Attitude Is Everything

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Isn’t it amazing how far a good attitude can take you in life?

The same can be said with hockey.

Having a good attitude plays such a crucial role to the success of a team, and you as an individual.

It’s another one of those things that sounds so simple, and easy in theory, yet can often times be one of the more challenging aspects to a season.

We all have good days and bad, and most teams go through slumps and struggles throughout the course of the season. How we react during those times often makes the biggest difference, and can make those slumps shorter, and fewer and far between.

Like we’ve talked about on here before, how you mentally go into a game is going to make a huge difference towards the outcome. In other words, if you go in thinking you have no chance of winning, then chances are you’re right.

So how do you ensure that you have the right attitude everyday at the rink?

  1. Be there for the right reasons. Love what you’re doing, but also know that everyday isn’t going to be perfect. And that’s ok. But, if you can remember all the reasons why you love the game, it makes it a lot easier to keep your attitude positive.

  2. Keep things in perspective. Think about all the work you’ve put into the game and how lucky you are to get the opportunity to play the game you love.

  3. Enjoy the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself. As we’ve talked about before, hockey is the ultimate team game. And, there’s nothing better than having 15 or 20 of your friends all working towards the same goals and achieving success together. Each person has a role and a responsibility to your team and teammates, make sure you’re coming through for them. And having a great attitude is a big part of that.

  4. Make sure you’re having fun. Regardless of how old you are, the game needs to be fun. If you can find fun at the rink, then it’s always a good day. Even if things aren’t going your way on a particular day, find a way to incorporate some fun into the day. Whether in the locker room, on the bench, or on the ice there’s always a way to bring some fun to the rink.

Focus your time and energy on your attitude because it’s another one of those things that’t entirely in your control. You can control your attitude everyday. And from my experience, the days where you can have a great attitude are always more successful than the days that you don’t.

Keep pushing towards the things you want and loving the game of hockey.

The One Question We All Need To Ask Ourselves

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I think there’s a simple question that gets lost in the shuffle of hockey all the time.

We become so caught up in the routine that I think we forget to take a second and stop and think.

Do you actually want to do this?

I guess when you really stop and think about it, it’s a simple question to ask but a much harder question to answer for most.

It’s just like an onion where there are many layers. We all need to keep peeling back different sections to ultimately get to our answer.

I think it’s becoming all to common that players are getting to the realization that hockey at a high level is not something they are interested in pursuing anymore.

And you know what, that’s ok.

I think so many of us get caught up in the thinking that “I’ve been playing hockey for most of my life and the goal has always been to keep getting better, and making that higher team” that we forget to keep checking in with ourselves to see if that’s really what we want.

The truth is, I think a lot of players continue to play through their adolescence and teen years because it’s “simply what they do, and have always done.” And not necessarily because the love and drive of the game is what is fueling them to go to the rink everyday.

Or, they keep telling themselves that they want to play on that high level team, when in reality, they simply enjoy playing the game but don’t have the drive or desire to put in the necessary work to truly enjoy the experience.

The truth is, the higher in hockey you go, the more commitment, time, and sacrifice that it takes to be a part of it.

I think too often we don’t ask ourselves that simple question, and instead, just keep following our old routine, or trying to make our parents happy, or continue playing because that’s what our friends are doing.

The reality is, if your heart isn’t in it, then why are you doing it?

There’s no shame in coming to the realization that you don’t want to commit a huge chunk of your time, effort, and energy into something that your heart just isn’t passionate about.

That also doesn’t mean that you don’t still enjoy the game. It simply means that different areas of your life you are prioritizing more. And like I said above, that’s ok.

So I ask all of you to take a second and ask yourself the simple question, do you actually want to do this?

And if you do, then great that’s awesome. Keep grinding away and pursuing your dreams and committing to your team and teammates.

But if you don’t, that’s ok too.

And if you want to keep playing hockey, that’s awesome and I hope you find a level and team that meets your commitment level.

Because we should never feel pressured to play on a team where our heart isn’t in it.

The game is meant to be fun.

If you don’t want to commit to multiple practices, workouts, meetings, and games every week then don’t do it.

Ultimately, figure out what you want and find a situation that’s right for you.

