For a coach who can keep little guys and gals smiling or laughing for a solid hour of Learn-to-skate or Learn-to-play clinics, I really struggle with this one. (Just ask anyone who has seen me work, and ask him or her if this old coach knows how to make those clinics “fun”.)
At the same time, it drives me crazy that a lot of folks toss that term around as if, well, “The world is right IF a player is having fun!”
– Dennis Chighisola
Defining Fun — in Hockey, in Sport
Let’s try the Oxford Dictionaries this time (and it’s basically the noun version of the term we’re concerned about here)…
enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure: the children were having fun in the play area;
anyone who turns up can join in the fun
a source of this: people-watching is great fun
playful behavior or good humor: she’s full of fun
behavior or an activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having serious or malicious purposes: it was nothing serious; they just enjoyed having some harmless fun
[attributive] (of a place or event) providing entertainment or leisure activities for children: a 33-acre movie-themed fun park
Well, did you learn anything from that?
I guess when it came to my Learn-to clinics, I was looking for those little tykes to enjoy their time with me, to be partially amused at my “Mr Rogers” approach, and to experience a lighthearted pleasure in that learning experience.
Of course, I don’t mind saying that I’m a really good teacher when it comes to little ones. And I point to the little ones because they are usually so easy to change in a matter of a few sessions — sometimes even in a few minutes. (Just try to change a 19-year old overnight. Ain’t gonna happen.)
And therein lies a problem, in that enjoying a clinic — or being amused — only goes so far. But, let’s compare two different approaches to see what I mean…
In one scenario, a pretty good coach makes the clinic fun, and also teaches well enough that his or her kids feel kinda proud of their accomplishments.
In scenario two, a coach goes to great lengths to make the clinic fun, but he or she isn’t able to really progress the kids in their skills.
Now, I used to put in my Learn-to promotional materials that I had nearly a 0% dropout rate. Honest to God, I mean that. The funny thing is, I never attributed that to the fact that I made the clinics fun.
Here’s why I think kids seldom quit my little guys’ and gals’ programs…
I had an eagle-eye when it came to equipment. Trust me, that kids feel a lot of pain and experience a lot of frustration if their skates aren’t supporting them properly, or if some other article of gear or clothing is holding them back. A lot of other instructors never even thought about the impact such things had on a youngster’s enjoyment — or his or her progress, and they hadn’t a clue why the little tyke ultimately never showed again.
I also communicated pretty well with the parents. I never feared their questions, but I’d more often go seeking a parent out because I had a suggestion about something that would help his or her child.
And, don’t take that earlier point lightly — in that a lot of instructors don’t even know when or why a kid drops out. In other words, a little one struggles or skates in pain without the instructor really noticing, the kid tells his or her parents he doesn’t want to go to the rink anymore, and he or she just disappears from the game — for good.
Does it matter that I or any other instructor makes the learning fun? Sure it does. However, is it the determining factor in whether a youngster is ultimately happy or not? No dawgone way! Does a clinic being so-called “fun” prevent a kid from quitting? I’d say it might keep him or her attending for a little longer than if the instructor was on the gruff side. Still, let me tell you that young kids are no dummies, and they can notice pretty quickly that they’re losing ground to the kids around them. And, as soon as they do recognize that, the class stops being fun.
Yes, the kids around them… A handful of kids in every clinic arrive having skated before, they have older brothers or sisters playing whom they emulate, or they catch on to the drills easier than the average kid. That handful of kids eventually start buzzing around and making the lesser kids nervous and/or self-conscious.
And that’s why I’m making such a big deal out of the teaching. Again, young ones are extremely malleable. So, it’s not all that hard to quickly get an entire class of 5-year olds gliding around forward, moving themselves backward, and executing snowplow stops. Aaaaah, talk about feeling good about themselves.
Now, I feel the need to stray off on a slight tangent — oh, I think it’s related to the main topic, but it’s still slightly off on a tangent…
What I’m getting at is crowd control, or discipline.
Picture for a moment that one kid in an entire class of 40-ish is out of control. Actually, one kid like that in a group of 4- and 5-year olds can be dangerous at the worst, unsettling to all the other kids at the very least. And, while one little rascal may stick out, it’s likely that a large size class is going to have a few more than that. As a matter of fact, one or two kids drifting on their own are liable to distract all the others, and they are bound to lessen the effectiveness of an instructor.
Getting back to my own clinics, I’ve already said how things were run in a fun manner. At the same time, you’d better believe that every single session was run with a quiet discipline. I don’t think anyone was ever intimidated by it, if they even recognized it. Yet, I’ll bet that most parents knew the inmates weren’t running the asylum. Everything was as organized as it could be (although the kids should have believed it was very disorganized).
Okay, I really made the bulk of this about Learn-to clinics, because conditions are simpler at that level, and it’s easier to identify the so-called fun areas, etc. What I’d like to talk about now are the teams that follow right after…
Mites — or kids up through 8-years old — are still relative babies. Yet, they have to execute some relatively high level skills, and they also have to start learning some team play strategies.
I’d say that 9- and 10-year old Squirts or Atoms aren’t really babies anymore, and their game can call for some higher level strategies.
I love Pee Wees, because at no more than 12-years old, some teams at that level can actually look and move like the big boys.
Bantams — or young guys up through 14-years of age — can be all over the map — skill-wise, size-wise and emotionally, mainly because the lot of them are going through puberty.
Now, I mentioned all those various levels so that I could address the issues of fun and discipline on a differ plane. And, from my perspective all of them deserve a combination of the two.
My way is to start with discipline first — with every age group. Maybe hockey is different than a lot of other sports, owing to its cost and limited amount of practice ice-time. In other words, I feel the pressure of getting tons accomplished at practices, and that there’s little room for distractions.
Most of the time the discipline-first approach works well. And, once the kids gain of a sense of what is and what isn’t acceptable behavior, I can begin loosening the reins. Like anyone else, I like to run a relaxed ship. However, relaxing beyond a point can bring on the problems again. So — again, players on just about any aged team have to know that the discipline is there, they have to know what they can and can’t do, and then everyone can tend to relax and have some fun.
As an aside here… One of the things that tends to get my ire in some sport forums is someone suggesting that a lack of playing time leads to kids quitting. Hmmmmmm…
Personally, I think this might be one of those “chicken versus the egg” problems. I mean, what’s the chance that the disinterested kid does (or doesn’t do) a lot of things that influences his playing time. What I’m getting at is the probability that a young player might be well on his way towards quitting BEFORE a coach decides to cut back on his play time.
As yet another aside… I have never truly enjoyed golf. Oh, I love the atmosphere, and I’ve almost always enjoyed the company. I think the problem I always had was a lack of practice time, which meant that I never had a fair chance to play as well as I’d like. The fact that I packed it in wasn’t the fault of anyone else. Nor was it the fault of anyone else that the game didn’t prove to be “fun” for me. Ya, believe it or not, there doesn’t have to be a culprit just because a game isn’t fun for someone.
Come to think of it, that last collection of points might be just the right place for me to end. As I suggested in the start, fun alone isn’t going to keep many kids involved in a game, because fun is also going to ultimately be tied to a feeling of accomplishment. Then, as I suggested in the end, athletes — young and old — deserve the right to spend their free time any way they choose. And, if they opt out of a given game, some one else doesn’t necessarily have to be responsible.
Lastly, if there’s a topic I’d love feedback on, it’s this one. So, please do let me know how you feel through a comment box down below.
One would think that I’d be shocked by some things that come across my laptop screen — ya, one would think. No, I guess after all the years I’ve spent in the game, not that much surprises me anymore.
What I’m getting at this time is an email that arrived yesterday, that from the parent of an Atom (or Squirt) player from Western Canada, describing the title theme…
– Dennis Chighisola
After Game Punishments
The dad, who prefers to remain anonymous, started by wishing the old coach good morning. He then went about describing what he’d recently witnessed:
“I am fairly new in the grand scheme of things when it comes to coaching. However what I witnessed last night made me go “is this really necessary?”
The winning team was out doing laps after the game. I can only presume because their coach thought they had not played well enough. Or perhaps they didn’t beat us by enough goals. I personally don’t see the point to this type of discipline. The parents of the kids in question didn’t seem to have a problem with what they saw after the game or if they did they were not saying anything. (They’re 9-10 yr olds doing stairs in full gear after a hard game in full view of anyone at the rink.)
I know if it was my kid being forced to run after a poor game I’d been hard pressed to hold my tongue to the coach in question. I have heard at clinics of worse things than this happening. Seems to me this guy shouldn’t be a coach.
What’s your take on this?
Did I say earlier that nothing surprises me anymore?
Well, one of my long time students told me it happened to him, but it was while playing Junior hockey in Western Canada. I know that team was hand picked to vie for the national championship later that year. So, with all the talent, I can see the coach keeping his thumb on that group, and keeping their minds on business.
Some on-ice sprints after a game — and after the lights had been turned off — wasn’t the worst of it, though. No, not by a long shot.
As I heard it, the team was returning one night from a distant away game, when the coach asked the bus driver to stop a few miles outside the team’s hometown. I understand that the snow was coming down pretty good right then, too, as the coach ordered everyone off the bus. Yup, he had each player grab his gear from down below, toss it over his shoulder, and trudge those few miles home to town.
Cruel? Abusive? I guess. However, I guess no ones life was put in jeopardy that night, I guess there was probably some decent bonding that took place between teammates, and I guess the number of guys from that squad who went on to play high level college and pro hockey afterward may have even thought such things helped with their toughness, whatever.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not condoning that stuff, but maybe just rationalizing it a bit.
As for Squirts/Atom or any other youth level, I say, “No dawgone way!”
As an aside here… We don’t know for sure what actually happened between the above described team and their coach. I mean, if there was a behavioral problem that took place during the game, I suppose some sort of punishment might be in order.
Also, I’ll let hockey parents in on a little something here… For, certain coaches can growl and make it seem like they’re being mean, but they’re not really. In other words, a few runs up and down stairs can or might not be really hard on the players. I’ve done a few things with my players (but not young ones), where some were actually hiding giggles as they endured my supposed punishment.
From my perspective, though, here’s the real problem with what that hockey dad described… I have left more than one game bench where I was hot, and wanted to kill my players. Given the time to wend my way from the bench to the dressingroom, however, always gave me time to think — or to pinch myself, and realize that right after the game wasn’t necessarily the right time to let into kids. Naw, I could mention what I thought went wrong, and suggest that we’ll have to work on that at our next practice. The kids go home in fairly good spirits, that way, while I have a day or so to think about if I’m going to kill them or not.
With the youth hockey season now underway in many parts of the world, I think this might be a good time to revisit something I see as an age old problem, not only in hockey, but in other team sports, as well.
– Dennis Chighisola
Should Young Hockey Players Be Paid to Score Goals?
Although I’m going to relate this topic to a couple of stories from recent generations, I seem to recall parents offering their kids bribes going back to my childhood, and most certainly to my son’s earliest years in the game, a good 40-years ago. (I’ll return to my use of that term, “bribe”, in a little while.)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a lockerroom following a youth hockey game, when I’ve seen dads (or especially dads) peel off bills from their wad, much to the satisfaction of their own child, and oftentimes to the chagrin of nearby parents and players. Ya, before we even get into other ways this practice affects a youngster and his or her team, maybe parents who’ve done this suddenly have a different perspective on how they might be perceived by those around them.
Aaaaaah, yes, the “team”… For those who might just be getting into hockey, and don’t really appreciate the game’s niceties, perhaps he or she should realize that players of all ages have numerous responsibilities during a game…
Even when I’ve coached a young team, I’ve talked to my kids at practices and showed them how we should perform various plays. I’ve also always reminded them later — in the pre-game lockerroom, and again at different times from the game bench — about the way to play our game rightly.
In other words, players of all ages have responsibilities as a game goes on and, because ours is a team sport, the fulfillment of our duties — or the lack thereof — usually impact on those around us.
I’m shaking my head right now, as I recall a player from about a decade ago…
As a young teen defenseman, I initially thought he had some real potential. With his great individual skills, I suspected he was going to be a high school star, and I even thought he’d be able to go on further. That, however, was my first impression; within a few months, I was wondering if he really had the head to play at a very high level. I mean, at times, he would do some really, really dumb things.
Of course, I love potential in young kids. So, I’d work with him often, especially in the area of decision making. I thought he was the kind of “D” who was capable of running our offense and our powerplay — his skills were that good. And, because my program was all about development, I figured the boy’s future coaches were going to love a skilled player who could also think the game.
Ugh. As it turned out, the boy’s dad had other plans. Believe it or not, the son was 14-years old, and his dad was still paying him for each goal he scored. Remember, that I was frequently scratching my head wondering what was going on in that kid’s noggin’. And it took another team parent to clue me in on what was really happening. Oh, the dad swore up and down that he wasn’t paying his son for goals, but the boy ultimately told me it was so. (Nice, huh, that the dad would lie in front of his kid?)
Needless to say, the boy eventually disappeared from the hockey scene. I think he did fairly well as a high school player, but he didn’t come close to achieving what I thought he could.
Was the simple act of being paid for goals what did him in? Naw, I wouldn’t say so. What I think was his undoing was the fact that he never really got a chance to concentrate on the right things, as many of his teammates were.
As I said in the start, players are being asked to do a lot of things on the ice that parents can’t be totally aware of. Worse yet, most parents don’t really appreciate all the thinking — or reading and reacting — their youngsters have to do in the heat of battle. And, there is absolutely no room in a player’s thought processes for extraneous pressures.
To carry that one a little further… A player moving up-ice with the puck has to assess all that’s happening in front of him or her, and then make the right choice — whether to pass, keep carrying, or maybe dump the puck. On something like a 2 on 1 rush, the player with the puck should ultimately make the right decision when it comes to which guy or gal should get the shot. And similar decisions have to be made as a pointman attempts to either (wrongly) go for the long distance goal, or (rightly) try to put a low shot into traffic in front of the net. So again, can you appreciate the internal wrestling a kid is experiencing, between making the right play or pleasing his or her parent?
Of course, while the above story suggests ways both a team and an individual player can be thrown off their game, let me share this one, if only as food for thought…
When my grandson was about 5-years old, that thing about other dads paying their kids for goals reared its ugly head in his team’s post-game lockerroom. Yup, there was a dad — not quietly — flashing the green.
My guess is that most other families had to deal with this the same as I, as in answering our own youngster’s plea, “Why can’t I get five dollars for scoring a goal?” (Have I said, “Ugh!” yet?)
When young Anthony hit me with that one, I had to do some long, hard thinking — well, maybe it wasn’t all that hard…
What I eventually did was ask if he got a thrill when he scored a goal. Thank God, he did. Actually, even in the team’s practices, I noticed he couldn’t leave a puck hanging near a crease without whacking it home. And, should he miss the first time, he’d go back and whack it again, until that little black thing found its rightful resting place.
Anyway, once Tony C acknowledged that it did excite him to score, I suggested that that’s all the reason in the world to do it, and to keep playing the game. For, somewhere in there, I think I also told him that, “If you don’t get psyched when you score a goal, maybe you ought to give up hockey and look for something else.”
To be honest, I haven’t a clue if our brief discussion had anything to do with my grandson being a top scorer to this day (right up through college for now). It may have helped some, although I recall that he still wasn’t happy with my explanation at the time.
Lastly, that thing about the bribe…
I can almost appreciate a parent wanting to reward his or her youngster for the very first goal. In a way, it’s a milestone, and it’s something a lot of folks want to get out of the way. (I watched a televised MLB game yesterday, and a big deal was made out of a young rookie achieving his first Major League home run.) As a teaching coach, I can also see dangling a carrot out in front of a young one as incentive, then praying that little guy or gal will love the feeling of burying the biscuit.
On the other hand, I’ve suspected on too many occasions that the hockey parent teased his or her youngster for very selfish reasons. And the more one does that — beyond the first goal, the more it looks like a bribe to me — as in, “Come on, son (or daughter), give your dad (or mom) something to brag about at work tomorrow!” What would cause the dad of a 14-year old AAA player to keep it going? Hmmmmmmm…
As with a lot of philosophical discussions here, you can take what I say with a grain of salt. Are the ramifications of paying a youngster for scoring goals real? I firmly believe so. Is there a better way to handle things than I did? I firmly believe that’s possible, too. So, if you’ve managed to solve what I see as an age old problem, perhaps you can share that below with other members.
I don’t know if there’s anything a hockey coach likes better in a player than that he or she should arrive at both practices and games with high energy. Of course, there are all kinds of energy, and I think members are going to like the sort my friend, Shaun Goodsell, talks about in this audio broadcast.
– Dennis Chighisola
Put High Performance Energy in Your Hockey
Note: There’s a reason the intro song is rather long. However, whether you choose to listen or fast-forward through it, you’ll ultimately discover there’s a reason Shaun and his partner started the show that way.
By Shaun Goodsell
Being our best requires the presence of many attributes. Maybe the most overlooked attribute of the high performer is the presence of ENERGY. For the purposes of this writing I am not talking about physical energy that is generated mainly from the combination of diet, training, and sleep.
Today I want to clearly define (4) ENERGY GENERATORS of the mind. These are frames of mind that allow the individual to generate energy that is often utilized to enhance performance.
Optimism, creativity, flexibility, and focus are the energy generators of the HIGH PERFORMER. Make a commitment to add these critical emotional energizers to your skill set today!
For more information, visit Mental Edge Today
For those of you who follow My Weekend Hockey Reading List, I hope you had the chance to watch a longer video on the potential virtual reality has in influencing our society. (That longer version can be found here: “How Virtual Reality Games Can Impact Society, Encourage Prosperity”)
As an older, very Conservative kind of guy, some of its uses frighten me, mainly because I believe the term “Impact” could easily be replaced by a more threatening one, “Brainwash”.
That aside, I began picturing some of the positive things that could be done to help an athlete — a hockey player — become more effective in his or her game.
– Dennis Chighisola
Virtual Reality and Hockey Training
Truly, I think the longer version video (linked above) gives one a far greater — and scarier — understanding of this subject. However, just to provide members a quick overview of how it works, take a look at this very short video…
Now, if that short video didn’t make the point — about how influential virtual reality can be, I’m sure the longer video will. What I’m getting at is just how real the virtual experience is to the subject, and thus how much it can change his or her thought patterns.
Okay, so towards the positive side, I happen to believe that such a process has both mental and physical applications…
Before going further, I’d like to refer members to another video I recently posted, that one called “Finding Hockey Diamonds in the Rough“. For, while the narrator highlighted “3 simple lessons” we need to know about searching for talent, one part that made an impression on me was the fact that we don’t always know the right criteria upon which to judge an athlete.
In other words, although many major sports use “combines” to measure certain physical qualities, who can really say that those are the right qualities upon which to judge — a future pro footballer, a future NHL player, a future NBA-er? Personally, I’ve always questioned the 40-yard dash as a true indicator of speed or quickness. Also, if you’ll recall, that video brought into question the intelligence test used to evaluate future NFL quarterbacks. And, I’m even on record as suggesting that pro scouts are wrong in their evaluations as often as they’re right.
Still, while appreciating the possibility we could be wrong about the traits that mark a good hockey prospect, I guess we do have to go on what we know at the moment.
Based on the last statement, I’m guessing a group of specialists could ultimately define (within reason) the mental traits seen in some of hockey’s best players. My guess is that they could study the team captains from each team, when it comes to leadership, desire, mental toughness, etc. And, we all know players who only survive on our local pro team’s roster purely because of their mental makeup. Better yet, who wouldn’t want to create a mental clone of a Steve Yzerman or a Bobby Clark?
Could certain behavioral problems be dealt with in a virtual reality setting? Hmmmmmm… Based on some of the videos I’ve watched on the subject, I’m betting those could be handled better in that kind of lab than anywhere else.
Of course, enhancing the physical side of our sport through the use of virtual reality might be more difficult. However, be aware of the study that started the visualization craze several decades ago. In that, study groups were compared — with one only visualizing shooting basketball free throws, another only physically practicing those shots, and a third group doing a combination of visualization and physical practice. And, don’t you know, it was the group that used a combination of both practice methods that won out.
As I suggested earlier, I sense that many of hockey’s physical skills — because they’re pretty complex — might be harder to practice in a virtual reality lab. Still, I think it would ultimately be do-able, for skating, puckhandling, passing and receiving, shooting and finishing. And I suspect a goaltender’s skills could also be enhanced in that kind of lab setting.
Where I sense progress could really be made would be in areas like reading and reacting and playing within a given system.
Before ending this discussion, I want to say that I’m not really into producing teams loaded with mindless, robot-like clones. I’ve always loved the spirit that makes certain athletes unique, and I’ve also loved the athletes who have played their sport with creativity, and even invented some moves that others hadn’t previously thought about (Bobby Orr comes to mind in our game).
In closing, I really do fear what virtual reality games could do if placed in the wrong hands. On the flip side, think about the ways an individual player could be helped with these kinds of practices on his or her side.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a hockey connection with something that is far from hockey related. Such was the case as I came across a Facebook post by my good friend and CoachChic.com member, Michael Mahony. Mike is very much into fitness and strength training, and I can usually rely on him for some great motivational posts, including the following video featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Perhaps depending on the reader’s age, he or she might know Schwarzenegger as a world famous bodybuilder, a movie actor, or the Governor of California. As you’ll learn from Arnold himself, however, there’s a common trait that helped him transition from one to another, and excel in each of those roles.
– Dennis Chighisola
Where There’s a WILL, There’s…
I’m not going to say a lot about this video, because Schwarzenegger does awesomely in telling his story. The reason I posted this, though, is so that members might use it for their own motivation, or for the motivation of others. In other words — in reference to the latter, this is the kind of video a coach might show his or her team, or a parent might share (or watch with) his or her youngster.
I said over on Facebook a little earlier today, that I have great friends there, and they so often send me some great stuff. The reason I said that was because our good friend — and fellow CoachChic.com member, Jerry Z, sent me a video this morning I saw as appropriate to some recent Junior hockey goings on. However, if you don’t think there’s plenty in here for parents and coaches of younger kids, guess again…
– Dennis Chighisola
Three Types of Hockey Players
Actually, the video Jerry sent me was entitled “3 Types of Players“, and you can take a look at that at your leisure (for as long as it’s available). The featured coach in that video is a basketball guy, but what he describes is as true in hockey as it is in any other sport. In fact, school teachers might say they find the same groups within their classrooms.
Take a look at the chart to the left, and see if you don’t notice most of the players you’re familiar with falling into one of those three groups. It’s possible you might envision a given player lying a little between one group or another. However, I think that b-ball coach was right-on with the way he drew that chart, and that we’ll ultimately see every single player falling into one of those three categories.
As far as I’m concerned, that video presentation wasn’t created just for the fun of it. No, there are things to be learned from those groupings — or their definitions, like it or not…
Type 1 players are described as the greatest players and hardest workers, with the coach suggesting that “… you don’t coach very many of those.” I’m picturing a Steve Yzerman, a Michael Jordan, a Ray Bourque, or a Larry Bird here. For sure, those guys were talented, probably beyond mere mortals. At the same time, however, those all-time greats were as well known for their work ethics.
Recalling what the b-ball coach said about us not coaching very many of those Type 1 players, there’s little doubt that nearly all others fall into the other two categories…
I’m skipping now to the Type 3 players, mainly because they’re so near and dear to me. Actually, they’re usually near and dear to every coach they ever play for, and they’re likely loved by their teachers and their future employers, as well. In a way, is there anyone who doesn’t admire someone who starts out lacking in some talent, but works his or her butt off to ultimately do the job right?
And, man, does that coach strike a chord with me when he describes these kids… For, at least a half-dozen times each hockey season, I have a parent thank me for working with his or her youngster. And my answer back to that parent is always the same, “Naw, your son is the kind of kid who makes me look good as a coach!”
Two groups down, now’s the time for my stomach to turn…
I begin by asking whether it seems right to you that some players possess A-level talents, yet their attitudes or mindsets don’t come close to that level. I’ve heard those Type 2 players assessed in coaching staff meetings, too, often with someone shaking their head and murmuring, “What a waste.” Ya, what a waste, when a player has some God-given talent, but not the heart or willingness to really apply that talent.
In the video, they’re called “coach killers”, and it’s also mentioned that “they can’t play”. Why so? Well, in my estimation, it’s because both basketball and hockey are team sports, and they’re also transition sports.
Hey, some big-time responsibilities come with being a member of a team — as a player, and as a human being. And, since constant turn-overs of a ball or puck require quick reading and reacting skills, the player who fails to train himself or herself in these areas is almost always a step behind the play, or usually heading in the wrong direction.
Then, I hate to be cruel here, but I often refer to the Type 2 player as a “professional powerskater”. In other words, their solid physical skills allow them to cruise around like worldclass athletes, but their inability to think the game has them looking to folks in the know as if they’re lost out there on the ice.
All that said, I’m going to offer my opinion on how these different groups tend to evolve. Actually, I’m going to throw these your way, and ask you to tell me differently (should you be so inclined)…
Since moving to Florida, I’ve come to the conclusion that a lack of depth in some programs — or a lack of really strong competition — can give a young player a false sense of security (not that I didn’t see similar occurrences in certain levels back in New England). In other words, if a youngster can get away with marginal skills and thinking abilities against lesser players, well…
As an aside, I’ve never been satisfied with my team’s record when it comes to practice planning. Naw, as a head coach, I’m looking at a bigger picture, and I’m trying to get my guys ready for a day down the road when each of them will have to compete against the very best — in future games, as well as at future tryouts. As a matter of fact, a frequent topic of conversation with my older Massachusetts guys has always had me prodding them to think about a future adversary who is working on his game that very day — on some far off frozen Canadian farm pond, on an outdoor rink in Moscow, or in an off-ice gym in Sweden. Trust me, that just beating up on the kids from a neighboring town isn’t likely to get you a starting spot someday — in Juniors, in college, or anywhere beyond.
Oh, boy, now a tough one, mainly because it’s going to be a bitter pill for some to swallow… But, you see, in my 40+ years of working with players from beginners to pros, I have yet to see an instance where there wasn’t a correlation between a player’s attitude and that of his or her parent/s. That might not always hold true when it comes to likability, because one can be likable while the other is not. On the other hand, where I see parents influencing the most is when it comes to their youngster’s willingness to work, or more importantly, when it comes to their youngster’s knowing that he or she has to work in order to improve.
Allow me to once again revert back to that idea of a player prepping for the day when he or she has to compete for a spot against some unknown talent… I’m not talking about getting paranoid here, but I think a parent either helps or hinders his or her youngster in this department. So, while I think it’s okay to have some laughs over scoring 6-goals amid modest talent, don’t think for a moment that such accomplishments put a kid on an NHL fast track. No, ’tis better to inspire a youngster to keep on working — and working and working and working.
If you know someone who would benefit from this article,
go ahead and share away.
Okay, I’ve never been one to pull any punches, so I hope you didn’t expect me to do any differently on this topic. Just as surely, though, I enjoy your feedback, even if it’s contrary to my beliefs.
If this is your first visit to CoachChic.com, maybe you’re getting the feeling
there’s a lot more good stuff within the 600-ish posts here. It’s true, and it’s the kind of stuff that should help separate your knowledge base from all others in your hockey circle.
My son has been staying with me for a few days, as he moves into a new hockey job close by. With that, you can imagine the hockey conversations that go on (and you’d probably love being a fly on the wall for some of them).
Anyway, a few minutes ago, I leaned across the back patio table and said to Mike, “Ya know, more questions come to me having to do with people skills than those involving hockey play.”
Am I thrilled at that? No. But, do I think such questions are necessary, or valid? Yes, I do. In fact, still learning at my age, I sense that there’s something to be appreciated about such questions — by me, and by the powers that be within youth hockey’s higher ups.
– Dennis Chighisola
Why Am I Involved In Hockey?
Dave’s question came via email, explaining about some problems he’s recently had with one of his players…
In a nutshell, he’s now second guessing himself about appointing a new player as an Assistant Captain prior to getting into his team’s season, because — despite the kid demonstrating great work ethics in the early going, he seems to have come with some serious excess baggage. Readers are going to cringe when I tell them that Dave says the kid has been bullying some teammates. (Like some kids of similar ilk that I’ve coached, I can believe Dave when he says that most of the boy’s improper actions take place when adults aren’t watching.) And, with that giving us a fairly good sense of his character, it should come as no surprise that the boy also is known to take some stupid penalties at times. Sad to say, one Assistant Coach has resigned, at least partly because the boy’s parents “…can’t promise the kid will change…” Trying to steady a team that is already struggling, Dave wonders about removing the “A” from the boy’s jersey, suspending him for a game, whatever.
Just wondering, but is anyone else’s blood boiling right now? I’ll tell you, that I steamed as I read Dave’s initial email, and I’m hot again as I type. Over 40-years of coaching all levels, I’ve been there, done that, and all this does is bring back a lot of very bad memories. Ya, I love coaching — and teaching the game, but there are those very few individuals who take all the fun out of trying to help kids.
Okay, my being equally upset doesn’t help Dave one iota. So, after reading his email a number of times, I somewhat cooled, and tried to see this mess in a whole new perspective. And, the first thing that came to mind was something close to this article’s title, in that, “Why the heck is this kid even playing hockey?” I later changed that a bit, wishing to ask the boy’s parents, “Why do you even encourage your son to play hockey?”
Rushing to my favorite search engine, Dictionary.com gave me what I was looking for, as in the definition of our sport:
ice hockey – noun – a game played on ice between two teams of six skaters each, the object being to score goals by shooting a puck into the opponents’ cage using a stick with a wooden blade set at an obtuse angle to the shaft.
Not exactly the greatest definition I’ve ever heard, yet it did give me the key word or phrase I was looking for.
For, within that single sentence, it says that hockey is played between “two TEAMS”! It doesn’t say anything in there about satisfying the twisted wants of an individual player, nor does it say anything about parent opinions!
So, I scrambled back to the on-line dictionary again, just to make sure I’m not wrong here:
team·work -noun – 1.cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause. 2.work done with a team.
I’m sure my readers (and Dave) know where I’m going with this. For, although it’s probably not spelled out enough as one of the qualifications for enrolling in ice hockey, there’s little doubt that one is signing up to become a member of a team. And, in case a parent has other ideas, he or she should understand that his or her son’s (or daughter’s) commitment is to the team.
As an aside here… A very long time ago, I coached a kid who I considered almost a second son. Actually, he was a gem, as were his parents, but he was a bit of a loner, and maybe not exactly cut out to play a team sport. As an older teen, he made a choice on his own, and he became more famous than most of my other star players while participating in another, slightly related individual sport. My only point here, is that not every youngster has what it takes to give of himself or herself, and be a good team sport member.
So again, I’d rephrase my question to that boy’s parents, and ask them, “Does your son really want to be part of team — and to give somewhat of his individuality to be a good team member?” Oh, I can imagine the argument. However, there is no arguing with a definition that has been in existence for eternity, and one that won’t vary no matter where you look it up. In a nutshell, there is an understanding that comes with enrolling ones son on a team.
From there, I’ll suggest that the parents in question need to have the same conversation with their son: “Do you know what it means to be part of a team?”
Personally, I never enter into conversations like the above with anything but the hope that all will work out rightly. I mean, I would love for the parents in this case to ultimately understand what I’m asking them, and I’d pray that the boy might realize he’s been wrong by not blending with all of his mates, and by not handling that “A” with the utmost respect.
Will what I suggest work? Man, my guess is that we’re all going to win some and lose some. The shame of it all is, it’s been my expeerience that, the parents are going to determine everything in the end.
Okay, I guess everyone has an understanding of how I’d deal with this in 2012, this after reflecting on the various successes and failures I’ve had with similar situations in the past.
For sure, I would suspend the wayward boy for one game, no matter the outcome of any future deals. Hopefully, what’s done is done, but it also carries with it the one game suspension. And, I would let it be known that every subsequent infraction will carry a similar suspension, until the player changes his ways. (There is no need for a single player in a lockerroom to feel fear or any other discomfort because of a teammate. And, lest anyone blame the coaches for not being present every second the team is at the rink, I can tell you that that is virtually impossible, and that a kid who wants to do something rotten is going to find his or her chance.) An apology to his teammates wouldn’t be out of the question as far as I’m concerned.
I would suggest to Dave that he use the “A” as a bargaining chip, or do as he feels most comfortable. If the family sincerely comes on board with the team concept, perhaps the boy will also be the Assistant Captain Dave had hoped. That honor can be stripped away at any time.
Lastly, there can be a tendency on a coach’s part to question himself or herself, as in, “What could I have done differently?” And my answer would be, “I doubt very much.” Dave and other head coaches have a ton of responsibilities, and they’re responsible to a ton of players, not just one.
As a PS here, I would do anything I could to get the Assistant Coach back. Good men — and willing men — are hard to find.
Try to have this conversation with a red blooded teenage hockey player, and you’re liable to see a rolling of his (or her) eyeballs, and hear a, “Ya… Ya… Ya…” To which I might say, “Take a spot down the end of the bench, and just pray I remember your name someday.”
– Dennis Chighisola
Keeping an Even Keel in Hockey
That introduction out of the way, let’s talk about how things really ought to be…
I happen to have spent most of my life in a small town called Whitman, Massachusetts. It might make sense then, that I grew up a fan of the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, and New England Patriots. It might make further sense that, having been involved in my profession for as long as I have, I’ve studied closely the ways of those teams’ most successful managers and coaches. And, lucky I am, having been able to either daily or weekly study the likes of Dick Williams, Tito Francona, Harry Sinden, Don Cherry, Red Auerbach, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.
Aaah, Bill Belichick… When it comes to displaying an even keel, I can’t think of a better example, nor a better example of how keeping that even keel has at least partially contributed to a coach’s success. To some — and especially to fans from other cities, Belichick might seem emotionless. You seldom see him smile on the sidelines, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him be outwardly angry. No, my way of describing him would be to say that he’s very businesslike, and always on that proverbial even keel.
Belichick’s extension on the field is a quarterback named Tom Brady. Talk about businesslike and focused — I mean unbelievably focused. Brady’s laser-like glare tells the story, no matter where or when a camera catches him. In fact, watching the Patriots’ offense tally 45-points this past Sunday, I swear that Brady’s expression didn’t change, from the game’s first set of downs to his last snap. Again, businesslike, and on an even keel. Actually, while fans will catch the occasional high-five or after-touchdown spike, I almost know that the entire New England organization accepts that on an even keel approach, waterboys to the front office.
Okay, so what do I mean by such an approach? In general, I’d say that it suggests we limit extreme highs and extreme lows. As a matter of fact, I recall learning from a long ago lecture by one sport psychologist that, it’s not so good for an athlete or a team to ride that kind of up and down roller coaster. (I sorta liken this to the quick high one might get from a sugar-boost, because we have to know it’s just a matter of time before we drop to an inevitable low.)
Perhaps the first time I ever noticed the calm and businesslike approach to a hockey game was when I watched the old Soviets, beginning back during the 1972 Showdown at the Summit. Of course, much was said in those earliest years as North Americans rushed to study the guys from The Big Red Machine — but it was mainly in awe of their skills, the speed at which they could execute those skills, and the unbelievable pace they could play due to superior conditioning. That the coaches and scientists from the USSR had even delved deeply into the psychology of our game ultimately came out, though, and I became as fascinated with that.
If you’re old enough to have seen any early Soviet games — or later videos of them, you had to notice the emotionless expressions on the players’ faces. Stoic, really, and a lot like Tom Brady, in that you seldom saw any more than a quick hug after a goal, and you would never see any outward indication of the way a game was going. Yup, stoic, or emotionless. In fact, their coaches of that era weren’t any more demonstrative, at least on the game bench.
Of course, I’ve often said over recent years, that North Americans started playing more like Europeans in subsequent seasons, and today I think we see many pro level Russians and other European players playing a North American style, and also doing their goal scoring dances and banging their sticks after giving up a goal.
Now, although I’ll suggest later that even youngsters should learn to play on an even keel, I’m really talking to those at competitive levels — maybe from about Pee Wees on up, and especially those who are in their teen years and into their early 20′s. And, while you might think I’m directing all this towards just players, I have to tell you that I see parents and coaches holding a great deal of influence in this area.
Okay, so there’s more than a little bit of Bill Belichick in me, along with the need to be a bit of a control freak. And in the latter regard, I’ve been known to ask my team’s parents to cheer like crazy, but not yell directions to my players or get on the game officials.
With the help of a great sport psychologist, I posted the article, “Up The Boards, Johnny“, and produced a video of the same name. The two of us were making slightly different points in that article, but the one I want to share here is the fact that players can’t listen to verbal instructions, process those, and then act as quickly as hockey requires. No, we’re better off teaching the players how to read and react smartly in their practices, and then trusting them to do what comes instinctively once they hit the game ice.
As far as me being a control freak goes, though, let me just say that, I would love to have a mute button in my pocket that allows me to quickly stifle the crowd anytime I feet the need. And the need most often arises when someone on our side believes we’ve been done in by a game official…
No one cares that the crowd gets “a little” rowdy with what they believe is a bad call. However, as soon as a single voice or two starts to get personal with a ref, I feel it starts to hurt me as a coach, as well as my team. At times like I’m describing, I’ll quite often want to talk to the ref for a sec. I might not even be upset, but instead just want a clarification on something.
As far as a clarification goes… Oftentimes, games played at your typical local rink don’t include the penalties being announced. And they don’t usually have the space on the scoreboard to list more than a few penalties. So, without knowing that kind of information — like the type of penalties, their duration and expiration times, it’s virtually impossible for a coach to plan his or her next shifts. Refs who understand the simplicity of my requests have had no problem whatsoever coming over and explaining things to me. On the other hand, the official who is already turned off by personal attacks from the stands, is going stay as far from my bench as he can, because he figures he’s just going to get another earful from me.
Having already said plenty about wanting my players to keep on an even keel, you can imagine how I feel about any of them acting up over a referee’s call. First, as one coach mentioned to me recently, he’s never seen an official change his call because a player yips all the way to the penalty box. Secondly, getting heated over a call is a waste of valuable energy. Third, while that player is momentarily off his or her game — or, lost his or her focus, you can bet that he or she has also thrown teammates off their game.
This aside… Everyone who has ever skated for me knows not to follow my suit when it comes to my demeanor on the bench. Much of the time I’m pulling a Belichick, calm and on an even keel. However, if I suddenly pull a nutty and yell at a ref, there’s a good chance I’m not even upset; it’s just a ploy. At yet another time, I might resort to my half-smiling even keel, but I’m really seething inside; again, what you see on the exterior is just an act, or just a ploy. My point to this is that I’m going on gut instincts, and dealing with the game officials in a way that I sense will help us in the long run. It’s nothing personal, one way or the other.
Then, perhaps one of the greatest lectures I’ve ever attended was by a famous sport psychologist, Dr Jim Loehr, that presented during the NHL Coaches Symposium in Montreal, in 1980.
Dr Loehr brought with him some feedback devices to use during the earliest part of his presentation… Simply, he hooked electrical sensors to a number of volunteers from the audience, and he explained how the devices would make a beeping sound to indicate the amount excitement experienced by each volunteer.
I remember him really getting us all into the experiment by asking the (male) volunteers to picture the most beautiful woman they could. And, man, did we all roar, when the feedback devices started beeping like crazy. I mean, they must have beeped about 50 times in about 5-seconds.
As the laughter died down, the good doctor switched the volunteers’ focus to something more relaxing or a lot less exciting. And, with that, the beeps slowed to maybe one to every couple of seconds.
The experiment surely made its mark — with me, and with most others, and I hope it’s making the point with member players, parents and coaches. In such a simple experiment, it was proved that our bodies react to whatever we’re giving our attentions or focus to. Pretty easily, it was shown that we can raise our heart rate by being excited, but we can just as easily relax ourselves by thinking peaceful thoughts.
Another very interesting part of his lecture included the description of a young Swedish tennis player who was so excitable that he was at one time banned from further competition. We were told that the youngster was seen as world class, yet he was rendered nearly ineffective due to his frequent temper tantrums. With nowhere to turn, the teen star sought help from some sport psychologists, and turned his life — and his tennis fortunes — around. As Dr Loehr explained at the end, Björn Borg became known as one of the coolest customers to ever grace a tennis court.
Now, just so you know, typical relaxation exercises slow the heart rate considerably. In fact, a quick search on-line shows most experts agreeing that, relaxation exercises can: slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, slow your breathing rate, increase blood flow to major muscles, reduce muscle tension and chronic pain, improve concentration, reduce anger and frustration, and boost confidence to handle problems. (You can find other techniques to practice relaxation, but they’re all pretty similar to this one: Quick Relaxation.) My suggestion: Every old enough player should seek a relaxing technique that works for him or her. Over time, one tends to become familiar with the way stress feels, as well as how if feels to be stress free. Over time — and through practice, one can also learn to somewhat shortcut the long process of achieving a relaxed state, so that he or she can ultimately snap into it in a matter of seconds.
I know I suggested the above to every “old enough” player — which, to me, probably means Pee Wees on up. I’m not sure kids younger than that can handle the formal approach to typical relaxation methods. At the same time, is it ever too young for a player to learn calmness? I don’t think so. I do sense that most coaches of young ones have the right idea, trying to encourage them to have fun. Still, though, in trying to figure what I’d do with a kid who seems extra hyper, I might just suggest to him or her that, “Ya know, you seem to play much better when you’re nice and calm.” (Have a better idea about this? Please share it down below.)
In summary, I hope every member appreciates that the mental side of our game is as much a skill as skating and shooting. And, as such, it has to be practiced just as often. For, whether players realize it or not, future coaches will see you as a total package, and hoping you’re both physically and mentally ready to play the higher level game.
PS: For probably the past 20-years, I’ve shared one of Freddie Shero’s favorite expressions with my players:
“Always act like a duck — calm and unruffled on the surface, while paddling like hell underneath.”
The Mental Edge is committed to training kids through these types of experiences. To begin your life training process give us a call today 763-439-5246.
I’m always psyched when I can provide our CoachChic.com members with more great advice from my good friend, Shaun Goodsell.
And, while I suspect that Shaun is talking to hockey parents in the following television interview, my feeling is that we coaches can also use this information to get more out of a team full of players.
– Dennis Chighisola
5 Performance KeysLoading...
CoachChic.com membership DOES have its benefits. For, despite the fact that the following information is free to the public, most hockey coaches, parents and players will never find it. In fact, most hockey folks don’t even realize this type of science exists at all, or that it even matters.
