consistency

3 Things Every Player Should Focus On

Hockey - Focus on the things you can control.

Focus on the things you can control.

If you’ve ever been coached by me, taken a camp or lesson from me, or really, just talked to me in general about life then you’ve probably heard me say this phrase.

It’s become one of the motto’s of all aspects of my life.

It doesn’t mean that I’m perfect with it, but it’s definitely something I have really focused on within the last few years.

It’s something that I struggled with for a long time as a player.

When I think about it now, I usually just shake my head.

I wasted so much time and energy worrying about things that I had no control over that it’s borderline crazy.

What’s my coach thinking? Why am I playing with this guy? Will so and so coach, or scout, think I’m a good player?

As players, we’ve all been there.

But the reality is, worrying about things that are out of your control don’t make you feel any better, and they certainly don’t make the actual situation any better.

So how do we work on that skill and truly start only focusing on the things we can control?

You’ll notice that I used the word “skill” in the sentence above because, just like stickhandling, I think training your mind to think this way is truly something you have to consistently work at to develop and become good at.

While I could honestly write for days about this subject, I want to give you three actionable items that will help in nearly every situation.

  1. Put your team first and be a great teammate. I can’t stress enough how valuable this is. If you can always have the mindset of putting your team first and checking your ego at the door, you’ll have less stress as a player because you won’t get stuck in the depressing ups and downs of worrying about things outside of your control. Never feel like you’re above doing something that puts the team first. I think you’d be surprised how far that mindset can take you in hockey and life.

  2. Don’t cut corners and look for the easy way. As my favorite saying goes, “Nothing worth having comes easy.” If you’re looking for the easy way out, you’re not there for the right reasons. Players who cut corners are often the first to make excuses. When in doubt refer to actionable item number one above.

  3. Give yourself an honest assessment. How hard are you really working? Are you fully committed and doing the best you can? I think if we’re being truly honest with ourselves there’s usually always an area that we can give a little more at. Focus on yourself and what you’re putting into the situation instead of worrying about everything else. When you have no regrets, the results are usually always much easier to handle.

The moral of this whole post is that when things get tough, which they will, go back and look at yourself and figure out how you can keep improving, instead of looking at everyone else.

I can tell you from personal experience that it helps take out the huge ups and downs with the game and allows for a more controlled even keel.

Also, remember that it’s always going to be a work in progress and that ok. As long as you’re making progress then know you’re headed in the right direction.

NHL Playoff Observations And What We Can Learn From Them

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Isn’t this one of the best times of the year?

The NHL playoffs are incredible.

I would argue with anyone that there is nothing else like it in the world of sports.

While I haven’t watched every game, I’ve watched a lot this year and wanted to write a quick article about my observations thus far (almost 2 weeks in).

The first thing that stands out is the speed of the game. We all know that hockey is trending into a faster, more skating driven game, but the playoffs really exemplify this.

Teams and players that can skate, and play with speed, are dominating thus far. And I think this only continues to prove the point that if you want to make it as a hockey player, you need to be working on your skating and your speed.

And it’s all positions. It used to be that if you were bigger and didn’t skate as well you played defense. That just isn’t the case anymore. In fact, most of the best defenseman are now also tremendous skaters.

The next thing that stands out is team depth.

Obviously, your best players need to be your best players to be successful, but I think the team that has the best depth as a group will be the team that hosts the cup this year.

I’ve actually been a huge believer of this for a long time. I have been saying the same thing for the past few years in that, if you don’t have four lines that can play in the playoffs, you’re not going to win. Simple as that.

The last item is special teams.

The bigger the game, the more important every little advantage is.

I’m a big believer that once you get down to the playoffs, every team is good and laying it on the line each night.

Because of this, the margin of error becomes even more razor thin and things like special teams are often the real difference makers.

If your special teams struggles in the playoffs, your season is probably going to be ending pretty soon.

So what are the takeaways from all this for players and coaches?

1) Understand and realize how the game is constantly evolving. Being able to play with pace and make decisions and plays at full speed is becoming the way to have success as a player and team.

