Dear Parents, Skaters, and the larger Colorado hockey community,

It’s been just a year since I began my transition from a successful IT career to become a full-time skating coach. After the death of both my husband and my mother the previous year, and the advent of COVID not even a year later, I began the road from what had been a very part-time job to an entirely new, all-enveloping career.

It’s been an amazing journey, leading me to more fulfillment than I could have ever imagined.  To be able to provide support and development to young men and women via hockey, through a pandemic during what is already a tumultuous time in their lives, has not only helped me personally heal, but has given my life a meaning I didn’t expect. As I enter my second year with a growing wait list, my only trepidation is not being able to bring positivity, support and development into more lives.

Skating coaching isn’t just a job that gives me immense satisfaction, but has become a means for me to help facilitate both incremental changes and large transformations in kids’ lives. Sometimes, it’s simply helping that shy kid make the JV high school team, giving them a chance to enjoy the status of a high school athlete. Other times, it’s taking a late bloomer who has been overlooked, gathering a team of coaches, and giving the athlete the confidence to be good and gain a legitimate chance at a college career.  Or maybe, it’s taking that kid who is suffering from bullying, depression or behavior issues, finding resources in the community, and providing an environment on the ice free from intimidation and judgement.  

The support I’ve received from the community has been instrumental to my success:  The parents who have been with me since the beginning, allowing me to work with their amazing kids and have referred me to other great families; the high school parents who were able to give me a spot to games so I could watch my skaters while under COVID restrictions; the amazing rink managers and Jill Mintz of Lace ‘Em Up who found a way to keep me on the ice so I could keep the kids going during the second wave of the pandemic; the high school coaches who have supported and promoted me the entire way; my fellow skills coaches who have been so encouraging, supportive and have brought me clients, specifically Matt Frick and Neil Ruffini; and finally Mark Popovic who finally talked me into joining the Popovic Hockey Academy, giving me exposure to great kids and serving as a mentor to me this past year.  I am incredibly grateful to you all.

I have learned that the future is always uncertain, but I hope it includes many more years coaching these awesome teenagers (and yes, they are all awesome) and changing lives.  I have lofty goals for the future, including elevating the development of high school hockey in Colorado, working with grass roots programs and joining USA hockey in its quest to support and grow diversity and inclusion in hockey.  As a Native American, giving back is essential to our culture, and I look forward to contributing to the larger hockey community in a volunteer capacity.

My heart is full, but I would trade it all away to have my husband and mother back.  Still, I know somewhere they are watching, cheering me on.  And in their absence, I have a few dozen kids I feel are almost my own.

Again, thank you all for contributing to my journey.

Coach Shannon