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The Art of Negotiation

0 - Published November 29, 2011 by in Art, Childhood, Development, Entrepreneurship, Hard Work, Inspiration, Lacrosse, Risk

It’s very similar in different scenarios; a child asking for that certain toy from a parent, the employee discussing his or her salary with their boss to individuals dating in hopes for a relationship.  Each defines a word that requires a skill between two people or parties involved – Negotiation.  A major goal in The Art of Lax™ business has been recently accomplished (that blog will come later).  Looking back at the process of development in the business, I was reminded of a time, in a non-business environment, my earliest forms of negotiation.

Learn to Earn.

It’s juvenile looking back, but it was an important issue, personally.  During my early years in boarding school, I was one of four goalies on the varsity lacrosse team.  I was young and needed a lot to learn – especially, off the field.  Due to my “rawness” of being a fourth string goalie, one of my responsibilities was to make sure the crate of lacrosse balls and water were at the field for each and every practice.  During practice, my time in goal was usually made to be “target practice” for our best shooters on offense or playing a different position such as close defense.  The end of practice had me collecting the loose balls and water bottles strewn all over the field.  Game time found me on the sideline, cheering and motivating my teammates.  Overall, I observed a lot in practice and games, but soon grew impatient and wanted to be involved.  I simply wanted a chance to play.

“Bite or be bitten.  Those that don’t bite, get eaten.”

The lacrosse team was very good, made up of multi-sport athletes in football, soccer, hockey and basketball.  The starting goalie was my roommate, who regularly asked me to look at his goalie sticks the night before games because he did not know how to string a stick.  Doing that and knowing I wouldn’t play the next day was frustrating.  Our coach was a man named David Reece, who was the Director of Admissions and an assistant hockey coach in his spare time.  Coach Reece also had an interesting background before going into education, as a back-up goalie for the Boston Bruins in the National Hockey League during the late-1970’s.  His being a professional athlete at one point always got our respect but he rarely discussed in detail his experience in the National Hockey League.

David Reece in the NHL (above).  David Reece as Admissions Director/Lacrosse Coach (below).

“Coach, I want to play.”

As the season went along, my role as a player didn’t change and I asked to sit down with Coach Reece in private.  I figured that I had the right to talk to him about my status.  We met in an empty locker room and I told him out right that, “I want to play.”  He responded if that was “the right thing to do, or if that’s what you want to do?”  I told him that it was a combination of both; considering I never missed or was late to a lacrosse practice.  I also added a bold statement of my being better skilled than the starting goalie, which surprised him, but it was my argument for a chance to show it.

Coach Reece decided to be honest and opened up his answer with a personal story.  He mentioned that “…back in February of 1976 he was in Toronto playing in goal for the Boston Bruins.  That night a player for the Toronto Maple Leafs named, Darryl Sittler, etched his name in hockey history to have the most points in a game (10 points).”  He followed by saying that his name was “etched in hockey history as the goalie who gave up the most goals in a game (11).”  I could tell he didn’t like to tell me that story but it was for a reason.

It turned out that that was his last game he played in the NHL and the reputation of that one night is something that he has to carry for the rest of his life.  I thought he was telling me the story because he didn’t want me to get “lit up in goal” and be disgusted.  He concluded that he realized my work ethic as a player, knew how I felt and promised that “you would get your chance”.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” -Albert Einstein

A few weeks later we found ourselves in nearby Lakeville, CT playing the Hotchkiss School.  Our goalie got a 2-minute un-releasable penalty for not having his mouth guard in place and “mouthing off” to the referee.  I don’t think I even had my helmet on my head and Reece called a time-out.  The score being close, Coach Reece looked at me and gave me the nod in goal.  Excited and nervous, I strapped my helmet on and ran towards the crease.  I “hit the pipes” to check my angles only to let the first shot I faced go by me for a goal. I remember looking at Coach Reece in wonder of his reaction before raking the ball out of the net.  His response was a sign of his hand in the air as if it were “OK”.
In that 2-minute duration, I faced a total of 7 shots – saving 5.  Those 2-minutes in goal were the only minutes I registered in goal for that season and it was back to the normal routine.

Lesson Learned.

As a business owner, you want everything to be just right.  But there are things you can and cannot control in life.  Sometimes things don’t unfold the way you thought they would, even if you worked hard for it.  Sometimes it’s other people (merely strangers) who determine your outcomes, instead of yourself.  Coach Reece kept his promise of an opportunity to somebody very young and inexperienced.  He was right… there will be a right time for everything in life.

Extra./Misc.

David Reece in goal for the Boston Bruins.

Sittler  “lighting up” Reece.

Boston Bruins team picture.  David Reece, front row, far right.

The man who did the damage.

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