Thursday, September 26, 2013

Unity – A Key Ingredient In A Championship Team:

This was in the RBC Cup Newsletter:

Unity – A Key Ingredient in a Championship Team

September 20, 2013

Volume 2, Issue 4

The Viper juggernaut from 2008-09 through 2010-11 featured three quite different teams, but all three were unified groups who played for each other and put the team ahead of personal goals. If this year's RBC Cupbound squad is to succeed, it will need that same level of unanimity.

So far, so good. The players appear to like each other and tend to hang out as a group. And, while aspects of team play still need to be refined, their practice habits show a real desire to work in unison.

Some aspects of team cohesion are simply a byproduct of complementary personalities, but that cohesion also heavily depends on leadership. Veteran players who have been through the wars set the tone within the dressing room, but those leaders and the other players take their cues from the coaching staff.

This year's three coaches present a unified front that's based on mutual respect. Head Coach Jason Williamson explains how it has developed so early in the season: "To start with, Dave (Robinson) and I have always got along well. Adding Kris Mallette, who was the same kind of hard-nosed player as Dave and I were, adds a similar coaching mentality. We're a cohesive trio."

" I really believe that the players sense that unity and feed off it. At practice, we're serious and we're working hard, but we have some fun, too. I think that balance helps the players focus and apply themselves."

The three coaches don't always initially agree, says Williamson. "In our coaches meetings, we may have different opinions about how to run things, but we talk it out and by the time we get to the practice ice or the game bench we're on the same page." He adds, "when it comes to systems and ways to approach certain situations, we're adjusting to the players' capabilities. You really have to wait to see how the team shapes up. We expect that the size and skill we have this year will allow us to play an
aggressive, high tempo style, but we may have to modify that approach as we go."

Coaches Robinson and Mallette agree. Robinson, who is now "more comfortable as a coach" in the second year of his new career, says that "we have to focus on one or two areas at a time, improving day by day. We can't be thinking all the time about the reward at the end, being in the RBC Cup. The focus has to be on the process, practice
by practice, game by game."

Mallette likes the fact that his fellow coaches think the way he does: "We demand that players play a certain way and we reward them when they do. I also like our philosophy that you give players another chance to do things the right way if they make a mistake. And I think you have to give them opportunities to grow."

He cites his own playing experience. "For most of my career, I played a tightly defined role – a tough guy who did very little with the puck and took no chances. But then Chris Stewart, my coach with the Colorado Eagles, told me that I should trust my abilities and make plays and expand my role. I didn't forget who I was and what got me a pro career, but he challenged me to be better. So that's what I like to do; I like to give kids confidence to succeed."

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