Actually, a pro hockey coach called me the other night to tell me about this (he likes to share such things with this old coach). Evidently the team he works with has used this questionnaire and others like it.
So, with that, let’s get into…
– Dennis Chighisola
A Guide to Hockey Learning Styles
Long-time members would likely recall that I’ve written a few posts on this subject, especially for the sake of other coaches. The real point to all this is that all humans have different learning styles, and it’s important that these be known.
Probably better than a decade ago I worked with a mental training specialist for the St Louis Blues organization. He’d developed a test for individual athletes, to discover how each of them learned best. At the time I was corresponding with that good doctor, it was known that there were at least three different ways we learn, while there was also a belief that there might be more than three. (The last I heard there are at least seven, but I believe they’re mostly a combination of three main ways.)
I’ve always been of the belief that the more we know about ourselves, the better we function in this world. So, while CoachChic.com is geared towards athletes — and especially hockey players, I think the current subject could prove extremely useful to member businesspeople, homemakers, students, or just anyone.
Getting back to the ways we learn…
I can tell you that I hate to be inundated with words — . I mean, don’t stop me in a busy and noisy rink lobby and expect that I’m going to retain specific details about our conversations (in other words, don’t expect that I’ll remember that Johnny is going to miss our practice three Mondays from now). In most instances, I’ll ask you to, “Please email me.” Why? It’s because I’m a “visual” guy, and I need to “see” things in order for them to register.
For that very reason, I’d rather deal with a sketch or chart or watch a video in order to learn a new hockey play, assess statistics, etc.
Oddly enough — and despite the fact that I hate being bombarded with auditory stuff, I do very much enjoy listening to taped recordings or podcasts. ??? How could this be? My guess is that I have control over the situation — like my car’s CD player, so that I can re-listen to the information countless times until I get it.
Yet a third type of learning has to do with our opportunity to interact during the learning process. Actually, my grandson took the previously noted test (also given to the Blues), and it was discovered that he fell in this category. Little wonder, I thought, that Anthony Chic seemed to love my team’s weekly discussion session, and that he was almost always the first player to raise his hand or blurt-out an answer.
Now, before sharing a little gift with you, here’s what I see as the implication to all this…
As a parent, I don’t believe we should assume that our young hockey player either thinks or processes information in the same way we do. No, while you might enjoy seeing new information as I do, your son or daughter might be more like Tony C, or he or she may rather read through long text or listen to the information.
There is a HUGE message in all this for us coaches. For, we don’t deal with just one type of learning preference, but it’s more likely that we have a sprinkling of all types of learners within our squad. How do we satisfy such a wide variety of needs? Well, my suggestion is to constantly rotate the way we describe things to our kids — sometimes using a greaseboard, sometimes providing handouts or written materials, sometimes doing a physical demonstration, and sometimes holding brief bull sessions. (Hey, nobody ever said our job would be easy!)
With all that, I’m going to direct you to a site that provides a free questionnaire aimed at helping the quiz taker discover his or her own learning preferences. (I just took the test, and the results were dead-on — or exactly what I’ve come to know about myself after a kzillion years on this planet.) If there’s a problem here, the quiz seems a little beyond young hockey players (bummer), but I’m wondering if an adult might possibly help his or her youngster with the questions. As for older humans, I think the test can be hugely beneficial. As I suggested in the start, “… the more we know about ourselves, the better we function in this world.” (Now, just click the graphic to the left to take the test. You’ll also notice that there are some other great options you can also explore on that website.)
PS: As can happen with a lot of outside links, the one above might not be there forever. And, if you do discover it no longer works, please Email Me to let me know. Enjoy.
I don’t doubt that many hockey parents and coaches get frustrated, waiting for certain new skills to kick-in with their players. (And I don’t doubt some adults wonder the same thing when it comes to their game.)
So, since I’m trying to infuse a bunch of new plays into the games of both my AA Mites and AAA Bantams, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the subject.
– Dennis Chighisola
When Will New Hockey Skills Kick-in?
I begin here with a story that might just frustrate some members…
Some 30-plus years ago, I happened to be coaching a local Mite A team in what was billed as the Massachusetts Mite State Championship. We were probably the least known of all the teams there, but we were peaking at just the right time. Little did I know then that I was also coaching a couple of kids amid those 7- and 8-year olds who would go on to play quite a bit of pro hockey.
Honestly surprising to me, we managed to knock-off each opponent in the preliminary round, we won our semi-final match, and then found ourselves facing an undefeated “big city” team in the tournament finals. Even more surprising to me was that we flip-flopped the lead with the tourney favorites — either leading or trailing by a goal throughout the 60-minutes of regulation play.
Okay, so here’s the more interesting part… With only minutes to play in regulation, my top scorer sent the game into over-time with a beautiful “wrap around” goal. Man, did our fans go nuts. Shortly after that kid scored, I found him sitting in front of me on the bench, and I kinda thought out loud to him, suggesting, “That was a beautiful goal. Over the summer, though, you ought to practice faking towards one post on that play, and then quickly coming back and tucking the puck in on the other side.” My thinking was that the goaltender would go all-out to protect against the initial move, and never have time to react back to the other side.
You know what I’m thinking here… The summertime was the right time to add something new to a youngster’s game. I’m even thinking now that I was out of line distracting an 8-year old from the unbelievable pressures at hand. I mean, we were heading into OT in what was probably the most exciting atmosphere my little group of country kids had ever experienced.
Still, if you haven’t guessed it already… That youngster found himself with the puck behind the enemy net on his first over-time shift, he makes a mad dash towards one post, the opposition goaler dives to make the stop, and my little guy comes back to tuck the tournament winner into an almost empty net. Un-be-lieve-able!
Now, I tell that story as an example of the exception, definitely not the norm. Few mere mortals would have been able to clearly think like that in what I’ve already described as a pressure cooker. Just imagine.
At the same time, I’ve elsewhere in these pages described Wayne Gretzky and a few others as being so highly skilled that they could think on a different plain than most others. In other words, while most 8-year olds in the above described game were in varying degrees of panic mode when they touched the puck, my young forward skated and lugged the biscuit with such confidence that he was able to devote more energy to thinking things through out there. Or, as you’ve probably often read about some top performers in numerous sports, the game probably slowed down around him, and he was actually able to relax and think at a level most other youngsters couldn’t.
Then, having suggested the above story might frustrate many of you, what I meant is that we coaches and parents can’t usually expect the same kind of results with all our kids. No, for most it’ll take time to bring a new play into their game.
Okay, what got me on this subject is that it’s relatively early in the season for my young Mites and Bantams. And, back in practice, each group is working on a number of plays that I want to ultimately kick-in to their games. Actually, a lot of what we’re doing back at practice is planned in this way. However, knowing you’d like a hint at some of these, well…
A couple of times per week, I’m having a Mite puckcarrier move back and forth behind a net, while a teammate moves similarly out in front — stick down in readiness for a pass. You can imagine how sloppy my kids looked in our earliest practices, but how much better things are clicking in recent attempts. Still, no one has come close to trying that play yet in a game.
There are two things that quickly come to mind when I’m thinking about my older Bantams… I’ve given them several attack plays to use on 3 on 2 rushes, and I also have a special play I like to use with older defensemen on our breakouts. (I call the latter play the “drop-off”, because one D swings behind the net to draw an enemy forecheck, and then he forcefully drops the puck back to his partner who is swinging in the opposite direction.)
I said earlier that none of my Mites have come close to using their special play yet in a game. Well, that’s only partly so. Just yesterday, one of my little guys did carry the puck behind our opponents’ net, but he either ignored or didn’t see his teammate waiting out front for a pass. So, when he returned to the bench, I asked him if he had a better option in that situation, to which he responded, “Pass to the guy out front?” Bingo.
And I’ll suggest that the little discussion with that forward is one of the natural steps on the way to all of my kids ultimately getting it. In other words, that forward just might remember to look for an open teammate the next time he holds the puck in that situation. Or, it might be another kid I talk to who finally nets us a big goal. And, when that happens, I’m going to make a really big deal of it. My hope is that other kids will see it, and likewise make the connection between our practice drill and the live game action. Of course, they’ll also be looking for me to make a similarly big deal out of their play.
I’ll be attempting to do the same thing for my Bantams. I mean, we’ll do certain drills countless times in practice, I’ll talk to them as games are played — trying to connect the practices to their games, and I’ll make a big deal out of the earliest times the plays finally kick-in.
And that’s pretty much how things have to work for most players. For sure, the more individual skills they have on automatic, the better they’ll be able to think during the heat of battle. However, I see my role as a coach being to teach all of my kids, not just the advanced ones.
Again, the progressions are kinda natural, meaning that I have to just stick with the repetition, keep talking to the kids — before, during and after games, making a big deal out of the times when the plays start working, and then move on to new plays.
Lastly, while I’ve mostly described this process through the eyes of a coach, I’ve also used this method as a hockey parent and grandparent. Consequently, I’ve never been impatient at all as I watched my own work on something at home in hopes of having it later kick-in during a game. I know it will come, so long as I just allow the natural process to play out.
My friend Shaun Goodsell and the folks from Mental Edge just keep coming with the gems, and the following article fits in that category.
So, as always, I’m psyched that Shaun shares his stuff — with me, and with all CoachChic.com members.
– Dennis Chighisola
A Message to Hockey Parents: Training versus Trying
By Shaun Goodsell
I see a trend emerging in our young people that is troubling. Actually, I see many trends that are troubling but for purposes of this article I want to highlight one.
If you study athletics it doesn’t take long to understand that one vital aspect of becoming more skilled and a more experienced athlete is you HAVE to TRAIN. Training involves repetitively immersing yourself in the components of the sport to progressively improve and prepare oneself in an attempt to meet the demands of the sport. The focus here is on a process that involves ongoing discipline, commitment, sacrifice, and yes, deep struggle. Training is not a quick fix, it often has many ups and downs and these ups and downs provide opportunities for learning that build the solid baseline of learning for long term growth and self mastery. To truly improve and see that improvement stick when tested requires a mindset and lifestyle of training. To engage in this style of life you have to give up the addiction to comfort and embrace a lifestyle of struggle which provides the underlying basis for TRAINING.
Contrast this against the short term cramming effect that encourages people to believe they can make up for lost time by simply trying hard. We even have an education system that would rather have kids memorize facts, details, and formulas than to teach them how to think. Many kids live lazily for 5 days during the week and then “CRAM” for the final in an attempt to pull out a grade. Our athletes do this as well. They eat junk food constantly, practice relaxation continually, miss practices because they had too many sleepovers, and then wonder why they couldn’t meet the demands of the sport. Once this has occurred then excuses come. “My son or daughter is over worked”, “To much on the plate and coach expects to much” are all part of the masterful system to protect our young people from the sacrifice, dedication, and training that is required to legitimately cultivate a deep unshakeable confidence. I am not talking about those few that truly are over committed and need to learn the art of rest and relaxation. However, I see many young people that believe they can live comfortably in the summer and some how expect that they will have the “spot” they had last year. In my mind every young person, athlete or not, should be training themselves in some manner. They should have to be accountable, push themselves to be uncomfortable. The world does not allow you to cram. Success requires a “Training Program”, a strategy for helping you earn through dedication and sacrifice those accomplishments that are most purposeful and embedded in your being.
Let’s engage in long-term training. Put yourself in situations that force you to deal with disappointment, failure and doubt. This is when you build confidence that is unshakable. When this happens you have truly trained yourself for long-term success.
If you would like to provide your young person with the gift of confidence that is unshakable, call us today at 763-439-5246 or click here to sign up for a free consult. You will not be disappointed.
PS: We have designed Parent Challenge Questions to accompany this article to help you have quality conversations with your kids. Click here for the questions.
You don’t believe the above title and the subject of the video below have to do with hockey? Please have a look at that video before you read my impressions down below.
– Dennis Chighisola
Multitasking and Hockey Coaching
To begin, understand that Mr Carr is talking about ALL human beings here. And I mention that because it often seems to me that we grownups (like hockey parents and coaches) don’t translate such knowledge to young (or even older) hockey players. The truth is, the very challenges Nicholas Carr describes in the video impact greatly on a hockey player’s ability to focus — in skills training and in game related tactical execution.
Far too often I’ll witness coaches inundating young students with a host of things to consider when they’re attempting to try a new skill. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Give young players a batch of things to think about and they’ll accomplish none of them! In fact, in my motor learning studies, I was taught to begin with the “grossest” or largest problem, help an athlete overcome that, and then move on to the next grossest problem.
I’ve also adapted Mr Carr’s line of thinking to the early part of my team’s hockey season, only asking my players to concentrate on one or two areas of our system or game-play technique during a given game. In other words, while we might be practicing a wide array of tactics and strategies behind the scenes, I’ll ask my players in an early game something like, “Let’s just concentrate on our breakouts tonight.”
Again, any new information we discover having to do with all mankind really does have to do with the way we should handle hockey players.
Ravi, one of our long-time and very active members, suggested I address something here at CoachChic.com.
What brought us to discussing this was the flurry of trades that took place before, during and after the recent NHL Draft. More specifically, some not-so-nice things came to light in the media, once a guy had been traded. Interestingly, we never seemed to hear those negatives before the given trade. Once a guy was shipped out of town, however, it seems all his behavioral issues were fair game.
Some of what we’ve recently heard had to do with the players’ off-ice activities, and some of them intimated that a certain player wasn’t as good a teammate as he could have been.
Ravi and I talked on Facebook about that stuff, until he finally asked me to address it here. I told him that I’d just recently watched a video done by our good friend, Shaun Goodsell. And, while this doesn’t deal with late-night carousing issues, it offers the best advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to being a good guy or gal in the lockerroom.
– Dennis Chighisola
Being A Good Hockey TeammateLoading...
I don’t know about you but, that stuff really meant something to me.
I don’t think I’ve ever coached a team — youth to college — whereby players didn’t at least somewhat pay more attention to teammates they knew well, and less to those they didn’t know so well. That, at least to me, is human nature. So, I can’t necessarily fault kids for doing what comes comfortably to them. Of course, what Shaun had to say is an awesome way to look at that, and I’d highly recommend that every coach (and parent) make their young player aware of that viewpoint. Just imagine what a lockerroom would be like if every player took that approach.