2) Remember that every role on a team is vital to its success. If you’re a fourth liner, you need to realize that your job has a purpose to the overall success of the team. Like I’ve said countless times on this blog, there’s a reason you don’t have 4 first line centers. Everyone has a job, embrace it and be the best you can be at it.

3) And lastly, don’t forget to be constantly working on your skill development. The difference between good players and great players is usually the great players are able to execute the basic fundamentals of the game at a higher level than the good players. So those things include, stickhandling, passing, shooting, and even skating. And the best part to remember about all those skills, is they can all be constantly worked on and improved.

So, Continue to go after the things you want and make sure you’re putting in the work. Taking action is always more important than trying to make sure you’re working on the perfect drill. In fact, often simple is better. And finally, build good habits and always remember that nothing worth having comes easy.

What Do I Work On In The Off Season?

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“What should I be working on during the off season?”

It’s probably one of the questions that I get asked the most by players.

The reality is that every player is different so what works for one player is not going to work for another. I think that makes sense for most people, especially considering that you have players who play different positions and have entirely different skills sets.

With that in mind, I do think there are a few things that we can work on as players that are helpful across the board for players.

I’ve talked previously about how I think a big emphasis should be placed on skill development and repetition over the summer. I won’t get into that a ton since we just talked about it, but you can reference that other article here.

** One side note for something that I didn’t mention a ton in the previous article but fits along those same lines is skating. The game of hockey has truly turned into a game of skating. The reality is that if you want to be successful in hockey you have to be able to skate. The game is faster than ever and I think that every player should spend some time focusing on their skating. It’s another one of those skills that we can always improve upon, yet sometimes gets forgotten about when practicing during the season. The truth is, the better skater you are, the more opportunities you will create for yourself.

Another area that I think all players can benefit from is focusing on your work ethic.

If you ask most players, they will tell you that they work hard. In fact, as a coach, I’m yet to have a player tell me that they don’t work hard!

We all know that isn’t true and some players work a lot harder than others.

If you’re serious about getting better and want to keep improving, you need to make sure that you’re constantly trying to improve your work ethic.

Stick to a routine, figure out what you want to accomplish and work for, find an accountability partner or coach, push yourself to do things that are outside your comfort zone. These are just a few of the ways that you can improve your work ethic.

I truly believe that your work ethic is something that can be developed and trained.

I don’t believe it’s something you either have or you don’t. I completely think it is something that can be trained and instilled.

The last thing that I’ll mention for every player and the off season, is to rediscover that passion and love for the game.

We’ve all played through long seasons, or even disappointing seasons. Those years where as a team or individual it just didn’t seem to go the way that you wanted.

But, the off season is a time to refuel the batteries and refuel the passion and love that you have for the game.

This helps with both your attitude and energy at the rink.

It also helps build your confidence back up gives you that feeling of excitement every time that you get to head to the rink.

While we all have different areas that we can focus on with our off season training, I think there are a few areas that all players can count on to help get them going in the right direction for the next season coming up.

Good luck with your training this off season.

Are Private Lessons Worth It?

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Have you ever thought about getting private lessons?

As a player growing up, I never really thought much about private lessons. And with the exception of some skating lessons when I was really young, I never took private lessons. 

Since becoming a coach, the value that I think they can bring to a player is amazing. 

Now, I'm sure most of you are thinking this is a shameless plug for myself since I personally give private lessons. In fact, it's one of the ways that I provide for my family. But, in reality, private lessons can be an extremely valuable tool for some players and not necessary for others. 

I decided to write a post about this subject because it's a question that I get a lot as a coach. And as with everything I write on this blog, I want to be as honest and transparent as possible. 

The first obvious benefit to getting private lessons is the one on one time you get with a coach. The ability to really break down your strengths and weaknesses on an in depth level and then work on them. To really fine tune those individual skills that don't always get the focus needed in practice. 

