Dana, head machine tender for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 4B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"I played hockey since I was a kid. I have taken the hits, given some back, and dropped the gloves to stand up for myself. I guess you could say I was an average player and, most importantly, a team player.
Our son started playing hockey at the age of four. Being at the arena all the time with him, the Minor Hockey system asked me to become a coach. I went home and thought about it. Being a shift worker makes it hard to commit. My wife suggested that I give it a try.
Once they had me on board, they told me that I had to take coaching training. I thought, 'This is a waste of time'. I had played hockey all my young adult life and knew the game. I attended these training sessions and passed the level required to coach. My first practice was scheduled at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I walked into the room and looked around. I thought to myself, 'What did I get myself into?' There were fifteen kids screaming, asking for the parents and myself to tie their skates. Once they settled down, I told them my name and that we were all there to have fun with the game of hockey. We went out on the ice and started to practice. Fifteen minutes into the practice, I knew I had a lot of work to do and that there would be some challenging moments. After practice, we went into the locker room. I remember the smallest player pulling on my sweater as he looked up at me and said, 'Are we going to win the cup, coach?' I looked down at him and answered, 'Yes we are!'
When my son and I got home, my wife asked how my first day of coaching at practice went. I told her I had my work cut out for me. I told her most of my players could not skate very well and some didn't want to be there. She said, 'You can do it. Don't back down from the challenge.' I began to carefully read some of my coaching manuals.
The following Saturday, I had them skate and pass the puck around. The next Sunday was our first game. We lost 11-2. Back in the dressing room, some kids started crying because we had lost. I told them, 'There will be more games. If we keep working as a team, we can win next time.' I said, 'I am proud of you. I will see you next Saturday.'
I discussed the game with my wife and said, 'Maybe I'm in over my head.' My wife said, 'You committed to coach and these kids are depending on you.'
The following weeks we concentrated on improving skating skills and passing the puck. We lost a few more games, and then tied one. I was proud of my players because they played as a team.
I coached the rest of the season. I learned a lot about coaching and dealing with the children and parents. We started to win more games every week. We made it into the playoffs and won the cup!
We had a team gathering. My smallest player surprised me with a team plaque and said, 'You are the best coach I ever had.'
The lesson I learned from this experience is to never quit anything I agree to do. I need to always give it 100%, a real chance to work. When I do, I can be proud of what I accomplish.
The action I call you to take with the many challenges in your life is don't give up. Challenges are there as learning experiences to make you a better person.
The benefits you will gain are self-confidence and leadership qualities, and make new friends along the way. You will have the satisfaction of completing the task at hand. You will win and be a positive role model for others to follow."