I feel like nearly every coach and every team, regardless of sport, talks about the importance of buying in.
So what does it mean to buy in?
To put it simply, it means to fully engage yourself as a player to the team concepts, team goals, and, most importantly, to your teammates.
While to most this seems like a fairly common sense ideal, and not something that is new or revolutionary to sports, there are plenty of people that will say they don't get it (trust me I dealt with a handful of parents and players that claimed just that this past year).
Another way to look at it is this: if you don't get buy in, you won't be successful as a team.
I would be willing to argue with anyone about that last statement.
I've been around the game for almost 30 years. In that time, I've been a part of some really good teams and some teams that really struggled. And, if I'm being honest, if you really dig down to the core of every one of those teams, the buy in is the difference.
A team of 20 that are all focused on the same goals and are able to build a trust and respect with each other is a pretty impressive and powerful thing. Mix that in with some talent and you have a nearly unstoppable team.
I've been lucky as a coach to win two state championships in the past few years.
Now that a few years have passed, it's really amazing to look back on those teams and see what really sticks out about those groups. It's almost funny, because to an outsider, I would almost guarantee that they would say that they remember the talent of the players.
But for me, I remember the leadership and the buy in from the entire team. The talent is completely secondary. And that's the honest truth (I'm not just saying that to fit this blog post...)
It's little things like remembering seniors who accepted being role players with their minutes but leaders in the locker room and off the ice.
To me those guys were the difference makers on the team. Those were the guys where 'buying in' could be the most challenging. It would have been really easy for guys to have bad attitudes or cause problems because they were seniors and thought they should have been playing more. But they didn't. Looking back at it now, I'm amazed at their maturity and their ability to have perspective on things and truly embrace their part.
It's funny because I still talk with a lot of those guys and not one of them ever brings up the amount of points or the ice time they got. The things they do talk about every year were the bus trips, the close games in front of a sold out arena, the funny hockey stories about things that happened over the course of that season...
The real cool part about those teams is that even the guys that played a lot and got a lot of recognition don't reminisce about their individual success. Now that a few years have past, they remember the fun times with their teammates at the rink and at school more than an individual performance in a game.
Now the crazy thing about buying in, is that it really takes a whole team. The old saying 'it only takes one bad apple to ruin the bunch' is completely true. I've seen it and I've, unfortunately, been a part of it.
I decided to write about this topic for a couple reasons.
First, it's another one of those questions that everyone should be asking themselves. Coaches, parents, and players a like.
Coaches have to lead and coaches have to set the ultimate example of buying in. It starts from the top and if you aren't committed and showing up everyday focused and ready to work, then your teams will follow suit.
Parents are a support system to their athletes. Whether you realize it or not, the attitude that you have towards the coach, team, and other players is contagious to your son or daughter. If you aren't supporting and buying into the team, your son or daughter isn't going to either.
Players are presented everyday with new and different opportunities to learn and grow as athletes and people. If you're playing hockey then you need to remember that you signed up for the ultimate team game. There will be obstacles along the way, both personal and team wise, but your attitude and 'buy in' will make the difference. Are you going to get on the boat and paddle with the team, or try to battle the waves and swim yourself? I think we all know which one will ultimately succeed...
The second point is that this is another one of those areas that we can completely control. I've talked a lot about how we all need to focus on the things that we can control and stop wasting time and energy on the things we can't.
You are 100% in control of your 'buy in'.
If you remember the way that I described 'buying in' at the top, you'll notice that every one of those things is something that you can control.
You can control whether you buy in to the team concepts, systems, and rules.
You can control whether you buy in to the goals set forth by the team.
And you can definitely control whether you are a great teammate.
If you notice a trend in the things I talk about, the real important things in hockey and life, are all things that we can control.
Can you be a good teammate? Can you be coachable? Can you put the team first? Can you show up everyday and work as hard as you can?
If you can answer YES to those simple questions, then you understand the power of 'buying in'. And if you can't, then hockey isn't going to be a good fit.
Enjoy the journey and 'buy in' because I guarantee you'll enjoy the ride a hell of a lot more.