Monday, May 2, 2011

Roger Neilson says: Count the Weeks!

[This week's Haveil Havalim is here!]

During my trip back to New York for Pesach, I had a chance to look through some of the many, many newspaper clippings which once lined my bedroom wall. One caught my eye, from the New York Times of November 20, 1989: “Rangers Top Neilson Ratings”.

This was a long time ago, in NHL years – the Rangers had played the Hartford Whalers ע"ה the night before, and the next night they would play the Winnipeg Jets, also ע"ה. One of their recent victories was against the Quebec Nordiques, also ע"ה. They were listed as first in the NHL’s Patrick Division – you guessed it, also ע"ה. And they were coached by Roger Neilson, who has also since passed on.

Worth noting: Coach Neilson is credited with furthering ice hockey in Israel, by opening up a branch of his summer ice hockey camp in Metula. There is now an annual hockey tournament in his memory, in Israel. I don’t know with certainty that he was Jewish, but it's a good bet he was.

In any case, the article begins by noting, “Roger Neilson, the coach of the Rangers who spends his rare idle minutes breaking down game video tapes, spends most his many working hours encouraging his players to break down their season. He likes to analyze the season in segments of 10 games…

In other words, as reflected in the article itself: Instead of looking at where the team is based on the overall season, the players look at how they are doing in the current ten-game set. This reflects their current play more accurately, it can keep a time from resting on laurels from the earlier months of the season, and it can provide hope as they look past early failures.

I found the same concept in the breakdown of 49 days and 7 weeks for the Omer count from Pesach through Shavuot. We are taught to use this as a period of growth, and we number each day based on where it is in the overall 49, as well as what day it is within a given week of the Omer. As in, “Today is the 12th day – which is 1 week and 5 days of the Omer.”

Certainly, there are many lessons in counting both days and weeks, but one of them is this: We don’t only look at where we are in the 49-day “season”, we also look at each seven-day increment. The past is gone, the present is my responsibility. If I can accomplish some growth in these seven days, then I will be able to consider this week a success.

Thanks, Roger. [And no, that title wasn't a Steve Weeks joke. He was gone from the Rangers before Roger arrived.]

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