Tom Spencer never envisioned he would one day wind up behind the bench.
But with his playing days done and wanting to stay involved in the game, Spencer found himself behind the bench.
Spencer had moved west to B.C. from Ontario after graduating from Brock University and figured coaching was also a good way for him to network and meet new people.
“I loved the game and wanted to give back so I thought I would give coaching a try,” he said.
“I got into it and didn’t realize the intensity and the gratification you get with teaching and watching the kids develop and succeed and fail, and the resiliency in them,” he said.
“It became quite addicting.”
Spencer got his start coaching at the minor hockey midget level as an assistant first with Burnaby, and then the Burnaby Winter Club. He landed his first head coaching gig with the Langley Minor Hockey Association and turned that into running the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. He was also an assistant coach in the league with the Fraser Valley Bruins before that.
And he has proven quite adept at it, being named the BCMML coach of the year on May 7.
“As a coach you definitely don’t set out to win individual awards,” Spencer admitted.
“I got caught off-guard; I had no idea.”
The 35-year-old has been behind the bench of the Valley West Hawks — which is comprised of 15 to 17-year-olds from Langley, Cloverdale, White Rock and Surrey — for the past three seasons.
This past season, the Hawks were third in the 11-team league with a record of 27-11-2.
A project manager for a commercial flooring company for his day job, Spencer has his eyes on moving up the coaching ranks.
With that in mind, he is on the move, leaving the Hawks after landing another coaching gig as an assistant with the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles for the 2014/15 season.
He will assist Eagles coach/general manager Peter Schaefer behind the bench.
Spencer said he is a big fan of the sports psychology side of the game.
“Players now are so well versed and well trained, there is not a lot of difference between the top players, the top teams,” he explained.
“It is how you mentally develop and mentally coach players to overcome adversity.”
The coach said he has changed his demeanor over the years, but not his philosophy.
“Over the years, I have become a lot more calm on the bench,” Spencer said.
“In my early 20s, I was definitely a lot more fiery behind the bench but I realized that isn’t going to get you very far.
“I am not hell-bent by my ways, I will change and adapt as the game is being played”
One thing that hasn’t changed is his coaching philosophy as Spencer likes an uptempo attacking style — much like how he played.
“We may give up a lot of goals, but we have always been in the top three in goals scored,” Spencer said.