Coaches always talk about looking for kids with character. Below are some subtle things I’m always observing that I think say a lot about a player and person.
1) Anyone can be nice to their team captain or best player. What I look for in a kid is how they treat those with less of a voice. If it is an older more confident Varsity player, how do they interact with a less confident JV player? Are they approachable and welcoming or are they condescending and arrogant? This is probably the biggest thing for me. Nothing is more impressive than a kid who can make those around them comfortable and feel accepted regardless of their “social status.” That is a leader.
2) Do they help pick up pucks after practice? Some kids jet for the gate when practice is over. I always look to see which kids get off and which kids stay to help clean up the ice. It is hard as a coach when the Zamboni is beeping at you and you are scrambling to get everything up and move the nets. It is a lot easier when players help out.
3) How do they treat the adults who can’t do anything for them? It is easy to be respectful to a coach that has a say in your ice time. I love to see kids that are friendly and build a relationship with the Zamboni driver or the rink janitors. On the flip side I can’t stand kids who treat people as their servants.
4) Holding doors open. I don’t really care if you hold the door open for your buddy, but if a Woman carrying a baby in one hand and a bag in the other is behind you, I definitely am looking at what you do. To me, a big part of this is “awareness” and this scenario speaks to that quality. Having awareness for the world around you and recognizing you aren’t the only person on the planet is a huge trait that I look for.
5) How does a player act when things aren’t going their way? It is easy to be a good teammate when you are playing a lot and scoring goals. Are you still coachable and have a good attitude when you are in a slump and playing less? This is a tell-tale sign of leadership. It is easy to be a team player when everything is going right for you individually.
6) Does a kid smile? It sounds stupid, but it actually says a lot. You don’t have to be smiling all of the time, but some kids never really smile. Thinking about all the players I’ve worked with or played with who I would consider low character, I have never seen any of them genuinely smile. A kid doesn’t have to be perfect, but if I see a genuine smile from time to time, I know they are someone I can work with and help become a better person. A genuine smile means a genuine heart. It doesn’t have to be big or even that noticeable but you can just tell when you see it.
7) Loyalty. How do they treat their friends, family, coaches etc? I love when kids take the attitude of “if you have a problem with my friend, Mom, Coach, Dog etc, you have a problem with me.” I don’t mean fighting on the ice when your teammate gets slashed but in life standing up for others and offering support goes along way.