After 30 years as the ice hockey coach for Cony High School, I felt that it was time to write this note.

Being a coach can be very rewarding, and sometimes very challenging. It is rewarding in the progress you see in your players and the development and gains that you see in your team and the amazing friendships that are developed.

But it is also challenging, in the hurdles that arise during a season. Here, I wanted to give you the perspective of what the life of the coach is like. I can tell you that we do not do it for the money.

What does this job entail?

As part of the winter coaching staff, I have missed every Christmas and February vacation for 30 years. I have been with the team for practice and games and not my family on any planned family trips. I have been on hundreds of bus trips with the team and spent late weeknights at games. I’ve missed my own son’s youth games to be with the Cony team.

Cony coach Shawn Johnson instructs golfers before a match in 2020. Johnson recently retired after 30 years as the school’s ice hockey coach. Kennebec Journal file photo

I’ve received texts and calls on Christmas regarding someone’s playing time. I’ve been followed home by parents, and received calls from a parent wondering why their kid is not the captain. I’ve been cornered at restaurants and grocery stores to talk about why I am doing things wrong.


My wife has been cornered out in public too, and my son has been excluded from activities because his dad is the coach.

I’ve received calls from a player wondering if they can stay at my house for a few nights because their dad is beating everyone up. I’ve waited in the parking lot with players after a game because their parent is an hour late or more to pick up their kid at 11:30 on a school night.

I’ve been asked to go to a player’s house because he was contemplating suicide and had a shotgun on the floor in front of him.

I’ve had my car vandalized. My coaching has been criticized by parents who have never even skated or played the game themselves. I’ve had coffee poured on my head by an opposing fan, and had an opposing player’s parent, with their kids in the car, throw food and swear at me in the parking lot while trying to get my players on the bus.

I’ve received calls from a player saying that their parent has died. I’ve received calls saying that a former player of mine has died.

I’ve also attended weddings of former players, and been called when they have a child.

I’ve written hundreds of recommendations and spoke to prospective employers on the player’s behalf. I’ve been a part of hundreds of fundraisers and team meals.

I’ve lost outside friendships because of hockey decisions, and made amazing friends through hockey connections.

Shawn Johnson is a guidance counselor at Cony Middle School and coach of the high school varsity golf team. He recently retired from coaching hockey after 30 years. 

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