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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. 

The Mental Battle All Hockey Players Face

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Be honest with yourself, have you ever felt like you were going to lose before you even played the game?

I’m guessing that if you’re being completely honest with yourself, then everyone reading this will be able to answer ‘yes’.

Isn’t it crazy the mind games we play with ourselves from time to time?

Whether we look at the team we’re playing and assume they’re better, or maybe we’ve lost to them in the past, or maybe we know some of the players on the other team and know how talented they are, or maybe it’s just that they’re physically bigger…

Whatever it may be, we’ve all played the mental battle with ourselves and put ourselves behind the ball before the game even starts.

It’s amazing to me as a coach how often I see this and how much this truly dictates the outcome of the game.

I’m a firm believer that if you go into a situation expecting to lose, or fail, you’re probably going to.

However, on the flip side, if you go into the situation knowing, and expecting, to win you’re already ahead of the curve.

I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to coach some very good, and successful, hockey teams.

When people ask me about what made those teams different, this is usually one thing that I always bring up right away. Those teams had the confidence, and swagger, to walk into the rink every night knowing and expecting to win.

They didn’t care who we were playing, they looked at it as that team had to come play us.

It truly played to our advantage.

You could sense, and see the intimidation on the opposing teams in warmups and that only added to our teams confidence.

In fact, I used to talk with my assistant coaches about how you could tell what type of game it was going to be that night depending how the other team showed up to the rink.

You could get a sense if they were focused, excited, and ready for the challenge, or, if they were just there because they had to and hoping to survive the next few hours.

It always amazes me how the mind tricks we play on ourselves really effects so much in our performance.

So what do you do with all this?

First off, don’t beat yourself before you even get started. Hockey, and life, is a competitive venture where realistically you’re not going to win every night. But, if you go in without the expectation of winning, you’re almost always guaranteeing your outcome.

Rise up to the challenge. If you’re playing a great team, visualize the victory. Know in your heart that you’re going to leave it all on the ice, and remember, that’s why we play the game. Think of all the amazing underdog stories you’ve heard about in sports throughout your life. Why did those happen? Because a team of people came together with the belief that they would be able to create greatness for that night.

Be prepared. It sounds simple, but it’s so true. Control the things that are in your power to control and make sure that you’re doing everything in your power to give you the best chance at being successful. Know that it won’t be easy, but challenging and pushing our limits is what makes us grow and get better.


On the flip side, if you’re a great team use that confidence to your advantage. Have a great warmup, start quick, and don’t give teams lacking confidence a chance to recover and think they have a chance.

Remember that your mind is an incredibly powerful tool.

It can be used to help you, or hurt you.

Make sure that it’s helping prepare you for the challenges you face and always go into every battle with the optimism that greatness is going to happen in your favor.

So to sum everything up in one statement, don’t beat yourself before the game even starts.

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. 

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 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. 

What Does It Mean To 'Buy In?'

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I feel like nearly every coach and every team, regardless of sport, talks about the importance of buying in. 

So what does it mean to buy in?

To put it simply, it means to fully engage yourself as a player to the team concepts, team goals, and, most importantly, to your teammates. 

While to most this seems like a fairly common sense ideal, and not something that is new or revolutionary to sports, there are plenty of people that will say they don't get it (trust me I dealt with a handful of parents and players that claimed just that this past year). 

Another way to look at it is this: if you don't get buy in, you won't be successful as a team. 

I would be willing to argue with anyone about that last statement.

I've been around the game for almost 30 years. In that time, I've been a part of some really good teams and some teams that really struggled. And, if I'm being honest, if you really dig down to the core of every one of those teams, the buy in is the difference. 

A team of 20 that are all focused on the same goals and are able to build a trust and respect with each other is a pretty impressive and powerful thing. Mix that in with some talent and you have a nearly unstoppable team. 

I've been lucky as a coach to win two state championships in the past few years. 

Now that a few years have passed, it's really amazing to look back on those teams and see what really sticks out about those groups. It's almost funny, because to an outsider, I would almost guarantee that they would say that they remember the talent of the players. 

But for me, I remember the leadership and the buy in from the entire team. The talent is completely secondary. And that's the honest truth (I'm not just saying that to fit this blog post...)

It's little things like remembering seniors who accepted being role players with their minutes but leaders in the locker room and off the ice. 

To me those guys were the difference makers on the team. Those were the guys where 'buying in' could be the most challenging. It would have been really easy for guys to have bad attitudes or cause problems because they were seniors and thought they should have been playing more. But they didn't. Looking back at it now, I'm amazed at their maturity and their ability to have perspective on things and truly embrace their part. 

It's funny because I still talk with a lot of those guys and not one of them ever brings up the amount of points or the ice time they got. The things they do talk about every year were the bus trips, the close games in front of a sold out arena, the funny hockey stories about things that happened over the course of that season... 

