AT THIS time of year, we all have to take the time to reset our clocks and watches. The old adage "fall back and spring ahead" helps us remember whether or not we gain or lose an hour. If your children are like mine, they'd sleep until noon every day if we let them. I guess I'm old school; morning for me is the best time of day. My parents used to tell me the same thing and you know what ... they were right. Early risers usually have little problem making the adjustment, but the sleepy heads tend to be grumpy when routines are altered.
The same adage is useful when managing people and teaching young athletes how to cope with setbacks, adjustments and disappointments that confront all of us in our daily lives. Anytime a person falls short of the mark or they face adversity from new challenges, it's important to bounce back and stay focused so as to give yourself the best chance to be successful in the future. Overcoming frustration and dealing with pressure in a positive manner will serve all of us well over the long haul.
A major component of our work as coaches here in Manchester is to develop players and many times it's not easy to get our players to understand why we need to pull them out of their comfort zone as we critique and make adjustments to everyone's game. Each person has certain skills and talents they are proficient at and when coaches point out weaknesses, lots of players become defensive. I guess that's human nature.
What I've come to realize in coaching is that learning requires strong listening skills as well as a keen desire to improve. I tell players all the time that they need to put their egos in their hip pocket. Players need to surrender themselves to the notion that coaches are trying to help them become better workers, better people and better players. In order for growth to happen, people must learn to adapt to new ideas and they need to work hard to overcome personal deficiencies.
In addition, we constantly remind the guys that hockey is a team sport. In a team atmosphere, there has to be trust and caring for one another. There is no room for selfish acts or behavior that detracts from our team's mission.
There are so many things in life that are beyond your control. If individuals feel slighted or shortchanged, it's easy to sour on an authority figure or blame someone who is in charge. Rest assured, there is no coach or manager who wakes up each day planning ways to make players or employees miserable. What would ever possess someone to be that way?
I recall what my Uncle Jim told me when he called to congratulate me on my first job as a head coach. He told me, "You'll need to have thick skin and you'll need to understand it's impossible to keep everyone happy all the time." He also told me, "The higher the monkey climbs the pole, the more he exposes his backside." He had a great sense of humor. On all accounts, he was correct.
Blaming teammates is a cop out. Remember this -- when someone finger points there are three fingers pointing right back at you. The hardest thing is to look in the mirror and to be honest with yourself. Having the proper attitude is the first step toward reaching a favorable outcome and I maintain it is better to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Having the will to try new things can be a humbling experience. It's no fun to have to swallow your pride, but it takes a big man to admit his mistakes and his shortcomings. Accountability and acting responsibly are positive signs that people want to buy into being a good teammate. Don't forget, how you deal with disappointment ultimately determines your character and your fate.
Looking back at last season, bouncing back was a consistent theme that proved to give us the foundation for the collective success we eventually enjoyed together as a group. We steadily improved all aspects of our game. Roles were clearly defined and each player made the necessary adjustments during the awkward times through call-ups and injuries. Not surprisingly, we ended up having a banner year.
Similar growth seems to be happening for this year's team. Friday night at Lowell, we blew a 2-1 lead, giving up two late goals and falling, 3-2. Former Monarchs left wing Noah Clarke jumped on a juicy rebound during Lowell's power play and buried it. Stephen Gionta scored a pair of goals in the third for the Devils' win.
We felt empty stepping onto the bus for our ride back to Manchester. That one stung. All the great things we had done in the game went for naught. We buckled when the game was on the line and that was the top of my agenda as I addressed the young Monarchs players in between the second and third periods in Springfield. Sloppy coverage and poor positioning led to goals two and three.
You never want be the type of team that beats itself. There comes a time when you need to come together as a team and stop handing the game over to opponents. We needed to stop beating ourselves with mental breakdowns. My point to the team was that somebody has to win and it might as well be us.
Saturday, riding back on the team bus from Springfield, we felt like we were making some headway after a third-period rally. Two late goals resulted in a 5-3 victory for our Monarchs. Without one of our top scorers, Matt Moulson, there were a few question marks as to who might pick up the slack in the scoring department. Lauri Tukonen buried a shot on a quick feed from Peter Harrold at his blue line position. Peter also added the empty-netter.
On Sunday, we battled Hartford tooth and nail. We were able to stay mentally strong in spite of giving up a one-goal lead until late in the third period when Brian Boyle tipped in the game-winner. Good teams learn from their shortcomings so that's a positive step in the right direction.
Kevin Westgarth and Paul Crosty took turns dealing with nemesis Francis Lessard. Both Monarchs players did a fine job policing the game and being there for their teammates.
As our season moves forward, we are seeing signs of momentum building. We are learning from our mistakes. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Working our way through the tight games only strengthens our resolve and we can see evidence as our team begins to rise in the standings. The hard lessons we are learning now will enable us to enjoy plenty of wins down the road. Keep the faith. Go Monarchs!
Mark Morris is head coach of the Manchester Monarchs. Inside Source appears Wednesdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader.