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The 7 Traits of a Team Player

By Jess Christopherson, Special to Minnesota Hockey, 01/04/16, 8:45AM CST

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Ask any coach what qualities they desire in players and you will undoubtedly come across the term “team player.” Long-term success – in hockey or in life – without developing these traits is essentially impossible.

Whether you are trying to prepare for the next level, improve team chemistry, find new ways to contribute, have more fun – or all of the above – consider these intangibles. And then ask yourself: Does this sound like you?

1. Less “Me” and More “We”: Players that care more about themselves than the team ultimately end up hurting the team. Teams that are successful on the scoreboard are built around athletes that truly do not care who scores the goal or makes the big save. The true team player is just as excited for their teammates’ big plays as if they had made the play themselves.

2. Passion: Come to the rink every day and be excited about the opportunity to play. Whether it’s practice or a game, be that player who’s always ready to compete and put their heart and soul into every opportunity they have to be on the ice. These players care about their teammates and the culture surrounding the team. Passionate players make things happen!

3. Hard Work: The best advice I can ever give to a player? Never be outworked. There are a lot of talented players out there, but the irreplaceable ones are those that never stop working. Try to be the player that’s never asked to work hard – and coaches will take notice. This goes for on- and off-ice play and training, in the classroom and in the rest of your life. Looking for a role model? Easy. Zach Parise.

4. Communication: There is no question that on-ice communication elevates team play. This becomes more and more important as you get older and take the next steps in your development. Let your teammates know where you are and where the pressure is coming from. Encourage and support them on the bench and in the locker room. Off the ice, be open and honest – speak up when needed. Keep your teammates accountable to each other and to the team. With your coaches, communicate effectively and respectfully by discussing concerns and heading issues off before they test your culture. Make sure to talk about all the positives that are happening, too.

5. See the Big Picture: Hockey season is about more than just your team. Embrace your hockey program, your community and your school. Be the player that recognizes the importance of family and building something long-lasting. If you are an older player, reach out to the younger kids and be a part of their development and hockey experience. If you are a younger player, get out and watch the older teams. See what it takes to play at that level and set goals for yourself to get there.

6. Reliability: Coaches, teammates, friends, teachers, family – we all love having people we can rely on. People that show up on time (or early), work hard, be positive and honest. Be the player that your teammates and coaches can rely on at the rink, and you – and your team – will be rewarded. Follow team rules, don’t cheat on drills, stay disciplined – these are the players that will be difference-makers for the team.

7. Respect: Regardless of your talent level, the best team players are those that have the most respect. This means respect for coaches, teammates, opponents, officials, fans and the game itself. These players uphold the highest level of character and understand they’re representing their team in everything that they do. Most importantly, having respect means something to them and they care about that representation.

Everyone wants to be a team player, but not everyone is willing to do what it takes. Sports can bring out the best in us if we follow these guidelines. Take pride and ownership in the way you play on the ice and how you carry yourself every day.

Jessica has more than 12 years of coaching experience at the high school and college levels. She also serves as an instructor at youth and national development camps in the offseason. Jessica is a USA Hockey Level 5 certified coach and the Minnesota Hockey Associate Coach-in-Chief for Female Coach Development.

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Ask any coach what qualities they desire in players and you will undoubtedly come across the term “team player.” Long-term success – in hockey or in life – without developing these traits is essentially impossible.

Whether you are trying to prepare for the next level, improve team chemistry, find new ways to contribute, have more fun – or all of the above – consider these intangibles. And then ask yourself: Does this sound like you?

1. Less “Me” and More “We”: Players that care more about themselves than the team ultimately end up hurting the team. Teams that are successful on the scoreboard are built around athletes that truly do not care who scores the goal or makes the big save. The true team player is just as excited for their teammates’ big plays as if they had made the play themselves.

2. Passion: Come to the rink every day and be excited about the opportunity to play. Whether it’s practice or a game, be that player who’s always ready to compete and put their heart and soul into every opportunity they have to be on the ice. These players care about their teammates and the culture surrounding the team. Passionate players make things happen!

3. Hard Work: The best advice I can ever give to a player? Never be outworked. There are a lot of talented players out there, but the irreplaceable ones are those that never stop working. Try to be the player that’s never asked to work hard – and coaches will take notice. This goes for on- and off-ice play and training, in the classroom and in the rest of your life. Looking for a role model? Easy. Zach Parise.

4. Communication: There is no question that on-ice communication elevates team play. This becomes more and more important as you get older and take the next steps in your development. Let your teammates know where you are and where the pressure is coming from. Encourage and support them on the bench and in the locker room. Off the ice, be open and honest – speak up when needed. Keep your teammates accountable to each other and to the team. With your coaches, communicate effectively and respectfully by discussing concerns and heading issues off before they test your culture. Make sure to talk about all the positives that are happening, too.

5. See the Big Picture: Hockey season is about more than just your team. Embrace your hockey program, your community and your school. Be the player that recognizes the importance of family and building something long-lasting. If you are an older player, reach out to the younger kids and be a part of their development and hockey experience. If you are a younger player, get out and watch the older teams. See what it takes to play at that level and set goals for yourself to get there.

6. Reliability: Coaches, teammates, friends, teachers, family – we all love having people we can rely on. People that show up on time (or early), work hard, be positive and honest. Be the player that your teammates and coaches can rely on at the rink, and you – and your team – will be rewarded. Follow team rules, don’t cheat on drills, stay disciplined – these are the players that will be difference-makers for the team.

7. Respect: Regardless of your talent level, the best team players are those that have the most respect. This means respect for coaches, teammates, opponents, officials, fans and the game itself. These players uphold the highest level of character and understand they’re representing their team in everything that they do. Most importantly, having respect means something to them and they care about that representation.

Everyone wants to be a team player, but not everyone is willing to do what it takes. Sports can bring out the best in us if we follow these guidelines. Take pride and ownership in the way you play on the ice and how you carry yourself every day.

Jessica has more than 12 years of coaching experience at the high school and college levels. She also serves as an instructor at youth and national development camps in the offseason. Jessica is a USA Hockey Level 5 certified coach and the Minnesota Hockey Associate Coach-in-Chief for Female Coach Development.

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