Professional sports teams begin every season with a clean slate looking to capture a title in their sport. As games come and go, the team starts finding their groove. A big part of hitting the grove is when the team finds their identity. Thirty-eight games into their season, the top development team of the Anaheim Ducks, the Norfolk Admirals, found that identity is always a work in progress.
Early in the season, the coaching staff preaches how they want to run the systems and how they want to run the X’s and O’s. This helps establish the team’s identity on the ice. Admirals Assistant Coach Jarrod Skalde recently chatted about the team’s identity, “We know what direction we want to go in. We’re built on goaltending and solid team defense. If you had to pick an identity, I’d say that defensively we want to make sure that everyone on board is okay and happy with it.”
Once the coaches set the tone for how they want their team to play on the ice, it’s time for the veterans of the club to take the reins and lead by example. More often than not, the captain steps up and reinforces the coach’s message. Norfolk’s current captain Garnet Exelby hinted at his team’s identity saying, “We’re a blue-collar team that’s tough to score against and we’re a really hard working team. I think what we take pride in is what we give up and we’re working on building on that and becoming a well-rounded team.”
The Captain also went on to talk about how the team establishes an identity, “You play your games. You learn the personnel, your teammates, the message your coaching staff is trying to instill in the team, and you find ways to win. How you find ways to win determines your strengths and what your identity will be down the road.”
Leadership is key in determining an identity so one of Exelby’s duties is to make sure that the younger players play in tune with the veterans. “It helps to have a calming influence top to bottom. We have a lot of young guys who are bright eyed and bushy tailed so to speak which is also very important. I think the mix together is a big part of what a team’s general makeup is,” hinted the 32-year-old defenseman.
Norfolk’s John Kurtz aides Garnet Exelby in his duties helping his team finding an identity 38 games into the season saying, “I played for Coach Yawney last year so I know what he’s all about and what he excepts. When things aren’t going so well, it’s important to talk to the young guys and give them a little bit of constructive criticism without harping on them too much.”
Discovering an identity also happens when a team goes on road trips where they get to bond on the bus and create chemistry off the ice. Exelby explained why road trips are important for teams, “It always helps going on the road. You get away. There are fewer distractions. It’s a very fine tuned schedule. We follow an itinerary and we spend a lot of time together in close quarters at the rink and on the bus. This team has done great on the road all year.”
Assistant Coach Skalde agrees with his Captain on how crucial road trips are for a team seeking an identity saying, “With a young team it’s nice when they’re together and focused on the road. It’s very structured from the time they wake up, to breakfast, to the team skate, to the team meal, and heading back to the hotel together. There’s a lot more structure on the road and young guys need that structure. I think when we get home, you’re on your own sometimes to prepare. “
No matter home or away, the Admirals identity will always be a blue-collar team and a club that plays from the net out.