The Quiet Ones

Life can be difficult for the quiet kid especially when it comes to the game of hockey.

The quiet ones always take a back seat to others.

The quiet ones usually aren’t made to feel comfortable. If anything they are alienated because they don’t conform to hockey’s cultural norms.

I take it the vast majority of us have all watched “The Last Dance” on Netflix.

I’ve watched it about three thousand times. Nevertheless, about a month ago now while watching it I Googled Luc Longley’s name to take a look at his career numbers and how he became part of the Bulls. Ironically, I saw a link to a video, that video was a documentary on his path in the game and life.

Obviously, Langley was a visible omission from the Michael Jordan produced and dominated documentary “The Last Dance”

In that moment I paused “The Last Dance” and begin to watch Langley’s story on YouTube. I was fascinated with it. It’s a phenomenal story about a quiet fun loving reserved kid who played enjoyed the game of basketball.

(Luc Longley’s Documentary is here)

What I found so intriguing about Longley’s journey in the game is that he wasn’t serious, like I mean deadly serious about the sport he played and excelled at. Being an vicious driven elite level athlete wasn’t in his personality. Obviously, it became part of his personality as he grew into his role as a premier center in the NBA, but it his quiet soft spoken gentle demeanour that is so captivating.

This isn’t meant to be a film summary or critique, but I couldn’t stop thinking about “the quiet ones” while watching the film.

You see it’s probably hard to believe, but I was a quiet one. I was never really vocal when it came to the dressing room, because I was never a go to player. I didn’t feel confident speaking up, because I was always worried and anxious about letting the team down because in the back of my mind I wasn’t good enough to be on the team. In my mind, I was the worst player on most of the teams I played on growing up. I was the six defencemen, the stay at home, no flash or dash player.

My skills were always inferior to those around me. You see being the quiet one, means that you always stu in your own thoughts, feelings and emotions. The quiet ones are always the most reflective. There’s this perceived notion out there that the quiet ones don’t care, that they are withdrawn or not intense enough and that they don’t want it or know what it takes.

From my experience, the quiet ones probably want it even more, they want to prove to the team and most importantly themselves that they belong and that they can play and contribute

Clearly it’s extremely difficult to get a read off of the quiet ones and even though I was one of them, I still struggled as a coach to try to reach those players. It was only in my last few years of coaching that I figured how to approach or talk to them.

In Longley’s documentary Phil Jackson’s message is probably the most powerful of all.

I’m not going to write what he said, I’ll let you watch it, but the old coach in me got emotional watching that part of the film.

I wish I would have done better as a coach to reach and approach “the quiet ones.” As a player I wish I would have let down my guard, been more confident, comfortable and vocal, but that wasn’t in the cards for me because that wasn’t who I was.

I guess there still might be some insecurities around that. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m so driven and passionate about writing about the game and it’s cultural aspect today.

I don’t want to hurt the game, I want to help it, I want to support players within it. I want to write about every angle of the game, so those within the game today feel supported.

Some people may see my approach to covering the game as threatening or controversial. In many ways I write about the game because I want to provide a voice for the invisible, for the quiet ones out there that love the game as much I as I do, that might not feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

Conformity is one of those aspects of hockey culture that need to change. Some would say there’s no team sport or success without it. There’s a massive difference between conformity and buy in right…..?

I think we all understand that today’s athletes are different, but I think we also understand that coaches in today’s sporting world understand, appreciate and finally realize the importance of getting to know and reaching the person first, then coaching and teaching the player. Every player is unique, every player needs to feel valued and appreciated within the team culture to ensure maximum individual and team success.

How many “quiet ones” are your team?

How do you communicate or treat these players?

How are these players treated within the dressing room, within the team culture?

How do you get the best out of these players?

Life can be difficult for the quiet kid especially when it comes to the game of hockey, what are we all doing to help the quiet ones, but what are we doing to help every player?

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