So you are a Veteran Player – 19 & 20 Year Olds – AND Your Coach Hates You!
I had a number of readers ask me a follow-up question to my first article of the year – So What if your Coach hates You! They argued that while it is helpful to concentrate on personal skills development when you are a younger player (U16-U19), the situation has to be different for Junior Players in their final seasons.
This is a great topic to explore further because it will apply to all players at some point in their careers and my advice would be the same to most players in their later years of college or even during the beginning of their pro careers.
In the last article, I argued that it is important to focus on controlling what you can actually control: how you can get better, grow as a player and improve your skill set in the time that you have left. I think that this is still sound advice for any level of development. However, the realities are harsher at this stage as you are definitely running out of second chances!
Statistics, ice-time and perceived ability DO matter in your veteran years, especially if you expect to move on to another higher level.
Let me give you an example of how you have to evaluate your choices and then move forward from one of my long time Junior A clients Kyle Beaulieu. He moved from Williams Lake (BCHL – when they folded) a lower end team with zero college exposure where he had unlimited ice-time, including power play, to a top flight team (Penticton Vees – BCHL Junior A) with scouts abound. The end result being he developed his overall skills set tenfold but his statistics [17 points (2009-10) to 5 (2011-11)] became non-existent as he was used primarily as a defensive defenseman. The Vees had an elite offensive Dman in Joey Laleggia who was 5th in League scoring with 82 points. When we chose to sign with the Vees, getting lost on the depth chart was foremost in our minds, but in the end, we recognized the value in staying with a quality organization who would best develop his skill set. He ultimately won a National Title and secured a D3 NCAA scholarship.
Now, let me tell you, there is and was a real downside to our decision as marketing a Defensive D is almost as hard as marketing a backup goalie. Teams need those types of players, but they are not as sexy as an offensively gifted smooth skating blue-liner nor as easy to place.
This is even more problematic as he isn’t ready to move on to the pro ranks yet (he may very well be in 2-3 years) and NCAA clubs aren’t exactly banging down his door. He could easily wind up next season as a cautionary tale, even though he has the talent to one day be a professional player. At this stage, we made our choice and are ALL-IN, as it were, and he needs to help his team on to the Royal Bank Cup and let me and the team promote him to the best of our abilities. The conclusion is that we evaluated our options, decided there was more to be gained by staying in a potentially lesser role then forcing a trade with only 1 season to go. He has to live with that decision but at least the thought correct process was there and now he has to just play the games and come what may…
So what do YOU do now as a Veteran Player?
Let’s look at a good 2-step decision making tree to make things black and white:
1) You need to assess if it realistic or possible to move up from the 3rd-4th line – THIS YEAR or NEXT – on your current team?
If Yes, then suck it up and put in the extra hours it takes to impress your management. Have a direct and respectful conversation with your Coach and ask what you need to do to earn more responsibility and ice-time.
Something to Consider in your overall Assessment: People say coaches have favourites who get all the breaks. What that really means is that he has evaluated all of his current players and has confidence that those ‘favourites’ are the only ones capable of scoring goals and winning games for him. People rarely change their mind when it comes to evaluations of players’ character or skill sets. This has even more impact when you are a veteran player as your role has already been solidified as either a role player, grinder or power play type player. I’m not saying that assessment is correct, ONLY that it is unlikely to change at this late date.
If No, Is there another team or league that will legitimately provide a better opportunity? How do you arrange to get moved there?
2) We need to run down the options that you will have available to yourself. I think you need to assess each one and make a ‘reality’ based decision on which avenue you will follow.
– What team/league is an improvement?
– Do you ask for a Trade?
– Do you demand a Trade?
– Do you sit out till you get what you demand
– Change Leagues (If possible) Move downwards to Junior B or a lower Tier
– Or Bad Mouth the Coach to anyone who will listen!!!
I will go into details on how to get traded in my next article here: