Local News

Canes' life coach plays important role in team's success

Posted December 23, 2009 7:03 p.m. EST
Updated December 23, 2009 10:56 p.m. EST

— Fans of the Carolina Hurricanes may know all about the players and coaches, but they probably haven’t heard about the woman who is an integral part of the all-male team.

“There’s all kind of coaches down there on the ice. … I’m just one of the persons, when they make a decision they want to come and talk about where they are, or where they want to go, that's my role. That’s the part I play,” Doris Barksdale, Carolina Hurricanes’ motivational coach, said.

Barksdale provides balance and support for the people who wear the Canes uniform. A former YMCA director and social worker, she has been with the team as a motivational coach since the start of the franchise in Hartford, Conn.

“I hope I develop the kind of energy with them that I’m a friend. It’s not about being macho or whatever, it's just about talking to a friend,” Barksdale said.

Her goal is to keep spreading a positive message among the players.

“Somebody asked me when I first came, how do you motivate a millionaire? I said, ‘I just keep telling them how great they are,’” Barksdale explained.

Head coach Paul Maurice has worked with Barksdale for over 15 years.

“As a coach, you've always got to find the button that makes them tick and pushes them. What Doris is great at, is finding their heart,” Maurice said.

Barksdale is so much a part of the team that she even has a Stanley Cup ring. She is also standing strong with the players as they cope with a poor showing so far this season. The Canes, at 9-22-6, have the NHL's worst record and sit in last place in their division.

“I firmly believe that she has been a big part of the successes they've had and also riding out some of the more difficult times,” Maurice said.

Barksdale is available around the clock to anyone in the Canes organization.

Assistant coach Tom Rowe used to head up the organization's minor league team and saw Barksdale's approach work on his players.

“You always saw the next day, they come back a lot more relaxed, a lot more confident and they'd even open up to us as coaches a little bit more,” Rowe explained.

“There are going to be all kinds of bumps in the road, and when we have somebody we can talk to about that, somehow the trip becomes a little easier,” Barksdale said.

All Barksdale’s conversations with the players are confidential. Her role appears to be somewhat unusual for an NHL team. Teams often have a sports psychologist on staff, but no other team has someone in Barksdale’s position.