The reality is that practices are team oriented first and individual oriented second. Private lessons allow us to reverse this priority and focus on those little details that often don't get the time required in practice. 

For example, if you struggle with handling rebounds on your backhand in front of the net, it's not possible to spend a lot of time in a team practice focusing on this detail. Of course you will get a few opportunities possibly in practice, or even a few minutes at the beginning or end, but simply not enough to really get the work in that you need. It's just not realistic to have 19 other guys stand around while you focus on one small detail. 

Things like this are what private lessons are made for. 

To focus on those details that are so important to success, but don't fit into a team practice plan. 

The next reason that I think private lessons are so valuable is because they focus on accountability. In a private lesson there's no place to hide, or blend in. All eyes are on you, the player. 

I think this is important because it will become pretty obvious really quick who is there for the right reasons. And when I say right reasons, I mean who is there to genuinely work and get better. Believe it or not, there are plenty of players who take private lessons but don't have the right mindset to really maximize their time.

Plain and simple, your boundaries are pushed (or should be getting pushed) and you should feel challenged every time you have a lesson. 

The last reason that I think private lessons are so valuable boils down to one simple word: confidence. 

I think it's always the forgotten idea when it comes to why private lessons are so valuable, but for me, it's the most important reason behind getting lessons. 

If you've been following this blog then you know how important I think confidence is, and how it's something that we should be working on everyday. 

The reality is that great hockey players are confident. And on the flip side, players that struggle lack confidence. 

To some, that may sound like a very generalized statement, but I actually think it's true in every situation. 

I've never met a player who struggles that is genuinely confident. I've come across a few that have tried to put up a confident front, but once you start to dig a bit, the real truth comes out. 

One of the biggest components of being confident is building off of small successes.

That's precisely what private lessons are all about. 

Each drill you do, or area of your game you focus on, is really ingraining that success inside of your brain, and in the process, making you more confident. 

In other words, the repetition and focus of private lessons is not only building that individual element to your game, it's also, more importantly, building your confidence in the process. 

From a coaching perspective, I think that aspect is the most rewarding part of giving private lessons. 

To see a players confidence continue to grow week after week is simply awesome. 

While I know I have went on for a bit about the value of private lesson and why I believe in them so much, I also acknowledge that they aren't for everyone. 

First and foremost, I'm a big believer that lessons are only a good idea if the player is actually interested in them. Way to often, parents want their kids to get better more than their son or daughter really wants too. In these situations, the reality is that money is being wasted and the player isn't getting a whole lot better. It's like anything in life, if you want to be good at something YOU have to want to work for it. That's what I love about hard work, it can't be faked. So my advice is that if your kid really isn't that interested, then don't waste your time or money. 

Speaking of money, it's only fair that I bring up the elephant in the room: the cost. Plain and simple, private lessons are a financial commitment. And while I completely think they are worth it if you can afford it, I also understand that everyone's financial situation is different. And if you can't afford it, that doesn't mean that you, or your son or daughter, can't have a successful hockey career. Lessons are simply an alternative option to work on individual skills. 

My last point feeds off the previous paragraph about money. If you think that one or two lessons is going to make a difference then you're also wasting your time and money. The truth is, private lessons work because they allow the small skills to be worked on and developed. These skills don't improve in an hour. They improve over the course of weeks and months of repeatedly working on the same habits. So if you really think that spending money on "one or two lessons for a quick pick me up" are worth it, I completely disagree. Save your money. 

Like I said at the beginning of this, I am biased towards lessons because they are a big part of my life. However, I also wouldn't endorse them as much as I do if I didn't believe in them and the results they offer. 

So if you're really looking for a way to build your confidence and elevate your game to another level by focusing on the small details in an environment where your work ethic and focus is put on the spot every time, then private lessons is something I highly suggest. 

I hope you found this perspective about private lessons interesting. I know it's a subject that gets talked about a lot, and hopefully this gives some answers to questions that you might have.

If you have any thoughts about the subject please let me know. Either send me an email directly or reply here in the comment section. 

