Communication is the key to any relationship…even among hockey players.
Like any relationship, communication is key to making it work properly. The way you talk with your teammates on and off the rink will affect how you play together. Knowing when to communicate and how to convey your point will help everyone. You don’t want to be condescending or a jerk, but you do want to be straight-forward and firm in what you are saying. Although I’m no TV therapist, I’ve tried to channel my inner Dr. Phil as I share observations with you that have helped my team grow together.
When playing, sometimes I assume my other teammate will get the puck (and they assume I will). The opposing team won’t be hesitating to get the puck which creates an easy turnover for them. There have been times where I think my teammate may lose the puck or get it stripped away, so I trail behind him. He has no clue that I am there, so he either ends up stopping, dangling, or trying some other way to get past the defense; and I’ve ended up running into them. All it would’ve taken is a simple “behind you” or something of the like.
Another example is when I notice my teammate not playing his position. I usually don’t have a problem yelling at my team, but if you don’t feel comfortable with it… suck it up. It will help your team out in the long run. Some players need a reminder and personally, I would rather get yelled at than have the other team get the puck and score a goal because I wasn’t in position. A good example would be if your winger is getting sucked down, no matter what position you play, don’t be afraid to yell “play the point!” or something else to remind him where he should be.
When talking with your teammates, try to use ‘I/we/us’ language. By this I mean, don’t say “you need to” say “we need to” or instead of “you should” say “I think it would be best to…”. This may seem simple or even stupid, but no one likes to feel like they are being attacked. If a teammate feels like they are being singled out they may get defensive, not take your criticism, or even just shut down/give up. Try to stay positive when giving criticism by saying something like “you are doing a great job at ____ but try to _____ a little better.” It is important for your teammates to know that you have your own faults and you are not perfect either. Be willing to accept feedback. Your teammates aren’t looking to bash on you, they are only trying to help you out and in turn, help improve the team.
One last thing, be careful giving unsolicited advice. It is hard to see someone struggling, but try your best not to go up to them and tell them how they can be a better player. At the same time, casually ask your teammates how you can improve your game. This way everyone is open to both giving and receiving feedback. Again, be positive, use ‘I’ language, and don’t be condescending when communicating an issue with your teammates.