The PCA Blog - New England

Jerry York’s 1,000+ Wins Proves the Power of Positive

by Beth O'Neill Maloney



Sunday, October 2 was not a typical sports day in New England in so many ways. The Patriots played without Tom Brady or Jimmy Garroppolo, and suffered their first loss of the season. The Red Sox honored David Ortiz before his last regular season game at Fenway, and lost to the Blue Jays. The Boston College Men’s Ice Hockey team played at the Warrior Ice Arena at Boston Landing, not at Conte Forum. But there was one thing that was typical that day, Jerry York and his team won 4 – 3, and they won with powerfully positive coaching.

On that beautifully sunny Sunday, in that sparkling new facility, Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) celebrated with a special reception for Jerry York, the winningest coach in NCAA hockey and a valued member of PCA’s National Advisory Board. After the game, Coach York and his talented assistants, Greg Brown and Mike Ayers, sat down with PCA Lead Trainer Eric Eisendrath and shared the secret of their success--positive coaching. Here is what this special group of coaches had to say to the assembled youth and high school hockey coaches and players:


To young players: Don’t get discouraged, work on your craft: Noting that no one thought that young Brad Marchand would go to the NHL but that Brad is now one of the Bruins’ top players, Coach York said: “You want to reach for the highest level of potential you can, and nobody knows what that is. There is no ceiling on the 11- or 12-year-old player.”

Don’t pigeonhole young players. “Don’t gamble on who the best players are at 11 if you are looking for the best 18 year olds.”

Don’t play hockey, or any other sport, 12 months a year.  

Develop hockey sense. Hockey sense is “the ability to play chess on the ice, to look at your next move prior to even getting the puck . . . it is hard to define but when you see a player with hockey sense it really jumps out at you. . . . Encourage young players to watch as much college hockey as they can and as much NHL hockey as they can, and really watch how players play the game. Hockey sense to develop is sometimes very slow, but when you catch it and you grasp it, you can be exponentially better as a player.”

To older players: Embrace your role and leave your ego at the door: Coach York cites Kevin Garnett, “to be a Celtic, you have to leave your ego at the door,” and stresses to his college team of 17-to-22 year olds that they need to put their egos aside to compete for national championships and win titles as a team.

To everyone: The right way to play any team sport. “Be supportive of your teammates, be encouraging on the bench, and really embrace what you are involved in, a team sport.”

Encourage the three-sport athlete, especially before high school.

Enjoy the process. “The best advice I was given a long time ago: it’s a process. You are not going to blow the whistle the very first day and reach the zenith. It’s a process to get better with all our players, we work each day, each month. Enjoy the process--watch freshman become sophomores, sophomores become juniors. Enjoy the process, it’s a process you have to enjoy, you have to embrace, and keep working at it.”

To Doc Rivers: Thank you for introducing me to PCA. Coach York went on to praise PCA, and to observe that positivity is starting to have an impact on youth sports.


Positive Coaching will bring your team so much further. When I first got to BC 13 years ago, it was a shock to me because I was coming from pro hockey and I was a lot less positive, more demanding, immediate. And then to watch the way [Coach] Jerry [York] ran the locker room even when things weren’t going well for us, I didn’t know what to do at the beginning. I was shocked at how it went. And then when I saw the kids respond and have so much confidence through the year that come the end of the year we had no fear of anything, just going out there to beat whomever we were playing against. I thought maybe it took longer day-to-day but the result was so much further along. The kids were so excited to get out there and compete and win games. They had no fear of failure because of the way Jerry brought them along.”

Put kids “in the best position to be successful . . .  Different team, same philosophy, mold it to the guys you have.”

“Have empathy for the players. Put yourself in their shoes. No one is trying to be bad. Take that into consideration when you are trying to be constructive and move things along in the positive and right direction.”


Positive Coaching changes everything: There is negativity everywhere in the world no matter what you are doing. "It is sometimes difficult to be positive but it changes a room when you are positive. It changes the demeanor, it literally picks everyone up whereas negativity just grabs you and sucks you right down and who knows where you are going."

"So this whole program [PCA & BC Hockey] and what is being done is allowing people to see how to handle things, how to handle situations a little bit better, how to go about things a little bit differently—not just to suck yourself into that negative realm which is easy to do. It’s a challenge.  It’s fun working with Jerry seeing how he spins things around. "I remember my first year thinking 'What is he going to say now? That was awful.' I’d put it in my head and I was wrong every single time, the way he did it, it was unbelievable. Fortunately for Greg [Brown] and I we get to see it every day and learn from him and hopefully embrace that and continue to build on what he is building."

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Beth O’Neill Maloney became the Executive Director – New England in January 2016. A native of the Boston area, she is excited to help PCA accomplish its mission of providing youth and high school athletes with a positive, character-building sports experience, developing Better Athletes, Better People, throughout New England.

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