A few years back, I was a coach for the local high school and often found myself giving speeches to the team before each game to motivate the group to play well against often very steap odds. And more often than not, we would put up a good fight but in the end, talent won out and we would lose. Each time following these close losses, I would share the positives and argue they were building blocks for the future but I was not sure if it was falling on deaf ears.
As the season went on, we continued to lose more games and it became more of a challenge each tine to get the team motivated to go out on the ice and play hard. We needed a win to show that my words had merit! Without a win, the words were empty. Or so I thought. What I did not realize was the fact that winning was not the motivation of the group. Their motivation was to play well together against all odds. And with each effort and improvement, they were getting stronger as a group. Once confidence kicked in, the focus shifted to their rival...
We played our rival high school in the third to last game of the season. The rink was quiet (just as any JV game would be) but the parents were all there (as always) cheering the team on. I gave my normal pregame spiel beforehand and the team got on the ice. We had the varsity fourth line for this game as our rival always did the same. Problem was their overall talent was just so much better than ours...but when the puck dropped, that did not matter.
As the game went on, we snuck two goals past their keeper and had a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. The guys were excited and had been giving their all on the ice. With about 5 minutes left in the third period, our best player got into a skirmish and was thrown in the box for roughing. Our rival then scores quickly and the game gets close. Normally when this happened of the course of this season, my guys would fall back and give up the game but not this time! They fought hard and when the buzzer rang out, we had taken a 3-2 victory (empty netter made it 3 and they added a 2 with a few seconds). Our first win of the year. Afterward the looks on these kids faces said it all - our hard work finally led to a win!
We would finish up our final two games going 1-1 to end with 2 wins on the year. This group would not play together again as was the case with any JV program but they (and I) had a memory that would be treasured for a lifetime. Motivation to do well in the end paid dividends and serves as a reminder that if we are motivated to work hard and do well, we will reap rewards in some way shape or fashion.