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The Center of Attention

September 7, 2011 General No Comments

The center of attention
By Mitch Korn
Oct 30, 2001, 17:32

 

My prime concern when I think about the future of sports these days is not high ticket prices, higher salaries, or even the glut of sports on broadcast and cable TV. What most concerns me is the attitude of today’s athlete.

While the changing attitude of today’s player may be partially attributed to that increased exposure or those increased salaries—which in many cases the athletes well deserve—it is also something that comes from within. And players with a bad attitude risk not only hurting themselves, but their teams as well.

When Magic Johnson chose not to return as the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, he voiced his concern about the attitude of today’s player. He wondered why all the players had “I” in every sentence, as in; What can you do for me? Where’s my playing time? What about my contract?

“I,” said Magic, has dominated the scene—to the detriment of the team and the game.

 

Look at me

Many, like Magic, say we are bringing up a generation of very selfish, non-committed, arrogant young athletes. Part of the reason is that youngsters take their lead from their pro-level heroes, and believe from an early age that they—and not their team or their sport—should be the center of attention.

My “other” job allows me to work closely with a large number of students and student-athletes at a major university in Ohio. And in terms of bad attitudes encountered, last year was the worst I can remember. More than ever before, the selfishness was incredible—the arrogance beyond compare. And it’s is a growing and disturbing trend.

All truly successful players, teams and coaches—even those who “play” their game in the business world—know that no one individual can do it all alone. No individual has ever won a Stanley Cup, an NBA Championship or a Super Bowl. To win and be successful in sports, it takes individual commitment to a team.

Without singling out the individuals who provided me with these examples, let’s take a look at a couple of situations we can all learn from—where attitude negatively impacted a team.

The hot hand

I know of an amateur team that was in a national championship tournament last season. The #1 goalie was good down the stretch, but the #2 guy was peaking: he developed a hot hand. The coach, understandably, went with the #2 guy, and he was great. He stopped nearly 50 shots a game, beat the top two teams in the tournament, and carried his team to a semi-final appearance and third-place finish.

The problem? The #1 goalie felt sorry for himself because he did not play, and didn’t enjoy the wins. He didn’t try to hide his unhappiness, became a distraction to the team, and made the #2 guy feel “guilty” for getting the playing time. In the process of letting his selfishness show, he hurt the team and lost personal credibility.

 

What should he have done?

Well, consider the 1994 Dallas Stars. Darcy Wakaluk, the #2 goalie, was a surprise playoff starter (versus St. Louis) over the more experienced, established #1, Andy Moog. Moog, the quality individual and team player that he is, supported the move—knowing that Wakaluk “came up big” more times than he did down the stretch.

 

What’s your problem?

Then there’s the other side of the fence. I know a college goalie who is a very dedicated, team-oriented player. However, some of his teammates didn’t always follow team rules or come to the rink committed to play, and therefore played poorly.

Watching this all unfold before him, the goalie got mad at his teammates. While he kept most of it inside, it definitely bothered him—he was mad. As a result of his teammates’ bad attitude, the goalie allowed himself to become distracted, and then he played poorly, too. Why? Because you cannot play mad.

Similarly, I know some defensemen who have personal differences with their goalie. And as much as one says he is giving his all, if a defenseman is mad at his goalie, he is less likely to block shots, sacrifice his body and defend the goalie around the crease.

The moral of these stories is simple: Attitude makes a difference on and off the ice. Hockey is a team game. Life is a team sport. And real success can only be achieved through commitment and a positive attitude. l

 

Mitch Korn is the goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. In addition, he is an administrator at Miami University (Ohio) and directs the 8-week Summer Hockey School. Miami has Division I ice hockey in the CCHA.

This first appeared in the 11/1994 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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