If you want to boost a player’s morale, it sure does help to know a player.
That also means knowing every single player is different. This, in turn, means that if you have 20 players, you may have 20 ways to boost morale.
And if that makes things sound a little daunting, welcome to the wonderful world of coaching.
For Andy Boschetto, who grew up in Watertown and Chelmsford, coaching has been a way of life for nearly half of his 40 years — as has staying positive. In May of 2022, he was named assistant coach at Augustana University, where he and head coach Garrett Raboin are building a Division I program from scratch.
Beginning in 2009 as an assistant at Curry College, barely a few years after his own college career at Hobart College and Suffolk University, Boschetto has coached hundreds of college player. He has served at Salve Regina as a head coach. followed by assistant roles at Niagara University and Colgate University.
“If someone asks you about a player and you can’t say who their brothers and sisters are, or you don’t know their family, their background and where they come from, I think you’re doing a disservice to your program,” Boschetto said.
Follow Boschetto on Twitter and you’ll find a curation of people-positive posts that suggest his goal is to bring out the very best in his players through that people-positive approach.
“At the end of the day, it is about the people,” he said. “It’s caring about people genuinely. Xs and Os, you can learn. But, at the end of the day, people want to know that you care. For me, that’s the biggest piece.”
And he comes by this all honestly.
“The people I played for made a really big impact on my life, in a good way,” Boschetto said. “I just had a really good support system. I played for a guy named Jack Fletcher at Chelmsford High, and he was big on accountability and preparation, and he was demanding. He was so good at motivating people. I just always really respected him. That was number one.
“Number two, I went and played for Mike Walsh, who I still talk to every summer for advice, up at Tilton School. And he’s a little bit of a different style than Fletch. One thing I was really appreciative of is that they both cared about their players. Then I went and played for Mark Taylor, who has been probably the most influential person on me, even though I only lasted two years [at Hobart]. He was always just very supportive of me, and I still talk to him weekly. I was just very fortunate to have those guys and the ability to call them every day.”
All of this accumulated positivity has to come out somewhere, right?
Over the years, for Boschetto, it has been with his hockey teams. As a former player who admits, “I don’t know if I was the most skilled guy,” Boschetto knows how hard the game is and thinks there’s more room than ever to let his players know it.
“In games, if someone does something where it’s a team play or a great play, when they come back to the bench, I think you have to celebrate those things,” he said. “I don’t understand why we can’t show excitement for things when people do them well. And that’s rewarding people for doing things right. And I think people want that excitement. They want to be recognized. More now than ever. Even 20 years ago when I was playing, you want to be recognized for your hard work and what you did. And anyone who says that they don’t, I think they’re lying.”
Of course, by the time a player has progressed to the DI college level, there’s an age-appropriate way to address mistakes. And Boschetto isn’t always holding flowers. Still, there are ways to keep a player buoyant while doling out criticism.
“For me, criticism is constructive,” said Boschetto, who takes great pride in believing all of this is paying off in the form of invites to former players’ weddings. “If you’re going at somebody and degrading them individually, I think that’s wrong. I think if you’re going at them because you believe that they have more to give, and you know that there is more to give, I think that’s different. I have three young children, and everyone talks about accountability — and the first thing that comes to mind is holding them accountable for what they do wrong. And my belief is, yes, but let’s also hold them accountable for what they do right. If they do something right, you better celebrate that. [Sometimes], we think we have to yell all the time to motivate, and that’s not the case.”
Oh, yes, back to that piece about 20 players and 20 ways to boost morale.
“You can’t treat everybody the same,” Boschetto said. “Some people need to be pushed. Some people need to be in the office and just have to cry it out because they’re going through some stuff. Everybody is a little bit different in terms of personality in the room. And that’s what makes hockey special. If it was one size fits all, I think it would be pretty boring.”
Since moving to Sioux Falls, S.D., Boschetto’s life has been anything but boring. While a rink is going up on campus, the clock is ticking down to Game 1. (The building of that rink, by the way — the progress of which has gone from, “This summer, it was just dirt,” to, “The beams are going up as we speak,” — can be followed via construction cam: https://app.oxblue.com/open/clarkconstruction/underconstruction.)
No, building a team from the ground floor on just about every front isn’t for everyone and it isn't easy. But it can be positive.
“There’s a great line by our head coach: He says, ‘We hold the pen,’” Boschetto said. “You think I’m positive on my Twitter? He’s a big reason why I’m excited to be here. I believe in the things he believes in. He says people think we’re not going to be any good, that we’re not going to win any games. People will tell you all the reasons why we’re not going to be successful. And who cares. We have both proven everywhere we’ve been that we can leave things in a better place than we found them. And it’s because of that positive environment and driving people to be better in good ways.”
For the most part, the wheels are always spinning for Raboin and Boschetto. From sharing an office phone, to scheduling and equipment considerations, to the transfer protocol and creating a culture that includes everything from style of play to the quality of their players on the roster.
“We’re not going to give up the values of a person just because they’re talented,” Boschetto said. “When you’re around someone who is negative, you can feel that right away. When you’re around somebody who’s positive, you can feel that right away, too. And the verbiage that we use matters. It doesn’t mean you can’t demand from them, but, when a kid is saying, ‘I hope … I do well,’ Well, they’re saying, ‘I hope.’ There’s a little bit of doubt there, so let’s talk through this.”
Andy Boschetto was named assistant coach at Augustana University in May 2022. Credit: Augustana University Athletics
In any event, Augustana can only prepare for so much in advance before playing its first game next fall, and boosting morale may become an even more acute function of the job description.
“I think we just want people who know there’s going to be hard times,” Boschetto said. “That’s a part of life — whether it’s hockey-related or family-related. So, it’s knowing that’s going to happen — and that we’re going to be ready for it and battle against it. I don’t care if you’re down 10-nothing.
“I want guys who believe and are going to fight until the end because it’s preparing you for what’s next. We might lose that game, but we’re going to see this team again and we want to let them know we’re coming. And that’s life. There are going to be worse things than what we’re going through in a game. And I believe that you can teach life lessons through the game.”