Some time ago, I helped as an assistant with young hockey players 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 was 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.
An incident happened which was the best example of team spirit or team work that I had ever experienced. That’s about 50 years of hockey, but who’s counting?
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. Our best defenseman breaks a blade and cannot skate anymore. 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. We tried renting a pair of skates but none available. It looked like we would have to continue the game without short our best defenseman.
One player on the team who wears the same size skates offers to give up his skates because the game is so important. Needless to say, I was surprised and asked him if he really wanted to do that. He repeated to me that, “yes” the team was better with the other player on the ice than him. The deed is done quickly on the bench and the better defenseman resumed 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.
Was the player right or wrong in doing what he did? 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.
Was the parent right or wrong in making his son play? Parents always want to protect their children. They want to teach them to stand up for their rights and make good decisions.
Was I right or wrong in letting the player give his skates to his teammate? 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 was very proud of him, right or wrong…
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)