“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”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Coach Speaks To The Right

In case you haven’t figured it out from the categories in this blog—and my prior postings—I love ice hockey. I got into in-line hockey because that’s what was available to use for extra training in my early coaching days here in Texas. Now, in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area there is a lot of ice. But, ice hockey has always been my passion. I played for a couple years as a kid—but not after age 13. And, I wasn’t really that good. I think the most important thing I learned from the game was to dream—and to believe.

My first year coaching, the team lost the first seven out of fifteen games. It was a hard beginning. I’ve written a couple of stories from those days. You can find them here and here. The one thing I knew from looking at their faces was they wanted to win—to have some success. And, one day, the team woke up and decided to believe in themselves.

It was a weeknight practice, after game number 8. We tied that one 2-2. I think only about half, maybe two-thirds, of the players were even there. It was right after the US Women’s Hockey Team won the first gold medal for their event. I wish I could remember all of what I said that night. Here’s what I do remember:

I stood in that locker room and asked them, “Why are you here?”

Two or three went, “Huh?

“You got into this for a reason. What was it? What is it you want out of being here?”

One kid, named Jamie, said, “To have fun.”

“OK,” I said. “Any body else?”

A kid on the other side of the room, Nick, said, “To win.”

I looked him in the eye, pointed at his chest and said, “All right. But, you’ve got to give up some of your winning” and pointed my finger at Jamie and said, “so he can have fun.”

Nick looked at me like I had lost my mind.

I turned and looked at Jamie and said, “And you have to give up some of your fun so he can win.”

Now, both of them were looking at me like I had just uttered some sort of gibberish.

“That’s what it means to be a team. It’s not just about you.”

“The Ladies Hockey Team just won a gold medal. They dreamed for something that didn’t exist…and they got it. You are here because you want something…because you dream for something. What is it you want out of this season?”

To my great surprise, Jamie said, “I want to win the championship.”

Just a simple statement. He was even fairly quiet about it. But everyone heard him. Several heads raised up slightly.

I said, “It's going to take working together. It's going to take you working at practice. It's going to mean sometimes you give up what you want for you team mates. Are you willing to that?”

I recall only a few voices saying yes. But I also remember several heads nodding.

"All right. Let’s go do that then."

And, we went out of the locker room and had practice.

But, in eight regular season games, and 3 playoff games, those kids only lost 2 more game and tied one. The championship trophy is in my office. It’s on the floor behind a bunch of stuff. But, it’s a constant reminder of what can happen when people get together behind a common goal, constantly and consistently do the right things, and believe in something bigger than themselves.

Like I said, I wish I could remember everything I said. Because I would love to make that speech to the conservatives and Republicans right now.

If you will stay focused on the goal…If you will constantly and consistently do what is right…And believe in a future you cannot physically see…wonderful things can happen.