Sunday profile: Coach Cota’s passion for the game rubs off on Glenwood hockey team

Glenwood Springs High School head hockey coach Tim Cota runs through drills with players during practice at the ice rink.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A sheet of ice is just another classroom for Tim Cota.

“The easy part is teaching the kids how to skate,” Cota, the head Glenwood Springs High School boys hockey coach and a longtime coach in the Glenwood Youth Hockey Program since its start 22 years ago, said.

But the life lessons? Developing a strong work ethic, time management skills, getting good grades in school, gaining independence — “those are a little harder to get through to them sometimes.”

Any team sport can help teach those lessons, Cota said, but hockey is particularly demanding.

“Team sports are an important part of learning skills that you have to have as a young adult, going into the working world, or going on to college,” he said. “With hockey, you had better be organized and be a good time manager.

“If you don’t have those skills, you’re going to struggle in other areas of your life. It’s all very cohesive.”

If the Demons’ success on the ice in just their second year of varsity play at the Colorado High School Activities Association level is any indication, that part of it is coming along, too.

Cota has the Glenwood team in position to make a run at the Peak League title. The Demons were sitting at 4-2 in conference play before a big game with Summit (6-1) was postponed Friday night due to the winter storm, and another critical game at Crested Butte (2-6) on Saturday.

Glenwood Springs High School head hockey coach Tim Cota watches on as players run through a drill during practice at the ice rink.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Early passion

A high school hockey player himself while growing up in Minnesota, Cota began to coach while attending college at Bemidji State University.

“I coached pee-wee hockey my sophomore year, and then started coaching bantam (ages 13-15) and high school my senior year,” he said. “Once I started college I missed hockey, and my major was social studies education so I thought it would be a good thing to get into coaching.

“Once I did, I never looked back.”

A summer in Glenwood Springs in the late 1990s turned into a permanent move, and Cota was on the front end of helping to organize Glenwood Youth Hockey in 1998.

Cota coached at various youth levels in those early years when the teams practiced at the former open-air ice rink at the old rodeo grounds in south Glenwood.

Once the covered ice rink was built at the Glenwood Community Center in 2001, the program took off. Cota coached the midgets (high school) teams starting in 2003-04, and the program continued to grow, drawing youth from all across Garfield County and the lower Roaring Fork Valley.

Two years ago, as many other club hockey programs were doing in Colorado, the high school team joined CHSAA. After a year playing junior varsity under the banner of the alternative, multi-district Yampah Mountain High School, it eventually became an official Glenwood Springs High School sport.

“The whole state of Colorado was going that way, which is better, I think,” Cota said. “(Club) midget hockey at one time was the dominant league, while CHSAA was more Front Range.”

Just in the last six years or so, the number of CHSAA teams has grown from less than 20 to 37 teams this year.

Glenwood Springs High School head hockey coach Tim Cota runs through drills with players during practice at the ice rink.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

No pushovers

The current group of GSHS Demons are a mix of players from multiple area high schools, including Glenwood, Coal Ridge and Roaring Fork, who grew up playing together in the Grizzlies youth program.

“With the senior crew that we have this year, and a year of varsity under our belt, we just seem to be getting better and better as the year goes on,” Cota said. 

“The kids have matured a lot, and their patience has grown to where we’re not panicking in certain situations. It’s fun to see a team start to gel at a different level when you’ve been together for a certain amount of time.”

Senior co-captains for the team this year are Ryan Kotz and Jacob Fowler. Coach Cota’s passion for the sport and his mentoring both on and off the ice is a big part of what inspires them, they said.

“We’ve all been playing here together for 10 years, and a big reason for that is him,” Kotz said of Cota. “He just has a passion and a really big love for the game that transfers to coaching.”

Added Fowler, “the first thing that comes to mind is his dedication. When it’s summer, he’s getting all these different drills together to prepare us for the whole winter.

“And, when winter’s here, the scouting reports he does on the other teams are incredible. I’m always amazed at the detail he puts into those.” 

Cota is quick to give credit to the team leaders and his assistant coaches — Bryan Gonzales, Joe and Richie Luetke, and Devlin Powell, a former member of the Demons team who graduated last year and just recently joined the coaching staff. 

“It’s an all-around effort by everybody involved, and our success is because of the parents, the players, the school … everybody has been so supportive,” Cota said.

This second varsity season for the Demons has also brought a full slate of home games at the Community Center ice rink, which is covered but still has open-air sides, making for some challenging, yet authentic playing and practice conditions at times.

“It’s great to be home playing in front of the fans,” Cota said. “We play well here, and we get a lot of support from our fans.

“They’re the extra player … they’re loud, the kids like it and it energizes them. And that’s what we like.”

It’s that kind of team support that has Glenwood Springs and the other mountain teams in the Peak Conference playing at the same level as the more-established Front Range programs in relative short order.

“We’re not pushovers when we go over to the Front Range, and they’re starting to see that,” Cota said. “It’s been because of a lot of hard work, though, and a lot of off-the-ice training in the weight room and during summer camps.”

The Demons hockey team also has a lot of crossover athletes from other prep sports, including football, lacrosse and soccer. 

Two members of the team were top players on the state 3A runner-up soccer team from Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale — forwards Dylan Webster and Jonathan Barlow. 

“You can see how their soccer skills translate well to hockey on the ice,” Cota said. “They move just a little bit different, more lateral.”

When he’s not coaching hockey, Cota runs a landscaping and lawn care business, and in the warmer months can often be found on the golf course.

“Golf is another transitional sport that I think teaches you the mental aspect and how to be patient,” he said.

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