Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Business Lessons I Learned as a Hockey Coach

By Mark Kerzner, President, TMG The Mortgage Group Inc.

In the past I have written a lot about lenders in the mortgage channel, interest rate forecasts, mortgage guideline changes and the impact of those changes in the industry. With this post, I'm taking a completely different approach. Today, I want to share with you a recent personal experience coaching my son's hockey team and the lessons he taught me about business.

My seven-year-old son loves hockey and I am at least partially to blame. Truthfully, I couldn't be happier. He teases me with his love of the Vancouver Canucks and Pittsburg Penguins but I believe deep down he is a die-hard Toronto Maple Leafs fan, just like his dad.

Last year was his first in organized hockey. It was a traumatic experience for both parent and child. Evan was not the best player in the league. In fact he was close to being the worst (only a parent can say that). During opening weekend he didn't even want to go onto the ice because "my equipment is hurting me." So without even his first fall on the ice he was already in pain. Yikes!

When he finally did get on the ice it was mostly down and up… okay, it was really only down -- he had a really hard time getting up. Even getting to practice was a chore. It wasn't a lot of fun.

For a hockey-mad parent, dreams of future NHL stardom quickly evaporated. Then the trauma started. My son was traded. Not only did he have to change teams but was traded for a really great player. While his previous team graciously welcomed their new goal-scoring sensation, Evan was left to fill the proverbial skates of one of the best players on his new team. He even had to don his jersey and adopt his number.

While he took it in stride and was happy to move instantly up the standings with his new team, I on the other had didn't. I couldn't understand how you trade one of the worst for one of the best. I couldn't understand why I wasn't consulted. Did I mention though that he totally took it in stride? He also improved. He finished year one at 0 goals and 3 assists.

This year I vowed things would be different and I took matters into my own hand - literally. I decided that I would coach my son's hockey team so that a trade was out of the question. I was paired with two other amazing coaches and then the seeds of change were planted.

Our team started off weak but we encouraged the kids to do their best while instilling some basic fundamental skills - shoot the puck up the boards!  We won only four games in our first four months. Then the magic happened.

The kids were having fun and so were the coaches. They started to play like a team. They started to support one another. And more than anything else, they started to commit. They were working hard during games and in practices. This was rubbing off on my son as well.

Evan scored his first ever goal while I was away on business. I was devastated - I wasn't sure when the next one would come, but then they did. By the end of the year, Evan was fifth in team scoring with 10 goals and 17 points (he had 1 goal and 2 assists mid-way through the year).  His coaches and his dad were really proud. More importantly, so was he.

But more than that, his team, which finished the year as the 7th overall seed and went 6-1-1 down the stretch, got to play in the Championship Game.This was an incredible experience for me. I was so proud of the team. I was so proud of my son.

The odd thing with this experience is that, as coaches, we are supposed to teach our players. The parents reinforced that with end of year support for our efforts. However, it was really the team who taught the coaches a whole lot more.

Lessons I Learned:

Be Positive and good things will happen.
We never got down in the dumps with our slow start.  We knew we would get better and we did.

Always keep (your feet) moving.
In hockey when you are stationary it is easy for someone to skate around you. In life that is true as well. Stay in motion and make things happen.

Working together as a team is far more effective than relying on a few star individuals to carry you to the end.       
That is as true in life as it is in sports.

Hard work pays off.
Our team committed themselves both in games and in practices as well. With sports, as with work, nothing is automatic. Becoming a success means dedicating yourself to constantly becoming better, to understand the market, the guidelines and the opportunities so that you can best serve your clients unique needs.

Protect the ones you love.
OK, I know the right answer is to give the ones you love support and slack to find their way. Give them encouragement, put them in an environment where they can and will thrive ..but truthfully, I do think that it’s okay for a parent to want to protect a child, especially if it is in light of wanting to provide them with an environment where they can thrive. Sometimes a parent really does know best.

I also think it is okay from a business perspective as well. You do this for your customers on a regular basis -- you assess their needs and make recommendations that are supportive and realistic. At the end of the day you are the expert and the voice of reason. 

By the way, we lost the Championship game in a very hard fought battle.

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