reflection type of thing, almost like us in this conversation on a Zoom call. It's almost a reflection. You don't need to tell people what you are or what you want to be. You need to live it and embody it, and then it becomes a lot easier to have that become genuine, one, but two become admirable, and I think something gets picked up on.

Gary Goldberg:

That's a powerful thought. Tell me a little bit about becoming a college hockey coach, which you've been now for 30 something years. I'd love to know your learning through that experience and what you'd like to share with us about where you began, maybe the middle of the process, and where you are today. Give us a sense of that journey.

Jamie Rice:

Yeah. I mean, I go to Babson College, and not renowned for hockey coaches, pretty well known for business and entrepreneurship. I always wanted to teach and coach. I don't know how or why. My father was in sales, my mother was in real estate, or she was a secretary and then in real estate. I had two older siblings who, one did not go to college, one took a long time to go to college. Another sibling was in the theater and performing arts. So certainly teaching and coaching were not in our background. It wasn't a lineage. But I always, I just loved sports, I loved games, I loved playing, I loved kids, I loved teammates.

Jamie Rice:

I think that early on in my time at Babson, I knew I wanted to teach and coach. And then I graduate, I'm getting ready to graduate, I'm playing during the baseball season, and a former teammate of mine named Ronnie [Barron 00:27:45] who actually was the best man at my wedding, he was a teammate of mine, had spent a year at Colby. His high school coach had gotten the Colby job, left Lawrence Academy, Charlie [Cory 00:27:53], left Lawrence Academy, went to Colby. Needed an assistant.

Jamie Rice:

When I took the job, it was $4,000, so it certainly wasn't something where a lot of people were beating down the door. So Ronnie was there, we were very close, and he said, "Hey, I'm going to not do this anymore, but I know you've thought about coaching, if you want maybe I can help you get started here." And I talked to Steve Sterling, my college coach. I also had an opportunity to go teach and coach at Salisbury for the legendary Dick Flood, who unfortunately just passed away this past winter. But the Flood [inaudible 00:28:24] and he was at Nobles for many years, and he and Lefty [Marg 00:28:28] really kind of built up the Milton Nobles hockey and that rivalry and the Christmas tournament. But he was at Salisbury at the time, and he and Coach Sterling were very close.

Jamie Rice:

So those were my two choices. It was either coach and teach at Salisbury, or go and coach at Colby. I don't know, I just said, "You know, I think I'll give this college coaching a try." So I went to Colby for $4,000, and I was fortunate after a year there to get a job at Dartmouth as an assistant for a year. And then Bob [inaudible 00:28:59] hired me at Brown in 1992, and as a coach, I said I played for Joe Finnegan and I played for Jeff Kosack, I played for Steve Sterling at Babson, which as a hockey experience was second to none. He was just an incredible, still is an incredible hockey mind, really gifted, phenomenal player, but a great coach. I mean, you look at what he did at Babson as a coach, and it's remarkable.

Jamie Rice:

So I have a little bit of identity. I go to Colby, I go to Dartmouth. Then I go to Brown, and I work with Bob [Berdette 00:29:27]. He hired me from Dartmouth. Ironically, his assistant Scotty [Bulrick 00:29:32] had gone to Colby, become the head coach, Charlie Cory had gone back to Lawrence Academy. Brian McCloskey, his other assistant, gone to UNH. So he needed two assistants, he hired Brian Durocher as one assistant, who's now the women's coach at BU, and myself. And that started seven years working with Bob. I spent five years with him at Brown then two more years at Dartmouth.

Jamie Rice:

I would say that really I was fortunate from youth hockey four to be around really, really good people who were really good coaches. And then Bob kind of burst into my life. I was 25 years old. Probably ripe for that next step of growth. You talk a little bit about earlier, being pliable, being malleable and learning. I was probably at the point where I was experienced enough to be able to be on my own, but now ready to learn a little more, and need that. And I spent seven years with him. Five at Brown, two at Dartmouth, and he means a lot to me as a person. Just retired from Dartmouth this past spring. When I won my first game at Babson, I actually sent him the game puck, and I said, "This is what you mean to me."

