Some dreams are too big to dream alone.
[Picture Credits: Amber Clement]
This is what a positive team culture looks like. Hold on to that for a minute, because it takes a while to bring this story back to this very important thought.
This group is made up of both Provincial Champions and players who before this season had never ever made it to a semi-final game in a tournament. One player had never won a game in a tournament. Ever.
This team is made up of both players who are arguably the very best in the country and of some who probably wouldn’t be playing AA hockey had they not tried out for this small town team.
When their season started they set team goals; some of which were lofty, but fit our goal requirements. Goals must be outrageous, but achievable. Goals must stretch us as team to the very edge of what we are capable of. One of those goals was to win the Provincial Championship.
This team struggled at first. They were beaten handily by teams who were highly ranked going into the season. The players who only knew how to win had to come to grips with the challenges of winning at this level and the players who didn’t know hockey tournaments usually lasted three days because they were always eliminated by Day Two had to come to grips with understanding that we expected more of them than any other team ever had.
Here’s the magic: We talk before every practice and every game for 20 minutes. Then we warm-up. Then we get dressed and get the job done.
We rarely talk about the Xs and Os of hockey. We talk about life. We talk about school (present and future). We talk about family. We talk about friendship. We talk about discipline and we talk about the process of becoming the best person that you can be.
These players work hard at practice, but they work harder away from the rink. They work on hockey (shooting, puck handling, fitness, etc). They spend hours on hockey. They watch video breakdowns of our games. Every player analyzes the video segments, adding their comments.
They also spend hours on school, hours on learning things like piano, singing, drawing and a multitude of non-hockey related aspects of life.
They work hard. Period.
They have to find time to fit everything in, to be a part of something bigger than themselves and yet still be a kid.
If you ask them why they work so hard they will tell you that they do it for the other players on the team and not for themselves.
They play FOR these other girls. They don’t play with them.
That’s worth repeating.
They play FOR their teammates. They do all the hard work at the rink and away from it FOR their teammates.
They hug each other on the bench, both in happiness and in sadness. They are there FOR each other. Nobody is alone. Ever. I could write a book about this group that would bring tears of joy to your eyes.
They win and they lose TOGETHER. Always.
Those talks that we have before every ice time create a bond. Everyone knows the fears of their teammates. They take them from each other and flush them (sometimes literally) before every game.
They play with Joy and they play with No Fear. Making mistakes is applauded. It’s the only way to get better. Everyone understands that we’re chasing perfection, knowing that in the end we can never catch it. Excellence has become the norm.
Look closely at that picture. Every player is locked in focused. Look at our goaltender; a picture of focus and mental preparation. Look how close they are to each other. There is absolutely no way they could be form a tighter group.
They no longer get blown out by the teams ranked in the top 5 in the country. Every game is a 1 goal game that could either way.
I can’t count the times I’ve heard from other coaches, “I can’t believe how much your team has improved.” or “We’re not worried about [insert city here], you’re the team that scares us.”
They are right, except it’s not “my” team. It belongs to these young ladies. They bought-in to the process. They bought-in to the work. They bought-in to the fact that some dreams are too big to dream alone.
Don’t be surprised if five months from now you read about a team from a small town that shocked everyone and won a Provincial title at the highest level available.
Culture comes before the championships.
We would love to hear about your great team culture. This is the good stuff. Don’t hesitate to share.
Need some help with the creating of a great team culture? Just ask!
Creating great people.
We happen to teach hockey.