How To Deal With Not Getting Enough Ice Time

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It’s probably one of the questions that I get asked the most as a coach, why don’t I get more playing time?

The reality is that most players at some point in their hockey career are going to feel this way.

I dealt with this as a player, and the truth is, it’s never an easy hurdle to overcome.

But, over the years I’ve learned a lot (from being a player and now a coach) about the topic and I wanted to put something together that I wish I had when I was a player.

The truth is that most players when faced with this situation start down the path of playing the ‘pity game’. Coach doesn’t like me… Coach doesn’t know what he’s doing… Coach is unfair…

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ve all had those thoughts.

I know I did.

I got so wrapped up in worrying about that stuff that I’m sure it took away from my game. My attitude wasn’t great and I was wandering down a path of only worrying about me instead of the ‘we’ of my team.

So if you catch yourself going down this path, what should you do?

  1. Focus on the things you can control. I know this gets talked about a lot on this blog but I think this has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned in hockey, and life. Stop wasting time, and valuable energy, on things that don’t matter. Stop trying to analyze what’s going on in your coaches head and second guessing every decision that they make. That doesn’t mean that you’re going to like, agree, or understand everything that they do, but, it simply means that you shouldn’t be distracting yourself and wasting energy on things that you don’t have direct control over.

  2. How’s your attitude? Like I said up above, it’s easy to start spiraling down the path of negativity. But honestly, what’s that going to get you? Nothing. If you bring a bad attitude to the rink, do you honestly think that is going to help your team? Or, do you think bringing a negative attitude to the rink is going to make you’re coach think… “hey, this player has a really bad attitude, I think I should play him/her more…” It almost sounds funny when you read it, but think of about the last time you were frustrated with a coach or situation and how your attitude was. Was your attitude helping or hindering the success of your team?

  3. Are you putting in any extra work? If you’re unhappy with your ice time, are you willing to work harder and do the extra work to get better, or are you satisfied with simply complaining about the issue? We all want to think that we’re going the extra mile to get better, but the reality is that most players are not. To put it simply, it’s way easier to complain about a situation than actually put your head down, not complain, and work on your craft. What sort of things are you doing outside of your normal obligations (practices, workouts, meetings…) to get better? Ultimately, if it’s something that you really want then being willing to go the extra mile for it. I can guarantee you’ll never regret doing the extra work. Think about it this way, if you committed to shooting extra pucks everyday, or stickhandling for 20 minutes everyday at your house, do you think you would ever be able to go back and regret actually doing the work? No way, the only time you’re doing to have regrets is if you’re not willing to put in the work.

  4. Have a conversation with a coach. I know to some it seems daunting, but if you’re truly unhappy with your situation, then you should be willing to have a conversation about it. I’m yet to meet a coach that is unwilling to have a conversation with a player. With that being said, there are a few guidelines I would give any player going into that conversation. First, go in with the right attitude. Going in and saying “I think it’s unfair that I don’t get more ice time” is a lot different than going in and saying to a coach “I feel like I can do more to help the team be successful. What are you seeing, and what are things that I can work on to help contribute more to the team?” Ultimately, you’re saying the same thing, but option one is focused on YOU and your needs whereas option two is focused on the needs of your TEAM. That’s a big difference. The other piece of advice I have for players in this situation is to go into the conversation prepared to actually have a conversation. Trust me, I know that not every player is going to agree, or understand, the decisions that I make as a coach. And that’s ok! But if you’re genuine and truly want to help your team more, than being able to have a conversation will help you understand the situation and should hopefully leave you with a game plan of things to improve upon. Trust me, most coaches know it’s not an easy conversation for players to have, but we all respect the players that are willing to do it.

Like I said above, I’m sure at one point in your hockey career you’re going to be faced with the situation of wanting to get more ice time.

It can be a tough and frustrating time, but hopefully the advice above helps you focus on the right areas and prevents you from spiraling down the path of negativity.

Keep focusing on the things you can control and be willing to work for the things you want.

