Here’s something I love about team sports: Credit’s given not just to the person who scores, but also the players who set up the score. In basketball, an assist is only given to the player who makes the pass that leads to a basket. But in hockey, there’s also a secondary assist, given to the player who makes the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the goal.
Here’s what it looks like in action, as illustrated by my Washington Capitals:
The whole play is set up by #19, Nick Backstrom. He draws two defenders to the center of the ice, then makes the pass to #8, Alex Ovechkin. But because Backstrom’s already drawn the defense in, the goalie and defense have to be extra aggressive in defending against a shot from Ovechkin. Instead, Ovi surprises everyone by passing back to the middle of the ice, where #2, Matt Niskanen has a tap-in at the empty net.
It’s a beautiful goal — but none of it is possible without the play from Backstrom. The pass that led to the pass set up an easy goal.
I love the hockey assist. It’s a reminder that the big play often isn’t possible without a lot work first to set things up.
When you’re a manager, a lot of your job is making hockey assists, and trying to set up the conditions for success. That might mean getting your team the resources — technology, money, additional team members — do to work. It might mean setting the goals or giving your team the training so that they can do their work. It might mean figuring out a way to divvy up tasks so that your team can focus on doing something big.
You might not get the credit for your team’s win, but that’s OK. Being a manager isn’t about getting credit — it’s about putting your team in position to do its best work.
So make the hockey assist — and set your team up for success.