Then, just to give you a hint of something I’m working on — and maybe suggest something other coaches might try… I’m digging through Google right now to find ideas for “bonding”, or “ice breaking”. A lot of companies are now doing this, calling in specialists who will run all sorts of games that tend to get folks laughing and working together. A lot of what we’ll find in that regard involves purely mental tasks. But, what I’m looking for are games involving small groups, these intended to get participants depending upon one another, and cheering for each other. After all, that’s what we look for during a game.
Anyway, I hope this gets everyone thinking — about how hockey players can be good teammates.
If ever there was an audio program players, parents and coaches should listen to, it’s one like this. I mean, at one time or another, all three parts of the hockey population wrestle with important decisions, large and small.
And, while I’d like to think there is already plenty of help here within these CoachChic.com pages, it’s awesome when we’re able gain yet more insight from someone like a pro scout.
As always, I’m indebted to my friend Shaun Goodsell for providing this interview.
– Dennis Chighisola
How Pro Hockey Scouts Think
Gordie Roberts was drafted in the third round, 54th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft. His professional career started in 1975 when he was signed as a 17-year old underage junior by the WHA New England Whalers. He represented the Whalers in the 1977 and 1978 WHA All-Star Game and was still with New England when the NHL and WHA merged in 1979.
In 1980, the Whalers traded Roberts to the Minnesota North Stars for Mike Fidler. He remained a North Star for eight seasons before moving to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1988, who promptly traded him to the St. Louis Blues after only 11 games. During this time, Roberts also played for Team USA in the 1984 Canada Cup as well as the 1982 and 1987 Ice Hockey World Championship tournaments.
Roberts won 2 Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992 and became the first American player to appear in 1000 NHL games in 1992. He played for the Boston Bruins during his final two years in the NHL.
Post Playing Career
Roberts served as the player/coach of the 1994-95 International Hockey League Chicago Wolves as well as the assistant coach of the Phoenix Coyotes for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. In recent years, he has worked as a pro scout for the Montreal Canadiens, specializing in pro scouting evaluating teams / player in the NHL and AHL to consult with GM on trades and free agents. The Mental Edge is proud to have Gordie as a Mental Edge Coach that specializes as an Advisor to hockey players in their player development and possible future hockey career.
Awards and achievements
- Inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
As an Insider, you have a front row seat as Shaun and Gordie talk about his NHL Career, post NHL Career and how he’s now helping hockey players! (Just press the arrow below to listen to the interview.)
Shaun and his staff have many other awesome interviews available (at no charge) over on the Mental Edge website, and I highly recommend CoachChic.com members take advantage of those.
– Dennis Chighisola
Thank God I have some of the nicest (and sharpest) hockey friends in the world! And you can count among them my friends at the Mental Edge.
– Dennis Chighisola
Mental Training Interview Series
Thanks to my good friend Shaun Goodsell and his Mental Edge staff, CoachChic.com now has available a series of interviews with a number of extremely insightful National Hockey League players. I mean, these aren’t your typical interviews (for the fans’ sake), but instead they’re loaded with ideas on how various professional players prepare for hockey and keep themselves mentally in the game.
Now, the following is an interview the Mental Edge’s Justin Johnson did with the New Jersey Devils’ Paul Martin. Then, if you like that as a sampling, click on the link provided below to gain access to numerous more great interviews.
Now, gain access to more great (and FREE) interviews by clicking the following link… Mental Edge Insider Interviews
With most hockey leagues around North America now nearing playoff time, I thought I’d treat members to a special *Gift, this being Shaun Goodsell’s advice on Mentally Preparing for Playoffs. It’s this month’s free *Gift, and you can access it (if you’re a member) by clicking either of those links. Enjoy.
Well, if you guessed I’m busy at researching again, you’d be right about that.
Anyway, take a look at what I found for you (it’s really good stuff)…
– Dennis Chighisola
Olympic Motivational Speaker Ruben Gonzalez
I’ve often mentioned here about spending a good deal of time digging for new ideas. What members might not know is the variety of that research.
I hope you appreciate that this really isn’t the time for me to look too much into new drill ideas (unless I’m asked a specific question, or unless my own players need help with a certain problem that might require a fresh approach). No, the spring is when I head into my “bunker” to investigate new training methods, the very latest in science, as well as some new drill ideas.
Still, I am constantly on the lookout for things that will help us — hockey players, parents and coaches. And, while I’ll soon announce here why I was off on the following tangent early today, I thought the following would be pretty interesting for you to see. And, it also gives me the chance to share some advice I’d like ALL of my hockey friends to appreciate.
– Dennis Chighisola
Teamwork and a Winning Attitude
Now, I have a feeling you’ll be surprised when you discover where I’m ultimately going to go with the meat of the following video. So, at least as you go into it, I ask that you listen from several angles…
I mean, I know there will be some business types who will get a lot out of this. And so will we players and coaches. However, I’d really later like to talk about this video as it applies to each parent’s young player. So, with that in mind, have a watch (and listen)…
Now, grown-ups who have played their fair share of team sports should surely appreciate all that gentleman said — about you, about me. Ya, for sure, as young athletes we learned so much about teamwork.
From there, however, let’s switch to looking at this line of discussion from a parent’s or coach’s viewpoint. And, in so doing, let’s see how we might help the hockey players in our charge strive for the right things…
Of course, teamwork means getting along — but not always necessarily with just those mates we like or know well. And, hockey — probably more than most other team sport — requires giving-up one’s own body in order to make a given play, sharing the puck with a mate who is in a more advantageous position, etc. Yes, there’s a lot of selflessness required to be a truly effective hockey player.
The speaker said athletes “have stamina”, although I’ll twist that a bit to suggest that they learn “staying power”, or the ability to keep going under some pretty difficult circumstances. Personally, I’ve seen a lot of none athletes who accepted defeat far to early, or far too easily, while former athletes just wouldn’t quit.
I found it interesting that the video highlighted an athlete’s desire to learn “the game” (not just the job). Actually, I’ve often put that into my own words, suggesting that one get into “the spirit of what we’re trying to really accomplish” — in a given drill, or within the context of our playing system.
Of course, athletes DO learn to play by the rules, which to me makes them all the easier to deal with in later life than those who never learned such.
And, the good ones are always looking to better themselves, or always raising their own personal standards. Ya, even within a team game like hockey, it rests on the shoulders of every individual member to make himself or herself better and better.
Then, I purposely moved one of the speaker’s earliest ideas to last, mainly because it’s the one I’d like to expand upon just a bit more… What the speaker said was that athletes tend to make victory a habit. They know what winning feels like, and they have a sense of how to repeat it. Yup, true enough.
As true as the premise of that last paragraph is, however, I feel the need to point-out that athletes early-on also learn to experience losing, disappointment, failure. And, while that surely isn’t our aim as we enter any game, it surely is one of the most important things we’ll ever, ever experience. If you think about it, they’ll never truly appreciate the excitement of winning unless they’ve been through just the opposite.
Still, there’s yet another point I want to make — especially with parents… For, you see, while none of us want to see our youngsters hurting, I think we do them an even greater disservice by overly protecting them. Every kid is at some point going to feel he was the game’s goat, and every player is likely to at some point be benched, be short-shifted, or told not to dress for a game. So, those things being somewhat inevitable, it seems to me our job – as a parents or coach — is to teach them how to deal with such occurrences…
Hey, did you know that Michael Jordan ended his NBA playing career as the leader in only one category — that of missed shots? (Yes, he is high in many others, but that’s the only category where he’s Number One!) And, did you know that Babe Ruth (at least last I knew) holds the record for the most strikeouts in Major League Baseball history? Hmmmmmm…
I’ve actually heard it said that Jordan’s record is the one he’s most proud of. But, then again, he often speaks about being cut from his high school basketball team, as well. Ya, Michael Jordan, I believe, is proudest of overcoming setbacks — learning how to bounce back from missing a key shot, whatever. And so must Babe Ruth have learned to blot-out his latest failed at bat, once more strutting to the plate with supreme confidence.
Yes, great players learn to deal with setbacks. And, my message to those overseeing their youngster’s development is to at least not overly protect them. Instead, see if you might help them put recent disappointments into perspective, share stories with them like those of Jordan or Ruth, and suggest to them that it’s what they do after a setback that determines what sort of athlete (and person) they really are.
Finally, even if a youngster ultimately makes it to hockey’s highest rung, he’ll likely be retiring long before the age of 35. Ya, even NHL-ers eventually have to go out and get a job. So, of course, are the rest of us — the mere mortals. My point: that we’re likely to help our young guys and gals be all the better suited for any sort of life after hockey IF they gain along the way all the things our game truly offers.
There might be a visitor or two who doesn’t think the following videos belong on a hockey website. Oh, man, I beg to differ!
I don’t care what line of work we’re in, or our favorite pastime, I don’t believe we should be limited — by others — when it comes to dreaming, and when it comes to striving. (Like the baseball pitcher mentioned in the first video, no one has the right to tell us that we can’t ultimately make our dreams come true.)
– Dennis Chighisola
Having Hockey Dreams
Okay, so why did I really introduce this video — or this subject? Well, for one thing, I’ll bet I take at least one telephone call or email per week from a parent who begins with, “I’m not looking for my kid to make it to the NHL, but…”
I guess I understand why they feel the need to say that — or, perhaps I don’t.
Ya know, I think it ironic that it’s okay if a kid says, “Daddy, I want to grow-up to be president!” And they’ll get plenty of support if they tell a grown-up they want to be an astronaut, a doctor, whatever. However, just let a kid outwardly dream about being something like a major league pitcher, and a nearby adult is too often going to grimace and suggest otherwise.
Now, I’m not saying that every youngster has a chance to become a pro athlete. For sure, the odds are against him or her. But, so are the odds against becoming president, becoming the CEO of General Motors, the head of the United Nations, and we could probably list a kzillion other hard-to-land jobs. My only point — at least in this paragraph — is that becoming a pro athlete is probably no more difficult than a lot of other special lines of work.
Then, having suggested there’s more to this, I can only suggest that lowering a youngster’s expectations IN ANY GIVEN AREA is most likely going to affect other aspects of his or her life. I mean, I don’t think it’s possible to tell him or her they CAN’T attain one goal, but they CAN another, equally difficult one. It seems to me that success is a mindset, and one is either encouraged or discouraged from having a positive outlook.
PS: Reason one last thing with me, if you would…
Isn’t it likely that a kid’s dreams will change quite a bit through the years? (Countless kids seem to want to be firemen when they’re very young.) So, what the heck… Why not let ‘em dream, and let them get a few of those out of their system on their own?
Actually, in my youth, TV programming was filled with westerns, which had all of us young boys of that generation at least initially wanting to be cowboys…
My point, of course (hoping you at least endured my humor):
Lou and Marie Chighisola let me dream all I ever wanted, probably realizing full-well that Dennis never was going to grow-up to be a cowboy.
Okay, once again I’ve probably struck a chord with some of my hockey friends. I encourage your (opposing?) views on this subject, though — honestly. So, just leave a Comment below, and let’s talk this out further.
State of Mind
If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you do not
If you like to win but think you can’t
It’s almost certain you won’t
If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost
For out in the world you find
Success begins with a fellow’s will,
It’s all in a state of mind
Full many a race is lost
Before a step is run
And many a coward falls
Before the works begun
Think big and your dreams will grow
Think small and you’ll fall behind
Think that you can and you will,
It’s all in a state of mind
If you think you are out-classed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise
You’ve got to be sure of yourself
Before you can win a prize
Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man
But, sooner or later the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can,
It’s all in the state of mind.
Thanks to Jason Price and his Athletes Equation team, you may download and print a more attractive copy of this message:
Most long-time members should know my strong belief in “visualization” or “mental imagery”. In fact, while most hockey folks put the majority of their eggs into their on-ice skills basket, Shaun Goodsell and I are forever urging our CoachChic.com friends to pay just as much attention to enhancing their mental skills.
I think long-time members will also recall my love for several social media sites. Yes, Twitter and Facebook are where I’ve met some of the best and brightest advisers one could ever find, and those sites are where a lot of my current day friends reside.
Such is the case with a new on-line friend, Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter. She’s a Sports Psychology Expert, and I’ll tell you a little more about her once you’ve had the chance to see her special video.
– Dennis Chighisola
Visualization-Performance Coaching Tips for Sports
Okay, after many years of espousing the virtues of mental imagery, I finally came across someone who explains pretty well the techniques we might use when planning our own visualization sessions. So, have a look and listen to what Dr JoAnn has to offer…
Now, since I’m guessing mostly adults will watch that video, I’m wondering if any of you got the feeling those methods would work in areas beyond sport, or beyond hockey. I mean, how about in our work? Actually, how about in our personal lifestyles?
Yup, that’s powerful stuff, and I’ll suggest it will work anywhere IF we follow The Good Doctor’s advice!
Okay, Dr JoAnn can be found all around the Internet. However, besides looking into some of her other YouTube videos, here are some other ways you might follow her awesome advice…
Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter
Sports Psychology Expert
Our good friend Ravi made an unbelievable contribution in a Comment (below), providing us all a link to a video showing Mike Cammalleri using visualization in his own way. That video was so good (as was the narration by Don Cherry) that I thought I’d embed it right here within this post just to make it easier for members to see. Thanks again, Ravi!
– Dennis Chighisola
By the way, folks… The “Bobby” Don Cherry is talking about in that video is none other than the great Bobby Orr. So, Cherry is saying that Orr used similar visualization methods, but he’d practice his in the lockerroom long before games. Wow!
Man, does Old Coach Chic have something to offer in THIS department!
I can’t put my finger on the time I realized the importance of what Shaun Goodsell is about to share with you, but my guess is that it was about 10-years ago. (You could make that 25- to 30-years ago if you count my reading back then how the old Soviet coach, Anatoli Tarasov, would have his team practice amid recordings of loud fan noise, just to prepare his guys for playing in North American rinks.)
Anyway, the following is awesome advice, and I’ll have a little more to add right after…
– Dennis Chighisola
The Speed of Learning
Shaun Goodsell, MA
Founder and CEO of Mental Edge
Athletes invest enormous amounts of time in practice. Go to a football field, a hockey rink, a baseball diamond and you will most likely see coaches and athletes preparing for an upcoming contest. Many report that practice seems insignificant and boring leading some to quit and many to disengage, believing that the cost is simply not worth the perceived benefit. The question is, what are the vital principles of meaningful and effective practice that enhance the development of the athlete? It just so happens that researchers have uncovered some targeted principles that have been proven to enhance preparation as well as game-time performance. This article is intended to highlight one of them.