What You Should Focus On

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Personally, I'm not a huge social media person. I have all the accounts and use them occasionally, but it's usually for finding up to date information rather than post about myself. 

This is especially true for Twitter, for me. It's a great way to follow other coaches, learn from them, and stay up to date on highlights and other current events going on in the world. 

I came across a post a few weeks back that perfectly summed up my beliefs and a lot of what I talk about on this blog, focusing only on things that you can control. 

The picture above sums this up perfectly. 

It's almost like a two step process you should be asking yourself when thinking about things.

1. Does it matter?

2. Can you have any control over it?

If you can answer "YES" to both of those questions then it's worth your time, effort, and energy. 

On the flip side, if you answer "NO" to either one of those questions, then stop wasting your energy.

I see this a lot in hockey these days. Players get so caught up in so many different things and worrying about so many different things that they lose focus of what really matters. 

Ice time is the first example that immediately comes to mind for this. 

The reality is that if you're playing, and you're competitive, that you probably want more ice time. Even the guys that are on the top line and play a ton have thoughts about how they think they should get an additional shift or two. Trust me, I've been there as a player too... 

With that being said, if we use the diagram and ask ourselves the questions above that should help us come to an answer:

Does it matter? Yes

Do we have control over it? No

So that should lead us to the conclusion that you need to stop wasting so much energy thinking about how you're being short shifted and focus on the things that you can control. 

Now, I know that there are probably people that disagree with that last paragraph and would say that as a player you do control your ice time. 

In a sense you're right, in that most decisions about ice time are earned based on merit. In other words, if you play really well, have a good attitude, are a good teammate, are effective, and are producing for your team you're probably going to play more. 

I would agree with that. However, you still don't have complete control over your shifts and your ice time. That's your coaches job. 

You may be lighting it up and having a great game, but your coach might like a specific match up later in the game and decide to use someone else for a particular situation. Ultimately, it's your coaches responsibility to do what they feel is best for your team. 

Like I said earlier, this is just an example that I see all the time as a coach. 

In my experience, the best players are the ones that are able to identify the things that really matter and focus all their energy into that. 

Use the simple process outlined in the picture above and watch yourself become a more consistent player. 

The Truth About Confidence

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Confidence is another one of those terms we hear about all the time in hockey.

And rightfully so. 

It's absolutely vital for players and teams to have it in order to be successful. I mean it makes sense, if you're playing well you're playing with confidence, and on the flip side, if you're struggling you're probably lacking confidence. 

While none of that is earth shattering to any of you, there is one thing that really amazes me about people and their confidence and the way they think about it. 

Confidence, at its core, is solely individual based. 

In other words, no one can give you confidence.

As a coach, I can sit and talk with a player everyday and tell them how great I think they are, but unless they actually believe it, they won't be confident.

That doesn't mean that exterior factors (like a supportive coach) don't play into the overall building of confidence, because they do. But at the end of the day, it comes down to you as the individual to believe in yourself and your abilities. 

To back track for a minute, the exterior factors that I'm referring to are having a positive and healthy support system surrounding you. That can include teammates, coaches, family, and friends. You need people in your life who have your back and are there to support you through the good and the bad. These things help build confidence. But, just to clarify again...these things are there to help build confidence, but aren't the ultimate reason you're confident.

You are confident because you know it and believe it deep down in your heart and mind.

So what's one thing you can do today to help build your confidence?

Focus on the small successes.

To often, we only focus on huge massive victories as the only real measures of success. Now, while these are absolutely beneficial to becoming more confident, they aren't sustainable enough to help us build our confidence everyday. 

Another way to think about it is that we can't win a state championship everyday...it's just not possible. 

However, we can (and we should) be working on our confidence everyday. 

It's amazing how much of a difference focusing on small things can help build your confidence up everyday. 

Things like blocking a shot, making a tape to tape pass, winning a 1 on 1 battle, taking a hit to make a play, having an active stick and breaking up a scoring opportunity... the list can go on and on but I hope this gives you a glimpse of what I'm talking about. 

