MORRISTOWN, NJ - Can you imagine having eight times as many career coaching wins as losses? How about having 356 career coaching wins to your name in a mere 15 seasons?
Imagine now what it would feel like to coach a team to a state championship victory. Now, imagine coaching a team to six straight—and nine overall.
For Bruce Shatel, there’s no need to imagine any of that. That’s his reality.
Shatel has been the head coach of the Delbarton varsity ice hockey program for 15 seasons. Out of the 11 state championships won by the Delbarton Green Wave, Shatel has been at the helm for nine of them. The six consecutive state titles for Delbarton (from 2008 to 2013) are a New Jersey state record, in fact.
Delbarton won its most recent New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public state title on March 7, 2016.
Nevertheless, Shatel rarely focuses on his personal accolades. Although he is aware of his standout accomplishments, broken records, and ever-climbing stats, he does not dwell on the past. He recognizes that Delbarton’s 2014 outdoor game at Yankee Stadium, part of the NHL’s Stadium Series, was a particularly memorable career highlight, and that each one of the team’s state championships similarly was a “thrill,” as he puts it. However, he is ever looking forward—to the next day, to the next game, and to the next way in which he can inspire, push, and ultimately develop the young athletes he coaches.
“I’m very proud of the teams I’ve coached and their accomplishments,” said Shatel. “When you’re still coaching and you’re in the moment, you don’t take a break and reflect. I concentrate on my current team. I get a thrill out of developing the team and watching them play together.”
“We don’t talk about the state championship,” Shatel added. “We talk about the next day. The goal is to get better every day. I want to get better as a coach because I want the kids to benefit from that.”
Shatel believes that the truly exceptional athletes are ones who “work hard and are disciplined.” They are selfless, and they have the ability to compete at a higher level while maintaining a team-first mentality.
“We like kids who are responsible both on and off the ice,” said Shatel, who noted how much he values the opportunity to coach with his assistant coaches, Craig Wicker and Jerry Brophy. “We try to instill good values in our players. We like kids who put the team first and their own accomplishments second.”
Shatel is a firm believer in the benefits of being a multi-sport athlete over a single-sport one. According to Shatel, not only is the additional conditioning important, but having experience in other pressure situations is beneficial to an athlete’s performance across all sports. His personal recommendation is for an individual to play at least two sports.
In terms of conditioning, Shatel sees dryland training as critical to a team's success, as it refines skill sets, builds strength, improves speed and agility, and has an valuable impact on overall team bonding and team chemistry. The Delbarton ice hockey squad participates in team training sessions at Next Level Training, an athletic training and fitness center in Cedar Knolls, where many of the team's individual athletes train as well.
“Any time any kids see each other outside of the rink, that’s an advantage for team chemistry,” said Shatel. “The individual himself also makes significant strides in terms of speed and agility.”
He particularly noted how Delbarton's conditioning proved advantageous to the team this season in terms of strong third period performances—ones that ultimately helped them win games.
Attracted to Next Level because of the facility's unique offerings, specialized equipment, and elite training, Shatel has seen noticeable improvements in his athletes—especially in terms of their level of physicality, shooting, and puck protection—as a result of their training.
“There’s no other facility like it in the area in terms of resources and equipment," said Shatel. “The level of training there is second to none. In all my players, I’ve seen significant gains in the off-season. Their workout experiences at Next Level are challenging and help to build mental toughness. They need to be healthy and maintain strength. Next Level has been great for them in terms of injury prevention.”
In fact, he cited injury prevention as one of the most noticeable and crucial benefits of the team's off-ice training at Next Level.
“There was not one significant shoulder injury on our team this year. That’s unheard of in our sport."
A 2014 inductee into the New Jersey High School Ice Hockey Hall of Fame, Shatel is not only known for his incomparable coaching career, but also for a stellar playing career. In three seasons playing varsity hockey for Morristown High School, Shatel accumulated an astounding 224 points before he moved on to play for two years as captain at the elite Deerfield Academy. Subsequently, he played Division I hockey at Providence College.
This comes as little surprise, when you realize the Shatel name carries with it the legacy of a family dynasty in athletics. His father, Harry Shatel, holds the record as New Jersey’s winningest high school baseball coach. Harry Shatel, who passed away in 2011, won 752 games in a coaching career at Morristown High School that spanned over 38 years. To memorialize Harry Shatel’s lasting impact on the New Jersey athletic community, the baseball field at Morristown High School now bears his name.
Presently, Shatel also coaches the New Jersey Freeze 18U AA team, as well as serves as the coaching director for the Freeze organization. Shatel is entering his ninth season as the head coach of Delbarton's varsity baseball squad, having been the team's pitching coach for 10 years prior to that. Shatel's past coaching appointments include one year as an assistant coach at Seton Hall Preparatory during the 1997-1998 season. Shatel served for six years as an assistant coach for Delbarton's varsity hockey team (two three-season stints from 1995-1997 and 1999-2001) before he took the reins as head coach in 2001-2002.
With a breadth of knowledge, experience, and understanding of the game of hockey, Shatel brings his ideas, insights, and opinions to his position on the NJSIAA Rules Committee and Seeding Committee.
Despite the prestige of Shatel's myriad accomplishments, his focus remains on his players.
“I hold my kids to a high standard,” said Shatel. “I do my best to push them to the limit and to build them up at the right moments. Sometimes the philosophy works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s a philosophy I believe in.”