Sean Young’s infectious energy powers the Ottawa 67’s
If you ask about Sean Young around The Arena at TD Place, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who answers without a smile on their face.
Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Ottawa 67’s since 2017, Young is synonymous with success at all levels of sport. He works to keep the 67’s, Ottawa REDBLACKS, and numerous local professional, and amateur athletes in top form at his facility, the Canadian Strength Institute, but his impact extends far beyond the Ottawa-Gatineau area.
Young previously served as a guide runner for Paralympic runner Jon Dunkerly, earning a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and more recently, has been a part of the last two World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal victories with Team Canada.
Appreciating individual achievements when his work is focused on helping others reach their own goals is admittedly something of a difficult task for Young, but the Ennismore, Ontario native finds himself trying to stop and smell the roses, while keeping his eye on the prize.
“I think I did a better job of that at the last tournament; looking around, listening to the crowd, trying to soak it in, but I think you can never be too settled on where you are,” said Young. “You make sure you don’t get too high, or too low, and we’re doing it right now, trying to go after another championship.”
The reason that people think so fondly of Young isn’t rooted in championship cups or gold medals, though. It’s not in first-place finishes, or long playoff runs. It’s who the man is when you talk to him around the rink, or see him interact with the players.
Derek Froats, a veteran of five Ontario Hockey League seasons from 2009 to 2013, has known Young since 2011. After suffering an injury, and looking to change his approach to training, the then-Kingston Frontenac turned to Young. Froats took so kindly to his new coach’s methods that he began working alongside Young almost immediately after, as a secondary trainer.
Now, nearly 12 years later, Froats finds himself as one of Canadian Strength’s trainers, working in a prominent role with the 67’s. As someone who knows his former coach all too well, at this point, there is a single attribute Froats points to that separates Young from the rest.
“It’s his energy,” said Froats. “He just lights up the room. He’s one of the most positive people I’ve ever met, and one of the kindest as well.”
Froats’ story is one likely shared with countless athletes over more than a decade. They can all point to how Young has helped to hone their craft; through his expertise in the minutiae of things like sprint mechanics, nutrition, or injury rehabilitation, but above all, they point to Young’s infectious energy, and positivity as his defining qualities.
While he admits to some of that energy being innate — stressing that his mother and father would attest to that fact — Young acknowledges that the positivity he exudes is a product of conscious effort. He is well-acquainted with the pressures that athletes can find themselves under, but believes that they should only be felt in the tensest moments of competition, rather than off the ice, or in the gym.
His approach, then, becomes one of a “thermometer”; gauging the feelings surrounding the team, and doing his best to contribute to them in a positive manner.
“If we can increase that positive energy, if everybody’s feeling a little bit better, and going to have a positive outlook on the day, I really feel we’re going to get the most out of our players,” Young said. “If you’re always like that, and you bring your best every day, I think the players see that, and they feel it. I think it makes a big difference.”
The ground-level work to help regulate the temperature of the locker room is a responsibility different from other coaching roles, and perhaps not one undertaken by others who work in the space, but it’s just another hallmark of Young’s above-and-beyond approach to his job. He receives the messaging that coaches want to send to players, and helps assert it in ways that are unique to his role, aiding them in navigating the rigours of life as a high-level athlete.
There are always frustrations about deployment, performance, or things happening away from the rink, but Young takes care to cultivate a trusting rapport that allows him to be a source of wisdom, and positivity.
“I’m not on the bench, or around the game itself, so I think [being around me] is almost a non-threatening place to be,” said Young. “I just try to help them see the bigger picture, and that we’re all trying to win.”
Perhaps more important to Young, however, is being a strong ambassador for his team, no matter where he goes.
“For me, I think about the 67’s,” he said. “That’s who I’m representing. The gym, the REDBLACKS, I know they’re rooting for me too. It’s special, and I’m fortunate to have had those opportunities.”
Young continues to help the 67’s on their push for a long playoff run, continuing Friday night, against the Oshawa Generals.