Personally, I started to figure out this concept as I was getting out of high school. I used to be like most players where I solely based my 'did I play good or bad' on if I scored a goal or not. Man was that counterproductive...

I think the real turning point for me was when I got to Culver. We won a close game 3-2 where I scored a couple goals, including the game winner with only a few minutes left in the third period. 

I ended up having a conversation with our coach about the game the next day. He told me he thought I played really well. My initial gut reaction was that I agreed with him but I figured he said that just because I scored a couple goals.

But the more we talked, he never talked about either goal once. 

Instead, he talked about what he thought was a big turning point was when we were short handed late in the second period and I had a big shot block. To be honest, I had forgotten about the play until he brought it up. 

His second point that he brought up was another play that to most casual observers was lost in the mix. He talked about how on the backcheck on a play in the third period I read the play well and picked up their late third guy joining the rush and prevented him from being a scoring threat. 

Kind of crazy to think about, but those were the two things that stood out to him that I had played a good game. 

Needless to say, that conversation made an impact on the way I thought about the game, doing my job, and success in general. (I mean that conversation was 14 years ago and I still remember it...)

My perspective began to change on what was really important and what it really meant to contribute. In turn, my confidence continued to grow.

The more I started to focus on the small successes the more confident I became. Not only did it help me find more success on a consistent basis, it helped eliminate the roller coaster of emotion that sometimes plagues players who only focus on numbers. 

I really started to realize that being a good player, and more importantly a confident player, meant doing a lot more things than scoring goals. 

Once my thought process changed, it became easier to find positive things to focus on which in turn helped my confidence grow everyday. 

Hockey and life is all about making progress. If you can get 1% more confident everyday, I guarantee you'll start to notice a huge difference in your game.

So I am putting the challenge out there to all of you to start finding small little victories in everything you do...everyday. Do this in hockey and in life and your confidence will continue to grow. 

Do any of you currently do anything like this to help build your confidence?

Let me know in the comments below.

3 Ways To Prove You're A Good Teammate

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Being a great teammate is an absolutely vital part of being a hockey player.

For all the coaches out there, I'm sure you've all stressed the importance of being a great teammate to your players. 

But, how many of us can honestly say that we have an entire team of great teammates?

Sadly, probably not many of us. 

With that being said, it is possible, and when it happens the results are amazing. In fact, I'm a big believer that having great teammates is often the deciding factor for the best teams. In other words, the teams that win championships are usually the teams that are filled with the best teammates. And, I'd even go as far to say that I believe this to be true even up through the highest levels of hockey. 

For me as a coach, there are three things that I look for in a player that shows what kind of teammate they are. 

I say shows because have you ever talked with a player who admitted they were a bad teammate? I've been around the game a long time as a player and coach and I'm yet to come across one... If you ask any player if they're a good teammate, they're all going to say that they are. So for me, the proof is in their actions. 

1. Do They Block Shots?

Maybe not what most of you were expecting for the first thing that I look for as a coach, but it's true. Blocking shots is simply hockey courage. It's willing to sacrifice your body for the rest of the group. It's potentially putting yourself, and your body, at risk for the betterment of the other 19 guys on the team. To me, it's the ultimate way to show your teammates how much you care. 

Besides scoring a goal, what do teams get most excited for on the bench during the game? A huge shot block. From a players perspective, it's a way to prove to your teammates that you're laying it all on the line. You'd be hard pressed to find a guy who's constantly sacrificing his body, day in and day out, that isn't highly respected by this teammates. 

On the flip side, think of how you feel when a teammate flamingos a shot, or is intentionally just a little too slow to try and get out to block that shot from the point... As a player, we all start to question where the commitment to the team really is. 

I can guarantee you this, the pain you feel from blocking a shot will never be as bad as the feeling of skating back to the bench after you had a chance to block a shot and didn't and the other team scored. 

Part of being a great teammate is putting the team first, and one of the best ways to show that is to 'eat' a few pucks from time to time. 