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.

Why You Should Take A Break

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I recently wrote about the importance of taking some time for self reflection during the season.

It’s important to take a step back and give yourself an honest assessment of how the season is going so far.

What is working?

What isn’t working and can be improved up?

While this is an incredibly valuable exercise to follow through with, there’s also another component that is incredibly valuable for success.

Taking a break.

While it sounds simple in theory, I think for some players and coaches, it’s a tough task to follow through with (myself included).

The truth is we all need to take breaks during the year where we forget about hockey for a day or two during the season.

Spend time with your family and friends and get out and experience life outside of hockey (yes, such a thing does exist, haha).

It’s important that we all do things like this for a couple reasons.

  1. It’s a way to clear your mind from the stresses that come with playing a competitive sport. For players, there’s the rigors of workouts, practices, and games. And on top of that there’s the mental strain of making sure that you’re ready to play and perform on a day to day basis. For coaches, it’s a way to escape the daily challenges of managing 20 plus players and personalities on a day to day basis. To go along with managing the scheduling and performance of your team.

  2. It allows you to change the routine and gain some perspective on the game. We’ve all heard the saying that “distance makes the heart grow fonder?” The same is true with hockey. It’s amazing what a few days away from the rink will do for you. For many, you’ll start to miss the rink and the routine after a few days and by the time you need to get back to work, your reinvigorated and can’t wait to get back on the ice and get back around your team.

So as the Christmas holiday rolls around, I hope you all get to take a brief break from hockey and spend some quality time away from the game.

Don’t worry, you’re not going to miss out or fall behind from taking a few days off.

If anything, you’ll come back with a new sense of energy and excitement after the holidays, and honestly, that’s incredibly valuable to a team.

So enjoy time with your family and friends and make 2019 the best year yet.

P.S. As a way of practicing what I preach, I will be taking the entire next week off from posting. I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season and can’t thank you enough for the continued support of the past year.

Midseason Self Reflection

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With the Christmas holiday right around the corner, it always seems like this is a natural stopping point to relax, get away from the game for at least a couple days, and evaluate yourself and your season so far.

As I have learned over the years, self reflection is another one of those invaluable tools that every player should utilize when possible.

It’s easy to get caught up in the grind of a season.

The workouts, the practices, the travel, the games… it truly can become a grind at times.

This also can lead to us forgetting about why we love the game and why we love getting on the ice everyday.

Gaining some perspective can help deal with this.

Like I’ve talked about on this blog before, taking a step back and having some perspective on the situation can make you appreciate everything so much more.

The time spent with friends and teammates, the competition, the freedom of being on the ice, and the camaraderie of being part of a team that’s all working towards the same goal are just a few of the things that make hockey so great.

And it’s important that we remind ourselves about these things from time to time.

So as the holiday season rolls around and you get a few days away from the rink, sit back and reflect on the season so far.

What has gone well?

What has gone poorly and can be improved upon?

What can you do to help your team be more successful?

And, what can you do, or continue to do, to be a great teammate?

I think if you can ask, and answer, these four questions honestly that it will give you some perspective on your hockey season and hopefully get you reinvigorated for the second half.

Enjoy the break, enjoy the process, and remember that every day is filled with new opportunities. And, it’s our job to make the most of every opportunity.

Greatness Is A Choice

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I think it’s easy to say that certain people are born with special talents and abilities.

It’s also easy to tell yourself that you’re not one of those people.

I think hockey players can fall into this same way of thinking.

That certain players were born to play the game because of their size, hand eye coordination, or natural speed.

But, I don’t believe that to be totally true.

The truth is, I think we’re all born with unique natural strengths and weaknesses and it’s our job to develop and work at them to be great.

Sidney Crosby is always a great example for this because I feel like the phrase ‘he was born to play hockey’ gets used a lot on him.

And while I completely agree that he has some amazing natural abilities, I don’t think that is the reason he is so great.

People talk about the size and strength of his legs and core, his vision and instinct for the game, and his amazing hand eye coordination and skill. And while all of those are true and amazing, he wasn’t just born with most of them.

