John Bierchen uses routine to fuel successBy Tyler Waldrep | 04/03/2017 12:29am
Photo courtesy of Brian Ogden
The first few hours of his Mondays resemble his Tuesdays, Wednesdays and — well, you get the point.
“It is very monotonous every day being successful,” Bierchen said. “You just have to really learn, you just have to really learn to make those things fun.”
For Bierchen, the fun starts every morning with a 6:45 trip to the Recreation Center.
“Every night before I go to bed I lay out my shoes, I lay out my gym outfit and I put a Snickers bar right there, because I always have a Snickers bar to get my blood sugar up,” Bierchen said.
In his first season at the helm, Bierchen guided his alma mater to a 19-14-2 record in its second year at the ACHA Division-I level after it finished the previous year 15-15-1.
Four additional wins in an introductory season suggest the hockey team’s future could be a bright one, but its head coach sees plenty of unfulfilled potential. Proving their head coach right will require Bierchen’s players to embrace the routine as he has.
“You’ll get credit for it like [Alabama football] coach [Nick] Saban does and some of the other people, but you’ll get it probably one percent of the time, and the other 99 percent, you just have to enjoy the monotony,” he said.
To really drive the point home, an extra practice per week was added to the schedule this season. That, along with practice routines borrowed from Bierchen’s experience working as an assistant at the professional level, helped Alabama better adjust to the higher classification.
But the head coach knows it takes a lot more than good practices to succeed. Living the tedious lifestyle is a hard message for college students to understand, and Bierchen knows how important it is that he provides his team with a living example.
Within his familiar routine, Bierchen is shielded from distractions caused by results and records. Win or lose, Alabama players know where their head coach will go once the bus gets back from a weekend on the road.
“So literally every Sunday morning we’d get back, and I would literally get off the bus, I’d help unload the bus and all that and I’d change and go right to the Rec,” Bierchen said. “So it takes a lot for me to change my routine.”
To most it would seem simple, but the routine is Bierchen’s guiding principle – lay out clothes, sleep, wake up, dress, Snickers, Rec Center. Repeat every morning for the rest of time. Even visits from his father during the football season are unable to shake things up.
“At this point he’s learned to rent a car, because if he flies in at eight or nine o’clock [in the morning], he knows I’m not going to pick him up because I’ll just be getting home from the Rec and starting my routine,” Bierchen said.
Bierchen said if he ever led a team to a championship, he would still start the next morning with a 6:45 workout and a Snickers bar. The fun of it all has to come with the success of playing well.
“I appreciate his attitude with everything and how he operates with everything,” junior Ian Soifer said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Bierchen hopes his example inspires guys like Soifer to keep the big picture in mind instead of getting caught up in momentary successes or failures.
Of course some moments are harder for players to ignore than others. Junior Dane Sana said his head coach (who he’s witnessed raise his voice only five times) had little patience for guys sent to the penalty box for a retaliatory penalty.
“His frame of reference wasn’t, ‘Oh, we got scored on because you took a retaliation penalty,’” Sana said. “It was, ‘I’m breeding you so that whether it’s this year or next year, or for some of you guys 10 years down the line, if you’re playing in a national championship game, you don’t want to lose the game because you took a retaliation penalty and got scored on.’”