U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our interview series “Getting to know…”
- Name: Peter Murphy
- School: St. Thomas University
- Sport: Women’s hockey
- Position: Head coach
- Seniority: 17th year
- Previous school/position: Team N.B. Canada Games, N.B. Senior Team, Team Atlantic Provincial U18 and U15
- Hometown: Moncton, N.B,
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach of St. Thomas University?
I always knew I wanted to volunteer my time coaching – people had done it for me and I thought it would be a way to give back. I started coaching on the male side and then switched to coaching female at the high school level. From there I was fortunate to get the university position as a part-time coach and eventually it grew into a full-time position.
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
My father coached basketball, so I would see pictures of his team at the house and that probably started it. I am also fortunate enough to have some local coaches that helped me starting out or worked with me, including Greg Shanks, Darryl Pupek and Doc Feeney. UNB’s Gardiner MacDougall runs the best men’s program in U SPORTS in the same city and watching that program and speaking to him has certainly helped as well. I really feel you can learn from everyone if you are open to it.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
I believe I would be a players’ coach. I like to have a good relationship with the players as this allows for honest discussions. If they know you only want what is best for them, they can be pushed hard. I try to be a good communicator, so my office has an open-door policy. I make sure I am at the rink so players can stop in for a chat – sometimes serious, sometimes foolish, I think they need both.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
My favorite coach to hear speak is Mike Babcock. He has great insight into the game but more so into his players. The way he talks about them and how he has evolved with the new generation of players is impressive. Paul Maurice gives a great interview as well, great respect and admiration for him and what he has done in Winnipeg.
5. What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?
Back in the early days of the team we didn’t win as much but we were playing an opponent in a must-win game. The players were nervous and making uncharacteristic mistakes. We had been scored on so I called a timeout and took out the coaching board and drew this “play” that by the end of it had so many lines you couldn’t read any of it.
I asked “Do you got it?” and they all just looked at me. I then said, no play was going to solve the issues we were having but settling down and playing our game just might. They all laughed and we went out and came back to win. To this day I can’t remember what I drew.
6. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
Greatest achievement would be our first conference championship this season. A lot of teams were close but this year we finally got it done. However, my best coaching moment is at graduation when I see one of my players who maybe weren’t the strongest academically walk across the stage and receive their diploma. They likely would not have gone to university if not for hockey so knowing I had a small part in that player earning their degree makes me prouder than anything else.
7.What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?
Competition to play university sports is incredibly tough. Know that you aren’t competing against players just from your local area. Focus on your skills and work on your weaknesses while improving your strengths. Communicate early with a coach and often. Let them know you are interested in their program by creating a personal email not a broadcast one. Do your homework and create a short list and go see schools on your own. You can always go for an official visit once you have the school’s interest. And the most important piece of advice is this: If you were no longer able to play your sport, would you still select this school?
8. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?
I would say I do not yell as much. The players don’t respond to it. The values of hard work and commitment are two things that I hold high as a coach and we hold high in our team culture. That will never change. Even when I first started with our program there was never an excuse not to work hard.
9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?
My wife, Jill, would ask “When is that?” I enjoy golfing (not necessarily good at it but I enjoy it). Once the season is over we go south every year for a couple of weeks, so it is nice to get away and go offline for a bit and recharge. We look forward to that every year. We have two labs and they are always happy to see you regardless of the day you have had.
10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a coach?
Well, I have called out a player to go out on the ice that was in the penalty box, but I would say getting taken out in practice by one of the players is up there. Had a good one a couple of years ago that I felt for about a week. The player was fine.