It's a simple question, but if I'm a betting man I'm going to say that a lot of you out there haven't asked yourself it yet.
As the season starts to wear down, I think it's always important to take a step back and reflect on how things have gone over the past few months. For most of us, we're getting into the end of the regular season with playoffs (hopefully for most) quickly approaching.
To many, this becomes the 'grind' part of the season. The point in the year where you almost fall into a routine. You know what to expect from practices and it becomes more of a sense of fine tuning than learning new systems and styles.
But the truth is, this becomes a dangerous way to think. Becoming satisfied is never a good thing for any competitor. As cliche as it may sound, if you're not pushing yourself to get better everyday, someone else out there is.
I'm also a firm believer that this is one of the things that separates great teams from good ones.
Luckily for me, I've been able to be a part of a couple really great teams that have accomplished a lot of amazing things.
I'll never forgot my second year as a head coach and we were having our last practice of the season before we went to play in the state semifinal game. We were having a typical pregame skate where we'd go through a few flow drills to get our legs going, work on the powerplay...all of those types of things.
Then about 30 minutes into practice our captain comes over to me while the second powerplay unit was working and said "bag us". It was one of those moments where I was listening to him but was actually watching the other powerplay unit. But, obviously that caught my attention and I turned and looked at him with a bit of a grin. (I mean to be honest, we weren't having a bad practice or anything like that.) And I kind of laughed it off and said what are you talking about. But he was insistent. He said he didn't like the vibe in the locker room before practice and he said that while the practice wasn't bad, it wasn't good enough either.
I thought about it for a second... nodded my head, blew the whistle, and got everyone on the goal line.
I went on to 'bag' the boys for the next 5 or 6 minutes.
It not only caught the team off guard and had them questioning what went wrong, but more importantly, it got them out of that stagnant routine and brought that focus to an even higher level.
Like I said before, we weren't having a bad practice at all. But, the last 20 minutes were unbelievable. The team was passionate, fast, and confident.
The next night we punched our ticket to the state championship game and then one night later won our first state title in school history.
It was one of the first times that I had ever been a part of a group that never settled. We weren't satisfied. We all had the mindset of 'just getting there' wasn't good enough.
Keeping things in perspective, remembering what you're ultimately working for, and reflecting on your own growth are great ways to make sure that you aren't just settling because the season is starting to wind down.
Players should use this point in the season to do a little reality check. Take a step back and have some perspectiveand remember your 'Why' and what you and your team are ultimately working for. Don't let yourself get stuck in the monotony that lets yourself get stagnant and lose your edge. The players that can do this will be the ones that keep excelling and will be able to play their best hockey in the biggest moments.
Coaches need to be able to have a good pulse on the team and their players all the time, but especially during this time of year. Keep your players on their toes and keep driving home the goals of why you're working on the things you are and what the group is ultimately playing for. It's another great place to stress home the point of treating every day as an opportunity. Like I said above, practices can be stagnant and repetitive (which sometimes is necessary) but make sure that you're continually driving your players to get better everyday.
I'm a complete believer that the players and coaches that can keep this strong mindset are the ones who will be still be standing in the end.
So, naturally that begs the questions...
Are you still grinding everyday? Are you settling and staying inside your comfort zone?
Ask yourself those questions and let me know what you think.