Nurturing Leadership with Letters

The Devil’s/my team has a big game coming up later today. Truth be told they are all big in what is a relatively short regular season.  But this one has some special meaning, at least for yours truly, because we are up against a squad with a couple of players who, for whatever reason, decided to accept and then 24 hours later reject spots on my team during tryouts back in May.  At the time they claimed they had a better opportunity, albeit an hour away, to play for a higher calibre team. However, the team did not turn out to be as advanced as they expected it would be.  Coincidentally, they find themselves on lower level team in the same division as us. In fact, we will have several opportunities to face them this season, including at a tournament we are attending next weekend.  It will be an odd situation as many of my players consider these young ladies their friends whom they have played with in previous years.  I have purposely not shared all of the details of their questionable departure with my players, but some, like the Devil are well aware of the circumstances that left me scrambling to un-cut some players to fill the holes they had left behind.  Nothing like a little added incentive to win even if it’s primarily mine.  In my pre-game talk I intend to treat this as any other game, but being honest with myself it’s one I really, reeeeally want to win.  I will do my best to not let that cloud my judgment or demeanor behind the bench this afternoon.

With the gravity of this game in mind, I thought it might be an appropriate juncture to name my team captain and assistant captains as a means to injecting a sense of leadership and importance to the competitive proceedings from this point forward.  Selecting and naming who should receive these symbolic letters is easier said than done. As I told the players during the mock coronation ceremony after what was one of our best practices two nights ago, every player has attributes and accomplishments worthy placing a leadership-based badge on their jersey. And I do truly believe this.  I am fortunate to have selected a great group of players who have all contributed in their own way so far this season. But there are only four such badges and only one C, which does carry a certain cachet with it. There is a responsibility associated with each of these letters.  I wanted to be sure I chose players who could fill the roles of “team leaders” whether in their words or their actions on and off the ice.  I do place some significance on the C in particular because I know the players do likewise.  These were not decisions to be taken lightly.  I conferred with my staff who were generally in agreement with the choices I made.  These badges would be handed to four players who would presumably be elated and subsequently not handed to 13 others each of whom may have felt they were worthy or entitled.  I did not want anyone to feel they had been slighted or overlooked.  But being human, there is always some level of politics and certainly emotion that comes into play.

All of that being said the three A’s and the C were distributed with an explanation given for each assignment. Each recipient received an enthusiastic cheer from her mates and the mood felt very positive. Later today my staff and I will hope the good mood, solid last practice and renewed focus will translate into on-ice success to buoy our charges moving forward through the season which has only just begun.  Against this team in particular it will be nice to set a tone and reaaaaly nice to come away victorious.  If I’ve made good decisions, those who have been newly anointed will play an important role in leading us there.