Sheffield Steelers’ Aaron Fox not resting on coaching laurels

Aaron Fox: On a learning curve. Picture: Dean WoolleyAaron Fox: On a learning curve. Picture: Dean Woolley
Aaron Fox: On a learning curve. Picture: Dean Woolley
THIS year’s off-season may prove longer than normal for Sheffield Steelers, but do not let it be said that head coach Aaron Fox is taking things easy.

The 44-year-old American had the desired impact during his first season at the helm in South Yorkshire, helping the Steelers end a 17-year wait for the Challenge Cup.

But that success, brought about by a 4-3 win over Cardiff Wales in South Wales in early March, turned out to be the last time Fox got to stand behind the bench.

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Five days later, the curtain came down on the campaign for everybody in the Elite League because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Steelers coach Aaron Fox (Picture: Dean Woolley)Steelers coach Aaron Fox (Picture: Dean Woolley)
Steelers coach Aaron Fox (Picture: Dean Woolley)

Next season has a provisional starting date of early October and while the Steelers have some pieces in place on next season’s roster – a sizeable core is expected to return – with no firm start date on proceedings, player announcements have been thin on the ground.

It is the same across the sport throughout the UK and Europe, while all eyes remain on the NHL in the hope it can complete its revised 24-team play-off format when it starts – all being well – next month.

Fox remains in regular contact with agents and continues to pore over tapes of potential recruits, but he is using the extra time he has been afforded to improve his own skills set.

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Last season was Fox’s first full campaign behind the bench. Prior to that, his post-playing career was more front office, spending five-and-a-half seasons as sporting manager for Medvescak Zagreb, including three seasons in the KHL.

Aaron Fox and Aaron Johnson.Aaron Fox and Aaron Johnson.
Aaron Fox and Aaron Johnson.

His only previous coaching experience came in his final half-season in Croatia and it was his ability to fulfil that dual role that largely prompted Steelers’ owner Tony Smith to appoint him in April last year.

While the general manager side of things is almost second nature to Fox, he admits he has plenty to learn when it comes to the other side of his job.

“This time has been good to take an overview of how we do things, to see if there are ways that we can improve,” said Fox.

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“But I’m also using this time to better myself. There’s been some good stuff online from the NHL coaches association and they have these five-day webinars that I’ve signed up for.

“These are done by NHL-level coaches, where some of them will put you through, for example, how they do their pre-scout and stuff like that. It’s all good stuff and if I only use 10 per cent of it, then great.

“I’m still fairly new to this, the coaching side of things. I feel like the management side of things I’ve done for quite a while now, but the coaching side I can still definitely improve, quite a bit.

“And, at the moment, there’s no better way to use this time to my advantage.”

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