Kicked Off the Team

by barbaragarn

If you play team hockey long enough, you will have this experience. It sucks. And this is the time of year when it happens.

I’m not talking about deciding “This team is not for me” and leaving. I’m talking about getting the boot. 

I have head some crazy stories–one team openly decided to hold a secret poll, and everyone voted on a secure website, with only the captain to see the results… can you say TOO MUCH DRAMA? Ugh.

Another team held a secret meeting without telling its three female players (one of which was the second high scorer) to decide if the guys wanted to keep the women on the team. Ugh! 

I get that there are physical differences, but did they hold a poll to decide on the short teammates, or the old teammates, or the fat teammates? (No, they didn’t.) Remember, women’s lower body strength is directly translated to skating success–versus upper body shooting power for the dudes–and lower center of gravity with better stability. Sigh.

My conclusion over the years has been: If the team is already, seriously, talking about getting rid of someone–not griping over beers after the game about one player’s penalty-prone behavior, but SERIOUSLY discussing it–then it’s time. A team needs to be cohesive and built on trust. And there won’t be cohesion or trust with everyone wondering about the solidity of their presence on the team. If it’s unstable, it’s time to find a new team.

But for those who do get the boot, most don’t have the good luck to be aware they’re being outed… they start to wonder why team leadership isn’t answering e-mails or phone calls, and slowly the question arises and is eventually–lamentably–confirmed. You are off the team. Surprise!

I love Minnesota, and I adore Minnesotans, but I wish people weren’t so passive aggressive–especially about this. I’ve heard all kinds of stories about players planning to join up with their old team… left in communication limbo for weeks because nobody in team leadership wants a tough conversation. 

And on a practical note, by the time the outed player realizes the “stealth boot,” it’s usually to find all other teams have filled their rosters. So the situation is even worse for that player who had been counting on playing that season, and as a veteran team member with old friends. All that is gone–no wonder people get annoyed when this happens.

For all that we’re tough hockey players, we can’t deny that this has to do with emotion. Ugh, I said it. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult… we’re badass hockey players AND Minnesotans too. Emotion! Can’t talk about it! Gotta run!

So let’s take emotion out of the equation. I totally understand the desire to be polite and kind, and avoid a scene, but NOT telling someone they’ve been outed is clearly more agonizing for everyone in the long run. I learned early on with JMS that prevarication and qualifying statements are useless. Being kind does NOT mean telling someone a lie… and inevitably the lie gets bigger as the days go on until, when it eventually MUST and DOES collapse, it’s worse for everyone. Talk about needing to avoid emotional drama.

If the tough conversation is being avoided for emotional reasons, be pragmatic: you’re trying to avoid bad feelings and a scene, right? It’s a bad situation any way you look at it, so you have to decide how to make it least bad: think about the person in both the short-term and the long-term. 

Short term (the easy out) is to fib and put them off for another couple of days. But that makes the situation worse; it doesn’t make it go away. And you want it resolved with the least amount of freakout and confrontation. 

You have to acknowledge that the outed player is going to know eventually, in the long run, so grit your teeth and be honest at the beginning instead of leading the person on. This also gives the player time to find new team, which makes them much less angry at losing a spot on your team.

And if you’re avoiding the hard conversation because you don’t like hard conversations… you shouldn’t be in your team leadership! Yes, these conversations are tough. Get a backbone and do it, or step down for someone who can! It is selfish and lazy to string players along because you’re uncomfortable with a simple conversation.

I have a feeling lots of people have stories about this and not many want to post for attribution! If you want me to make an anonymous comment on your behalf, shoot me an e-mail and I will post it for you. This is a big deal, and nobody likes to talk about it, for the very reason that it IS a big deal. But then, BECAUSE it’s a big deal, we SHOULD talk about it.