For Mr. Melanson, He Was More Than a Coach
“That’s why you don’t play.”
That’s what Ken Melanson told me after a tough loss.
I was in Grade 7, playing on my first organized basketball team.
His reply hit me hard, but it made me realize a lot about the process and commitment.
He approached me after I walked out of the locker room that night at Hillcrest School.
You see Ken Melanson was fiery, passionate and intense.
Melanson was a great coach, but he was an even better person.
I was playing basketball and provincial hockey at the same time. Both coaches agreed to it, but it was extremely difficult.
After a hard-fought loss, I waited until he was finished his talk to the team. I was so young and “hockey centric”, but I really enjoyed playing the game of basketball. “I can’t make the next game, coach,” I said.
“That’s why you don’t play.”
His tone caught me of guard at the time, but it made me realize that commitment is everything.
I was trying to balance hockey and basketball.
When I walked out of the change room, Mr. Melanson was waiting.
He put his arm around me and started to talk to me about why I didn’t go on the floor before a certain other player and he talked about my athleticism, he talked about my potential. In that moment, I understood what commitment was all about. I didn’t want to ever let him down again.
Ken Melanson might have been tough, but he was an outstanding coach who was incredibly invested in his players lives. He always had our backs. He always believed in us. His practices were fun, intense, challenging and educational.
His passion for the game was inspirational.
In the classroom, he was just as passionate about whatever subject he was teaching.
His smile and personality lite the room. His intensity and passion inspired so many young athletes to follow their own unique paths in their chosen sport.
I didn’t play basketball in my Grade 8 year, because I played on the local Pee Wee AAA hockey team. In Gr 9, my hockey coach at the time encouraged participation in school sports, with hockey coming first. By that time, Ken Melanson wasn’t coaching anymore, but he was always there to open the gym in the morning. We talked hockey, basketball and shot around. I will never forget those quiet semi-competitive moments, but I’ll never forget those conversations.
One day, he told me something that I will never forget.
“You should have chosen basketball, Craig,” he said with smile.
The rest of that conversation is too personal to share.
I will never forget those early morning shoot around conversations.
I will never forget his intensity, his smile, sense of humour, his passion, but most importantly his support and encouragement.
He always had your back no matter what.
Ken Melanson was always there to lift you up, always there with words of wisdom, support and encouragement.
I will never forget the impromptu golf games decades later.
I will never forget my first basketball coach.
I will never forget the teacher.
I will never forget Ken Melanson,
He was always more than a coach to me.