More and more, researchers are learning that optimal brain functioning enhances the speed of learning and development. Researchers have discovered that those athletes, as well as others, that practice consistently with intensity — defined by practicing their skills at the edge of their ability level, making more mistakes, and leading to greater frustration — develop 300% faster than those that go through meaningless and countless comfortable repetitions. Daniel Coyle in his excellent book “Talent Code” refers to this as “Deep Practice”. The brain releases an important chemical called Myelin within this style of practice. This chemical speeds up the brain’s capacity to build connections and therefore learning is enhanced and sped up. What this means is that our development is often dictated more by our ability to learn from our mistakes in a pressure-oriented environment than by simply executing a skill or task without any pressure.
With time constraints becoming a significant challenge, and more and more required in the classroom from our student athletes, this groundbreaking information gives hope that, with creativity and purpose, athletes do not need to invest hours and hours of comfortable practice to improve. In fact, this type of practice may do more to un-prepare the athlete than actually help them prepare for the pressure-laden contest they are likely to encounter.
I want to end this article by saying that those athletes that can learn to handle frustration and see the learning inherent within mistakes often learn at a more rapid rate then those that are derailed by disappointment and frustration. Often some “mind skills” training might be needed to engage in this highly intense type of practice. Next time you go to practice, remember, making mistakes is crucial to your growth. So fail huge!
The Mental Edge is committed to training kids through these types of experiences. To begin your life training process give us a call today 763-439-5246.
Without doubt, that is unbelievable, elite level coaching advice! Now, however, let me suggest a few hockey-specific tips…
There are still some areas of a player’s game where I want them to go slowly and to concentrate on technique. For example, working on something like one’s skating stride — maybe with T-cords, a slideboard or my Skater’s Rhythm-bar — falls in this category. And I also tend to have my players initially go slowly as they’re learning a new skill. However, beyond those examples, it’s probably time for Shaun’s advice to kick-in.
I remember reading years ago about the late, great Flyers coach, Fred Shero, having his team practice their breakouts against 6-forecheckers, or he otherwise make them work against situations that were far beyond what they’d face in a real game.
And so are there numerous examples within this website about ways I’ve upped the challenges on my players during their practices…
A number of years ago, one of my Team NEHI assistant coaches returned from earning his Level 5 coaching certification, and one of the ideas he shared with me from that seminar was that of “… really screwing-up the kids’ motor neurons.” One of his ideas was to have multiple (small) games going on at the same time — maybe with three different teams out on the ice, with three or four differently colored pucks being used (each puck with its own rules for scoring). Ha, talk about challenging your players mentally. Oh, and I might also add that, challenging players mentally is one of the main benefits of small games use.
Of course, long-time CoachChic.com members should be familiar with all the crazy stunts I have individual players do — from dribbling more than one puck or ball at a time to performing some crazy physical tricks — like tumbling or skipping rope — while dribbling.
Ya, part of the challenge is to really screw-up the kids’ motor neurons. But, so is it to force them to solve problems. And I think the latter is a big part of what Shaun has been saying.
In fact, if you’ve seen my 6-part video series on “You Don’t Need Ice!”, you might recall me pointing to the mental skills that a hockey player can acquire by learning unique rules, strategies and tactics while engaged in another sport. The idea is to keep the mind growing, and learning to solve problems during the heat of battle.
Oh, by the way… About a month ago I started a series here under the Conditioning category, showing you some of the things my high school players are doing in various off-ice settings. And I made it a point in one of the earliest posts to mention a few things I talked to the kids about… One of these was a warning about their fine motor skills abandoning them as they tired, this so each player would understand himself while in either a practice or late-game setting. The other was to advise my guys against stopping if they hit a snag in any drill, and to resist the temptation to sulk for even a second.
Yes, the point to all this is that an athlete’s mind (and body) need to be constantly challenged, beyond the typical in-and-out-of-pylons kind of drills.
Despite all the advice I share within these hundreds of pages, I’m going to suggest that the following is as important as any aspiring hockey player (or any human) will ever receive.
Yes, the following was inspired by one of Jerry Z’s recent progress reports — and it’s even connected to a conversation I had the other day with one of my high school players. But, I wouldn’t want a single player, parent or coach to miss it; I think it’s THAT important.
– Dennis Chighisola
Some Serious Hockey Advice (for Jerry Z, et al)
Oftentimes Jerry’s weekly updates sound as if he’s a little discouraged. Hey, he’s an older beginner, which doesn’t make progress as easy as if he were 8-years old. And he’s quite frequently measuring himself against guys who are probably much younger, more athletic, and far ahead of him in hockey playing experience.
As an aside here, I can understand how things go in a game. I mean, Jerry can feel he’s holding his own for a time, but then he might suddenly feel he’s been embarrassed by a given player, either offensively or defensively.
Over recent weeks I’ve tried to get my buddy focused back to thinking about why he’s playing this game (in his case, roller hockey). And we also had to give some meaning to the way he’s working so hard behind the scenes to improve his game. For sure, many of my students have some really challenging goals in mind — maybe surviving the first cuts as high school freshmen, perhaps making their high school varsity team, maybe getting to play in college, or maybe even getting a sniff from the pros. But, quite obviously, none of those are on the horizon for Jerry or the guys he plays with or against. (Actually, I am frequently joking back when Jerry writes me about an opponent who takes things far too seriously, suggesting that, “Those guys should realize there aren’t any NHL scouts in the stands!”)
All that aside, Jerry ultimately reasoned for himself that his main goal should be to have some fun. And, really, what other reason would there be to go to the rink several nights per week (beyond getting a little exercise, perhaps).
Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever shared with you an exchange I’ve had with my mom through the years… (I guess family members appreciate that I know my stuff when it comes to weight loss, exercising and such, and they’ll contact me whenever they have a related question.)
Whether comical or sad, the greatest problem I’ve had with my mom through the years was in keeping her motivated — or keeping her spirits up — as she attempted to trim down a bit.
The typical scenario has mom trying my ideas for a week, after which time she’ll complain that it didn’t work. Of course, one doesn’t have to be an exercise science authority to know that a week isn’t long enough to measure the results of anything.
Actually, I told mom to hide her bathroom scale (that’s how she judges results), and to instead go by how she feels. I mean, in the short term, a scale can lie for so many reasons — including changes in water retention and the fact that muscle weighs more than fat.
So, if you see where I’m going with this — for Jerry’s sake, you’ll appreciate that I’d prefer that he look long-term for results. Let’s face it, he can’t expect to drag his Tow-trainer up and down the roadways twice in a week, and then go blow-by all the other skaters the next Tuesday night. Naw, progress takes time.
Now, as for my young high school player… I’d like you to appreciate that I try to study each of my players with a couple of major things in mind. I have to gain a sense of where they’ll be trying-out next winter, I want to list the strengths I’ll want them to build upon, as well as itemize any glaring weaknesses we’ll have to overcome.
In the case of the young forward in question, I think he brings to the table all the things that are typically honed in youth hockey — such as hard skating and aggressiveness. Not so surprisingly, he also demonstrates several of the shortcomings I almost always see as the result of a typical youth hockey upbringing — namely in the areas of puckhandling, passing, receiving and shooting.
So, last Friday night I was leaving our practice rink. And, spotting that youngster exiting a different door, I yelled down to him, “How are you feeling?” His reply, “Not so good.”
Ugh… You know I couldn’t let things go with that — hey, I don’t want this kid heading home for the weekend with those kinds of feelings. So, I intercepted him and his mom as their car neared where I was. Ya, I pretty much had to nip things in the bud right then and there, and tell my young buddy (and his mom) something that I’d later share with Jerry Z.
You see, attempting to make any sort of change has to be done with the long-term in mind. Moreover, I wanted my high school player and Jerry to understand that there HAVE TO BE some bumps in the road in between. Actually, my way of phrasing it is that a player generally takes two-steps-forward and then one-step-backward, kinda going up and down as he or she attempts to make changes.
I’ve seen this happen in weightlifting, I’ve seen it happen in speed training, and I’ve seen it with folks like my mom when they’re attempting to lose weight. In other words, one senses progress, then he or she feels like they’ve gone backwards a bit; they sense more progress, and then they might feel a little discouraged because the next jump forward doesn’t come fast enough.
Getting back to that high school boy again, I am really trying to improve his offensive skills. Along the way he is struggling sometimes with his shot, and he’s frequently mishandling the puck. (Trust me, that these occurrences are typical.) It’s the proverbial one-step-backward part of the equation in my mind, and something that is absolutely necessary to his ultimately taking two-steps-forward.
With that, Jerry Z wrote me this morning with an update covering his games of the past week. And I could read the (reserved?) excitement in that email, as he described a number of goals he’d scored, as well as a few defensive plays he felt he’d done rightly.
Now, although I shared similar messages with the two guys described above, I’ll suggest that there’s something quite different in the timetables they’re each on…
It should make sense that Jerry just wants to enjoy the game more and more as time goes along.
On the other hand, my high school-er should have only one goal in mind, and I made this abundantly clear to him and his mom… Massachusetts high school winter sports seasons begin on the first Monday after the US Thanksgiving holiday. So, everything I do with my HS Prep team is aimed at having them totally ready — I mean above and beyond ready — for that special day. And, do you want to know something? It doesn’t matter one iota how good a high school kid is in June, in July, in August, whenever. All that matters is that he or she is absolutely ready to fly on that special Monday. (And, let me tell you that that philosophy is awfully hard to sell to a lot of kids, as well as their parents.)
Okay, so you know how my two friends differ in their objectives. Yet, here’s how their thinking has to be very close to the same…
I hope that they (and everyone else within ear-shot) will subscribe to the old adage that has the turtle ultimately overtaking the hare. Yup, work slowly and methodically, and I promise you’ll eventually pass a lot of hares.
As difficult as it might be, a player (or maybe his or her parents or coach) has to realize that the “one-step-backward” thing is going to happen. I hate to say it this way, but you just have to “get over it”. If there’s some good news, it’s that I can almost guarantee you a “two-steps-forward” phase lies just around the corner.
As happened to Jerry Z this past week, every player should expect that all his or her efforts will ULTIMATELY kick-in. Oh, I can’t say when, even with 40-plus years in the game. One just never knows when that’s going to happen. Unfortunately, though, a lot of folks (including my mom) give-up too early. That’s why I took the time to encourage that young high school player, that’s why I wanted Jerry to understand what might have just happened to him, and that’s the reason I’ve taken all this time to share these things with you.
Finally, I can always trust someone over on Twitter to supply me an appropriate quote, this one coming from the notable diva, Beverly Sills:
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”
Have anything to add to this discussion?
You know how I (and lots of other members) enjoy your input!
I have only one thing to mention as I introduce this article authored by the Mental Edge’s Brady Greco…
We are all sportsmen.
Yes, some of us are hockey people, some of us are into baseball. But, we should all first see ourselves as sportsmen. And, oh… If we could all be sportsmen in the mold of an Amando Galarraga.
– Dennis Chighisola
The Perfect Game
By Brady Greco
The Mental Edge
One of the finest displays of perspective in all sports was witnessed this past month by Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga. Galarraga had retired 26 of 26 opposing batters without allowing a hit, walk, or hit batsmen. All he needed was one more out to become only the 21st pitcher ever in Major League history to throw a “perfect game”. This feat is one of the toughest to accomplish by any athlete in any sport. It is what Little Leaguer’s stay up at night dreaming about in their beds.
As the 27th batter dug-in to face Galarraga, 30,000 screaming fans were waiting to witness history. What was to follow in the moments after will be forever remembered as one of sports most all time “botched” calls by an umpire, official, or referee. The batter hit into a routine grounder in which Galarraga had to cover first-base. The first baseman flipped Armando Galarraga the ball for the last out of the game, etching in history his “perfect game”. Unfortunately umpire Jim Joyce saw the play differently and called the batter safe at first, ultimately blowing Galarraga’s “perfect game”. After one look at the replay, it was evident the runner at first base was out and Joyce had made the wrong call on the field. Since baseball does not have the luxury of having instant replay, the call on the field stood.
In an instance like this, with so much emotion attached to the situation, anyone in their right mind would have RIPPED umpire Jim Joyce a “new one”! Nevertheless, Armando Galarraga composed himself and brushed the call off with a “you gotta be kidding me” smirk, and went back to the mound to complete the game. After the game, a petition was delivered to Bud Selig (commissioner of MLB) to over-rule Joyce’s ‘bogus’ call and to award Galarraga with a “perfect game”. However, Selig would stand by the call Joyce made on the field that night and did not acknowledge the “perfect game” thrown by Galarraga.
The following game, Galarraga (who was not pitching that day) made it a point to hand deliver the team’s line-up card to Jim Joyce who was umping behind the plate. Galarraga wanted to make sure that Joyce was okay and to let Joyce know he had no negative feelings towards him.
When Galarraga was questioned about the blown call Joyce made, he simply responded with, “I know myself that I threw a perfect game, and that’s all that matters.” This type of perspective is what athletes striving to make it to the next level must learn. Galarraga understands that baseball is bigger than he is. He understands that humans make mistakes. He understands that he is lucky and honored to be able to play the sport he loves on a daily basis. He knows that if he dwelled on the situation, he would end up mentally beating himself up. Above all else, Armando Galarraga realizes that life is full of wonderful things and baseball is just a fraction of what the entire world has to offer.
The character, integrity, and sportsmanship displayed by Armando Galarraga was much greater to witness than watching ANY other pitcher throw a “perfect game”.
Like this? When you’re ready to live life with this kind of perspective, simply email us to get started.
We’ve been very fortunate to have a number of great guest writers over the first year of CoachChic.com. Most of them have come from friendships I’ve developed over on my favorite social media site, and all of them have been from among the small group I refer to as “Twitter’s Best and Brightest”.