I will give you that the way his brain processes the game is at a higher level than most. Just like for an expert accountant, they might be able to analyze a Profit/Loss sheet quicker and more intelligently than most. It just makes sense to them and I will agree that that is an advantage.

But, if you look at everything else, it comes down to his hard work, sacrifice, commitment to his craft, and his drive and desire to be the best.

That ultimately is where his greatness comes from.

And I personally think that is why greatness is a choice.

I think we’re all born with a set skills.

What we choose to do with them is up to us and ultimately determines our level of greatness.

From a hockey standpoint, how great do you want to be?

What are you willing to sacrifice?

How hard are you willing to work?

What kind of pain, suffering, and heartache are you willing to go through to get what you want?

I think these are the real questions that we all need to ask ourselves.

It’s easy to say that someone else is faster than you. Or it’s easy to say that someone else handles and shoots the puck better than you.

It’s easy to make those excuses and chalk it up to that player is just naturally better.

Instead, I challenge you to think about it the other way.

If you want to be a better skater, then ask yourself the questions above.

How great of a skater do you want to be?

What are you willing to sacrifice in order to be a great skater?

How hard are you willing to work to improve your skating?

And, are you ready to go through the pain, suffering, and disappointment that will inevitably come along the way on the journey to improve your skating?

Those are the questions you need to be asking yourself.

Crosby didn’t just become the best player in the world. He WORKED to become the best player in the world.

I guarantee he’s sacrificed a ton to get where he’s at.

And that doesn’t mean that every player is destined to play in the NHL, but every player has some level of greatness in them. It simply comes down to how bad you’re willing to work to find out what it is.

So stop comparing yourself to everyone else and thinking about the things you don’t have. Instead, start focusing on all the amazing things you DO have.

3 Ways To Work Through A Slump

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When most people hear slump, they think about a scoring slump.

And rightfully so, as that’s what gets talked about the most. And that’s also easiest to measure. I mean if you haven’t scored a goal in six games, it’s pretty easy to measure that and call that a slump.

But slumps come in all shapes and sizes.

Teams slump by being inconsistent and losing games or just not clicking the way they know they can. Goalies get in slumps and fight the puck. And even players, whose job is not solely based around points, get into slumps with their play and decision making.

So how do you work through that as a player?

I think there are a lot of different approaches that players and teams can go through to get over a slump, but here are a few things that have always worked for me.

  1. Simply The Game - As I have said numerous time on here, at its core, hockey is a simple game. Trying to complicate it usually only leads to frustration. So instead of trying to make that extra stickhandle, shoot the puck. Or instead of trying to make that extra move, get the redline and dump the puck to a spot that your team has a chance to get it. I’m a huge believer that players should, and need, to be creative on the ice. I think that’s the way the game was meant to be played. However, when you simplify the game, you’re getting back to your foundation. For most players, when you get back to your foundation, and keeping the game simple, you’re allowing yourself more opportunities for continuous success. And confidence is built through success.

  2. Focus On Building Your Confidence - While I think we should be working on our confidence everyday (hockey player or not). It’s even more important when you’re battling through a slump. Slumps create doubt and put fear in the foreground of your mind. So how do you combat this? Start by finding small moments of success and continuously building upon those. In other words, instead of focusing solely on scoring a goal, find success in making a tape to tape pass, or winning a one on one battle on the wall, or having an active stick and deflecting a pass. If you can have the mindset to focus on those little instances of success, you’ll soon find that your confidence should continue to grow. Small instances of success can lead to a gigantic growth in confidence.

  3. Communication - While this may seem a bit odd, I think it makes a huge difference. When things aren’t going the way we want, the easy thing to do is shut down, stay quiet, and simply hope things turn around. Communication is vital all the time in hockey, but especially when things aren’t going well. Think about it, how much easier is it to play hockey when your teammates have great communication? WAY EASIER. I always loved playing with guys that talked a lot, and the truth is that the game is way too fast to not be helping each other out. That little heads up from your goalie or D partner can be the difference between you getting buried in the corner or you making a quick smart decision. Like I said above, one of the problems with slumps is that we start to think too much, and instead, need to simplify the game. Communicating does this, it simplifies the game. It makes decisions easier and gives you the feeling of support as a player. Plus, the added bonus to the whole thing is that it not only helps your game but also helps your teammates.

