April 3, 2013

The Goalie Guru: The concept of team

By Brion O'Connor

So what are we to make of Austin Krause?

Brion O'Connor, the Goalie Guru, gets in position at the top of the crease at Fenway Park.

Don’t know the name? Good for you. I’m hesitant to even dignify Krause’s name with any additional mention, but it’s next to impossible to tell this story without identifying the culprit. Just Google “Austin Krause,” along with “goalie” and you’ll find tales of how young Mr. Krause, a senior at Farmington High School in Minnesota, managed to disgrace himself and his sport while becoming something of an Internet sensation.

Here’s the short version of Krause’s tale. A disgruntled senior who started nine of Farmington’s 23 games, Krause was upset about being demoted to backup to — gasp! — a sophomore. A Tweet from Austin obviously proves he knows better than his coaches: “They played this sophomore goalie for the starter, he was terrible, I would try and talk to the coaches about this and tell them I want playing time but they never really listen to me or gave me a chance to show them that I’m a better goalie.”

Krause’s numbers were decent (492 minutes, 5-4-1, 2.80 GAA, .877 save percentage), but they weren’t as good as the sophomore starting ahead of him (548 minutes, 2.42 GAA, .901 save percentage). But instead of working his tail off and proving he deserved to start, Krause apparently sat and stewed, and carefully plotted revenge.

On Senior Night, with the sophomore goalie out with an injury, Krause got the start against Chaska. With three minutes left and Farmington nursing a 2-1 lead, Krause calmly fielded a dump in, intentionally directed the puck into his own net, removed his blocker and flashed his middle finger toward his coaching staff, then ostensibly saluted his own team, and skated off the ice (with the help of friends, who obviously were waiting to open the door). Chaska, went on to win the game, 3-2.

Crazy, right? Not surprisingly, Krause was called into the principal’s office and handed a 10-day suspension. Me? I would have forced him to come to school wearing a Chaska sweater and dunce cap, but that would probably violate the poor kid’s civil liberties. And if the school system paid for even a dime of the kid’s equipment, I’d withhold his diploma until every cent was repaid.

Even more shocking is the number of people who have come to Krause’s defense, seeing something oddly noble in his actions. Take Fox 9 producer Doug Erlien, who wrote: “For those of us who had a problem with their high school coach at some point, what Krause did took courage. In no way am I trying to make him a hero here, but Krause took the ‘stand in line and be a good soldier,’ turned it around and shoved it right back in the face of the entire hockey world, including his team. Good team guy? Not a chance, but a part of me on the inside is standing and applauding and saying ‘Good for you kid, good for you.’ “

It gets better. Erlien replied to comments that it was likely, in this day and age, that prospective employers might search Krause’s name, see the story, and immediately round-file his application. “If I were starting a company I’d want more guys like Krause working for me and I’d hire him in a minute. We need more passionate people who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and stand up for what they believe in popular or not.”

Good luck with that, Doug. I can just see the first time Krause disagrees with his boss, loses his cool (because, of course, he’s always right), and then makes a public display to embarrass not only himself and his company, but all of his company’s clients. Yeah, just the guy I’d want on my staff.

There is something very, very rotten at the core of this story. And it starts and ends with Krause. He’s a senior in high school, which means he’s either 17 or 18. My girls, both teenagers, have known the difference between right and wrong since they were 5, so I’m not going to let an 18-year-old off the hook. On the other hand, he’s probably been coddled and told how great he is for a long, long time, and that definitely creates a sense of entitlement. I don’t pretend to know all the particulars of Krause’s home life, but the fact that his father has been banned from youth hockey games for a year speaks volumes.

“I know a coach who likes to say, ‘Kids usually don’t grow up to be like the neighbor’s parents,’ “ said Joe Bertagna (Arlington, Mass.), former Boston Bruins and USA Olympic goaltending coach who runs Bertagna Goaltending. “What this kid did is wrong in so many ways, and I have to believe he has parents at home who have made him feel like a victim all year.”

Exactly, said Brian Robinson, a managing director with Stop It Goaltending. “The kid started nine games out of 23 total, and he says the coach never gave him his chance? I can’t stand what is happening to this new era of children who are so babied and pampered and given every single thing they want without ever being told no or being properly disciplined when they are in the wrong. I bet this kid’s parents gave him a pat on the back when he got out of that rink.”

We, as goalie coaches, see this type of parental interference all the time. Sometimes they’re right. Coaches do mess up, or play favorites. But how you deal with that hardship defines who you are.

“I think we can all agree we understand the kid’s frustration, as most of us have been involved in a similar situation in one form or another,” said Sean Moloney of WorldPro Goaltending. “His (desire) in this situation is clear, and understandable. This leaves us with the action. Which no matter how many ways I look at it is deplorable, petty, childish, selfish and unforgivable.”

In reality, some kids are never taught to deal with competition. “One of our issues is that kids play their birth year,” said Brian Daccord, owner of Stop It Goaltending and a former Bruins goalie coach. “The whole team moves up each year. Therefore they do not have to compete for their spot like they did when levels consisted of two birth years. They get to high school, they go from one birth year to four, with no experience or appreciation for competing to make a team. The old system was the way to go.”

At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, it is a problem that’s becoming all-too pervasive. “The pure selfishness in youth team sports today should not surprise us when we see this event take place,” said Darren Hersh of the Goalie Academy. “I hear parents of players telling kids not to pass to teammates, but to keep the puck and to do it themselves. I’ve seen goalie partners cheer when their goalie teammate gets scored on.

“The selfishness that it takes, which is also encouraged and fueled by parents, seems to be at an all-time high,” said Hersh. “Not saying that deep down we all have felt jealousy, anger and envy for our goalie competitors from time to time, but I’ve seen these emotions perfectly controlled and never revealed. To express those emotions by putting the puck in your own team’s net only to make your own extremely selfish feelings known to the entire hockey world is beyond reprehensible.

“What is really disheartening, as a coach of youth hockey, is that the very important lessons that team sports like hockey can teach kids are the very lessons and values that a select group of parents do not know, understand, live, nor teach. Coaches today have to teach these values to both the kids and to the parents, which is an exhausting undertaking, to say the least.”

Perhaps the greatest irony is that Krause wore No. 1. It’s abundantly clear that Krause only cares about one person, — himself. His actions proved he was less than a backup. He’s a quitter.

Brion O’Connor is a Boston-based writer and owner of Inspired Ink Communications. He is also a long-time hockey coach and player, specializing in goaltending instruction. Learn more at TheGoalieGuru.com.

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