That said, let me introduce you to one of the very brightest in Twitterland, Dr Mollie Marti. And, proving she’s a woman who really knows how to take a bite out of life, let me share just some of her extensive experiences:
Mollie is a performance psychologist and founder of BestLifeDesign.com, a life design resource that provides tools, advice, and inspiration in all areas of life design, including health, fitness, relationships, finances, career, spirituality, and success. Mollie is a successful entrepreneur and coach with a prestigious list of clients, including Olympians and business superstars. She is widely published in academic journals, and also shares her work in numerous peak performance and success books. As a psychologist, lawyer and trained mediator, Dr. Mollie has years of experience in conflict resolution, negotiation, facilitation, group dynamics, team building and alignment, motivation, performance effectiveness, communication strategies, strategic planning and change management. With her unique ability to combine the science of success with the art of living well, Mollie is a popular trainer and speaker. She is a frequent resource for local and national media, including Self, Newsweek, Parents Magazine, and the Montel Williams show. She lives with her husband, 3 children, and large family of pets on an apple orchard in scenic northeast Iowa.
Now, besides getting to know her well over the past year or so, I subscribe to her newsletter and – whenever I need a lift or a bit of motivation, I’ll put on my headphones and listen to one of Mollie’s audio recordings.
Does an old hockey coach need that kind of help? How about a parent? An athlete? My answer to all of those is, “You bet!” As a matter of fact, Here’s an endorsement by another pretty high level coach:
“As a head coach, I am always trying to get the most out of myself, my staff and my team. Mollie has provided tremendous expertise and tools to help each member of our team improve. From goal setting to communication to decision making, she has made a great difference. She has helped our team truly understand that individual success and team success are one in the same. Mollie is our X Factor.”
– Lisa Bluder, Head Coach
University of Iowa Women’s Basketball
2010 Big 10 Coach of the Year
With all that, the following arrived in my inbox today, and I immediately knew I had to share it with my favorite hockey people. Again, I find Dr Marti’s writings helpful to me, and I suspect the following piece will be appreciated by other coaches, other business types and older players. Enjoy!
– Dennis Chighisola
Self-Discipline: Paying Yourself Forward!
by Dr. Mollie Marti
“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it.
Establish your priorities and go to work.”
– H. L. Hunt
For many, the word “discipline” sounds like punishment. Who would guess that such a word, when applied to one’s self, actually creates unlimited rewards and freedom?
Self-discipline is the regulation one’s Self. It is a way of investing in your future – and it is a key factor in helping you achieve all you want in life.
Once upon a time, Americans were all about self-discipline. George Washington made it a personal challenge to rise before the sun did. Benjamin Franklin said, “The person who has self-discipline is very powerful.” Countless colonists read and followed the precepts published in Poor Richard’s Almanac, which was loaded with advice related to the value of self-discipline and which Franklin published every year between 1732 and 1758 (now that’s self-discipline!). Immigrants who came to and strengthened the fabric of this great country were highly self-disciplined, persevering through immense trials and tribulations.
So what happened since? Maybe things got a little too easy for us and we settled into choosing comfort over discipline. The good news is that I am seeing resurgence in a desire to better oneself and positively impact our world. Now more than ever people want to serve others and leave a strong legacy, and they realize that they need self-discipline to do this.
Self-discipline is a habit anyone can acquire with a little practice. Go easy on yourself as you’re building this success skill.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Self discipline can be best summed up in a single word: UNTIL. You simply do whatever “it” is until it is done.
- You can BEHAVE your way to success. The key is to focus on one area of improvement at a time. Pick one target behavior, like getting up one-half hour earlier than you do now to go for a walk or write that book you say you’ll write “some day.” Then do it every day until it becomes second nature – a habit.
- If you happen to be human, you will mess up. Build this into your expectations. Don’t buy into all-or-nothing thinking, which leads to throwing in the towel. Forgive yourself and start over. Go back to item 1 and begin again.
- Break down your goals. If you set a single goal of completing a marathon and you only fit in one-half hour of walking each day, you will quickly get discouraged. If you set an initial goal of walking for one-half hour each day, mixed with running for one minute every 10 minutes, you can steadily work up to this level and quickly see results. Stop going for the home run and start working your way around the bases.
- Stay vigilant. When you find yourself beginning to succeed, you also may find yourself saying, “I wonder if I really need to…” If so, STOP. Recommit. Affirm your new habit with emotion. Say it aloud! “Exercising each day makes me feel great. Off I go!”
Most importantly, don’t quit. You and your dreams are worth fighting for. Keep going and you’ll quickly find that the temporary pain of self-discipline will be more than offset by the pride and pleasure of achieving your long-term goals!
Now, if that isn’t something every one of us can use. As a matter of fact, the timing of Dr Marti’s message couldn’t be better for us hockey types. I mean, I have been suggesting over recent weeks that our off-season is a time when we can catch or pass others. And Mollie makes two points that will truly help towards that end…
First, focus on a small part of your game and work to bring that to a high level.
Secondly, stick with it. As a matter of fact, I suggest that a player not even worry about results at first. Just keep plodding away — with discipline, and see what happens near summer’s end. I promise you’ll see results.
Finally, as soon as you get a chance, visit Dr Mollie Marti’s website at http://www.BestLifeDesign.com, and get on her newsletter list. Like me, you’ll be glad you did.
– Dennis Chighisola
As always, we REALLY enjoy your Comments!
The Truth About Choking
Is all choking created equally? When an athlete is not able to find the internal resources under pressure to be their best, is it always for the same reason? Many would say it is, because they choked, lacked confidence, or they were mentally lacking focus. The problem with all these labels is that they are over used clichés that lack the clarity that could potentially lead to a breakthrough for the athlete or one looking to improve his or her performance.
I recently came across an article by Malcolm Gladwell, an expert thought leader in the world of psychology, describing what often happens under pressure that leads athletes to “fall apart”, choke and panic. He started by talking about how, in the beginning, athletes are extremely deliberate and thoughtful about learning skills. Most invest a tremendous amount of time and energy to acquire mastery in relevant skills. The beginning is marked by a focus on deliberate and repetitive practice.
The learning that occurs during this phase is known as “Explicit ” learning. As this learning takes root, another type of learning occurs that allows the athlete to spend less mental energy in detailed deliberate thought. This learning becomes more unconscious and there is more focus placed on the finer points of the task, such as touch and timing. This is known as “Implicit ” learning. Athletes often perform their best when implicit learning has taken root and they are relying on instinct, creativity and flow to guide their performance.
Interestingly enough, as pressure begins to mount, some athletes become more inwardly thoughtful and consequently become more focused on what they were thinking when they were first learning the game. This results in a more deliberate internal focus that appears to turn a creative approach into a self-focused, fear-of-failure approach. The noticeable change is a more fearful, tentative, and robotic approach which mirrors that of a beginner.
Contrast this with when an athlete starts to panic. Panic is a heightened state of anxiety that often leaves the athlete with no awareness of quality thought at all, resulting in missing some of the most basic aspects of the game. Some of these are so troubling because the athlete may have done them repetitively in the past. So, on one hand as someone “OVER-THINKS” during a performance, they regress back to when they were a beginner, because of increased, internally focused thinking. When an athlete is panicked, he or she lacks any connection to thought all together. Many athletes deal with the challenges associated with both conditions.
The skills needed to overcome these challenges are different, and simply telling them to focus, work harder, or be more confident not only does not help but, in some cases, actually make the challenge worse.
If you are dealing with either of these two challenges, let us help you overcome them. Simply email us to get started!
When you get into the first paragraph of the following article, you’re likely to wonder why I’ve chosen to post it at this time, rather than on New Year’s Day. Well, as you’re also likely to discover, Justin Johnson’s piece is timeless, in that his suggestions would serve us well at absolutely any time of the year.
That said, I think that NOW is a very critical time in a hockey player’s year. As many of us CoachChic.com writers suggested last spring, this is a time for reflection, or for taking an account of how we did this past season. And so is it a time to plan ahead — so that we might improve upon some of our shortcomings, and to build further upon our strengths.
– Dennis Chighisola
Justin Johnson, Performance Coach
Pulling Away From the Pack
As many athletes return to school from break and we stare down another year, I wanted to lay down a challenge to all and any youth athletes and non athletes reading this, especially, those contemplating New Year’s resolutions. Whatever your area of activity, be it in school, friends, family, church, or in athletics: Separate Yourself. Be special, dare to be different, lead the pack, go big or go home. However you would like to say it or phrase it, I ask you to be bold enough to do it.
Few athletes exemplified this mindset more than baseball’s Babe Ruth; he swung for the fences whether it was on the field, at the dinner table or in his life off the field. “I swing big, with everything I’ve got,” Ruth said. “I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” As a result, for many years Ruth held the record for most home runs and for most strikeouts. He saw strikeouts as part of the deal. He actually said, “Every strikeout brings me closer to my next home run.”
By this time you may be asking yourself how can I, little average old me, do such a thing? Here is how you get started. Find one activity you do regularly in your life. School, sports, church and friends are all good venues. Then give more effort, care, time and energy to that activity. Use your time in that activity to do it better and longer than others around you. The result, over time, is that you build a sense of pride and fulfillment within yourself. This feeling will only propel your drive to continue to separate yourself.
There is one other way you will know you have begun to separate yourself. Others will question you and urge you to stop! They may even make fun of you or criticize your increased efforts. This is exactly what you want! You see, there are far too many of us stuck in the center of it all. Risking little, gaining little, and losing little. Yet this is not the way we were meant to live. Others will feel threatened by your new found feeling of fulfillment and your new status separate from the center, and they will do what they can to urge you back to the pack. Don’t let them! Dare to be special, dare to be great and continue your efforts to do so regardless of what others say.
If you are looking to make some changes this new year, or even capitalize on some momentum built in ’09, then make sure you are willing to be special. Don’t be afraid to separate yourself to go after what you want. I assure you, you deserve it and you won’t regret it.
If you would like help in taking the first step, or when others begin to urge you back to the pack, please call us…we’d love to help you with your success 763-439-5246!
Members might find this interesting… I’ve written a hockey advice column for “Hockey/USA” magazine for close to 20-years. And, over that span, I’ve changed the focus of my articles about four or five times. However, for about a 5-years, the title of that column was “Dare To Be Different!” Ya, as Justin might say, I was suggesting to my readers that they should separate themselves from the rest of the pack!
I have no doubts that member hockey players and coaches know right now what is needed for them to jump far beyond all their competition next fall. Following Justin’s advice RIGHT NOW is one sure fire way to get what you want. There’s a long time between now and the start of next season, you know, and all those months offer you plenty of time to make huge changes in your game. In so doing, remember one of my favorite lines, in that, “By the inch it’s a synch!”
– Dennis Chighisola
Shaun Goodsell, MA
President and CEO of Mental Edge
imag·i·na·tion i-ˌma-jə-ˈnā-shən 1 : the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality 2 a : creative ability b : ability to confront and deal with a problem c : the thinking or active mind 3 : a creation of the mind
What has happened to the imagination of our youth athletes? Many hit a roadblock and it not only seems to stop them in their tracks…it appears to stifle and paralyze them for a long time.
Recently, I was talking with a young player that has been experiencing some personal challenges with his team. He is performing at a high level and enjoying some of his greatest success. When I asked him if he was having fun he replied, “Not really”. I immediately felt sad for this young person. I thought to myself, “What skill would help him overcome his lack of enjoyment and allow him to experience fulfillment and accomplishment for the all hard work he’s put into his sport?”
At this point it occurred to me that he would need to utilize his power of choice to craft and create new meanings from the events that were getting him down. He was stuck in his current negative and pessimistic meanings, which lead him to despair, to live in a constant state of disappointment and a lack of personal power. How does one do this?
This is done through imagination. Imagination is the ability to creatively bring into being something that has yet to be formed. Every change that one makes occurs because of the ability to gain a vision for a different reality. When we can imagine a different response and meaning to events that, in the past, have resulted in unempowered responses we reacquire control of the quality of our lives. The inability to be imaginative costs many their sense of well-being, quality relationships, improved performance, and most significantly a sense of personal power.
Becoming imaginative and creative grants us incredible power to shape and create the quality of life we want regardless of the events that might be taking place around us. In becoming imaginative we become people of possibility rather then pessimism. This is not to say there are not events that are difficult and realities that should not be dealt with. But many people underestimate the capacity they have to utilize their imagination to navigate and manage the journey of sport and life.
If you would like help sparking your imagination, give us a call today 763-439-5246!
Until next time, here’s to your possibilities!
This note from Coach Chic… Although Shaun and his staff do an unbelievable job of talking to our playing members, I’d like to suggest that coaches like me also need to heed their advice. Hey, with the long hours we put in, and with the challenges we so often face (alone?), we coaches surely do need the kind of positive advice offered above.
Then, since I am into such stuff, I’d like to paraphrase an appropriate saying (that I’ve heard attributed to a number of great thinkers), in that..
“No great idea ever materializes unless it is first conceived in the mind.”
Like a lot of adult members, I wear many hats.
For sure, I’m thinking hockey nearly 24/7; that’s what I love, and that’s what I love to immerse myself in. At the same time, I’m a businessman. And, whether I like it or not, I can’t keep doing what I really love to do unless I keep succeeding in that area, too. Then, if there’s something that really keeps me on my toes, it’s the fact that so many hockey people rely on The Old Coach for guidance.
All that said, you might appreciate my need to devour books, manuals, videos and audio programs of all types. Ya, even when I’m working on a hockey project, there’s a good chance I have a recording of some kind running in the background. (Multi-tasking is my middle name.)
Of course, the New England Hockey Institute library is something most hockey folks would die for. I mean, it’s just loaded with all sorts of training manuals and videos I’ve gathered over 40-ish years. (Actually, a member has recently requested I share with others a list of my favorite hockey books and videos, and I’ve promised to do that here pretty shortly.)
What might surprise you, however, is that I’ve delved as much into the life stories of greats from outside hockey, or even from outside the sports world. For, there’s something to be said for understanding the likes of famous statesmen, military leaders or businessmen (and women). In fact, if they’re leaders in just about any field, I want to know how they think and how they function.
And there’s also something to be said for getting a daily spiritual boost — from my well worn Bible, as well as from a myriad of motivational speakers. Yup, nothing picks me up and gets me going quicker than some good, honest positive talk.
And this all brings me to the subject at hand… About a year ago I began following a pretty interesting guy on Twitter. Billy Cox is his name, and his bio describes him as “…one of the most dynamic and entertaining authors and speakers in the world.” And, as Billy says, his “Goal is to Energize People to Action and Inspire Positive Change!”