2. How Do You Celebrate On The Bench When A Teammate Scores?

As a coach, it's always one of the most interesting things to observe on the bench. How do guys on the bench react when your team scores?

Some of you might be surprised by this point, but if you've been around the game for a long time, and coached before, you know what I'm talking about. 

It almost seems like a crazy notion because we all naturally think that if our team scores we all should be excited and celebrate. If only that was true...

Great teammates celebrate every goal for there team. And you can tell it's a genuine excitement for the team. Because let's be honest, if you're a great teammate then it doesn't matter who scores, as long as it's someone on your team. 

Guys who aren't good teammates don't get excited for other guys when they're on the bench. They may give a subtle cheer, but usually their body language tells the real story. It's usually either a why wasn't that me or a if coach gave me that ice time I could score too... or it's something along the lines of man that was such a lucky play. 

The reality is, if you're a great teammate you don't care if it's a dangle, a rebound garbage goal, or luck. You're just excited that your team found a way to get one home. 

Once again, this is another one of those instances where body language tells a huge story. It's not only about saying the right things, but it's more about showing the right things. 

3. How Do You Respond When A Teammate Makes A Mistake On The Ice?

What's your first response when you see your teammate turn the puck over?

Are you the teammate that instantly is saying "COME ON..."or "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Or, are you that teammate who is looking around at the rest of the guys saying "we're alright" or "we'll get it back"; or at the next whistle skating over to that teammate and giving him a tap on the shin pads and saying "we're good, shake it off"?

When you read it that way, it's pretty easy to decipher who's a good teammate and who isn't. 

And now I'm sure that someone is going to comment or bring up the fact that some players only react the first way because they are competitive and care so much. 

To me, that answer (or shall I say excuse) is crap. Just because you are competitive and like to win doesn't give you the right to be a bad teammate. In fact, if that's how you react you're only hurting your team, not helping. 

If you're a good teammate, you realize that no one is perfect and mistakes happen. Hockey is a game built on mistakes. The team that can stick together through those mistakes, and pick each other up, is usually the team that will end up winning. 

What do you think of that list? Do you agree, or disagree?

These are just three different, or unusual, things that I look at as a coach that helps me understand who's a good teammate and who isn't. 

The other cool part to all three of these things (and that follows a trend we've been talking about in this blog) is that they take no talent to do.

I'll admit that blocking shots is definitely an art form, but the reality is that the biggest component to being great at blocking shots is simply having the hockey courage to throw your body in front of pucks and do whatever it takes for the team. 

But the truth is that all three of these points are a choice. They're a choice for each player to make. And the thing that I like most is that they are instantaneous. They aren't just asking someone a question and giving them the opportunity to make sure they say the 'right thing'. But rather, they are a gut reaction. They show the true colors and character of the individual. 

So after reading this, are you a great teammate?

The Truth About Tryouts

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What can I say about tryouts other than they suck.

They suck for players, they suck for coaches...really they suck for anyone who has a vested interest in the team or player.

While on one hand it’s exciting because it’s the fresh start of a season, the actual tryout portion has always sucked.

As a player, it’s stressful.

There’s always that thought in the back of your mind of wondering what coaches are thinking and also trying to wonder where you fit in, if at all, with a team.

While I used to think tryouts were stressful as a player, they are even more stressful as a coach.

Regardless of what you think, or what some people say, it’s never easy to cut kids.

There’s also so much more that goes into tryouts besides judging someone’s ability or talent. For me, it’s always a constant battle to find the right players to fill the roles needed to have a successful team.

There really is no better way to say it then to quote Herb Brooks...”it’s not about picking the best players, it’s about picking the right ones.”

In other words, you don’t build a good hockey team with 20 guys that can score goals. You need all facets of the game covered. You obviously need skilled players, but you also need guys to play defense, kill penalties, be physical...and the list goes on.

There also needs to be the team dynamic.

Successful teams have a bond that is often hard to explain. It’s not that they always get along with each other, but I think the difference is that there’s a mutual respect amongst the players and a commitment to the same end goal. And each player is truly genuine in these feelings.

