I’m sitting in our family room on Canadian “Boxing Day” and praise the powers that be, I Am Not At The Mall! I am, however, doing something selfish…I’m watching hockey! More specifically, I’m watching Team Canada playing Team USA in their first game of the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship from Helsinki, Finland. Officially recognized in 1977, it features hockey players under 20 years old from all around the globe and for as long as I can remember, starts the day after Christmas. Without addressing the stereotype, we Candians love our ice hockey. I didn’t play the game officially growing up but loved “road hockey” or “shinny”, which was an on-ice version of road hockey usually without skates and I was “usually” the goaltender and didn’t need equipment since it was either a tennis ball (road hockey) or a “shinny puck”, a foam composite that still hurt if it hit ya but I still have all my teeth! I did learn to skate and although hardly ever do it any more, I still have ice skates and not sure if you ever played the game but it is way harder than it looks. Like anything in life, the best make it look easy. But imagine being the best of the best in your whole country? It made me think about something that sports and particularly, hockey officianados, have observered for years; how do you make a team of superstars play like a team?
For those unfamiliar, in Canada, the National Team is selected from teams in the three leagues across the country, the Quebec, Ontario and Western comprised of the best under 20 years old players in Canada. Watching Team Canada play is a treat and one must remind oneself these are teenagers! If you are really a fan, watching them play is both exhilerating and frustrating, especially in the first game. Commentators love to talk about their “nerves” and how the adrenaline causes uncharacteristic poor and sloppy play by such high caliber athletes. Perhaps. My observation is a bit different.
On all their home teams, these are the stars. They are the “go-to” players who “lead” their respective clubs. Common sense says, put together, they should be unbeatable but of course, all the other teams in the Championship are comprised of their own country’s best. Imagine the egos? It is the job of the coaching staff to work with all the obstacles, least of which is the short time frame they have to gel in preparation for the tournament, usually just a couple of weeks. But on the ice, it’s up to the players to perform. Imagine the conflict. They want “lead” but they don’t want to be selfish. Their instinct is at home, they are the best, but here, there are over 20 “bests”. And still the biggy for me…they are teenagers! So the irony takes place. Instead of shooting, they pass. Instead of taking command, they give up control. Instead of ego dominating the moment, unselfishness is the key. Instead of a “Most Valuable Player” award, the prize is winning for your country! Ready for the lesson?
Take all of these elements and apply them to you and “your team”. Okay, stop laughing! You did! You just thought of your “team”, whatever that may be. At work, on board, a volunteer committee, etc. You are thinking, ” If my team was comprised of superstars, we would have no worries!” Really? In fact, and let’s get really honest here, you may think of your “team” as the exact opposite. That, my friends is pure ego. As we, if we are as lucky as I am, take a holiday break from “those people”, I have a challenge for you. Make a “New Year’s Resolution” that “Is Not About You!”. Focus on the strengths of your teams, not their weaknesses. Stop being such “control freaks”, a problem I am constantly working on myself, and place some trust in others. Stop trying to win the MVP award and emphasize playing for “Your Country”, whatever that looks like. And perhaps most important, nobody has the corner on the market of pride. We “all” want success and we “all” want to win. We “all” want to be, and more vitally, we “need” to be part of something bigger than us. Oh, by the way, Team Canada lost to Team USA in their opening game, 4-2. That doesn’t feel good if you are Canadian, but sure does if you are American. Like my wife and business partner, Darlene tells me, sometimes too much for my ego…its just a game. The ultimate New Year’s Resolution…being grateful for just getting to play the game…the “Game of Life!”