The real cool part about those teams is that even the guys that played a lot and got a lot of recognition don't reminisce about their individual success. Now that a few years have past, they remember the fun times with their teammates at the rink and at school more than an individual performance in a game. 

Now the crazy thing about buying in, is that it really takes a whole team. The old saying 'it only takes one bad apple to ruin the bunch' is completely true. I've seen it and I've, unfortunately, been a part of it. 

I decided to write about this topic for a couple reasons. 

First, it's another one of those questions that everyone should be asking themselves. Coaches, parents, and players a like.

Coaches have to lead and coaches have to set the ultimate example of buying in. It starts from the top and if you aren't committed and showing up everyday focused and ready to work, then your teams will follow suit. 

Parents are a support system to their athletes. Whether you realize it or not, the attitude that you have towards the coach, team, and other players is contagious to your son or daughter. If you aren't supporting and buying into the team, your son or daughter isn't going to either. 

Players are presented everyday with new and different opportunities to learn and grow as athletes and people. If you're playing hockey then you need to remember that you signed up for the ultimate team game. There will be obstacles along the way, both personal and team wise, but your attitude and 'buy in' will make the difference. Are you going to get on the boat and paddle with the team, or try to battle the waves and swim yourself? I think we all know which one will ultimately succeed... 

The second point is that this is another one of those areas that we can completely control. I've talked a lot about how we all need to focus on the things that we can control and stop wasting time and energy on the things we can't. 

You are 100% in control of your 'buy in'. 

If you remember the way that I described 'buying in' at the top, you'll notice that every one of those things is something that you can control. 

You can control whether you buy in to the team concepts, systems, and rules. 

You can control whether you buy in to the goals set forth by the team. 

And you can definitely control whether you are a great teammate. 

If you notice a trend in the things I talk about, the real important things in hockey and life, are all things that we can control. 

Can you be a good teammate? Can you be coachable? Can you put the team first? Can you show up everyday and work as hard as you can? 

If you can answer YES to those simple questions, then you understand the power of 'buying in'. And if you can't, then hockey isn't going to be a good fit. 

Enjoy the journey and 'buy in' because I guarantee you'll enjoy the ride a hell of a lot more.

The Truth About Taking Accountability

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How bad do you want to get to the next level? How bad do you want to improve?

I think a lot of us think about these sorts of things with everyday life, and I know I see it a lot with hockey.

Players talking about how they want to play at the next level, or how they want things to be different next year.

But that just naturally leads to the next question of, how are you going to do those things, and how bad do you really want it?

It's really easy to say all the right things. It's really hard to actually follow through.

I feel like I see this more and more, unfortunately. Players making these awesome statements about the things they are going to do but then not be willing to fully commit and go after it the way they need to.

I also see a lot of blaming going on when things don't work out the way that a player wants. It makes sense, we live in a society where it's easy to push blame off to others and not take accountability for our own success or failure.

But, the truth is, you have to be the one that drives yourself to success. Coaches, for example, are just another tool to help you get there, they can't be the sole motivating factor. Anyone who's truly successful at anything has to have a strong internal drive.

Ultimately, a big part of a coaches responsibility is to help push players to that next level and hold them accountable. But, the harsh reality is that your success or failure will not come down to a coach pushing you. In fact, the same can be said for anyone. You're not going to make it to where you want to be because of someone else, YOU will need to be the deciding factor.

Your success or failure will come down to how much you are willing to put in.

As the old saying goes, how hard are you working when no one is watching?

The players that can buy into that are the ones that will ultimately make it to the next level.

I know that looking back at my own career the things that I gained the most from were the things that no one knew I was doing.

Working out with my uncle on all those early mornings, shooting pucks in my driveway...those are some of the extra things that really helped develop my game and get me to where I wanted to be.

The point of this post is to not be discouraging at all. But rather, to remind you that it's really hard to get to the top, and that's ok. Be willing to take accountability for your goals and dreams and put the onus on yourself to make them happen. Don't rely on someone else to make your dreams come true. If you want something, YOU find a way to make it happen.

When your heart is in the right place and your mind is focused and strong you have the chance to make incredible things happen.

Believe in yourself and never be scared of some good, honest, hard work.

Conquer Your Hockey Fears: 6 Ways To Succeed

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I've talked about fear before on this blog and how everyone goes through it as a hockey player. How you react to it can really make a difference. I think this article by John Haime, a mental performance coach, is really worth the read. He brings up a ton of good points and has a lot of great advice to overcome those obstacles and be your best. 

 

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.” —Yoda

I think we can agree that fear isn’t fun. It makes you feel anxious, unsure of yourself and can have a significant impact on how much you enjoy the game. It also shrinks confidence—a secret weapon you need to play your best on the ice. And don’t forget, your fear can impact your hockey teammates too, so addressing your fears is important for both you and the success of your team!

