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  • Writer's pictureChris Urban

How beer league hockey helped me land a big sale

Confidence is a funny thing. It can be gained or lost; it can be influenced and shaken. There are all sorts of reasons of course as to why this happens and while everyone is different, there is no denying that a setback whether at work, school, the playing field or in life, may leave one believing that they’ve lost confidence in their ability to overcome the challenges they face. As a 47-year-old business development executive, working for a major health insurance company, I face many challenges and obstacles when it comes to employers and whether they will offer our health insurance coverage to their employees. If I am not able to adequately address those challenges and obstacles, there is a competitor right there to pick up the pieces. That competitor wins, and I lose; it’s as simple as that. I’ve had many wins over the course of my career, but recently, I had a few losses leading up to a potential major sale; an opportunity that comes along once a decade. This potential major sale had the eyes of our president and every other senior executive. My job was to ensure that all influencers within this opportunity were sold on our capabilities, so this meant holding individual meetings and giving group presentations. To say that there was pressure is an understatement.

As I mentioned, confidence is a funny thing. It’s also something that people can sense; you either have it or you don’t. Admittedly, suffering a few losses leading into this massive opportunity had shaken my confidence. “Am I good enough? Can I get this done?” were questions that seeped into my thinking. In a search for answers, I found them in the strangest of places – beer league hockey. Beer league hockey is a cool and interesting world filled with eclectic characters of varying skill levels who come together under the common love of playing the game. And one really must love playing considering most games are played very late at night and involve arriving home well after midnight. Comradery and fun aside and recognizing that any dream of ever playing in the NHL vanished decades ago, there still is a competitive element. Anyone putting in the time, whether you’re a goalie like me or a forward or defenseman, wants to play well and win.

Like in any sport, the level of competitiveness and the desire to win burns brightest in the championship. My team, the Iceaholics, reached the championship in 2017 and faced our biggest rival, Puck of the Irish. The Irish are a formidable opponent with many good skaters and the proverbial two or three ringers. They skate hard and we always have great games anytime we face off. Like other games against the Irish, the championship game proved to be no exception as regulation and overtime ended tied at 3. The game then entered a best of three shootout. After the first two attempts by each team, the game remained tied. On the third attempt, we scored leaving the Irish with one last chance to score.

As one of the Irish players skated to center ice, instead of thinking, “Am I good enough? Can I get the job done?” I thought, “It’s time to rise to the occasion.” I also looked over at my bench and saw a bunch of guys that played hard all year long. They too got in their cars on those late winter nights and drove to the rink when the easier decision could have been to stay home and watch football or binge watch Netflix with a cup of hot chocolate. I also noticed three of my teammates on the bench, a father and his two sons, which only infused me with even more determination to make this final stop. As the Irish player moved on the puck and skated forward, I aggressively came out of my net to challenge the shot and made a blocker save to win the championship!

Pizza and beer followed with a couple of quick pictures on the ice, including a great photo of my Iceaholic family teammates holding the championship trophy! I thought it was so cool that I played a role in creating a great family memory for my teammates.

Back in the office and leading the team dedicated to creating our sales strategy and proposal for the potential major sale, I grappled with wavering confidence, but instead of leaning on past professional achievements to lift me up, I called upon that championship beer league hockey game. My teammates and I worked hard, and we won. We deserved that victory and I recognized that the same was happening with my team at work. The effort, didn’t involve just me; it involved a team and that team would get my very best. Wavering confidence was replaced with an increased level of determination in doing my part as we too deserved to win!

Just as competitiveness and the desire to win burns brightest in the championship, so too does it burn when the stakes are high in the corporate world. The major potential sale was my work team’s championship and in those moments of wavering confidence that we invariably all have, I was glad to have my experience from beer league hockey to draw upon. That experience helped me be a better leader and teammate to my work team and I’m happy to report, ultimately helped in my team and I landing the major sale!

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