Over the past decade I’ve had the opportunity to work with more than 1,000 players.   It’s extremely rewarding to watch them develop from a beginner and hardly able to skate and stickhandle, into reaching their full potential and as a teenager competing for a state or national championship.

Each hockey player is different, both on and off of the ice. Some players just play hockey to enjoy the sport they love, which is great. Others meanwhile, have loftier goals, such as one day playing junior hockey, college hockey or even professionally.  The hard reality however is that most players will play their last competitive game during their final years of high school.

There is however, a small group each year that will realize their dream and get a chance to play at the next level. After my experiences with my own career, as well as closely watching players for the past 13 years, it is evident that the players that reach their goal all have the same ingredients in their recipe for success

What I have noticed among this group of players – and the same could be said about many successful people in life - happens when they are somewhere between the ages of 9 and 13.  There is this moment in time when they have a clear vision of who they want to become.  Maybe it happens when they are watching an NHL game on TV, or a higher level team play; the light bulb goes on and they say to themselves “Ah ha, I want to be him or her!”

While you might dismiss this by saying every kid has some kind of moment like this, (which is true) the difference in this group of players is that from this point on, they start working differently than they did in the past.  This is a group of players that becomes more disciplined, determined and much more self-motivated

From this moment on practice time has a completely different focus.  There is no more going through the motions, it is purposeful and they have the intention of getting better each and every day.  This group of players starts to dedicate more time to learning as much as they can about the game by watching YouTube videos, reading books and seeking out hockey training aids to help develop their stickhandling, passing and shooting.

These players see the skill of the players they want to be like, recognize that they haven’t yet gained those skills and find ways to get better.  The most important part of this is that they are willing to put the sweat equity into acquiring the needed skills such as shooting and passing.  For many players, they might want something, but they are unwilling to put in the work that it takes. Not for this group. 

Words I’ve used to describe players at the junior, college and professional levels include: focused, driven, passionate, self-motivated, hard working, obsessive, disciplined, enthusiastic, intense, competitive, aggressive, fierce, diligent, engaged, spirited and determined. 

Do the words above describe you?  If so, you are on the right track to making your dream become a reality.  If not, and you really want to play competitively into your 20’s and 30’s, hopefully this will give you some perspective on how a successful hockey player works and thinks.

But if all you want to do is play the game because it’s the greatest game on Earth, that’s ok as well. Find ways to train and make the most out of the experience, after all, everyone stops playing at some point in time, and the choice of going after it is entirely up to the player. But it all begins with the moment when you really look into the future and ask yourself that big question “Who do I want to be”.

And if you really want it, remember to always work hard and dream bigger than everybody else!

March 12, 2015 — Lance Pitlick

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