What is it you’re afraid of in your game?

Well, it could be many things: like the real, tangible fear of failure, making mistakes, not reaching expectations set for you, disappointing your teammates, coaches or parents, or a rather lengthy list of reasons that can cause those uncomfortable feelings and take the enjoyment out of your game.

But fear not! There’s help on the way for you to address any fear you have and bring a more relaxed, carefree mindset to your game.

Biology Doesn’t Help

First, if you don’t feel fear you simply aren’t a human being. We all feel fear, to different degrees—it’s what makes us human. I have the privilege to work with some of the world’s leading athletes, including NHL players—and they feel fear—so it’s not surprising that you might feel fear in your game too.

To a degree, we are all prisoners of our biology. As human beings, we are built to survive and protect ourselves. The amygdala, or control center of the emotional brain, makes sure of that. This little alarm mechanism has ensured the survival of the human species for centuries. You know how it works: you perceive a threat, the alarm goes off and that uncomfortable feeling begins. We all are familiar with this feeling.

When human life was about “eat or be eaten” and our ancestors were dealing with real, life threatening challenges every day, the alarm was a must-have. But for you as a rec hockey player, the emotional brain doesn’t really know the difference between a hungry lion chasing your ancestor and your perceived threat of embarrassing yourself on the ice.

That’s important for you to know.

The What Ifs

Working with hockey players every day, the primary cause of fear that I address is a future projection of what a player believes may happen—what we call the “what ifs.” The tendency is projecting out that something negative may happen (protect mode) and that makes the athlete anxious in the moment, telling themselves things like “I can’t do it” or “Why am I doing this?”

An example for you might be... You arrive at the rink for a game, your teammates, coaches, parents and others are waiting for you to perform, and the voice inside you starts considering threats and acting up...

“WHAT IF I look dumb in front of everyone?”

“WHAT IF I screw up and let my team down?”

“WHAT IF I let my coach and supporters down?”

“WHAT IF I don’t play well?”

This creates your anxious feeling, and depending on the intensity of the feeling it can be a real distraction—and sometimes even overwhelming.

There are many “what if” scenarios that could distract you from your central purpose for playing the game: enjoying the game you love and achieving something important to you. Keep in mind that although you project out these things might happen, they almost always never do—and that’s important for you to remember.

Isolated experiences from the past can also create feelings of fear. Negative emotional memories can be brought forward to cause the anxious feelings and also distract you from the performance you’re facing. Experiences in the past are real and a part of you, but your focus must be on all of the great, positive experiences in the game (there will be many) leaving the few, negative ones behind.

So, there is nothing wrong with you for feeling fear. It is completely normal. Recognize that your emotional brain always has the antenna up to perceive threats. Remember the advice from Yoda as a first step: you must recognize your fear. Then, you must ask yourself the question of how much of a threat it really is.

Ideas & Strategies That Help Conquer Your Hockey Fears

Here are 6 simple recommendations that we might use with a player that can help you deal with your fears and put them in perspective:

1. Address your fears directly. What are you afraid of and what could be the reasons? When you understand what might be causing your fear and acknowledge it, it will help you consider ideas how on to address it.

2. Always remember your purpose for playing. “I love playing hockey because I love the speed, the competitive environment, the opportunity to show my skills and sharing an experience with my teammates.” Write your purpose down and keep it front and center—always! Your purpose will help you create perspective about what’s REALLY important in your game and why you are doing it.

Remember also that having a feeling of gratitude about the opportunity to play and do what you love to do can fill you with positive energy and dampen those feelings of fear.

3. Learn to manage the most important voice in your game—and your life—your own! Sometimes our own voice doesn’t help and tells you things you really don’t want to hear, building the threats into something bigger than they are.

It’s important to develop your own “emotional caddie”—a friendly, supportive voice that you might use if your best friend was having troubles. Try the same language and tone with yourself. A few suggestions might be:

“I can’t wait to test what I’ve been working on in practice.”

“Everyone watching is supporting me. I’ll treat them to some great play.”

“My best effort is all I can do. I might make a few mistakes, but being perfect doesn’t exist.”

“Pressure really gives my game meaning. This is where I want to be!

4. Confidence and constantly building it is a secret weapon to overcome fear. Creating a feeling of “knowing” you can do it in your practice and preparation will help keep those fearful “what if” thoughts from taking over. After all, you’ve done great work with the team and on your own. You know you can do it, so bring the same feelings and approach to the game ice.

5. Practice mindfulness to enjoy playing hockey and stay in the moment. The future is where your goals are, but you don’t achieve them without staying in the moment and paying attention to the steps that will get you to those goals. Choose to bring the positive experiences from the past forward to support your confidence—and choose to leave the few negative ones where they belong—behind you!

