Now that the season is under way, each player should be doing his part to be a team player and good team mate. The coaching staff is responsible for presenting and teaching the systems that they want in place. There is another aspect to getting better that falls squarely in the lap of each player—making their individual game better. How do you accomplish this as a player?
The first step for the player—make the decision to develop your talent rather than take it for granted. Sound like a simple decision? It may be for some. Look around your team and see how many players are actually doing things that will make their game better. Which players are getting on the ice early or staying on after practice to work on skills or conditioning? Who is going to the gym for a workout when the team has a day off?
Here is a simple formula for a player to follow; spend ten minutes each day making an individual strength stronger and making a weakness a non-factor is your overall game. If you have a great shot, then make it more accurate. If you need to work on pivots to the left, then devote time at end of practice on pivot technique.
Don’t let excuses stop you from getting better. There is enough time each day. There is no need for special equipment to get better. There is nobody who can put the effort in your game but you. Don’t let excuses hinder your development.
As each player gets just a little bit better, it would be safe to say the team gets a little bit better. Work on your individual skills and everyone benefits. Go team!
The most common question I have heard from players to this point in the season is ‘how do I talk to the coach?’
It should not matter if it is the head coach or one of the assistants. There are some simple rules to keep in mind. First, pick an appropriate time and place. If it is a private matter to be discussed, then the player should set up a meeting with the coach in a place where the conversation will be private. If it is simply a chance to connect, then make it easy and relaxed.
Second, make comments positive and have any questions or concerns phrased in a non-threatening and positive way. There is little to be gained by saying ‘you don’t know how to coach me and I need more ice time.’ It would be far better to ask the coach how you could best utilize the skills that you have and if doing so would help to get more playing time.
And, it is often good to build in the opportunity to follow up on what was said at a later date. ‘Coach, can I check in with you at the end of the month to see if I am improving?’
Coach, do you have a plan to communicate with each of your players? Individual player meetings each segment of the season is a common practice, with the head coach and at least one assistant meeting individually with each player.
Taking the time each practice to at least extend a verbal greeting to each player will be more welcome than most coaches realize. It can be as simple as a tap on the shin pads and a ‘hey’.
All conversations need to be honest, positive and constructive. They won’t all start out that way, but all should have these elements at the conclusion.
The onus is on you, whether player or coach, to make sure there is an opportunity to talk. Make these conversations something to look forward to and not a painful