Matt Greason didn’t take the fast track to one of the highest levels of coaching in amateur hockey.

Instead, Greason had to work through several levels of hockey in order to join the coaching staff of the United States National Team Development Program.

“You spend a lot of time in the trenches, not having professional experience,” said Greason, a 1997 graduate of North Yarmouth Academy. “What I’ve learned from it is that if you stay the course and work hard and do what you can to the best of your ability at each stop, you can do great things.”

Greason recently began his first year as an assistant coach with the NTDP’s Under-18 team after working the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the U.S. U-17 team. The Bridgton native won the Travis Roy Award in 1997 as the state’s top Class A senior hockey player, played hockey and golf at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., then coached hockey at the high school and prep school levels before spending two seasons at Trinity as an assistant coach with the hockey team.

“What’s so rewarding about working with kids this talented is that you get to see the immediate results,” Greason said of working with the U.S. U-18 team. “If you instruct them properly, they’ll do it properly. And you find that there’s always that one time in a practice or in a game where you watch them do something and you think, ‘I’ve never been able to do that, and I never will!’ “

The U-18 team plays a schedule against college teams and junior teams from the United States Hockey League, as well as international tournaments. Danton Cole, the team’s head coach, explained that Greason has both on-ice and off-ice responsibilities. During practices, Greason runs and coaches the defense. Away from the rink, he coordinates the team’s schedule of 17 games against college opponents.

“The hardest part about that is all of the parameters placed on us ahead of time,” Cole said “International games and tournaments are set in stone. We’ve got the USHL schedule, which is 24 games, and you’re trying to slide college teams into all that and their schedules are set, too. It’s, as we like to call it, a lot of smiling and dialing.”

In the program’s day-to-day operations, Greason also has to establish and maintain a rapport with the players.

“This is these kids’ draft year, and some of them are preoccupied with that, or with (colleges) recruiting, and you have to keep them focused,” Greason said. “It’s about keeping them on the right path. These guys are under the microscope. If these guys do something great, or even something bad, chances are that it’s going to end up on TSN (Canada’s equivalent of ESPN.)”

Building and maintaining those relationships, Cole said, is part of the art of coaching.

“There’s a very integral part to coaching, and it’s the interaction,” Cole said. “Having a pulse on the room, stepping in and having that good rapport with the players. He knows when to be the big brother, or when you have to step in and be the principal. He has that sense.”

“My goal, in the long run, is to coach at the college level,” Greason said. “But I don’t think there’s a program that develops coaches better than the national team program. The people you get in touch with, the people you talk to, it’s a who’s who of hockey. You get to represent your country overseas, you get to see how other countries prepare and play, and you get in touch with people from all kinds of levels of hockey.”

Cole, who played parts of seven seasons in the NHL, says Greason is doing everything necessary to build his coaching resume.

“Looking at the big picture, one thing that people who aren’t involved in coaching don’t realize is that there is a lot of hard work and behind-the-scenes things,” Cole said. “All the things we talk to players about — being consistent, paying the price and putting in the time — that’s consistent with what you have to do as a coach. There are some guys who get good opportunities, but guys have to pay their dues, learn their craft and work at all the aspects of it. Matt’s done all those things.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: rlenzi