What does it mean to be a good teammate in hockey?
Dan Jablonic, former pro hockey player and current regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model, has some excellent thoughts on what it means specifically at the 10U level.
To Jablonic, being a good teammate starts with attitude. Are you fostering an environment in which everyone involved feels like they’re included and respected?
“That’s why we play a team sport. We’re not just going to go and cater to the best players, especially at 10U,” Jablonic said. “It’s important to treat everyone with respect, from teammates to coaches to officials to the game. That’s first and foremost is respect – if you have a great attitude, people want to be around that.”
If you sense that other teammates are getting picked on, it’s important to have a “no bullying mentality” and make sure you are setting a good example and standing up for teammates.
In the era of COVID-19, some of the team-building that might naturally occur off the ice is more challenging, Jablonic says, but the effort will be rewarded.
“If you’re involving friends maybe invite everyone on a Zoom call with parents there to connect that way,” he said. “That enthusiasm and positivity is huge.”
A good teammate is always looking for new ways to grow and learn on the ice and is always following the coach’s direction, Jablonic says.
“It’s so easy to talk about it, but doing the little things is important,” he said. “Are you showing up, first one to the rink, ready to do the activities and what the coach is asking? Are you being a good listener? That’s a huge skill. Any communication starts with active listening. Listening to teammates, keeping an ear to the ground with what’s going on with team, making sure you are keeping that communication open.”
At many levels of hockey, in 10U particular, confidence is critical. A player might be going through a slump or running into some bad luck. Knowing how to get a teammate back on track – or having someone do that for you – is instrumental to having success.
“Maybe you’re not scoring or playing that great. A good teammate picks you up and gives you that confidence,” Jablonic said. “Technical skills are important in this game, but it doesn’t matter the level: Confidence is the number one thing you need in this game. It ebbs and flows. You have to be sure you are instilling confidence to make sure teammates can be at their best.”
Helping teammates be the best they can be is critical for team success – and it can be a key marker for elite players.
“The best teammates are the ones who can play with different teammates and make them better,” Jablonic said. “There’s a reason coaches on the evaluation staff at national camps put players in different situations with different players. Do you elevate teammates or bring them down?”
On the ice, the hallmark of a good 10U teammate is being selfless and understanding how to support other players on the ice.
“When your teammate has the puck you want to be an option for them to pass to instead of watching them do the work,” Jablonic said. “That’s huge for us. At 10U, you’re starting to understand more of the team game. It matters. I have to be able to move the puck, support the puck and defend the puck with teammates. Are we doing those things defensively to help the goalie see the puck to track it and have that communication?”
That selflessness is influenced by work ethic, which Jablonic says goes a long way.
“The beauty of our game is the more energy you put in the more you’re going to get out of it,” he said.
Above all else: Being a good teammate means having fun and building lasting friendships.
“The beauty is the bond. You can see someone 15 or 20 years later and if you played on a hockey team with them it’s just like seeing them yesterday,” Jablonic said. “Honor our game. Enjoy what you’re doing. If we’re getting any reminders out of COVID, it’s that it’s an honor and privilege to play.”