Everything you need to have a champion's mindset

Dressing Room Drama

Nothing can derail a team faster than dressing room drama that isn’t dealt with quickly and effectively. I’ve been playing and coaching this sport for almost 25 years, and I can honestly say that I’ve been with very few teams that haven’t had some serious drama in the room.

Not surprisingly, those teams are the ones that have had the most success on the ice.

I’ve coached teams from peewee all the way up to the college level and while the drama may be different at all those age groups, it has the same ability to rip a team apart and cause divisions and problems that inevitably spill over onto the ice.

While I can’t address every issue here (and trust me, I’ve seen everything), hopefully I can share some thoughts based on my experiences than can help you set your team on track for the rest of this season.

Note that I set these ground rules with my teams in pre-season and refer to them constantly – not just when there is a problem. These aren’t ‘one and done’ statements that you can hit on once and leave alone. They must be constantly reinforced.

Players must also be recognized for taking the high road in challenging situations.

Sometimes it’s easier to gossip, to pick sides, to ignore the situation and let the people involved “deal with it”. To stand up for yourself, a teammate or the team in general puts you in an uncomfortable situation. That’s what leadership is all about. It’s easy to steer the ship when it’s smooth sailing.

The true test of an individual’s and team’s character is how they deal with challenging situations.

So here are some of the guidelines I share with my players. I hope they help you navigate the dressing room drama this season or next. And if you have any further suggestions based on your experience, please share them with me.

::: Always have a TEAM FIRST mentality. We are doing this for each other.

Our best memories from hockey will be from what we achieve as a group.

::: We are INCLUSIVE of the entire team whenever possible. We will not be cliquey. We will get to know all of our teammates and always help everyone feel wanted, respected and important. We need each and every one of us to be feeling and playing their best in order to succeed.

::: What happens with the team stays with the team & leave your personal crap out of the room. The dressing room is a sanctuary away from real life and a hockey-only zone. If you need to talk about ‘real life’ stuff at the rink, go for a walk with a teammate and talk it out. Make sure you’re done with it before heading back into the room.


::: You earn respect by showing respect. You must treat all teammates, staff (coaches, managers, trainers), opponents, officials, parents with the utmost respect at all times. You show respect by treating people as you’d like to be treated, being polite, always working your hardest on and off the ice, and being helpful. The bottom line is: you will be good, or you will be gone. Being disrespectful with NOT be tolerated and there will be a consequence in your participation with the team. If you are disrespectful, you may be asked to leave a practice or game, you may see a significant decrease in your ice time, you may be temporarily suspended from the team or you may be released from the team.

We lay this all out on the first day together as a team. We read through it together out loud to make sure everyone hears it. We expect that teammates hold each other accountable but understand that as coaches, we are the adults and we have more experience and expertise than our players on how to deal with tough situations. If we need to step in, we do.

I can’t say this enough – make sure you acknowledge players who go out on a limb for a teammate and step up in challenging situations. You may do it in front of the group or in a quiet 1 on 1 moment. Those leadership moments between players are much more valuable that any game-winning goal or shutout performance when you look at the season as a whole. They must be acknowledged and celebrated.

I hope these ideas help you set the stage for a successful rest of the season and allow you to get off to a great start with your team for next season. Feel free to share this message with anyone who you think might benefit from it.

Work Hard. Dream BIG. Team FIRST.

Your friend and coach,


Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS

Director & Founder, Total Female Hockey

Check out www.TotalFemaleHockey.com for more!

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