Nicolas Gaillard is a 47 years old French man who loves hockey. As a matter of fact, he made all his family be actively into it. Gaillard is a hockey coach, his son plays ice hockey on the HC Morzine-Avoriaz U11 team, and for the Ice Hockey Select HC 74. His wife Amandine is also involved in hockey, working as a team leader. An average day of the Gaillard’s family starts with hockey plans, practices and different sports activities, and ends with the hockey programs for the next day. They live for hockey, and this sport takes one of the most important places in their lives.
HOW A HOCKEY PLAYER HAS BECOME A COACH
I started playing ice hockey 40 years ago and never really stopped until now. I played hockey actively for a long time, over 20 years, in my former hometown ice hockey association, in Poitiers, France. At that time, we played in the second French Division.
After having my player’s career finished, I worked for a sport travel agency and used to travel across the world. The agency I’ve worked for was specialized in ice hockey events, like The Quebec international Pee Wee Tournament and others. Eight years after ending my players career, in 2012, I decided to come back to hockey. But, this time I chose to be on a bench of my former club, coaching younger players (5 to 13 year old), as well as the senior French Division 3rd Team.
I’m a licensed coach for the players under 13, and I’m actually working with the French Federation to get my DE diploma (which will enable me to coach the kids under 5, as well as the pro teams).
AN ATTRACTIVE JOB OFFER
Three years ago, I quit my coaching job in Poitiers. One day, an actual Sports Manager from Morzine phoned me and asked if I was interested in working there, together with him. I was aware that Morzine was and still is a great ice hockey place in France, so his offer pleasantly surprised me. (Honestly, I’m still proud to be an active member of this organization, being able to actively participate in creating its sports history
THE ONLY MISSING PIECE WERE – PLAYERS
But at that time I was not sure if it would work and fit with the organization in Morzine. I was thinking of our lovely home village in the French Alps, as well as of an opportunity to work properly with the kids. The sport manager of our club Loïc Gaydon accepted to increase the number of the younger players. I knew we had stuff to make hockey and work drills fun for them. The only missing piece were – players.
So, we started visiting schools over here, animating the kids to start practicing hockey. We even made some special events, together with the Town and Club Committee, and the French Ice Hockey Federation. And finally – it worked. We gathered a lot of young kids interested in hockey, especially girls.
THE FIGHTERS IN THE PINK JERSEYS
We managed to gather little girls around the valley, and even from some other places nearby. There are girls of 4 different nationalities in our club: French, Serbian, Scottish and Welsh. Currently, we have 32 girls of different ages: the oldest was born in 2004, and the youngest one is 5 years old. The majority of them play on the U9 and U7 teams. Of course, some of them are playing for both selections.
Unfortunately, we are the only club in France having female players of that age, so we can play only against the boys, in a boys championship. But, occasionally our little fighters put their pink jerseys on, and compete at some tournaments. Most often they are the only girls team there.
Looking from this position, it was a long walk and fight for having all these girls in our club. I’d dreamed of that for a long time, and it finally came true. Now we have a lot of girls and parents here, and we are all a happy community that is growing and becoming stronger every day.
THE MOMENTS I GLADLY REMEMBER
While working and playing with my pink penguins, I had a lot of precious moments and unforgettable memories. These young fighters always make my day better and completely fulfilled. We laugh a lot and feel great whenever we win or score a goal. I always gladly remember the moment when I’d shown the girls their brand new jerseys. I saw a pride in their eyes, and it was an amazing feeling. The very first moment when they all together jumped on the ice as a team, during an U9 tournament in our rink, the Skoda Arena is something that I will also never forget.
One of my dearest memories is the first goal scored by our team, by Mina, a little Serbian player. As far as I know, her mother was a skier, competing 4 times for Serbia at Olympics.
IT IS NOT EASY TO SEE OUR GIRLS BEING CRUSHED
Of course, it is not easy for anyone of us to see our girls being crushed. I feel very bad in these situations, but eventually I try to make some lessons from it, and turn it to the brighter side of life. They are young and they get so disappointed whenever they lose a game. But, they listen to the coaches and team managers, and always try to be better in the next game. I truly believe they will be a great team one day. And I hope they will perform as a team at the U7-U9 Tournament in Annecy, in May 2018.
Anyway, the best feeling ever is the fire in the eyes of my teams when they come out of the locker room, like an army in the battle mode. But it’s still a game, isn’t it ? 🙂
A DREAM OF BEATING A BOYS’ TEAM
In my future, I’m planning to continue to work with kids, both boys and girls, and develop their skills and hockey mind. We have a lot to do, but every day is a new opportunity to be better than the day before. One of my dreams is to finally beat a boys’ team with my pink penguins, and I’m completely sure it is not far away. So, dear boys, you should watch out.
A FUTURE GIRLS TOURNAMENT IN THE FRENCH ALPS?
My pink team is very adorable, and we draw attention and sympathy whenever we show up. Recently the girls received video messages from Nicole Court (A You tube star aka Beer League Beauty https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NQgW5TfURGB7bGHtVbDP1WngcTjlmBYH/view?usp=drive_web ) and from Florence Schilling (a goalie of the Swiss National Team https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oMV1nMT0FVV_aBtkKJ5BcbdMpzT0FOS1/view?usp=drive_web) and we hope more is to come. We are so happy for it, and our plan is to continue working very hard and become stronger every day. We hope we’ll be able to make a girl U9 tournament one day here in the French Alps.
IF HE’D SKATED FASTER, HE COULD BE LIKE A GIRL TOO
I always tell my little pink ladies to work and play hard. I love their diligence, dedication and a fighting competitive spirit. But most of all I like this quote: “Once a boy had told me that I skated like a girl. I answered him if he’d skated faster, he could be like a girl too”. 😀