The essentials of being a good teammate have stood the test of time. What were ideal traits 50 years ago still remain embedded in all-around players’ DNA today. Eric Rud, head coach of the St. Cloud State University women's hockey team, shared his thoughts surrounding some of the core characteristics a good teammate can exhibit in 2015:
1.) Work Ethic: Success always follows those who work hard at their craft. There are never any shortcuts, both on and off the ice.
According to Rud, developing a strong work ethic begins at a young age. As a player progresses in his or her career, those habits will hopefully carry over into off-ice preparation, dry-land training and summer conditioning as well.
“I think talent within players emerges at different points in their life, but the one thing that shows up very early is the ability to be a great teammate, a winner and a good, hard-working player,” said Rud, a former Colorado College standout and product of Simley hockey. “Sometimes, it’s built by family values and factors outside of the hockey world.”
2.) Respect: For your teammates, coaches, opponents, the officials and even the game itself. Despite winning or losing, your character is what will be remembered. Make sure it’s a good one.
“Youth coaches can set the tone and let everyone know that no one person is bigger than the team,” said Rud, adding that exuding a heightened-level of sportsmanship is something that must be stressed at the Mite and Squirt levels.
Instituting the core trait of ‘respect’ in players and highlighting its importance – that character, honor and integrity mean much more than a win or loss – is a key responsibility for coaches.
3.) Enthusiasm: Take pride in what you do and always come with a high level of energy. Not only will it benefit your performance but will encourage others to do the same.
Rud explained that regardless of natural skill level and ability, it’s imperative for each player to consistently bring the same level of passion and energy to the rink on a nightly basis. Teammates and coaches notice very quickly which players have a love for the game and a deep-rooted desire to improve every day. Displaying those characteristics regularly creates an environment that everyone wants to be a part of.
4.) Discipline: If you play sports, you will face adversity. There is no way around it. At some point, the game will not be going your way or your team’s way. How will you react in those stressful situations? The best teammates learn to control their emotions, figure out the solution and attack the problem as a team.
Some young players might learn this best when they take a bad penalty at a critical juncture in a game and let their teammates down, as Rud suggested. Only then will they understand the true value in keeping a level head on the ice.
“You do learn from going through tough situations,” said Rud of facing adversity head-on. “People aren’t born winners. Sometimes, it takes going through a situation where maybe you do hurt your team, what that feels like and how you respond from that. I think that’s where discipline really comes in, in terms of knowing how to be a great teammate. We see it every season. Either you learn from adversity and grow from it, or it sets you back another hundred years.”
5.) Selflessness: Always be willing to help others, and remember, “We always supersedes me.”
In other words, sometimes the best assists in hockey don't always show up on the stat sheet; they’re made through words, actions and ultimately, being a good teammate on the ice, the bench and in the locker room.
This can be a difficult concept for some youth players to learn because they are often encouraged by coaches to be selfish in certain areas and selfless in others.
“It’s a fine line when kids are really young,” Rud added. “In one regard, when you’re really young, you have to try and dominate a game and beat people 1-on-1. Some people look at that as being a selfish player. Other people look at it as a kid developing his skills.”
As players grow older, a sense of selflessness will become more and more important. Not only do details such as using give-and-go pass plays, keeping shifts short and avoiding retaliation penalties make teams more successful, they are key components of being a great teammate.