Tom McEvay is a believer that sport is a very powerful development tool to advance people’s lives. In the case of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), it’s hockey for the players.
The KIJHL’s new education advisor added that “hockey is the game and should not define who you are.”
McEvay is a retired school principal who has been doing educational advising work for 19 years. He has worked as an education director with the B.C. Hockey League’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs, where he met KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois, the Coquitlam Express and Nanaimo Clippers as well as West Van Hockey Academy. McEvay has a desire to work with young people to make a difference in their lives.
Now he looks to make a difference with KIJHL student-athletes and the member clubs they play for. In bringing McEvay on, the KIJHL wants to provide additional resources and assistance to players navigating their high school or post-secondary studies. Another goal is to keep the players on track academically with their eligibility and enhance the league’s reputation that values education and players are properly supported by their teams. The league also wants to support each member club in creating and building their own education program with a trained advisor.
This fits with the work McEvay, 66, is doing.
“I want to take all the good things already being done and maybe get a bit of a focus,” says McEvay on the league’s education work. “I want to take the focus that is there, and help them see a bigger picture. It can be more powerful than you ever imagined.”
The key to his position, McEvay says, is how the program is embraced by KIJHL member clubs.
“So far I have had very good feedback from a number of the organizations,” he says. “If we build that capacity within each of the member teams, I know I can make a difference obviously in just answering questions and being available to the organizations, the athletes and the families that are involved. If it’s going to be sustainable, that’s what we are looking for.”
McEvay would like to see educational advisors recruited to the organizations who will be trained by himself and the coaches. He feels that is the success of the program. McEvay’s desire to help people navigate their educational future comes from his upbringing. His parents instilled in him that coaches and teachers in life can play a factor in the importance of education. The key people in his life led him to playing junior and college hockey, but also a career in education.
“Throughout my 34 years in public education, I always saw the big picture,” says McEvay, who has run the Olympic wrestling program in Alberni Valley for 42 years. “The curriculum of life. That was taught and mentored in every walk of life and I always found that sport was a very powerful development tool that we have at our disposal. Having found that myself, as a young teacher and coach, it led me into always looking for ways that we could advance that.”
The reward he gets from helping students is the small difference he makes.
“I was around at a key time in their lives. Whoever the organizations have, I can help them see the big picture and see what we are trying to do with these young men,” he explains. “We are trying to help them progress, achieve their goals, but become the type of person they are.”
Building strong relationships with the KIJHL clubs will be the key for McEvay. He has sent surveys to the member organizations with short questions to answer as he looks to build a resource manual for the league. It will identify information, critical information they may need when addressing issues of character development and how to move forward with education.
“If we can raise the bar again, in our league, I think it will help raise the bar across the country,” says McEvay, who works closely with B.C. Hockey and Hockey Canada on initiatives.