This season, I spent a lot of time working with young hockey players as an assistant coach with an under 14 AAA team. It really has been a joy and a great experience for me to watch those young men grow and improve their hockey skills. And I do mean GROW as in height as well as in maturity. I know for certain that several of our players have grown at least 2 inches during the hockey season.
It has been fun but also an eye opener in dealing with young boys and their parents. It took a while, but once the ground rules were laid out, the boys behaved and learned to focus and pay attention…as much a 14-year-old can. The parents have been great and very cooperative for the most part.
When a young hockey player graduates to AAA hockey, he is often faced with the reality that he is no longer the best player on the team and that he has to fight for ice time. It is a much more competitive level and often separates the boy from the child. He is forced to face more adversity and suddenly he is not just a participant but is required to produce and to be accountable. More emphasis is put on winning and the coach will often shorten his bench in crucial situations. Playing for the team and learning to play a role becomes more clear. Sometimes, you have to “suck it up” for the team.
Two incidents happened this week-end that I had never experienced before since I was a youth hockey player myself. . That’s about 50 years of hockey, but who’s counting?
The first incident happened when one of our younger players didn’t show up for the Semi-final game of the State Championship. I received an e-mail from the father on the eve of the game saying that his son would not be playing because his ice time was shortened in the previous game which we won to propel us to the Semi’s. He claimed that his son received an unfair treatment by the head coach. He stated that his son’s dream of playing in the NHL has been shattered because of the inconsistent ice time that the coach has granted him. The players on the team were very upset because they felt that they were betrayed by the player for not showing up for an important game. The coaches were also disappointed because the game plan was changed and would have to be adjusted.
WHO IS RIGHT AND WHO IS WRONG?
The second incident was the most upsetting to me. In the middle of the second period in the Semi Final game, we are playing a team who is visibly stronger than us. We’re losing the game 2-1 but we’re holding our own and we are frustrating the better and bigger opponent. One of our top 2 defenseman breaks a blade and cannot skate. We quickly send the skate to get repaired but the arena site is not equipped to make that repair or change the blade before the end of the game. One player on the team who wears the same size skates offers to give up his skates to the better player because the game is so important. The deed is done quickly on the bench and the better defenseman resumes his play to finish the period. In between period, we try to find a solution to the problem so that we could use both players without success. The Good Samaritan player insists that the team has a better chance to win with the other player than we do with him and sacrifices himself for the team. Subsequently, one of his parents comes into the dressing room and orders his son to put his skates back on and play. The better defenseman couldn’t play the third period. After the loss, the players applauded our Good Samaritan and made him the “player of the game”. What he did was the most selfless act I have ever seen in a team concept.
WHO IS RIGHT AND WHO IS WRONG?
Players, parents and coaches make many decisions through the course of a season, sometimes in the heat of the moment.
Young players just want to play and win. They are taught that the team comes first and work through adversity to improve their own performance and help the team win.
Parents always want to protect their children. They want to teach them to stand up for their rights and make good decisions.
Coaches are responsible to improve each player and to mold each of them into a team. He must define roles and make them accountable.
WHO IS RIGHT AND WHO IS WRONG often depends on whose point of view we are looking at.
By the way, our Good Samaritan’s name is Justin and I’m very proud of him, right or wrong…
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)
(blogs every Tuesdays and Fridays)