We will win or lose as a TEAM.
Over the course of the 20+ years of coaching various sports one of the messages that I have shared with all of the players of the teams I coached is the importance that we would win or lose as a TEAM.
Nothing frustrates me more than when I see youth sports coaches today think nothing of running short benches to win games, tournaments merely to put another feather in their cap to have bragging rights. When a coach sits players and play their favorites in lieu for most or all of games, more often than not it leads to those players who sat quitting their respective sports.
Because as my son so eloquently shared with me a few years ago when he and a team mate sat on the bench in a very cold rink for the better part of the game and I asked him afterwards how he felt he said;
“I’m pissed because I was deprived of the opportunity to contribute to the outcome”
90% of kids would rather play on a losing team than sit on a bench for a winning team.
He was only 14 years old at the time and I will never forget the statement, and I really wish the adults in the game (coaches) would take the time to put themselves in the kids shoes recognizing they are coaching an entire team vs. only the top “perceived” players.
As much as there are initiatives for equal playing time, there is no such thing (because all sports have penalties and coaches also must enforce discipline that will affect playing time), in lieu, sports organizations must incorporate policies to ensure fair playing time and it I the job of all all coaches to ensure that EVERY player has a role on the team where they will have an opportunity to contribute to the outcome.
Here as just a few recent examples how coaches at the highest level followed the same philosophy to ensure that all players contributed on their teams.
- Team Canada 2018 World Junior Hockey Team
At this year’s world junior tournament, Hockey Canada had a roster that many felt was not the strongest we have had, there were no top 10 NHL first round draft picks but it was the direction of the Hockey Canada organizers to have a well balanced team vs. prior teams that had top draft picks like the 2015 team with Connor McDavid (the last time Canada won Gold).
The also wanted to focus on overall team speed so they could separate the puck from opponents as quickly as possible.
It helped they had some “pretty good” goaltending also, although Carter Hart again was between the pipes for an overtime loss against the USA, this time it was in Round Robin play vs. the final gold medal game vs. Sweden. Prior to this years World Juniors, Carter was the leading goalie in the WHL Everett Silvertips with a 1.63 GAA and 0.951 save percentage even though he had a bout of mono that limited him to only 12 games in the fall. When it mattered most, Carter made over 30 saves in the Gold Game and was voted MVP of the game.
The winning goal in the Gold Medal Game?
It could not have been scripted better by Hollywood as it was scored by 13th forward on the team, when many questioned why head coach Domenique Ducharme continued to roll his lines in the latter part of the third period. Tyler Steenbergen, had not scored in the Major Junior Tournament, but then he scored THE goal on a tip in the latter part of the 3rd period. He was the ONLY forward in the tournament to have not scored to that point due to balance across all the forwards and could not have been more of an opportunist (Ray Ferraro comment) then getting that tip to bring gold home to Canada.
If Team Canada can roll 4 lines in the top tournament in the world for U20 players, then why do I see coaches starting with U9 age groups running short benches starting as early when the puck drops?
One of the kids that I knew quit playing hockey as a result of not being able to play at all in his second year of hockey at SIX, because the coach felt he was too small!. The coach that did so was not invited to coach the following year for a myriad of reasons, but the damage was done and the player became one of the 70% that quit youth sports before he was 13.
I was so happy to see Domenique and the 7 returning players win the tournament with the others that were added to the roster after a tragic shootout loss the prior season as they took the high road and every player had the opportunity to contribute to the outcome!
Kudo’s to Hockey Canada, management and all the staff for putting together a roster and bring back a coach that provided all players that opportunity to not only represent their country, but contribute to the outcome bringing home gold for the 17th time.
- Alabama Crimson Tide Football Team
Nick Saban knows a thing or two about developing a culture of excellence on his teams, one of the winningest coaches in NCAA Div 1 History.
