We’ve all been told the cliché that there is no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM.’ But team identity is truly important when it comes to sports. That boils down to the type of teammates we’re surrounded by. As hockey players, our teammates are important not only to the outcome of the game, but the fun factor that we all look for every time we step onto the ice.
Dana Borges knows first-hand what it takes to be a part of a team. A two-time captain during his four year career at Stonehill College in Easton, he moved on to play professionally in France before returning home. He has since helped build teams as an assistant coach for his college alma mater, and as the hockey director for the Walpole Express, recently named one of only 19 USA Hockey model associations.
Massachusetts Hockey caught up with Borges to ask him what top 10 traits he looks for in teammates.
This is my No. 1 attribute to being a good teammate. It should never be “me, me, me” or “I, I, I” but instead always be “we” or “us.” Every kid should be asking, “What can I bring to my team?” as opposed to “What can the team bring me?”
If we’re focused on individual goals all the time, we're not going to achieve anything as a whole. Instead, focus on team-oriented goals, even if one of those goals is that we all get better individually. We're going to become better players, we're going to win more games, we're going to work harder.
This means communicating with your coaches and your teammates. I watch the kids now and they come into the rink – and they’ve been texting each other all day long – and they finally see each other, and it’s, like, “Hey, what’s up?” That's it. In turn, I'm seeing less and less communication on the ice.
Technology is a wonderful thing, and it serves a lot of purposes, but a lot of times we rely on on it too much. Put the phone down and talk face-to-face with your teammates. Have a conversation with them. That can translate to better communication on the ice, which is key to any successful team.
Kids have to be held accountable for their actions. If you make a mistake or something goes wrong, own up to it. Say, “Yeah, my bad, guys, I got it next time.”
And in turn, kids can’t be too hard on each other unless they accept that we aren’t perfect. Everyone is afraid to make mistakes, and people don’t want to be labeled the guy who makes mistakes, but we need to let it be known that it’s OK to fail a bit. It’s OK to make these mistakes and own up to them. Be accountable both on and off the ice.
This competiveness has nothing to do with playing in or winning games, this has to do with being responsible to each other; to work hard and compete every day. You’re only playing games once or twice a week – that’s not where you’re getting better. You’re getting better by competing against your buddy. As teammates, you should be pushing one another every day at practice. Help each other improve and work hard against each other to achieve that.
It’s important to have confidence in yourself, but it’s more important to have confidence in your teammates and your coaches.
Have confidence that your linemates will bring their best on to the ice, and have confidence that together you guys will have a great game.
Have confidence in your goalie, that he or she will be a great last line of defense and make the save – and when they don’t, have confidence that they can shake it off and try again.
Have confidence in your coach to bring the group together as a team and confidence in his or her instruction on and off the ice.
6. Be Respectful
No matter where you come from, or what your differences are, you have a common bond in that you’re on the same team. You have to put aside any differences that you might have and respect that person. You guys are trying to achieve a common goal, whether it’s becoming better players or winning a game. You have to respect your teammates enough to get there. You can’t be pulling in different directions on the rope.
This has everything to do, especially when you get older, with trusting that your teammates are going to be in the right position, and that they’re going to do the right thing. Sometimes you see some teammates trying to do too much or do someone else’s job, and they’re eventually hurting the team in general.
Trust that they’re doing all the right things, even off-ice. Trust them as peers, just as you would outside of hockey. You can trust that they will be lifelong friends. I know my best friend of 20-somethig years I met on my first day of mite hockey practice.
8. Positive Attitude
Going to the rink isn't always easy. You may be coming off a losing streak, it may be early in the morning or the coach is mad, but you have to stay positive. Look at the big picture, the process, and don’t get hung up on, “I'm doing this,” or, “I'm doing that.” That’s going back to individual things. Focus on the team successes. Maybe I didn’t score a goal, but I contributed in another way. Stay positive within the team.
You need to be a reliable person. It’s being committed to part of the team and buying in to what the team is doing. When you don’t show up, you’re letting the team down in a sense. You want to be that guy to rely on to show up and work hard every time.
10. Have Fun
We want our players to have fun and be passionate about what they’re doing. When I stepped on the ice, and when I step on the ice now, nothing else exists in the world. I’m focused on what’s going on because I’m so passionate about it, and that helps me stay together with my team
When the going gets tough, I'm still passionate about the sport that I love and that keeps me going. We need to maintain that passion, that drive, so you have that common bond with your teammates.
If you’re making drills fun, or if you’re competing or making it fun with your friends, that’s what keeps kids interested.