This is an older post that I pulled out of the archives today. Instead of laughing this time, I will be smiling and reflecting. My championship hockey team from 1985 lost a teammate way too young last week, and I want to dedicate this post to him and his family…
I love sales, and I love sports – especially hockey. It’s natural that I see similarities between professional athletes and sales reps, as well as between the roles of sales managers and sport coaches. One story sticks out in my mind, and it has motivated me for close to 30 years now.
Growing up, there were four different tiers of hockey leagues in my city, and I was very excited to be selected to play for the Tier 2 team when I was 11 years old. It was a great group of guys, and the coaches were awesome. We had a pretty good year, but started to slip in the standings towards the end of the season. Six out of ten teams made the playoffs, and we qualified by a narrow margin.
To be honest, I don’t remember the playoff rounds leading up to the finals, but what I remember is how the coaches got us to come together as a team. Players would be asked to play different roles depending on the scenarios that unfolded during the season. Some players were more skilled than others, and they would be counted on to score. Others were better at defence, and they would be counted on to prevent the other team’s best players from scoring.
We remarkably made it to the finals, and had to play the first place team. They were the top team for the entire season. It was a best of three series. They had one superstar player, who was a big reason that they had advanced to the finals. He was hands down the best player in the league. Our strategy going in to the finals was if we could neutralize that player, and keep him off the scoreboard as much as possible, we would win.
They won the first game. But our coaches were so good, they told us not to panic, and stick to our game plan. If we played better in game two, and continued to focus on the star player, we would still win. Game two was much better, and we kept the star off the score sheet as much as we could. All our players pretty much played the same amount, and we attacked our competitors as one unit. They would play their star player and his supporting cast most of the time. We won game two.
We advanced to game three, it was winner take all. I was so nervous that I thought that I was going to throw up! It was a very evenly matched game, and it went in to over time. I did not know how the families and coaches could bear to watch anymore. I do not remember exactly how long it took, but during the overtime period, the puck came to me by our bench. I skated up the ice with the puck, and one of my team mates had just hopped on to the ice. I sent a pass over to him and he scored the winning goal! We were champions even though nobody thought that we could do it.
What I really got out of that experience was the value of working as a team. A group of people with their own goals do not make a team. The other team relied too much on one player, and in the end that strategy did not work. Our coaches were instrumental in keeping us motivated, positive and continually instilled in us that we could do it! Their confidence in us never wavered for one moment. Losing was never an option.
This is very much like a sales team. Everyone has their own individual goals. But if team goals are important too, it will create a better work environment for everyone, and a much stronger company overall. There is no better feeling than succeeding when nobody expects you to! And success feels so much better when you have teammates to celebrate with.
- Have you ever been a part of a winning sports team, and if so, what factors contributed to its success?
- Do you have any memories of that team that will be with you for the rest of your life?