Jamie Rice:

I then spent five years at Northeastern, and then I've been at Babson ever since. But I think that a lot of the people I coached with had been really impactful. I mean I am truly the product of 1,000 fathers as far as coaching goes. We mentioned, you and I spoke prior to this about Mark Davis who passed away on September 11th. He and I coached at Brown, his brother, twin brother Michael is as close a friend as I have right now, and helped me for two years at Babson, was the coach in Wheeling for two years, coached at BU for 15 years. Brian Durocher, who I mentioned, Paul Pearl who's the associate head coach at BU, I worked for Bruce [Crowther 00:31:32], I worked at Northeast with Paul [Canata 00:31:34], who's an incredibly successful coach at Milton Academy. [crosstalk 00:31:40]

Gary Goldberg:

What's the difference between the player Jim Rice and the coach Jim Rice? You talked to me at the beginning about all these coaches making you a certain type of player. What did these coaches make you as a certain type of coach?

Jamie Rice:

I think everybody I've worked with, from Colby, Dartmouth, Brown, Dartmouth two more years, five years at Northeastern, and even my years at Babson, and you're throwing USA Hockey and Mass satellite program, which I spent a lot of time coaching when I was younger, and even summer camps, I think I've taken something from everybody. And as a player, I was ... It was kind of like just show up and go, it's what I did. Play hard, be really competitive, have good enough ability to have some success, but just love to play. And I think what I learned from all of these coaches was there's so many different avenues to attack. There's so many different ways you can, as you mentioned with your employees, you can reach different people, there's different ways, there's different things you can do, there's different pieces, you can reach them holistically, you can reach them spiritually, you can reach them educationally, you can reach them technically, you can challenge them physically. I think I took a little bit from all of them.

Jamie Rice:

The other thing that happened is, I've shared this with people before, is it was probably 1993 or '94, and I was four or five years into being a college coach. And a part of being a Division I assistant it was really you procure players, you're recruiting them a lot. And I would spend most of September and October on the road, 40, 50, 60 days out of first 80 just trying to find hockey players.

Jamie Rice:

I was in Calgary, Alberta, and I'll never forget it. I woke up one morning about 9:00, went and got breakfast, I'm reading the paper, I'm watching my umpteenth episode of SportsCenter, I had been at a game the night before, I was waiting for that day's game. And I'm like I've got to be better. I've got to learn more. I've got to read more, quite honestly. I've got to start to invest in myself to become a better coach. And I called a gentleman, I said, "You know, I need five good books to read." And he sent me a list of 30, which I still have in my desk drawer. And they range from the New Toughness Training for Sports to Night, really far ranging. I think he knew what I was looking for.

Jamie Rice:

So he sent me this list of books and I went to the local, I don't even know, I couldn't tell you what it was in Calgary, Alberta, but I went to the local bookstore and I bought five of them. And I just started reading and reading and reading and reading. So instead of sitting around watching SportsCenter and watching every highlight of every sports event in North America for five hours straight, I just started reading. And then it became I would carry a book with me everywhere. So in a parking lot before a game, or on the plane, I would read and read.

Jamie Rice:

That's really, I think for me professionally, was probably one of the biggest jumps I made as far as becoming a better coach, a better mentor, a better learner of how people learn was just starting reading a real wide variety of books. Anything I could get my hands on as far as [crosstalk 00:34:52]

Gary Goldberg:

It sounds exciting, it sounds like you were energized and bringing your focus to a new level and absorbing new information and resorting or re-figuring out how your brain worked, and how to apply your talents. It sounds like a breakthrough time.

Jamie Rice:

It really was. That and having, as I said, Bob Berdette as a personal mentor, and Brian Durocher at the time, those two guys were, Bob was 34, Brian was 39 when I got to Brown at 23 years old. So they were established and older, but not that much older. They were more older brother-ish. Both married with families, but they could relate to me. So they gave me a lot of runway. And then this other gentleman who I called and gave me the books, it was like okay, now I've got the best of both worlds. I've got this Ernie Adams type of guru working with me personally, and then I've got these two people in my professional life who I see every day that really shaped me.

Jamie Rice:

The first time I ever heard and became myself a lifelong learner. Not that I thought I knew everything. I didn't know that I didn't know everything. I didn't know that there were things that I could take from track and field, or from sports psychology. And about the same time I started my master's at BU, which was in human movement. But I think it was just really the intersection of a lot of really important factors in my life of people, of coaching, of environment, of opportunity, that led me to a place where I could start to really put some identity as to who I would be as a coach.

