True Team Players

The other day I was lucky enough to caught up with a few of my old hockey players I coached in high school. They are all out of college now, so I felt pretty old. We were talking about the year, in their minds, was the best season in the four years that they played for me. If you are looking for the year that they won the state title, that is not it. This team only made it to the semi-finals and lost to the state champions. I had to ask, “why that year?” Their response was simple. We were a true team.

They shared their stories about the season. How, they grown as young men and finally figured out what it meant to be on a team. They shared stories of the locker room, the times the coaches were in the hallway preparing for the game. If you ever wondered what goes on in there, don’t. High school teenage boys and the locker room, should just be left to your imagination. It was a very good 30 minutes before I asked them, “who do you think was the most valuable team mate?” The answer shocked me. I would have guessed the leading scorer or maybe the captain of the team. Nope, not even close.

The person that they felt was the backbone of the team, was just one of the guys. I went back to my old stats (amazing what not throwing anything out can do). His stat line was 3 goals, 6 assists and 24 penalty minutes (in 22 games). Not who I would have expected those players to pick.

Why did they think he was the MVP? As the coach I know why. He is and was a coaches dream player. He is the one that will do whatever it takes for the team. He was a pretty good skater, had an average shot, but he would do the things that don’t show up on the stats sheet. He would play against some of the better players from the other team to shut down them. He would be a physical presence on the ice. There were many times he would hurt himself (black and blue bruises were common).

To have a successful team (in sports or at work), you must have team members who are willing to sacrifice individual recognition for the good of the team. I started to wonder, if I asked the team at the end of the season, who was the MVP would I get the same answer. I think not. I think those players now understand this concept better, since they have some experiences in life and at work.

Does your team having any of those unheralded, unnoticed folks that are willing to do the dirty work, without getting the recognition for it?

Any stories come to your mind?