Putting the “Fun” Back in Fundamentals

From The Sputnik February 16, 2011. Also ran on the CUPWire.

It’s 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” is reverberating through the dressing room while the players discuss their Saturday nights.

Head coach Andrew Francella, a third-year concurrent education student, finishes filling up the team’s water bottles and comes out of the bathroom to try to motivate the 11 smiling faces waiting for him.

“Alright, guys, bring it in,” Francella says to his team, the Brantford Avengers. “We’ve been in the last few games we played and if we play hard and hustle, I think we can win this one.”

This morning, he’s wearing a navy hoodie, a pair of faded blue jeans and flashy grey Nikes as he lays out the strategy for the morning’s contest. He emphasizes that the team must continue working on clearing the puck off the boards in the defensive zone and setting up plays from the point on offence.

“But the most important thing today is what, guys?” Francella asks. “I’ll give you a hint: It starts with an ‘F.’”

“Fun!” shouts back one enthusiastic player.

Francella asks again, louder this time, and the whole team screams the answer back this time.

“You have to keep it light-hearted because when you’re learning you want to emphasize, ‘Yeah, you’re still learning, you’re not going to get everything right away,’” Francella said in an interview later. “That’s why making sure they’re having fun is the biggest thing so that when they make mistakes, they don’t get down on themselves.”

While most students are sleeping in, sometimes in an effort to get rid of a hangover, Francella has spent each Saturday and Sunday morning this year, waking up early to coach his team of eight- and nine-year-olds.

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