Hockey, Teams and Self-Leadership

We are a hockey family.  That’s for sure, and most of the time we are knee deep in it.

Yes, for eight months out of the year our time is devoted to coordinating the crazy hockey schedule while still making sure dinners get made, homework gets done, the kids are getting enough sleep and making school the priority. Our family activities revolve around the hockey schedule. Sleeping-in on the weekends between the months of September and April is a concept that we are no longer familiar with. Somehow, we have maintained our sanity during the 8 month season while simultaneously airing out uniforms and equipment – hockey parents, you know whereof we speak.  And next year, we will ramp up to do it all over again - we love it, it’s a great sport, great exercise and a great way for them to learn commitment and the value of teamwork.

Our son Tom* has been on mediocre teams, undefeated teams and like this year (in terms of the scoreboard after every game) a losing team.  It’s been a tough season for the Ravens, but in spite of what the score board says, it is this season that goes down as being the most successful in his four years of playing.  This is the season that he learned the value of self-leadership.

While it may have been a “losing season” in hockey, this season is what has ultimately taught him some of the most important lessons in life. This doesn’t mean it has been an easy season – for him or his teammates. Often, he was very frustrated with himself– other days, he wanted to blame the referees or the other team. As the leaders of our family, we took these opportunities to  guide him into looking at the situation from a different perspective.

One such conversation stands out as most poignant. While discussing a recent team disappointment, we asked him a few questions to encourage him to see this experience as an opportunity. We could see the “aha” moment occur when he stated:

“My job is to help my team”

It was then we realized that we were witnessing the birth of a great leader. He understood that playing hockey this season was not going to be as effortless as it had been in the past. A natural athlete, this was a bit of a shock to him. He also realized that as someone with more experience and gifted with natural athleticism, his responsibility this year was different: He was there to lead, and that meant stepping up to motivate and encourage his individual teammates who could use a little extra help.

“Remember the Titans” is one of our family’s favorite movies. A line that we all know by heart is: “Attitude reflects leadership.” This powerful scene is a reminder to all of us how important it is to lead not just for ourselves, but for our teams.

Attitude Reflects Leadership - Remember the Titans

This was the year he learned – and reinforced for us as well – what character building, the importance of teamwork, and taking responsibility for our own actions means in our daily lives.  It means more than spending two minutes in the penalty box only to go out and commit the penalty again.

“Do not only point the way but lead the way.” ~ Sioux Proverb.

Paul has spent a great deal of time working with our son on how to be a good winner and, more importantly, how to be a good loser. Playing on a winning team does not necessarily mean the team will get a trophy – the most important wins come from the actions and attitude one has while working through what some may consider a crisis situation. Tom* showed through his actions on and off of the ice that collaboration is key to the success of any team. He learned that competing against your own team for recognition or rewards is the first step to the dissolution of a team. This concept taught him the benefits of working as a team, passing the puck when he could and creating better opportunities for his team to score.  He showed that lending a hand to help others up (sometimes literally!) is what great leaders do – strengthening the team in spirit and in times when competition is fierce on the other side of the ice.

As you lead your team towards victory while avoiding unnecessary trips to the "sin bin"remember - leadership is a learning process. The truly great leaders are always evolving. Acts of leadership are often times evidenced in the small things which have the greatest impact. Leadership isn't just the responsibility of the boss or the coach. As a valued team member - how do you participate in the leadership of your team?

Author's Note: This post was written in collaboration with my husband, Paul. The post came to life after a discussion we were having on LeadChange, character-based leadership and family leadership. This is about Paul's wonderful son, and I am fortunate to be his step-mom! (*Tom is not his real name.)