Gene was a husband, father, coach, counselor, teacher, sportsman, carpenter, promoter, salesman, and all around fun loving person. Many of us are good at some of those things, few are excellent at all, he was. Any one who knew him could write a book trying to describe him. Perhaps you can best picture him through his own words. The following is a speech he wrote. This speech reflects a coaching philosophy that permeated his life. “After coaching kids for over twenty years I would like to share some of the things that made my twenty years so enjoyable. Coaching gave me a rare opportunity to become childlike in its best sense. I have had the opportunity to savor the moment, be spontaneous, and show sheer delight in being alive. This is a quality that most adults lose. Coaches can be among the fortunate few to keep it. I have met many other coaches in the over the past twenty years, some great, some fair, and some poor. Sad to say the poor ones out numbered the fair and great ones. I have found the two main reasons most adults coach are;
1) because they don’t trust anyone else with their sons, 2) their own ego. Unfortunately, we are in a time when winning can be more important than competing, there is a ever present specter of fathers seeing their sons, coaches seeing their players, as extensions of their own egos. Vince Lombardi’s most quoted expression is, “winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.” What is forgotten is that he was working with professionals. What is generally not known is that Vince was a tremendous teacher, a great motivator, and organizer. He was an inspirational leader, and always showed concern for the welfare of his players on and off the field. If I had to compare him with a hockey personality I would choose Bobby Clark. I had twenty great years of coaching and hope to have twenty more. I have seen many boys I have coached grow into men and know that I have had a part in that. My advise for coaches now coaching kids would be as follows:
- Always, Always make hockey fun.
- Teach attitude first, skills second. (A respect for rules, authority of officials and consideration of opponents. Demand they become gentleman before hockey players)
- Teach them to be humble in victory and proud in defeat. Teach them to live up to their potential, no matter what their potential is. This means to teach them to do their best and never be satisfied with what they are, but to strive to be as good as they can be if they try harder. I have said many times over the last twenty years, “you can never make a great player out of boy who is not potentially great. But you can make him a great competitor, and miraculously, you can make a man out of a boy”.
- Teach him to care about each one of his teammates, and that the worth of caring is always worth it.
Hockey has given me great enjoyment, and I have tried to give it back to the players I have coached Adults who demand victory, take away the most important ingredient of all, the sheer love of the game. Demanding victory is the main cause of hockey burn-out in kids today.
Hockey is a great tool to help a boy’s future if used properly. Remember your team may lose, but you as a coach never lose.” Gene devoted most of his life to coaching and running hockey tournaments for kids. He did this out of love, love for the kids, and love for the game. He will long be remembered by those he coached, parents whose children he coached, and anyone who had the opportunity to work with him. Gene Harrington was a most unforgettable person.