Last night my daughter’s ringette team played one of their best games of the season. As a a parent and coach, it was a pleasure to watch because they worked as a team. As a coach we often say you win or lose as a team, but sometimes it is hard for the players to visualize what that means. The players feel the emotions of the loss or the win, but what about being able to explain what that feels like or how either outcome came to be. Sure it’s easy to say we won because we scored more than the other team, but is that really what happened. We may ask “what can we do differently so we win?”, but players (and coaches) can not always articulate what that looks like for them.
Our season is into the second half, and after a strong first half we have struggled for the last few games. At the last practice the coaches broke some things down to absolute basics — skating form, passing and stabbing the ring, and shooting form — and put plays aside. The thinking was that our girls needed to remember what their play needed to feel like, and that they have these skills as individuals and teammates. They payoff was evident before we hit the ice. The girls had a different attitude prior to the game; rather than being focused on the previous losses and letting our opponent’s recent success against us get into our heads, the girls were acting like a group of friends who were all having fun during warm-up. When they hit the ice, their positioning and game sense was more focused than it had been in a while.
My daughter is the goalie. Prior to games we often talk about bringing her A game. About being big in the net and tracking the ring. Last night we talked about what the other players need to to do to be successful. How they had to be in position and make smart shots. The conversation was about team responsibility. Not the responsibility of any one player. My daughter has been a goalie long enough to know what she needs to do and how to do it; she certainly didn’t need me to tell her again. Just because the goalie is refereed to as the loneliest player on the ice, doesn’t really mean she is alone. In a game there are five players in front of her. The all have positions and responsibilities during a game. When asked what went right or wrong, we hope they can tell us what that looks like in how they play as individuals or as a team. Not just ideas, but examples of what they do. Not picking on each other, but supporting each other.
Rather than be intimidated by a team that seems to have had their number most of the season, our girls attacked the ring, held their positions, and fought all game. The outcome: 7-2 victory, and lots of smiles. They could all tell us about things that went really well in the game and things they need to work on. Teamwork vs individual play made the difference. Last night (and probably today) they knew what playing as a team FEELS like, and their muscle memory will be better for it.
Video from a practice earlier in the year. Girls have to work together, win or lose.