We all know that it’s one thing to say it but it’s another thing to say it, believe it, and actually do it.

With all that being said, I’ve always tried to keep the same perspective. Put the needs of the team ahead of the individual and don’t stress about trying to please everyone.

Trying to please everyone is a recipe for disaster. No matter what happens, someone’s always unhappy.

So for players, my advice for tryouts is to go in with the attitude of controlling what you can control. These include things like your work ethic, attention to details, and playing with a little sense of desperation in your game. Also, remember everything happens for a reason. So whether you make a team or not, learn something from and become a better person through it.

For coaches, go into tryouts with an open mind and a plan of what you need to build a successful team for the long haul. Taking extra top end talent might look good in the short term but is that really the best thing for your team to be peaking and playing it’s best at the playoffs?

And at the end of the day, always trust your gut. It’s crazy to think, but nearly every time I have trusted my gut, I feel like I have made the right decision. The ones that have come back to bite me are the times I went against what my gut was telling me.

The Importance Of Understanding Your Role In Hockey

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As players get older and start playing on more competitive teams, things start to change. 

Ice time is no longer equal. 

Winning starts to be emphasized more. 

Different roles have to be filled by players in order to build a successful, and cohesive, team. 

Some people disagree with this thinking, some say they agree as long as there kid is still on the first line, and then there is the small minority who fully agrees with this reality. 

Personally, as long as it is age appropriate, I am 100% on board with this and think that being a part of a team that emphasizes those three ideas teaches a lot of valuable life lessons. 

The reality is that in the real world, life is not always fair. Someone is probably going to get a promotion or make more money than you at some point even though you think you deserve it more. 

I think that's one of the best lessons I ever learned throughout all my time in hockey. The importance of understanding your role and accepting it in order to make the group better. 

It's honestly a humbling and often difficult experience at first. 

Let's face it, we live in an often selfish, me-first, type of world these days. Sports and hockey are no different. 

Nearly everyone thinks that they should be on the first line, on the powerplay, and on the ice protecting the one goal lead late in the third. 

But the reality is, we all know that just isn't true. 

And here's the crazy part, THAT'S OK!!

We have this image in our head as hockey players that if we aren't the first line center then we aren't as good or important to our teams success. 

I'm here to tell you that is completely false. In fact, I would argue that you would have a hard time finding a really great hockey team at any level that didn't have a lot of depth, and role players, to go along with that top end talent. 

I look at some of the most successful teams I've ever coached. Those teams were recognized by outsiders because of a few of our top end offensive players, but when I look back at those teams I think about a couple of the stay at home defensemen who were so strong in our own zone and in front of our net. And I think about a few of the role players who's specialty became killing penalties and blocking shots. 

I'll be the first to admit, not the most glamorous jobs, but none the less absolutely vital to the success of our team. 

The reality is that you can't have four first line centers. You need to have that third line center who can shut down an opposing top offensive line and maybe occasionally chip in offensively. Just like you need that fourth line to be strong in the defensive zone and give you a few great shifts when the team needs it. 

I'm not saying that anyone should ever settle with their role, especially when still playing minor hockey. But, I am saying that you should embrace your role for whatever it is and make the most of it. You have to be able to look at it as doing your job and holding up your end of the bargain. 

For me, I have always related it to a wheel. Each player on the team is a different spoke on the wheel. When all 20 guys are doing their job, the wheel is strong and sturdy and rolls along smooth. When you have a few guys that aren't buying in, the wheel can still move and function, but it's not nearly as efficient. And when that road starts to get bumpy and tough, that's when that wheel will fail you. 

So whether you play every other shift or one shift a period, find a way to contribute. If you aren't getting a ton of ice time, be a great teammate. Encourage your teammates, pump them up, show them that you genuinely want them to succeed. I'm telling you that if you can learn to think this way you'll make it a hundred times further than if you don't. 

Remember that it takes all types to build a successful team. Make sure you're one of the spokes that's helping carry the weight.