6. Know the difference between prove vs. improve. The goal in your game should always be trying to improve all of your skills (technical, physical, strategic, mental/emotional). Sometimes, when our goal is to “prove” ourselves to others, fear will creep in—the fear of the “what ifs” and trying to meet others’ expectations of you. Winning is great, but it will only come if you are doing the right things—enjoying yourself and trying to become a better player each and every day.

The Bottom Line: If fear is holding you back from really enjoying playing hockey and using all your abilities, fear not! Remember that you are in control of your fears and there are practical actions that can help you douse the flames, helping you to be a more confident, proactive player.

Follow these steps and you are well on your way to your Pursuit of Greatness!

John Haime is a Human Performance Coach who prepares performers to be their very best. He is passionate about helping others prepare, think and perform like a world-class athlete. This article appears on CrossIceHockey.com—For the Recreational Hockey Player, courtesy of HockeyShot.com.

My Hockey Advice

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I'm part of a private Facebook group for coaches. 

Not just hockey coaches, but all types of coaches from all sorts of different levels and representing all sorts of different sports. 

It's been an awesome community to be a part of and is interesting to see other coaches perspectives on their sport. 

It got me thinking about this blog the other day when I saw something that was asking what's the best advice you can give to an athlete. 

So what's the best advice that I can give to a hockey player?

The more I thought about it, I realized that my advice isn't specific to hockey but really is useful for any athlete, or really anyone looking for advice. 

For me, it comes down to two things:

1. Be passionate about what you do.

2. Be willing to work incredibly hard day in and day out for whatever you're passionate about.

I really believe that if you can master those two concepts that you will always be able to find success in some fashion. 

As we all know, hockey is hard. 

If you want to be good at it, you're going to have to commit a lot of time, effort, and energy into becoming a hockey player. 

Days will get tough...hell seasons will be tough. But, if you want to be a hockey player then you need to have a passion for the game. A love so pure for the game that getting on the ice everyday is exciting. 

Now the beauty of this is that if you have a real passion for something, like hockey, then working hard at it shouldn't come as a huge struggle. 

The people that are really passionate about the game are the ones that really embrace the grind of it all. They take the good with the bad and make the best of it. 

I really believe that if you can find what you're passionate about and really work at it, you'll find success. 

Hard Work Is The Foundation

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I don't ever want to sound like a broken record, but the importance of learning how to work can't be stressed enough.

There's a thing called shiny object syndrome. A lot of people have it, and hockey players are no different.

Basically, it means that its easy to get caught up in something new (and shiny) that pulls your attention and focus away from what really matters.

Hockey players fall into this same trap. In fact, even teams can get caught up in this same syndrome.

We recently had a team meeting where we were going over expectations for the second half of the season and having an open discussion about what we needed to do as a group to continue improving. It was a good conversation with a lot of good points brought up by different members of the team. (I like to have these types of meetings and let the players do the majority of the talking while I help moderate and keep the conversation going. I think it helps the players grow and take some accountability for THEIR team). Players were bringing up things like better tape to tape passing, finishing more checks, utilizing the points more in the offensive zone and so on and so forth. All great things and all definitely things that, if we do, will help us be a more successful team. After about five minutes of this, however, I stopped the group and gave some of my feedback.

I was happy with the conversation but I felt like we were missing something big. We were missing the foundation.

I like to compare it to building a house.

It doesn't make much sense to start building the roof first if you're building a house, right?

Of course not.

Think about the process of building a house. The first thing that is done, and really the center piece to the whole thing, is the foundation. Without a strong foundation, everything else is done in waste. You can have the most amazing floor plan in the world but if it doesn't have a solid foundation to sit on, then it doesn't really matter because you're never going to get to enjoy the actual house.

Just like a house, the foundation of any successful player or team has to be its work ethic. As a player, you can work on your stickhandling all day but if you don't know how to work you aren't going to be successful.

The same thing can be said for a team. 

As a team, you can work on passing and shooting and systems all day, but at the end of the day, if you don't have the work ethic ingrained as the top priority then it all doesn't matter.

The hard work, the will to go above and beyond, the ability to push through obstacles, the drive to show up everyday and give your best... that all has to be the priority. Those things build the foundation of a successful player and team.

Once you have that established then everything else (the shiny objects) are those extra intangibles that you can add to your game that will only help you continue to build upon that solid foundation.

The point behind this whole post is that it's easy to get caught up in the distractions that surround the game (or in life). Focus on the things that really matter and make sure that your foundation is strong and sturdy. A great foundation can withstand nearly anything that comes at it.

Remember, it takes no talent to work hard so keep grinding after the things you want. When all else fails, always be able to fall back on your work ethic.