Most people have moments in their life that they run into tough times. Something that just does not go the way that you had planned or hoped. My post today is about one such time that I have experienced and how I had to step up and deal with. As I have written many times, I find that sports and life lessons parallel well. This example is a very much that way. The other day, a co-worker was telling me about a situation they were having to deal with (their situation is private – so, no deals to share). As I was listening, I was thinking back to a situation that I could draw from to help make a point. When I was coaching high school hockey – I could really use this example as a way to demonstrate my experiences.
I was in my second year of head coaching, we had a very good team. In fact, it was a very special team for me. Special in ways that coaches just know! They worked extremely hard, played hard and were a team (on and off the ice). I really enjoyed being around these players. We had probably my best season as a coach as far as wins and losses go. We went deep in the playoffs. It was the semi final game, and we were facing the #1 team. My team had peaked at the right time, we were playing our best hockey and frankly we knew we were going to win. We were confident, but we also knew this was the #1 team we were facing. Confident because we dominated the #2 team. Nothing was going to be easy.
My pre-game pep talk was centered around all the hard work that they had done over the year. They were peaking at the right time! We have an extremely tough opponent. They had beaten us 2 times this season (4-0; 3-1). Each game was tough and we did okay. I centered everything on how they are better today then when we faced them. I truly believed it! Our team had developed and was performing better.
Puck drops, we are playing well! Both teams were in fact playing very well. Back and forth all first period. End of period one, 0-0. Same for the second period – another solid period of hockey, both sides. End of period 2, 1-1. In between the period, I am stressing that the best team will win this game. We are the best team, we knew it and we were going to show it. Fired up, the team goes out in the first 2 shifts and scores. Wow, 3-1 and we are on a roll. Down to the last 5 minutes and we are still ahead 3-1. Then all of a sudden the game changes! Old Mo left our side. With 10 seconds left, they scored their third unanswered goal.
What the hell had happened? We were in the driver seat and we lost it. Every player was down. Every parent in the stands was down. My coaches were down. I was in shock. After the game we shake hands and go off to the locker rooms. I have to step up and set an example for the players. Shoot they are 14-18 years… They probably think their world had ended. I have to use this as a lesson in life. I can not change the hurt, but I have to do something.
I walked into the locker room and the heads were down, tears in some of the players eyes and others just sitting there – lost. My coaches were standing there pretty much the same, minus the tears. As the door closes, all eyes are pointed to me. Time for me to step up!
My discussions started off with – this was probably my best season ever as a coach. I have to start by saying that every individual in this room made that happen for me. Am I disappointed with the outcome of this game? You bet! I really have to step up and take the blame for this one. I know I could have done things different and the outcome could have been different. What is important is that each of you had in my eyes a magical season. You don’t get this very often. You are special! Did we accomplish all of our goals? Realistically? Yes. We were the #5 team going into the playoffs. Does this hurt? Yes. The most critical thing to take away is how do you react to this… The possibilities are you can continue to focus on what was missed or what could have been… or you can bounce back. You can take this as a lesson and move forward. Life is going to fill you will ups and downs. You just have to make the best of every situation. The true measure of you as a person is going to be how you bounce back from the downs. I walked around to each player – we hugged or shook hands and I thanked them personally for the wonderful time I had. For the seniors that were leaving I wished them nothing but success in the future.
I am so thankful that I had the time with them. I am now retired from coaching. I still look at my time with each of my teams special. Each has given me lessons and times that I just can not forget. This team, gave me – one extra gift. The gift to bounce back! Did any of my teams go onto to win a state title? No. The life lessons that they gave me – were tools to teach them about life. To help me, with my own life. It is not always about the wins or losses…