The Game Is Always Changing – The Politics Are Not

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“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.”  Mickey Mantle

Mantle may have played a different game, but the quote can be applied to nearly every sport in the modern era.

In hockey, technology, physical training practices, rule changes and how players are viewed are several key areas that have allowed the game to evolve in many ways.

It was roughly a decade ago that the first composite sticks were beginning to change the speed of a players shot.  A few years later, skates were moved to composite materials which altered the speed of the players on the ice.

It wasnt long ago when players reported to training camp to get in shape for the season.  Now players report to training camp in such physical condition that training camp has become more of a mental exercise than a physical training session.  Players are now ready to play nearly year round.

Rules have been evolving just a bit slower than technology, but not much slower.  Player protection is now the phrase you hear in nearly every league and team organizational meeting.

The way players are evaluated and seen by teams has changed course several times throughout the last decade.  For a while teams were looking for “big” players.  Then for a while teams looked for “speed”.  Today it appears as though teams are hopping to find players that can simply play a smart game.

One thing that has not changed?  Politics.

Make no mistake readers, politics is still a very large part of making a team, or getting into a league.  No matter what the level, from Squirt to Midget, Tier III to USHL, to the NCAA or NHL, politics and personality will play a part.

Your attitude will affect your altitude in the game.  What other coaches have told you has no bearing on how the current coaches will view you.  What you did last year, or where you played last year only opens a door to this year.

Parents, just stop.  You are hurting your sons more than helping them when you talk.

Keep out of conversations where you may be tempted to brag.  Keep your attitude to one of being grateful for your sons opportunity.  Stop listening to the other parents who keep talking.  Take yourself out of the group of parents who always like to blame someone else.

Every little thing the player and parents do will affect the political climate when it comes to picking the team.  You have no idea who may be sitting in the stands that is not wearing a team warm up that can hear every word you say.  Players get cut from teams all the time because their parents mess up the politics just as often as the players attitude messes up their opportunity.

If a player gets a reputation of having “high maintenance” parents, teams will avoid them.  If a player is “high maintenance” teams will avoid you unless you are the top player in the league every year.  In short, no one wants to deal with this, there are too many players available to waste time doing it.

If you find yourself getting cut from camp after camp, there is a reason for it.  You are either not fitting in on the ice, or you have messed up politically.  If its politics, you will not hear about it, you will be given a vague reason for being let go.  This is usually when players and parents bury themselves further by “bitching” all the way out the door.  We have all seen it, and once you have that reputation, you are going to have to look for an opportunity in another league because word gets around.

What happens when people think they know it all?

A real life example:

Player A and Player B were on the same team.  Player A was leading the team in points by a large margin.  Player B was a steady producer in second place.  Player A became hard to deal with and his parents drove the team nuts.  Player A left the team.  Player B went on to win the scoring title.  Player B went on to high levels of junior hockey.  Player A had opportunity at high levels of junior hockey but could not keep his actions under control or his parents mouth shut.  Player B is now playing in the NHL making millions of Dollars.

Player A is still playing junior at a level that is beneath his skills because teams do not want to deal with him or his parents.  Player A has been dropped by multiple advisers because of his parents and his inability to listen to good advice.  NHL scouts will still say that Player A has more potential than Player B who is already in the NHL.  They will also say there is no way anyone will touch him.

This is a true story.  All of this has happened in the last 4 years.

If you think politics wont play a part in making a team, remember the above story.

Politics are important.  If you don’t know how to play the political game, or can’t keep yourself from following good advice, don’t go into the rink, you may blow it for your son simply by talking.

If you’re a player who can’t keep from talking, buy some gum or you’re likely to never reach the highest levels.  If you’re a parent who thinks they know everything, remember that the people making the player decisions are in that position because they have earned it.

If you don’t know how to play the political game, and you insist on being a high maintenance player or parent, remember that there is always another player waiting to take your spot that isn’t.

Politics.  It is a word coming from the Greek word Politikos, “of, for, or relating to citizens”.  It is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level.

Influencing people can be done in a positive or negative way.  Which are you going to choose?

Kevin Kelly