“The real problem is not that we are different, nor that we disagree and have conflict. It's that most of us automatically view conflict as something negative rather than as a tool God can use to help us better understand ourselves and one another.

--Robert Ricciardelli”

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Team MVPs

One of my goals when I first started coaching was to help the kids learn to honor each other. So, I came up with season awards. Yeah, I know, every coach does this. And usually, it’s a pretty big list so that everyone gets an award. But that’s not what I did. I don’t believe in giving awards just for the sake of giving awards. I created a list of awards where not every player would get one. I had 14 players that year, and I only gave out 9 awards. Four of those awards were decided by how you played on the ice (points, goals, etc.). The rest were voted on by the team. Team MVP started out being a coach’s choice. That stopped the first time I did this. Here’s why:

I gave out a little flyer to each player to vote on who was worthy of being named to the awards: best defenseman, best defensive forward, most improved player, and best rookie. On the bottom, I included a place to vote for the team MVP. I was pretty curious what the players would choose-- but, I had already decided who would get it. I based my decision on how the team had rallied around a mid-season recruit we had picked up. He was our scoring leader hands down. But, his appearance had also caused the rest of team to double in scoring. Prior to his appearance, we had lost 7 games straight—and there were only 8 left to go. We only lost two more the rest of the season. Needless to say, because of their reaction to him, this kid was named team captain.

We were playing in the house leagues—which means every team goes to the playoffs, so we had a possible three more games added to the season. Despite being the basement team all year long, the team roared into the playoffs. And, those kids ended up winning the championship in a shoot out against a team they had not beaten all season. It was awesome! I got the last of the ballots back after that championship game, went home and started tallying the votes. By the way, I love it when kids catch on to something. There is nothing quite like watching the light go on their eyes as they “get it” and go run with it. And these kids “got it” better than I did.

I mentioned we lost the first 7 games of the season (10-0, 7-0, 4-1, 4-3, 2-1, 4-1, and 7-1). What I didn’t say was our goalie, after six games, had a goals against average of 5.66. If you go back and read my previous post about the season, you’ll know I struggled early on as a coach. But, our goalie hung in there. At the end of the regular season, our goalie had a goals against average of 3.75. Her playoff goals against average was a flat 2.00. Yup, you read that right, our goalie was a girl. (...the US ladies won Olympic gold that year, too...imagine that...who says girls can't play the game?...)

The voting that year for team MVP was actually split between our mid season addition and our goalie. The best part? My two MVPs voted for each other. Those 12-13 year old kids recognized who got them where they were, better than I had. And, they honored it.

Like I said, I love it when kids catch on to something.