It’s probably one of the questions that I get asked the most as a coach, why don’t I get more playing time?
The reality is that most players at some point in their hockey career are going to feel this way.
I dealt with this as a player, and the truth is, it’s never an easy hurdle to overcome.
But, over the years I’ve learned a lot (from being a player and now a coach) about the topic and I wanted to put something together that I wish I had when I was a player.
The truth is that most players when faced with this situation start down the path of playing the ‘pity game’. Coach doesn’t like me… Coach doesn’t know what he’s doing… Coach is unfair…
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve all had those thoughts.
I know I did.
I got so wrapped up in worrying about that stuff that I’m sure it took away from my game. My attitude wasn’t great and I was wandering down a path of only worrying about me instead of the ‘we’ of my team.
So if you catch yourself going down this path, what should you do?
Focus on the things you can control. I know this gets talked about a lot on this blog but I think this has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned in hockey, and life. Stop wasting time, and valuable energy, on things that don’t matter. Stop trying to analyze what’s going on in your coaches head and second guessing every decision that they make. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to like, agree, or understand everything that they do, but, it simply means that you shouldn’t be distracting yourself and wasting energy on things that you don’t have direct control over.
How’s your attitude? Like I said up above, it’s easy to start spiraling down the path of negativity. But honestly, what’s that going to get you? Nothing. If you bring a bad attitude to the rink, do you honestly think that is going to help your team? Or, do you think bringing a negative attitude to the rink is going to make you’re coach think… “hey, this player has a really bad attitude, I think I should play him/her more…” It almost sounds funny when you read it, but think of about the last time you were frustrated with a coach or situation and how your attitude was. Was your attitude helping or hindering the success of your team?
Are you putting in any extra work? If you’re unhappy with your ice time, are you willing to work harder and do the extra work to get better, or are you satisfied with simply complaining about the issue? We all want to think that we’re going the extra mile to get better, but the reality is that most players are not. To put it simply, it’s way easier to complain about a situation than actually put your head down, not complain, and work on your craft. What sort of things are you doing outside of your normal obligations (practices, workouts, meetings…) to get better? Ultimately, if it’s something that you really want then being willing to go the extra mile for it. I can guarantee you’ll never regret doing the extra work. Think about it this way, if you committed to shooting extra pucks everyday, or stickhandling for 20 minutes everyday at your house, do you think you would ever be able to go back and regret actually doing the work? No way, the only time you’re doing to have regrets is if you’re not willing to put in the work.
Have a conversation with a coach. I know to some it seems daunting, but if you’re truly unhappy with your situation, then you should be willing to have a conversation about it. I’m yet to meet a coach that is unwilling to have a conversation with a player. With that being said, there are a few guidelines I would give any player going into that conversation. First, go in with the right attitude. Going in and saying “I think it’s unfair that I don’t get more ice time” is a lot different than going in and saying to a coach “I feel like I can do more to help the team be successful. What are you seeing, and what are things that I can work on to help contribute more to the team?” Ultimately, you’re saying the same thing, but option one is focused on YOU and your needs whereas option two is focused on the needs of your TEAM. That’s a big difference. The other piece of advice I have for players in this situation is to go into the conversation prepared to actually have a conversation. Trust me, I know that not every player is going to agree, or understand, the decisions that I make as a coach. And that’s ok! But if you’re genuine and truly want to help your team more, than being able to have a conversation will help you understand the situation and should hopefully leave you with a game plan of things to improve upon. Trust me, most coaches know it’s not an easy conversation for players to have, but we all respect the players that are willing to do it.
Like I said above, I’m sure at one point in your hockey career you’re going to be faced with the situation of wanting to get more ice time.
It can be a tough and frustrating time, but hopefully the advice above helps you focus on the right areas and prevents you from spiraling down the path of negativity.
Keep focusing on the things you can control and be willing to work for the things you want.