In this year’s National Championship Game, the team’s starting quarterback, Jalen Hurts struggled and Alabama trailed Georgia by 13 points at the end of the first half and Nick opted to go with their freshmen QB, Tua Tagovailoa (another QB from Hawaii) to start the second half as he felt he would stronger for the passing game he knew they had to go to due to Georgia’s strong run defence Jalen and running backs were struggling against.
In today’s era of prima donna superstars, Jalen’s reaction to being pulled could have been like Team Sweden’s World Junior team captain who thru his silver medal into the stands and he could have sat somber on the sidelines. In lieu, he was smiling, cheering on Tua as a true team player should.
Sometimes it just is not your game, like goalies in hockey, pitchers in baseball, point guards in basketball and need to step aside to let other team members have their opportunity to contribute.
Result – Tua throws the winning touchdown in OT after Alabama missed the field goal that would have won the game in regular time and Nick Saban leads Alabama to their 14th National Championship and is now tied with Bear Bryant with 5 National titles at Alabama, whom Saban himself said was the greatest coach ever of college football. He shared post game that it had to be a “Team” ball for the resiliency that the team demonstrated to win the championship. 6
Jalen Hurts Interview post game
Kudo’s to Nick Saban and the entire roster of Alabama for proving all the ney sayers wrong and making the necessary adjustments to win the national championship.
- Vegas Golden Knights – NHL
Thanks to the way the NHL changed the format for expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights were able to hit the ground running in a sense, in lieu of prior expansion franchises being bottom dwellers for years as they waited for trades and draft picks to develop
The franchise did three things to ensure that the expansion team in the sunbelt would be successful out of the gate
- Hired a Great General Manager George McPhee, GM, who started his career with the Vancouver Canucks as director of hockey operations (mentored by Brian Burke) starting in 1992 and held that role during their run in the Stanley Cup in 1995 then became GM of the Washington Capitals thru the rebuild era and drafting Ovechkin as the first overall pick in 2004.
- Hired a Great Coach, Gerard Gallant, his first words with all the players after the expansion draft it was going to take 23 guys, everyone has to compete, rolling 4 lines, 6 defence playing EVERY night. They have been what any coach aspires, very hard to play against each and every night since the season started.
Hmmm … will win as a team, will lose as a team.
- They took advantage of the expansion draft, selecting a well rounded team starting with a goalie who had won a Stanley Cup and a cast of tenacious players that would buy into Gerard’s system to be tough to play against every night where he recently stated in an interview that the veterans would not tolerate superstars like the majority of NHL franchises had
Where did Gerard learn his craft?
He played in the NHL then started his coaching journey in major journey followed by stints as assistant coach under the likes of Dave King, Doug McClean, Ted Nolan and Michel Therien. His first opportunity as head coach was with the Florida Panthers where he was a finalist for the Jack Adams award in the 2015-16 season but was let go to many peoples surprise early the following season. In April 2017, he became the first head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights and will be behind the bench for team Pacific in the All – Star Game.
The Vegas Golden Knights are on track to exceed 100 points this season and compete for a playoff spot and are the highest scoring team in the league 5 on 5. In their home town infamous for those betting on long shots, the odds have changed significantly for the Knights as it nears the mid way point for the all star break.
Gerard already has my vote for the Jack Adams award, for setting the example in the NHL we will win or lose as a TEAM.
Perhaps more youth sports coaches will gain insight from these great examples and recognize of developing and connecting with every player on their teams in lieu of falling back to playing their favorites only in key situations, as John Totorella learned all too well in the season he coached the Vancouver Canucks and the missed the playoffs only 3 years since their Stanley Cup run vs. the Bruins.
Ironically, a couple of years later as a result of Columbus Management telling John he had to change his barking old school style of coaching, as a result of his transformation he lead the team on a record winning streak, made the playoffs and was the recipient of the very same Jack Adams Coach of the Year award that I believe Gerard will receive this season for the great job his had done with the Golden Knights.
Let’s all work together to bring the game back to the kids … where it belongs.