Gary Goldberg:

How have you dealt, fast forwarding and go to today, how have you dealt with the fact that you can't see your players on a regular basis? At the end of last season, you guys were awarded a berth into the NCAAs, and the boys were told that they can't play, that the season was canceled. How are you managing both yourself and them and using an overly used word right now, but resilience to find your path forward into this season?

Jamie Rice:

It's really hard.

Gary Goldberg:

I imagine it is.

Jamie Rice:

I said to somebody last week, "I'm a coach. It's what I've chosen to do, it's what I want to do, it's what I love to do." But without players, there's no need for a coach if there's no players. It's not a system or environment where it's top down. It really is bottom up. I joked with my kids that Babson pretty early on found out I was not essential last spring when they shut down the school and everyone went remote, but I didn't have to go every day. So they figured out quickly that I'm a non-essential employee.

Gary Goldberg:

I think your players would feel differently.

Jamie Rice:

Well, but you realize that without them, I'll be honest, I've lost a little bit of my identity recently, not seeing them, not being able to be around them, ultimately it's why I do what I do is for them. And it's a struggle. It's hard. It's really hard. And it's hard ... The more challenging piece is not the not coaching, it's the not seeing them. It's the not bumping into them in the cafeteria or on campus, or having them come to the rink just to get something, or swing by the office to say hi. Or maybe they've had a difficulty or a challenge that you can help them with. Or maybe they've done something that's a difficulty or a challenge and you need to address with them.

Jamie Rice:

But it's really, I have personally found it to be more of a struggle than I would have thought. And I certainly don't think I could have imagined last March 12th that on September the 14th, this is where we would be today. I think, I honestly believe we have a lot of smart people in the country who are working really hard at solving this. Because you go back, I was just joking with my neighbor, on March 12th it was like if you opened your door you were afraid that this COVID would come in your house and wipe out your family.

Gary Goldberg:

Yep.

Jamie Rice:

And you're wiping down groceries, and you're trying to go to the supermarket when no one's there, and you're not doing anything. You're ordering things from Amazon.

Gary Goldberg:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamie Rice:

But I didn't think on September 14th, as bad as that was, that we'd be at a point where we can't meet as a team. Where kids in a college environment can't go in each others' dorm rooms if they're not roommates. That we as a coaching staff at Babson are not all in every day. So I'm struggling with that. I mean, I think ... We did a lot of the Zoom calls. But even ... I think in the course of the summer all of us found that anybody who deals in an environment that's interactive, that requires human connection, at first it was great. A Zoom call was great, because you could see them, and you could see the feelings and emotions. But they became so prevalent that I think people got burned out on. And it didn't have that same resonation, it didn't have that same feeling.

Gary Goldberg:

Hard to see it three dimensionally what your body language is.

Jamie Rice:

They were productive. But they didn't have that same zest.

Gary Goldberg:

I agree.

Jamie Rice:

So it's hard coming back to campus. You see the kids bits and pieces. You see someone from across the way and [inaudible 00:40:29] they've got a mask on and you don't know who it is.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah.

Jamie Rice:

That's been a real struggle, and I think it's an area that as a coach, as a father, as a human being, you never quite realize how ... My job is not one that can be done remotely forever.

Gary Goldberg:

That's right.

Jamie Rice:

If you're in finance, maybe you can. If you're in sales, maybe you can. My job requires human interaction. And I probably do it because I like it. I wouldn't say I'm an outwardly people person, but I love being around people and I love molding things and I love interacting and building and challenging and growing. So it has been a real struggle. I think I try to ... On the one hand I try to be a very apolitical person and stick away from that realm because I think it really clouds things in this current event. We need a map. We need a pathway to how we can get back to normal.

Jamie Rice:

I mentioned to our families, I feel at times like it's holding a candle in a hurricane, because you're trying to find this pathway, and it feels like every once in awhile it's getting blown out by something else. As I said, if you would have told me on March 12th that September 14th I would not be in my office full time, that our kids would not be together full time, I would have said you're crazy. I just didn't see this being now.

Gary Goldberg:

I would have too. Coach, when you think back of all the games you've played, the tournaments, and the challenges, what have you gained more for, the wins ... From, excuse me, the wins or the losses? What's a better teacher?