While I’m sure there are other tips and tricks out there to help you work through a slump, these three things all follow my big rule of focusing on things that are in your control. And all three of the items listed above are in your power to control.

You can simplify the way you play, you can focus on building your confidence, and you can definitely control how much you communicate on the ice, on the bench, and in the locker room.

The last piece I will leave you with is that you have to understand that slumps are part of the game. It doesn’t mean that you have to like it, but you have to know that it’s part of the process and everyone goes through it at one point or another.

Don’t stop believing in yourself and your abilities and make sure you remember what it is that has made you successful as a player. So dig in, work hard, and break through that slump.

How To Bounce Back From A Bad Shift

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Have you ever had a bad shift in a hockey game?

Of course you have.

We all have.

What do you do to bounce back from it and be ready for the next one?

Regardless of what happened, it could have been a missed pass for an easy goal, or maybe you got walked on a 1 on 1 and the guy scored, or you didn’t control the rebound and it led to an easy tap in goal, we’ve all been there.

I know from personal experience that there’s no worse feeling then skating back to the bench knowing that your mistake cost your team a goal.

But the reality is that it happens to everyone.

Even the best in the world have shifts where they make mistakes that ultimately leads to the puck ending up in their own net, or not in the opposing teams net.

How you respond to those situations, and approach each shift in general, is really what makes the difference.

I’m sure you’ve heard people in hockey, and other sports, talk about being even keel.

Never too high and never too low.

And it’s true, the best players are able to control their emotions and take the good with the bad and know that they’re only as good as their next shift and that’s where their focus needs to be.

So that leads to the question of how do you become more consistent shift after shift?

While trying to stay even keel, never too high and never too low, is great in theory, it doesn’t exactly help with the process of actually doing that during the game.

One thing that worked for me as a player, and has helped numerous other players that I have played with, coached, and instructed is something I call mental reminders.

A mental reminder is a word or phrase that acts as a trigger for your mind. When you see that word, or phrase, it instantly reminds you that you need to focus on the things that you can control and that make your game successful.

I like to use the example of a former teammate who used to write “FTB” (meaning For The Boys) on the handle of each one of his sticks.

When I asked him about it, he said that one thing he always struggled with as a player was that if he felt like things weren’t going well he would try and do it all himself. It wasn’t that he was a bad teammate, in fact, he cared so much that he wanted to do things himself to try and lift his teammates back up. We all know (at least I hope) that trying to do it all yourself isn’t the answer.

So he used the “FTB” as his mental reminder that he was there “for the boys” and that he needed to trust them and work with them to get things back on track.

That was his trigger word and what worked best for him.

Now obviously everyone is different, and each player should come up with something that works specifically for them and helps trigger the right mind frame.

A few other examples that I know have worked for people are:

  • SKATE - used by a former player who knew that if his feet were moving he was making smart decisions and good plays. (And I’m assuming, as you can see from the picture above, SKATE is also used by Dylan Larkin.)

  • BELIEVE - this player used that to remind himself to believe in himself and trust his abilities.

  • TRUST - this player used TRUST to remind himself to trust the process and not get frustrated if everything didn’t go his way all the time. Also, to trust his teammates and know they have his back.

  • NO FEAR - this player was small in stature but wanted to make sure he never played that way. He used this reminder as a way to play ‘big’ and not be scared of playing against bigger players.

Like I said, there are an infinite number of possibilities. And as a player, you need to figure out what is going to work best for you.

I encourage anyone who uses this to put it in a place that has easy access and you’ll see it between every shift. So someplace like the handle of your stick, the inside cuff of your glove, or even the cuff of your jersey sleeve.

That way, every time you come off the ice after a shift you’ll see your reminder. Then you can take 10 seconds or so to refocus yourself and clear your head and be ready for your next shift.

I found this to be incredibly useful as a player.

Whether things went good or bad in the shift before, it was a way to clear my head and get refocused on the game.

Like I talk about all the time, consistency is one of the most valuable assets you can have as a player.

This is another tool that you can add to your game that will help you do that.

And remember, every shift is a new opportunity to do something positive for your team. Make sure you’re ready for it.

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.