Welcome back to the first article of the Hockey Advocate for 2011-12 hockey season. I’ve been on hiatus since early summer and figured it was time to get back to work!
I just wanted to thank you all for your comments, criticisms, personal stories and thoughtful questions. It has been a very valuable learning experience for me this past season as the combined experience of 7000+ people has vastly increased my knowledge base and hopefully will help me to help more people as we move forward. So please, keep sending in questions if you have them and believe me, your past experiences, good or bad have already helped or will soon help someone going through the same trials and tribulations.
As provocative as the title of today’s article is, my goal isn’t to ‘throw your coach under the bus’, rather it is to impart one piece of wisdom; ignore the politics and focus on what is really important. Over the past 3-4 weeks at many different levels, whether people made the Junior or rep team they hoped to or not there has been one common theme. I’ve yet to walk into an ice-rink this season and not hear parents or players complain about their perceived lack of opportunities, coaching, ice-time or quality line-mates to play with whether they made the elite team or not.
This article isn’t about morality or who’s right or who’s wrong, instead it’s about seeing the forest for the trees. Focus on the REAL issue, personal skills development.
Simply put, your development timeline wasn’t just June through August; you have the next 8 months to develop as much as possible. In fact, the next 30-60 months that you have left in your junior hockey career is more important then what’s going on right now. Above all else, we are trying to work towards becoming the best player that we can be, whether that takes us to the NHL, NCAA or senior men’s beer league hockey.
What I want you to focus on is controlling what you can actually control: how you can get better, grow as a player and improve your skill set in the time that you have left. Yes, stats, scouts and ice-time matter but you need to put them into perspective. If you are a U16 player, you have 4 years or 48 months left of junior eligibility to become the best player possible.
Having a bad attitude at the rink, thinking badly of the coach or bemoaning your situation won’t accomplish much except ruin your love of the game and get you a bad character reputation. Focus on the things that you can control like improving your defensive play, working on your confidence carrying the puck or passing skills.
I’m not suggesting that you ‘Write-Off’ the entire season, I’m just suggesting that your Big Picture thinking has to grow beyond today’s game, this months ice-time or the indignity of getting stuck playing on the fourth line when you should clearly be playing on the top power play unit with the other star player!
Focus on what skills you need to improve on this year or long term and come up with a plan on how to work best to address those needs.
You know your weaknesses; focus on improving your skill-set incrementally each week. Add an extra trip to the gym, a power skating session or a $5 dollar drop in hockey session to work on your stick handling and face-off skills each week.
This focused approach to improving your game will have lasting effects not only on your play this season but over the months and years to come.
If you have any pressing questions or concerns, please drop me a line!