In his ninth year coaching at Andover, Boys Hockey Head Coach Paul Tortorella ’80 has found a word to encapsulate his ideal team culture: “Together.”
Tortorella hopes to continue to create a tight-knit team that can handle the pressures of competition through its strong relationships.
“After they’re at Andover, they look back, and they remember these other people that went through something good, bad, and different with them. I guess what I’m saying is the idea of being on a team and having teammates and carrying that through is, in my experience, the best thing about it. I’d also love to have some trophies and championships to go with that, but I just hope that they appreciate each other,” said Tortorella.
Without trust and honesty between his players, there would be no sense of teamwork on the ice. However, Tortorella also works to ensure that he, as a coach, can be trusted by his team, and he does so through constant communication on an individual level, according to Co-Captain Conner Fitzpatrick ’22.
“I would say he’s very personal with the players, talking a lot, working out issues, and he’s really great at connecting with the players. Whether that’s through text, call or meetings, I think that’s the one great thing about him. He’s very approachable and constantly reaching out, making sure we’re at the best,” said Fitzpatrick.
Co-Captain Patrick Last ’22 shared a similar sentiment to Fitzpatrick, noting the differences from the coaching style he’d experienced at his old school. According to Last, Tortorella’s close involvement with the players is beneficial for the team’s success.
Last said, “I went to a normal public high-school before Andover, and the coach over there wasn’t as involved. Coach here is super involved and he’s always trying to help kids out. He’s always giving tips on ice. That stuff is really helpful.”
Tortorella finds that the team excels most when he is flexible with his coaching style. Depending on the situation being played out on the ice, he gives feedback and guidance when needed to boost the overall confidence of the team.
“We want to be positive. We want the kids to play. We want them to have fun. We need to make corrections. We make corrections. You got to sort of wake them up. Sometimes it’s hard, but whatever the situation calls for in practice or a game, we try to do what we feel is best for the kids’ learning in a way that increases their confidence,” said Tortorella.
According to Last, this boost in confidence allows the team to follow Tortorella’s main strategy: Facing opponents head-on without backing down in fear.
“His coaching has been impactful to me personally and I assume others feel the same way. He’s a pretty fun guy. And aggressive because that’s sort of the play style he wants us to have in the games and what we try to be. Always putting the pressure on and not having the pressure against us,” said Last.
Tortorella emphasizes intentionality in all parts of training, as he hopes to prepare his players for competition by emulating the intensity of a game during practice.
“Coaching practice, you’re trying to prepare for the game. So I mean, obviously we try to let the drills do the teaching and let the game do the teaching. But I would say there’s no difference. It’s all one big event. We try to get the kids to practice under game conditions,” said Tortorella.
Since the team hasn’t faced competition since December, Tortorella doesn’t plan to introduce new tactics, drills, or mindsets when practices and games resume. Rather, he wants to focus on practicing and refining what the team already knows.
Tortorella said, “We have to get better. We did some good things. We failed to do some other things. I guess it was just too soon. The whole idea for me is repetition, just repeating. I think we’ve done a good job of laying out the big picture at the start of the season about how we want to play and what kind of team we want to be.”