A thank you to former Notre Dame hockey coach Tim McNeill
By Bill Whiteside, Businessman, Sales and Marketing
This is really not about my hockey career.
My hockey career peaked when I made the junior varsity team in college. Any scouting report on me it would have noted: “He’s slow but he’s small.” A teammate once complimented the hang time on my slapshot. In other words, this is really not about my hockey career.
During my freshman year I was involved in a scuffle that wasn’t really a fight, but which irritated the referee enough to toss me and a player from the other team out of the game. Tim McNeill, our coach, had an iron-clad rule that any player who was thrown out of a game would also be suspended for the next game.
Our parents didn’t know this at a time, but they were very fortunate to trust their freshman sons to the guidance of Tim McNeill. He expected us to respect the game, each other and our school. He expected us to hustle and to play hard, but within the rules. After the first taste of extended life away from home for most of us, by Thanksgiving it was time for “that turkey trim” – no hair could extend below the backs of our helmets. Coach had his rules, and if you broke his rules, there were consequences.
Any infraction serious enough to get thrown out of a game was an especially egregious breach of coach’s rules and expectations. I knew he wouldn’t change his mind about my punishment, but I felt I owed him an apology.
Instead of apologizing ..., try doing things you won't have to apologize for.
When I stopped by his office the next day, Coach McNeill appreciated my remorse. I thought I’d make a quick escape, but as I was about to leave he said something that surprised me and moved me and has stuck with me for the forty-five years that have passed since then. “Instead of apologizing when you make a bad decision, try doing things that you won’t have to apologize for.”
Anyone who knows me can tell you I dare not claim perfect adherence to Coach McNeill’s advice, but his guidance resonates on a regular basis, and it has helped shape my life.
I was very fortunate to run into Coach McNeill a couple of years ago and to have the opportunity to tell him that I never forgot his message, and how much his guidance has impacted my life. He was genuinely appreciative and when he saw me the next night he asked me to do one thing … if I ever had a chance to share his advice with others, to please pass it forward.
For Coach Tim McNeill in South Bend, IN, as ever … thank you.
Bill Whiteside appears by permission. Since graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1976, Bill Whiteside has enjoyed an eclectic career in the sales and marketing of fish sticks (10 years), ice cream (4 years) and, most recently, supply chain software (28 years).
He writes regularly for his business, and in his spare time, researches and writes about Winston Churchill and World War II history.
A Philadelphia native, Bill and his wife Barbara now live in Lancaster, PA.
"Bridgedale Academy is honored to have Bill Whiteside as a contributing writer on our blog page. At Bridgedale we are committed to the development of our young student-athletes, helping them to develop their physical and mental skills so they can perform at their best when it matters most, no matter the arena of life that challenges them. If you would like to learn more about Bridgedale Academy, please click the button below so we can schedule a time to chat."
Mike McPartlin, Headmaster, Bridgedale Academy
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Bridgedale Academy is an all-boys school for athletes, a prep school for serious youth hockey players. We will offer grades 5th through 8th in the 2018-19 school year. In addition to our winning combination of sports and academics, we focus on leadership training. We use a classical academic curriculum and our graduates go on to attend some of the most prestigious high schools in the midwest, including Lake Forest Academy, Culver Military Academy, Shattuck St. Mary’s, Northwood School, Benet Academy, Fenwick Prep, St. Ignatius Prep, Latin School and Providence Catholic. We pride ourselves on being the top youth hockey prep school in the nation. Thirteen (13) of our former or current students have already received their NCAA Division 1 college hockey commitments. Three (3) of our former students competed for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and will begin their college playing careers in 2018-19, two at Notre Dame and one at Michigan.