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Is it really about fun?

11/16/2019, 9:15pm CST
By Kevin Hartzell

First, a few related points.

Recently, a team of United States military professionals executed a highly dangerous mission to take out the leader/architect of ISIS, the worlds notorious terror group. This great TEAM of United Stated military personnel executed a game plan to near perfection. Being average, executing this “plan” in average ways, was not an option. Their superior effort makes one proud to be an American.

I have spoken to numbers of young people who are trying to find their way to a successful and rewarding career in the professional world.  Some have said to me, “It’s important I follow my passion.”  I say to that, “Nonsense.”  One can follow their passion, but if they get on a bad team, they will hate their job and won’t find it either successful or rewarding. Conversely, one can be in a job/career that is not necessarily in one’s “passion”, but if they find themselves on a good/great team, they will find satisfaction in their work. Of course, pursuing both passion and a great team is a worthy goal.

I worked recently with a high school team. When I first met with the team, I asked, as I most often do, “Why are we all here?” 

The first response was, “We are here to have fun.”

My response was as follows:

“Sorry, but I hate that answer. If you want to have fun, you can go to the dance, or hang out with your friends at the beach or coffee shop. We are here for one reason – to find out how good we can be together. Our talent may limit us from winning every game or being a championship team, but there is nothing limiting us from finding out how good we can be together as a team. Our job is to become a great team…and great teams most often, do have fun together, they do enjoy the journey together.”  

I work with Stan Hubbard’s new junior team in New Mexico.  To be honest, in their first year of operation, they are a bit talent challenged as compared to the better NAHL teams. I shared with this team recently that they may not and likely will not win a championship here in year one, but that does not hinder them from becoming a great team. Their job is to give of themselves to this team and do what is necessary to be a good as they can be. If management signs, brings into the team talent the likes of Sid Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, then their chances of winning lots of games improves.  But as players, they cannot control that.  So, their job as players, their OBLIGATION as players, is to work to improve themselves and hold all accountable to become the best team they are capable of. PERIOD.

If you are a parent of, or are a player under 10 years of age, today’s message isn’t directed to you. The goals for our youngest participants in sport have different goals of course. But at some point, this participation-fun-involvement mantra needs to go away. Let’s quit using the word participation and start using the word OBLIGATION. 

Being a great teammate, being on a great team, takes focus, work and sacrifice. It takes accountability. This new world of equal, participation, socialist ideals, is a poor message to send to our young people.

Let’s remember why we have kids in sports. Initially, to get them involved on a team and learn about teams and teamwork, which of course is a fine goal. But as they grow, the goal is not to have “fun” or to “participate.” The goal is to learn how to be a productive member of a successful team. Being on a great team is enjoyable and fun…but OBLIGATION/ACCOUNTABIITY to the team comes first!


A St. Paul native and forward for the University of Minnesota from 1978-82, Kevin Hartzell coached in the USHL from 1983-89 with the St. Paul Vulcans and from 2005-12 with the Sioux Falls Stampede. He was the head coach of Lillehammer in Norway’s GET-Ligaen from 2012-14. His columns have appeared in Let’s Play Hockey since the late 1980s. His book “Leading From the Ice” is available at 


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