Self-awareness is something that is a lot more difficult than it sounds. The “Who are you” concept is exactly what makes creating a resume so difficult. What kind of employee are you? A lot of people think they could be a manager because they do their job well. But can you take emotion out of the equation, multitask, and deal with people problems all day? Sometimes the best employees don’t necessarily make the best supervisors. And it’s hard for us to admit that sometimes.
It’s something all of us struggle with from time to time. Hell, I struggle with it almost every day here on View From My Seats. What kind of blogger am I? Am I the funny guy? Am I the insightful writer? Am I the guy that has a site that no one reads? Sometimes it seems like everyone else knows my niche better than I do.
Recently, a friend had to handle this inquiry in the middle of a management seminar. He was asked to write some words that explain the type of manager he is for his employees. He was challenged to throw down some terms on a piece of paper that explain the type of person he is.
Think about that for yourself—it’s not as easy as it may seem. There are things that you want to be, and there are things that you really are. And then there are the things that you are, but don’t want to admit (but that’s a different story for a different post).
As interesting as my life and struggles with self-awareness are (or not), it’s more appealing to look at how the majority of hockey players deal with the exact same predicament. Every single player who ends up in the NHL had to start somewhere. Whether it’s Ratis Ivanans, Alexander Ovechkin, or even Aaron Downey—they all started as the best player on their respective teams when they were kids. Just imagine playing Little League with a guy who grew up to be a utility player in the Major Leagues. Even if he was a fringe professional, he was probably God-like on his 12-year-old team.
Even though just about every NHL player started out as a great scorer, they’re not all meant to be an NHL goal scorer. At some point in their development, they have to admit what they are if they want to continue. Guys like Daniel Cleary, who tore up the OHL as a junior, might not necessarily be an elite goal scorer in the best league in the world. Not only will their role have to evolve, they’ll have to realize it’s changed and accept it. Most of the time, the recognition is the hardest part.
Cleary is a perfect example of the self-aware player I’m talking about. He knew that if he wanted to keep his job in the NHL, he would have to make the transition from scorer with a little grit to gritty player who can score. Steve Ott, Kirk Maltby, and Cal Clutterbuck have all learned the same lesson. They might be able to score goals, but that is not the attribute that keeps them in the NHL. The minute they lose sight of the type of player they are, they’ll be out of a job. The have to know who they are.
Look at some of the younger players in the NHL and you’ll see that many times there’s a transition period. You hear about players that have to go through the maturation process of becoming a professional. You hear about players going through “growing pains.” Many times, this is the concept they’re talking about. It’s not always easy for a hockey player to admit that he won’t be the superstar on his team and he’ll have to take a step back as a role player. To be honest, a lot of players are never fully able to make the change and never fulfill their potential as an NHL player.
A perfect example of this concept in action this season is Brad Richardson of the Los Angeles Kings. In Juniors and coming up through the Colorado Avalanche organization, he was known for having a lightning quick wrist shot. In fact, it was the potential of his wrist shot that got him into the NHL. But a quick wrist shot alone will not keep a player in NHL—not even Joe Sakic.
Upon being traded to L.A. after the 2008 season, the Kings coaching staff had repeatedly preached for Richardson to become a strong two-way player. If he could become a player that could use his speed at both ends of the ice and become a better all-around player, then his wrist-shot would become just another good attribute that made him a good player. It wouldn’t define him.
Around December this season, Richardson finally got it. He was putting effort in at both ends of the rink and it started paying off with his coaches, as well as on the score sheet. He had finally understood his role on the Kings—and the embraced the role that will keep him in the NHL. Or at least accepted it.
More often than not, players reach the NHL level and have to take a step back and reassess their place. The role players in the NHL were not role players growing up; some players are never fully able to make the transition from “the man” to “support player.” But once they do—that’s when a questionable player can become a dependable member of the team.
All they have to do is recognize the type of player they are and run with it. At least it sounds easy, right?