Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone (Part 2)
Have you ever moved half way across the country not knowing a soul? (And I'm talking pre-Facebook and social media days...)
I hadn't either until I went to Culver.
Talk about a life change. Scary as hell at the time, but honestly the best growing experience of my life.
I remember when my parents took me out there and we stopped by one of the big multipurpose buildings to check in. It was just like a giant assembly line of military goods.
After they got your name then you moved down the line and tried on different parts of your uniform...pants, shirts, jackets, boots, hats. It really was crazy. Once they got your sizes they threw all your stuff in a giant white laundry bag and you were on your way.
Then it was time to get another haircut. I had gotten what I thought was a short, acceptable, haircut right before I left, but apparently it was not short enough. So I proceeded to sit in a chair for about 3 minutes and have the rest of my hair buzzed off. Awesome...
With that we took my new laundry bag of supplies up to my new dorm room. There was literally two wooden bunk beds, two desks, and two wooden storage closets. I set my stuff down and with that my parents were gone and it was time to get initiated into the military way of life.
The next few days/weeks were a whirlwind.
There was a lot of yelling and learning the military way of life. How to wear your uniform, make your bed, organize your closet, march, salute, speak to a superior...it was all a huge eye opening experience. And left me questioning more than once what the hell had I signed up for...
But luckily for me, Company C (which was my military unit and my dorm floor) was filled with a lot of good guys and a few hockey players. Naturally, we all became friends and helped each other get through the first few weeks of life before hockey started.
Finally, hockey training got started which was exciting. It turned out to be more grueling then any sort of off ice training I had ever taken part in. There was a whole different vibe and attitude among the players. These players were serious and all had aspirations of playing in college or beyond. This was definitely a welcome fit for me. Like I said, it was a grueling few weeks, mostly because of the unrelenting humidity of the Midwest, but none the less, it was an awesome introduction to Culver Hockey.
One quick story that I should throw in there for anyone out there reading this that really knows me. If you really know me, you know that I absolutely HATE running. Always have and probably always will. One of the tests we had as part of the training was to run a timed mile after the end of a workout. The one caveat was that if you could finish the mile in under 7 minutes then you didn't have to run it again for the rest of the season. Never in my life have I run faster. I felt like I was going to die when I finished but somehow I finished just under 7 minutes. So for all those people out there who know how slow I am now, for one day I did have speed, haha...
Finally, the ice was put in and it was time to get on the ice.
Culver was a small school with only a few hundred student, but what I quickly learned is that I feel like at least half of them all played hockey. When I was going to school there we had 4 teams: Prep, Varsity A, Varsity B, and JV. It was really amazing to see the number of people who came to Culver with the hopes of playing for the Prep team at one point. Seeing that level of competition was very motivating.
Not only school wise, but the hockey program at Culver really got me prepared for college hockey. We practiced everyday for approximately 90 minutes plus had off ice workouts, films sessions...and anything else we needed to make sure we were prepared to be our best.
I really think that situations like this is where people develop their grind. You really have to love what you're doing in order to commit to something this much, and I really loved it all. I loved learning new systems, playing with new teammates, and getting to know new coaches.
Speaking of coaches... Culver had one of the best I ever played for. Al Clark is a coaching legend and it truly was a tremendous learning experience getting to play for him for one year. Not only did he build one of the most respected programs in the country as far as talent, skill, and ability but he also did it while instilling the values of honor and respect. We learned from the very beginning that whether we won or lost, we were going to do it with class and respect. Obviously with Culver being a military school, a huge emphasis was placed on discipline throughout every aspect of being an Eagle, but Coach Clark put an emphasis on all of us to be great people on and off the ice.
Coach Clark was definitely the quietest coach I had ever been around. I honestly feel like there were days when we would be around him for hours at a time but I would never hear him say anything. He was often quiet at practices, letting Coach Davidge run things while he just observed. He would regularly pull guys aside and give pointers but when Coach Clark talked everyone listened. He is truly a great man and I am definitely thankful that our paths crossed and I was able to learn so much from him.
Having the ability to look back at it now, my Culver experience definitely helped mold me in all aspects of my life which definitely includes my current coaching style. The ability to step out of my comfort zone and change my life completely helped me grow immensely.
Part 3 (the final chapter) of my Culver experience will be published on Monday 12/18.