Salisbury School head coach Andrew Will is the guest on the latest episode of the RinkWise podcast.
Raised in Toronto, Will played hockey at Union College and spent two years in the ECHL with the Mobile Mysticks before getting into coaching. He started as an assistant at his alma mater, and then at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Will’s first head coaching position was at Upper Canada College at the Canadian prep level before he accepted the top position at Salisbury in 2008. His Crimson Knights won the New England prep title in his first season behind the bench, and have gone on to win five more NEPSAC championships — including their latest this spring.
He joins Kirk Luedeke to talk about the bumpy road his team took to capturing the 2022 NEPSAC title, his coaching background and mentors, the attributes he and his coaching staff seek in players, top recruits over the years and more.
From the podcast:
On starting the season 5-4 and what happened after the Christmas break:
You know, we met just quickly after the (Kimball Union) game at the Flood-Marr (tournament) where we lost with 13-14 seconds left. And we just talked about where we were and what we needed to spend some time thinking about and being prepared to change once we got back. I give our kids a ton of credit. When they came back in in January, there was a real sense of purpose and focus, which was tremendously exciting. And you alluded to us having our backs against the wall. Obviously, we were able to win a lot of those games. We dropped another to Kent along the way. But at that point our identity and confidence as a group had really started to settle in. So it was in some ways a two-month playoff run for us, not just that last week.
On the big things he learned from his father, who taught English and was a football coach:
If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability. He really instilled in me and my siblings the importance of being passionate, bringing energy, not only working hard but being positive and enthusiastic while you’re doing it. That’s one of the things that I remember most about being around some of my dad’s teams. The impression I had was how much fun they were having. They were working and they were competing and learning and growing, but they were having a lot of fun while they were doing it. And to understand that those two things are not exclusive of one another. I really carry (that) with me every day.
He was a detail guy, and really emphasized the process and doing things the right way and having a plan about how you want to go about doing things. And having confidence in that plan and not being inflexible or stubborn with it, but understanding that you’ve got to kind of have a method to the madness.
On the values he’s tried to instill in his program at Salisbury and what he’s looking for in players:
It was really important for me and our school that we continue to attract not only highly motivated, highly talented and driven hockey players, but we also needed to make sure we were finding highly motivated and driven students and really quality character individuals. That was really the foundation that I wanted to ensure that we had here. It wasn’t about, “Hey — We’ve got to win another championship or a bunch of championships here.” But we’ve got to have really good kids, really good people who want to work just as hard in the classroom. They want to work just as hard in the community to meet the expectations that we have for them here. And you can do all those things without sacrificing on the hockey side. And probably more than anything, that’s what I have found to be the most rewarding and exciting part of my time here is just the quality and caliber of individual and family that has been a part of Salisbury. I like to believe that those two things really do go hand in hand.