Three amateur athletes reflect on their mentors and explain what makes them great.

Hockey Player Teighan Keller

The lessons taught by one of Cochrane’s greatest mentors, Mike Bigland, head coach of the Bow Valley Timberwolves, helped Teighan Keller achieve his dreams of playing high level hockey in the United States.

After being coached by Bigland during his bantam and midget days in Cochrane, Keller accepted an offer with the Phoenix Knights of the Western States Hockey League to play hockey in Arizona during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

“He taught me the effort it takes to succeed,” says Keller. “I started the year with Bigland off not playing much, and he helped me realize that I too can be a contributor on the team and showed me how to get there training in ways I wasn’t used to.”

What Keller remembers most is the head coach’s ability to help players rebound from even the most devastating situations.

“My biggest hockey injury happened during the playoffs of that year,” says Keller, who scored 19 points in 26 games during his second year with the Knights. “Mike helped me learn how to persevere through adversity and bounce back to the game I loved the most.”

While Keller refers to Bigland as his best coach, he doesn’t discount the commitment every other coach has had on him in his career.

“Best coach is always hard to pick,” says Keller. “I get asked a lot, and it’s tough ‘cause every coach, for better or worse, has impacted my life so dramatically.”

Volleyball player Taylor Pelland

While many athletes cite youth coaches as the ones who most helped them grow, there is something to be said about a coach who is able to make an impact at the highest level.

According to Taylor Pelland, a third-year outside hitter on the Mount Royal Cougars women’s volleyball squad,  there’s no finer mentor than Sandra Lamb.

Highly decorated — Lamb won the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Coaching Excellence Award across all sports in 2011 — she has been with the Cougars for 19 years.

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Taylor Pelland has become one of the most dependable players on the Cougars in her third season. Photo courtesy of Cougars Athletics. Pelland says that what separates Lamb from other high-level coaches is her ability to relate with athletes in other areas of life outside the court.

”I’ve learned numerous life lessons thanks to her,” says the athlete from Wanham, Alta. “I’ve grown both as a person and as an athlete during my three years here.”

Lamb’s philosophy on the court seems to be working. In 2014, Pelland’s rookie season, the outside hitter finished in the top five on the team in both kills (76) and service aces (12).

One thing  great coaches are able to do is make the best players on the team better. While Pelland came into her university career as a good athlete, she has grown to become Lamb’s go-to player in pressure situations, improving her stats each season with the Cougars.

While her impact on the court is obvious, Pelland says Lamb’s coaching philosophy doesn’t end with the sport of volleyball.

“Playing the sport under Sandra has given me great tools I can apply to my future endeavors,” says Pelland. “She’s taught me to work hard, be passionate and have a voice.”

Football player Scott Haigh

Growing up in Katy, Texas, football was more of a lifestyle than anything for University of Calgary athlete Scott Haigh.

It was at Katy that Haigh crossed paths with the coach who would make the biggest impact on him, both on and off the field.

Grade 7 was just Haigh’s second year playing football, and David O’Keefe, the head coach at Beckendorf Jr. High, took Haigh under his wing.

“Even though we were only 12 or 13 years old, he always referred to us as men,” says the Dinos’ defensive back. “He treated us like adults and held us to the standards of behavior associated with that.”

Haigh points out three major ways O’Keefe mentored him. He taught him to hold himself to a higher standard, the importance of hard work and respecting both yourself and others.

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Scott Haigh has played many different positions during his career. He currently plays cornerback on the Dinos. Photo courtesy of Dinos Athletics. “He not only demanded respect, but also gave it to those who deserve it,” Haigh says. “I learned that in order to be respected I must respect others and act in a manner that was indicative of the person I wanted to be.”

Haigh saw immediate results under O’Keefe. He “buckled down” and was rewarded by the head coach with a promotion from the school’s B team to the A team. The work the two did together in the gym also helped Haigh become one of the team’s most physical players.

Haigh moved to Alberta a year later and took the lessons he learned from O’Keefe with him to Bow Valley High School in Cochrane, where he would eventually earn the quarterback role.

A few years, later Haigh accepted an offer to start his university football career with the Dinos, studying commerce at the University of Calgary, a move he isn’t sure he would have been able to make without his middle school coach.

“I truly believe that if I had not been coached by Coach O’Keefe I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says Haigh.. “Learning about how to be respectful and respected at such a young age has definitely benefited me throughout my life.”

Editor: Amber McLinden |

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