Johnny is too good to be on the B team, too good to be on fourth line, or too good to be a healthy scratch game after game. It seems like there is always one on every team. If it isn’t the player himself with that entitled attitude, it’s one of his parents. They always seem to think their player isn’t “being used correctly” or they are being cheated or punished unfairly somehow.
First of all, once you are done with youth rec league hockey, all bets are off. There are no guarantees of playing time. You must earn it with every practice, on every shift, and in every game. That tuition you paid for that AAA team or pay to play team? That’s no guarantee, either. You are paying for your chance to participate and earn what you earn.
In junior hockey, just making the team doesn’t mean you get to sit back and enjoy the ride. You have to prove you deserve to stay there because there are plenty of other players out there ready and willing to take your spot, and they are working at it every single day. If you think a coach won’t get rid of you in favor of even a lesser skilled player with a better attitude, you are dead wrong. Most, if not all of them, would do it in a heartbeat if the opportunity presents itself, and this year especially, that is easy to pull off with all the teams and leagues not playing. By the way, those trade opportunities come up pretty often, so think about whether you want to be at the top of the coach's mind when they do.
You also have to pay your dues. No one makes it alone, and if it were easy, everyone would do it. It’s going to suck sometimes, but you have to embrace it. That means you might end up on a team that loses a bunch of games, or maybe you don’t get along with the coach or your teammates. It means sometimes the coach plays a more veteran player even though you are equally skilled, or you might have to be scratched because the coach is rewarding another player’s recent success.
Your time will come, but only if you remain humble and keep working. You have to be willing to do the little things to help your team. You have to show that you are willing to put your ego aside for the betterment of the team. You have to show that you are willing to learn and gain experience. In fact, the best way to move up is to dominate the level you are currently at, and if you aren’t doing that, why would anyone think you are ready to move up?
Very rarely does a player come along who just rises straight to the top. For most players, the path is long and winding and full of setbacks and disappointment. You need to learn to humbly love where you are and what you are doing and expect to get knocked down a few times if you want to make it.
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