Hear the Conversation 30:04 – 17.2 mb mp3
“Developing leadership is a major focal point for us in trying to reestablish the culture we’re looking for in the program,” Spartans Hockey coach Tom Anastos tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today. “A key is attracting the type of kid who embraces the leadership role; not everybody wants to be in that kind of role.
“We try to put people in situations where they have to take on leadership. I also think your most experienced players should be your leaders, but you can’t force it on them. They have to earn it.”
Anastos says building good relationships is a key to his coaching philosophy and to success in life in general.
“Trust is something that takes time to build. And while playing hockey I learned the importance of being straight with people.”
In coming back to his alma mater Anastos says he realized that the people are the biggest resource at MSU.
“I encourage our student-athletes to take advantage of all that MSU has to offer in a way that I didn’t when I was a student-athlete at MSU.”
In establishing relationships with his players, Anastos says that “it takes two to communicate effectively” and that he prefers face-to-face communications to using the tools of modern technology.
“When you deal with the younger people that we’re dealing with, that is not the way they communicate principally today. We capture our information in so many different ways, but I still think the very best way to communicate with people is to talk to them. Communication isn’t just the words you say or text, it’s how you say them.”
Recruiting for college hockey players is starting earlier at the same time the average age of a college hockey player is getting older. Anastos adds that kids at the age of 14 or 15 will start getting pressure, if they’re good enough, to consider playing either college hockey or major Canadian junior hockey.
“The average age of a college freshman in college hockey, though, is 20. The graduation rate for men’s hockey at 92 percent is the highest of all NCAA sports. There are more NHL players from the college ranks than ever before.
“I just think it’s very difficult for a youth at age 14 or 15 to have any idea what they want out of life. So we’re seeing a growing number of de-commits. We’re getting kids to make commitments to colleges at an age when they haven’t even taken a high school class yet.”
Anastos says his team really grew up this past season and that he’s not just looking to build a good team, but to “build a program that can be competitive on a sustainable basis year after year.”
And Coach Anastos says he has to increase the talent level on his team and that the game of college hockey is faster than it’s ever been before.
“A lot of people think about skating ability when they think about speed, but that’s just a piece of being able to play faster. You have to be able to think and react faster.”
Anastos says he often compares a hockey player to a quarterback “because at some point you’re a quarterback in every game you play because that puck gets on your stick and now you have to make decisions based on what’s happening, and you typically have less than a second to make that decision.”