The Best Lesson I Learned from My College Coach

The other day I was watching Any Given Sunday with my girlfriend Emily. One of the underlying themes of that movie was that no individual player is bigger than the team. This mentality is a HUGE problem in youth hockey, as players that develop faster tend to think that they ARE the team, not a part of it.

Having been through the youth hockey system myself and had the opportunity to watch many younger players develop after me, a couple trends have become clear.

1) The players that are best at very young ages are rarely still the best players at the collegiate level, if they’re even playing at all.

2) How good players think they are is directly related to the ability of the players around them (or their exposure to other skilled players). This is a simple point. Generally, as players are exposed to hockey from different areas of the country/world, they’re humbled a bit.

I remember being the best player at my high school and thinking that was something special. Then I played against Sidney Crosby and his Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school team and realized that being the best player at my high school didn’t mean much. I’d likely be the worst player on several other high school teams around the country. Exposure is key.

All of this reminds me of something my coach at the University of Delaware said to us. To paraphrase:

“None of you are bigger than the program. Delaware Ice Hockey was here before you came, and will be here after you leave.”

This really clicked for me and changed my mentality toward my college hockey experience. I realized that I was a part of something larger than my current team; I was a part of a program with a successful history.

Whether you’re the best player or the worst player, remember that you’re never bigger than the team. The more you learn to work with and help your teammates, the more you’ll be contributing to the program.

– Kevin Neeld

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