Leadership in Unexpected Places

January is National Mentoring Month. Mentors are important for personal and professional development at any age.

My 17-year old son, Zach, plays for the US Premier Hockey League. The USPHL is an organization for aspiring college hockey athletes to play competitively throughout the US. In many cases (including Zach’s), the players move away from home so they can compete on teams and train with the most competitive players in the country.

Sports present many opportunities for mentoring, even more so when the young athlete is 1,000 miles away from home. Here are a few of the mentors that help empower Zach to be his best.

  1. His host family – The team that Zach plays for, the Maryland Skipjacks is 1,100 miles away from home. So he lives with a host family in Pasadena, MD for six months each year. During his stay, he has built a relationship with his host family and looks to them for advice and guidance as necessary.
  2. His teammates – These guys love hockey enough to spend six months away from their own families to build on their hockey skill and aspire to play at higher levels. The association is very competitive and the team members are able to look to each other for support and encouragement when they need it.
  3. The team’s coaches – Zach’s coaches are great mentors on and off the ice. On the ice, they work with him to be the best possible hockey player. Off the ice they show him how to represent the organization in the community and on the road by acting with professionalism and respect. They’ve played collegiate hockey, served as NAHL scouts and run elite training programs – they have the experience and credibility to help Zach realize his goals and to grow into a respectful person and athlete.

Mentors influence Zach’s life every day – and he probably doesn’t realize it, but he is a mentor to his teammates as well. In fact, the team’s peak performance coach told Zach that he has the leadership and positivity to be a strong role model for the team. Positive feedback like that will stick with my son through his hockey career – and into his professional career – and that is what mentoring is all about.


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