Jamie Rice:

Oh, the wins. Wins are way better. Bill Parcells says winning them is misery. No, I think every game has value. And I think, I wouldn't say that you learn more from a loss. I think when anybody loses, they pour over it more and look for answers. Why, why, why, why, why. Whereas you win, you tend to maybe look at it and say, "Yeah, we did this well." When you lose it's like, "Why didn't we do this? Why didn't we do that?" So I've never quite completely bought into the losing's a better teacher because ultimately, we are in an endeavor that rewards winning. There is a scoreboard, there is someone who's going to emerge victorious. And that's certainly different than how we do things in practice and in our culture. But when [crosstalk 00:42:53]

Gary Goldberg:

So to be clear on the record, you're saying winning, the benefits of winning, are you saying build the self esteem and validate the hard work, and therefore you get that gain from that?

Jamie Rice:

I don't think there's any question. I mean, if you enter any competitive endeavor, the benefit of winning is beyond the score, or the sale, or the financial gain. It makes you feel better about yourself. Hey, we all want to feel good about ourselves. Very few people want to walk around and be miserable and just get their teeth kicked in all the time. I just think as a coach that you're not being, at least to me, you're not being 100% truthful if you say, "Geez, the losing's more valuable." Because there's things that you do when you win that you do really well that validate either what your core structure is or what your belief system is or what your thoughts are or your philosophies are that if you don't have that feedback from winning, I'm not sure you can emerge as successful down the road. If you just lose all the time, I'm not sure you're going to be as good as you possibly ever could be.

Jamie Rice:

I think most people who are incredibly successful, I wouldn't call them winners, I think they've had more successes. They've won more individual things. So they have more to draw upon. Because I think within every win, like a game, there's times where it's 50/50. There's times when you're down 1-0, you're down 2-0, you're down 3-1, you take a bad penalty, you're up and you get tied. It isn't only about, I think the end of the game scoreboard. It's the scoreboard within the game. You're up, below, you're down. You mentioned earlier how am I doing with the resiliency. I think the greatest thing about sports is that you have to exhibit and possess resiliency throughout the course. Very few times are you going to walk in there and just like, "Hey, we're winning today." Maybe if the Babson College team played the KPW Mites we could say that.

Jamie Rice:

But other than that, most times you're going into this, if you really love it, you're going into it, the other team has a coach, they have players, they lift weights, they do video, they want to win. Now you're saying it's more of a measurement. Like okay, let's see how good we are, let's see what we've done, let's see if what we do works.

Gary Goldberg:

Coach, if I'm a kid listening to this or a parent listening to this or a coach listening to this and I want to reach out to you and either play for you or join your cause, how should they get ahold of you?

Jamie Rice:

I'd like to say I'm the best email or phone person in the world. I guess I'm still stuck in the ... I tell the kids at Babson all the time, it's 2020 out here, sometimes in my world it's like 1950, the phone [crosstalk 00:45:42]

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah, you want a letter and a handshake.

Jamie Rice:

Yeah, yeah. A handshake, god, speaking of another thing that we don't do anymore. My email address is jrice, J-R-I-C-E, @babson.edu. I'm also on Twitter @ricer18. And my DM's are open, as they say. Those are probably the two easiest. And I guess the only thing I'd say to anybody is that the hardest thing with email is become it's a constant game of tennis where you feel like you have to return serve. Sometimes I'm returning a different serve in a different avenue. I respond to everybody. I've written a number of emails even to say, "Hey, sorry it's taken me a week to get back to you." I get back to everybody who reached out to me, but just realize that although it's instantaneous in delivery and in method, sometimes the human factor on my end is it's not going to be quite as instantaneous going back.

Gary Goldberg:

Understood. So if you're listening to the show and Coach Rice is reminding you of either playing for him, with him, or a different coach that had a similar impact in your life, give your coach a call, because I'm sure Coach Rice would love to hear from you. And I know if you're a coach out there and thinking of a certain player, call that player, call that alum, stay connected.

Gary Goldberg:

Coach, thanks so much for joining us today. Tremendous interview, and it's been a pleasure speaking with you.

Jamie Rice:

Yeah, thank you for having me very much.

Gary Goldberg:

Yes, my pleasure.

Announcer:

You've been listening to On The Whistle. For more, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit us at onthewhistle.com.

 


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