An in depth Q&A with Notre Dame of West Haven Coach Larry Vieira:
Q: Why did you come back to the Southern Stars program Coach Vieira?
A: “Support, plain and simple.”
Q: Support? what do you mean by that.
A: “What I mean is the people in this system are behind me, and they have a clear picture of what their goal is as an organization. That is so important to get kids better.”
Q: So how do you get kids better?
A: “I get asked that question a lot. It’s a process. You have to turn up the heat. Move the bar on what a player’s 100% effort is, and they have to be taken out of their comfort zone to improve.”
A: “Yes It’s an integral part of the mix. All success is built on it, and so is failure...in sports and in life. It’s not permanent, it’s just how you recover from failure and get better.”
Q: Yeah, I see that. so that leads me to why have you been such a successful coach?
A: “Success over time?”
A: “The best way to explain it would be to compare it to cooking. You’re Italian right?”
Q: Yes I am.
A: “If you apply the right amount of heat, the right amount of pressure, and you have the right ingredients and timing - you can make something really amazing over and over.”
Q: I get that. What are the ingredients you’re looking for?
A: “Hard work, discipline, and focus. On and off the ice. That goes hand in hand with work ethic.”
Q: Speaking of work ethic, is there anyone who spends more time on the ice than you Coach?
A: “I appreciate that, and see where you’re going. How can I talk about something or try to implement it if I don’t do it myself? Well that’s 100% right. It’s upbringing. How can I tell a kid to work hard, or follow my lead, if I don’t practice what I preach?”
Q: Is that why so many kids want to play for you?
A: “At Notre Dame?”
Q: Both High School and youth hockey teams?
A: “That’s a good question. It’s part of it. But the thing people who aren’t part of Notre Dame don’t understand is the academics aspect you get at Notre Dame. The brotherhood that comes with it. The family feeling you get being part of it. At first, I didn’t understand it. But, then over time I got it too. That community is bound together, especially if your father went there, then there’s a good chance you will go there. The climate it produces is pretty strong.”
Q: How about the youth hockey aspect?
A: “I’ve been doing this for 40 years, and I’ve been a teacher for a long time too. Youth hockey has evolved over the years, and I have a view point and understanding from the old and new school of thinking.”
Q: Can you explain that to me?
A: “Sure. Early in my coaching career, if I told a kid to do something they just did it. Now I have to explain to them why, which is better in some ways because now they have to take ownership. Today’s kids understand that.”
Q: What’s got worse?
A: “The kids today want to rush everything, they want it now. This second. It’s partly because of the way things are in society today that’s out of their hands. Social media and instant gratification stuff. But success can’t be rushed, that’s where the discipline and focus are even more important with the information overload kids go through today.”
Q: What about parents?
A: “Well, that’s a bit different too. When I evaluate a kid I have to be brutally honest to give the kid and his parents a starting point. In the past, that evaluation was handled differently, it was more accepted. Nowadays, parents are in disbelief if our evaluation’s aren’t the same. If that makes sense.”
Q: It does. Is that one of the hardest things you have to do?
A: “Well, it can be. But the hardest thing for me still after all this time, is telling the kid who my evaluation expectations have fallen short on and he’s being moved down, or told he’s not playing tonight. That kid who two years ago was on target. But now for whatever the reason, just didn’t get there. Especially when he’s put in the effort or checked all the boxes, and for some other reason he’s still not playing. That’s the one that keeps me up at night. Sometimes it’s an injury, or another boy who checked all the boxes too, is just playing better right now. Parents today have real trouble with that, even know they understand that’s how it has to be. Even though I explained it to them before we start, sometimes evaluation, expectation, and reality don’t align all the time.”
Q: Is it a disconnect with reality?
A: “No I don’t think so. It’s just a different evaluation. As a coach I have a team of players, a group of coaches, a bunch of parents, and system that also has requirements. All of which I have to consider. It comes with the job.”
Q: Well it’s been real interesting Coach and thank you for your time. It’s been a real eye opener. Thanks for fitting me in.
A: “No worries. it was perfect timing. I need to head into practice anyway. Thanks again.”
Q: Of course you do!