Anyway, today I needed a little energizing and inspiration, so I looked-up Mr Cox. And, once I got into his presentation, I realized how much his words could help a good many of my CoachChic.com friends. So, borrowed here from YouTube.com is what I think is an awesome video…
– Dennis Chighisola
Reacting to Adversity
( Billy Cox’s video title is “PERFORM BETTER“)
As a final preface to this video, I’m going to suggest that every one of us gets down at one time or another — I mean, it happens to everyone, from business people to parents to coaches to athletes. And, as I so often share with my grandson, “I think the measure of any great person (or player) is seen in the way he or she reacts in tough times, or in times of adversity.” (More to say on this at the very end!)
Okay, here’s that Billy Cox video. And, while he’s obviously talking to a room full of business people here, this speech just as easily could have been staged in your team’s lockerroom or mine….
(If you visit YouTube.com, you’ll find a number of other similarly themed Billy Cox videos.)
Okay, so how do those Three P’s relate to our game of hockey? Well, here’s my humble opinion:
- Preparedness – Practice! Practice! Practice! You know, I’m an incessant long-range planner, and I’m always asking those in my charge to look ahead. Right now, for instance, you likely know about an important tryout that’s coming-up. Or, there’s something you’d like to achieve by this season’s end. In either case, you should have a feel for what needs to be done, and you also know exactly how much time you have to accomplish that. From there, it’s a matter of attacking the long-range goal in small increments. Ya, just lop those intermediate steps off, or… Practice! Practice! Practice!
- Persistence – I’ll tell you a funny story… By the time I was an older teen, I’d failed at countless strength programs. Ugh. Then, one day, like out of the blue, I told myself that I was going to stick with a program just to see if all that I’d read really worked. In other words, I’d read that after about 90-days I was guaranteed results. So… Hmmmm… So, I stuck with that program — six days per week, and I never missed a session no matter what. I also did all the other things rightly — this time, including sticking to a special diet. So, what happened? One night — not even 90-days into that lifting program, another teen spotted me with my shirt off in the gym lockerroom, and he asked me, “What do you do to get such a big chest?” (Huh? Is he talking to me?) Shortly after, while out riding with a bunch of friends, the two guys on either side of me started complaining that my shoulders were taking up the whole back seat! Ya, I’d realized by then that I’d gotten big — huge, in fact. So, how did my earlier attempts at strength building differ from the one that worked? It surely wasn’t the difference in the routines. No, the reason my earlier tries failed was because I looked for quick gains, and I was too easily discouraged when they didn’t come. And, the reason the last one worked was because I gave it an honest to goodness chance. Man was I persistent — and faithful, to the max.
- Playing the numbers – I like Cox’s stories about Ruth, Edison and Colonel Sanders, each suggesting that those men couldn’t be totally discouraged by setbacks. So, another quick story… I attended a special lecture one time when I was in college, this on the art of job hunting. The guest speaker, a famous author on the subject, made one point clear enough that I still remember it to this day, suggesting to the audience that, a certain number of turn-downs should be expected before we’d likely hear that first, “Yes!” In the end, he rationalized (and I paraphrase), “Why not get all those turn-downs out of the way so you can hurry to the answer you’re really looking for?” Just think about that one for a sec… After all, that’s the way Edison and The Colonel handled such matters!
So, in closing… If you’re not currently getting the results you want, prepare yourself even better for future tries, be persistent, and play the numbers (as in getting all the setbacks out of the way so you can get on to the good stuff)!
Oh, and speaking of learning about how some of the great minds think, here’s an appropriate quote from General George Patton:
“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”
Finally — and since there’s the likelihood we’ll all feel a little discouraged from time to time, why not save this page among your favorites? I know I’m going to be revisiting that video often.
If you liked this — or even if you didn’t, I’d love to hear your feedback or Comments!
Man, where has this article — or this line of thinking — been all my coaching life?
Now, I’m going to bite my tongue (for as long as I can stand it), and let you read this unbelievable piece by Mental Edge’s Shaun Goodsell. Thereafter, you know I’m going to have LOTS to say!
– Dennis Chighisola
Shaun Goodsell, MA
President and CEO of Mental Edge
Blinded by Winning
As the winter sports kick-off I am preparing for the many questions I will field as teams and individual athletes seek to chase their ideal success. Athletes, coaches and parents will invest enormous resources of time, energy and money to climb that ladder of whatever they are chasing that defines success. Some will determine success by wins and losses; others will use a post-season appearance or a championship and still others will dig deep to frame success in ways that cannot be defined in visible ways. However each team or individual defines success, there is no doubt there will be ups and downs along the way. The small successes and disappointments experienced on the journey are significant in dictating the overall success at the end of the season.
Recently, I have been looking for a mental paradigm that can help people look at their season in a way that helps to prepare them and their teams to play better at the end of the season than at the beginning. Here is the challenge as I see it:
For years I have been hearing that each time a team or player sets out to perform they should be their best. Coaches talk about bringing your best game day in and day out. Parents go watch in the hopes of seeing a quality performance and a win. There is no doubt that watching a winning performance is fun and exciting. However, winning can at times blind us to what makes us vulnerable as an athlete and as a team. It is as though chasing the Win becomes the goal instead of seeking to use the contest as a learning opportunity to reveal to us what requires work to make us most invincible at the end of the season. Wins, although important, often blind teams and individuals to vital points of development that if not fixed sabotage teams and individuals from the ultimate goal they may be chasing. What might be true is that a well timed loss or short term disappointment may be more critical leading to success of the team because of the focus it creates on what makes a individual and team vulnerable later on in the season.
We need to value the learning that can occur through points of defeat and disappointment. To do this requires us to lessen our focus on winning and increase our emphasis on learning. Every athlete and team should ask themselves after a win or loss, “What did we learn about ourselves and our team?” Subsequently, “What do we need to do in order to get better in that aspect of the game?” Becoming seduced by the short-term success of a win can alter our ability to learn crucial lessons about ourselves that can be bridges to long-term success. Every moment needs to be seen as part of a bigger picture. Doing this allows learning to be a viable goal each time we perform.
This season consider learning from disappointments and team losses and resolve to use them to improve yourself and your team. You will find that you will elevate your game with this mindset when in the past you had become frustrated and disappointed and missed those vital points of learning that kept you stuck.
At Mental Edge we desire to challenge people to experience breakthrough in their lives by establishing new thinking skills and thought patterns leading to a renewed energy for their lives and what is possible. If you are ready to make breakthrough changes in your life, please call Dawn to take the first step at 763.439.5246!
Until next time, here’s to your possibilities!
Okay, let me begin by saying that a “young Coach Chic” would have taken the “W” over anything else. Thank God I changed my ways by the time I started working with my second generation of players!
Now, let me tell you a few things that should help validate Shaun’s comparison of wins versus losses (or learning experiences:
I started using video-tape back in 1979. And, back in those days, I had a great dad who followed my high school hockey teams, and he was also really into video. So, we arranged that he’d tape all the games he could attend, while I spent countless hours studying those tapes. A funny thing happened very early-on, however. I discovered that games in which we won big were of almost no value to me. I mean, it seemed as if only tough opponents really exposed our weaknesses or showed me the things I had to do to help my kids back at practice.
By now, members know my penchant for note-taking. In fact, there’s an entire category here that allows me to share some of the things I record. Anyway, much like what I discovered from the study of videos, I’ve come to realize that my notepad is nearly blank after an easy win, and it is crammed full whenever we suffer a setback. Ya, again, it takes a stronger opponent to expose the things we really need to work on.
Next, I need to say that a combination of things have helped me become a better coach… Number One — and what I see as a main part of Shaun’s article — is that This Old Coach has had to be open to learning. Secondly, and as you should have gathered from the first two points, I’ve needed to face some tougher opponents each season in order to learn or to grow. (In actuality, I don’t think I’ve have ever arrived at some of my training inventions or training manuals unless I first found I was failing at something. Ya, think about that one, if you would.)
Lastly, I know my players are better today than they were on opening night, mainly because of the very “mindset” Shaun describes. Thankfully, I have managed to convince my players and (most of) their parents (as well as myself) that “Development comes first.” If you think about it, “winning at all costs” usually requires shortcuts, or shortchanging players. You know what I mean: a coach only skates certain kids in a tight game, he or she arranges lines or defense pairs solely for the sake of winning, or a coach pays more attention to the best players during the practices because they’re the ones who spell “W-I-N-S” for him or her. On the other hand, I can’t tell you what a relief it is to put development first… With that, I probably pay a hair more attention to the kids who need to catch-up with the rest of our roster; our practices are mainly dictated by what the kids need for the long-term; I spread my talent evenly over all the lines so that kids are learning from each other; and — until the last minute or so of a close game, I just keep rolling my lines with no regard for the “W”. (FYI… I do one thing each week that might seem like it’s for the sake of winning, in that we do have a set powerplay unit for each game. However, that’s actually used as a reward for practice attendance!)
As for my comment about “where has this article been all my life?” Well, I’ve lost a few hockey families through the years, mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t convince them that long-term gains were far more important than stats, championships or trophies. And, while I wish I had Shaun’s article to help sway them back then, I plan on using it to save some future folks in need.
Double-dare you to argue this one in our Comments area!
What is Consistency?
By Brady Greco, Performance Coach — The Mental Edge
A common performance concept that is rarely taught but always referred to by coaches is playing a more consistent game. You hear coaches all the time say, “play with more consistency day in and day out.” There is no problem if a coach makes this statement and communicates to the team about what needs to take place in order to become more consistent. However, the majority of coaches fail to explain in detail what consistency even entails, making it impossible for a player to understand how to become more consistent in their play.
Consistency can be described in the sport’s world as a level of quality play over an extended period of time. Every competitive athlete has experienced a game where they performed very well. In turn, every athlete has encountered what it feels like to perform poorly, making the concept of consistency very tricky. Here is a checklist of five keys to focus on as an athlete that will help maintain consistency throughout your personal journey as an athlete:
- Awareness: Reflect on your performance and determine what areas you did well in and what areas you need to improve upon.
- Good Habits: Practice good habits throughout the athletic season. This means staying disciplined and remembering to do the ‘little’ things both on and off the athletic field or arena.
- Pre-game Routine: For an athlete to become mentally prepared for a game/practice, they must take the proper procedures. This means an athlete must find a comfortable and effective personal routine they go through on days of games/practice. Establishing a good pre-game routine will enable an athlete to be prepared mentally which will create a better chance of optimal performance. Don’t be afraid to ‘mess around’ with your routine if you feel something is not working.
- Imagery: Imagine yourself accomplishing the task at hand. Picture yourself already playing the game and making the right plays in every situation.
- Positive Self-Talk: Don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. Tell yourself ‘I am the best, I am the best’. This will create encouraging thoughts to flow through your mind to remain positive.
At the Mental Edge, we can teach you mental toughness skills like these to empower you on your journey as an athlete. Simply call Dawn to start at 763-439-5246.
I know this is going to be a rather touchy subject. Yet, I want you to hear-out a couple of extremely qualified guys.
In the following audio presentation, Lisa Cohn interviews Dr Patrick Cohn and noted baseball coach, Tommy Weber, on that very topic — about the possibility that parents should back-off when it comes to their youngster’s hockey training.
Again, I’d like you to hear Coach Weber’s side of this argument, then I’d like to add a few of my own comments a little later.
– Dennis Chighisola
Why Sports Parents Should Back-off
with Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D. and Tommy Weber
Click the arrow below to play:
Okay, so you should have gotten a pretty good sense of how one very experienced sport coach and a noted sport psychologist feel on this subject. And, I’d have to agree with all that’s been said in that interview. At the same time, we hockey folks have a slightly greater challenge than families in most other sports…
For one thing, ice hockey rinks are usually built in pretty remote locations. So, it isn’t like our youngsters can just hang their gear over the handlebars of a bike and head-off to practice on their own. In other words, parents must help transport their kids and all that heavy gear, and it just makes sense that they’re going to hang around for the hour or so of practice time.
And, while it’s not necessarily an excuse for hanging around for practices, hockey families do invest an awful lot more money in their youngsters’ practice time than those in most other sports.
I might add my own reason for staying for a practice, in that I’ve always really enjoyed watching my guys have fun — as they played or as they practiced. (Actually, that’s one of the things I miss so much today, since my son has long retired and my grandson now practices far away at college.)
Okay, so I’ve given my hockey brethren plenty of reasons to ATTEND their youngsters’ practices. However, I don’t think it’s the attending practices that Dr Cohn and Coach Weber are really getting at.
No, as a matter of fact, I think it’s more a matter of us parents needing to give our kids — and their coaches — some space that’s really at issue.
I actually addressed that subject in an earlier video (in “Up The Boards, Johnny!“) with a message I really want my friends here to appreciate. I mean, it is not possible for your son or daughter to serve more than one master at a time.
Please think about that one again… Nothing but confusion comes from a youngster needing to please both the coach and his or her parents (not to mention teammates). In fact, I firmly believe a lot of the fun can be taken out of the playing experience if a youngster is forced to please too many.
Then, a personal note… On rides home from games, my young guy would almost always ask me, “Well, what did you think?” I simply answered that with several questions of my own, as in “I don’t know; what do you think?” or “What did your coach have to say?”. You have to understand — and I wanted my guy to also understand — that it didn’t really matter what I thought. Hey, only one guy (or gal) gets to name the next group of players to go over the boards and onto the ice, and that’s the coach.
– Dennis Chighisola
Youth Sports Psychology by Peak Performance Sports
Shaun Goodsell, MA
President and CEO of Mental Edge
For years I have wondered what part innate talent plays in the success of athletes. Growing up aspiring to be a pro athlete I thought on many occasions, “I wish I were talented enough to be as good as others.” In fact as I have progressed in business I have also believed that success is a by product of the genes you get and some are lucky while the rest of us are scrapping and clawing to rise to the success of others. While attending the PGA Championship last month I started thinking about the pathway these athletes took to get to where they are. Could there be more to it than simply genes?
Recently, I came across a book that challenges the significance of innate talent in the success of athletes, musicians, and business leaders. Geoff Colvin has written a book titled “Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World Class Performers from Everybody Else”. Colvin makes a compelling case that THE ART OF DELIBERATE PRACTICE is what differentiates world-class performance from others. He then goes on to describe this compelling concept:
“People who engage in intensive deliberate practice push themselves slightly beyond their current limitations physically and mentally.”
Doing this leads to greater perception, greater knowledge, and greater memory of what they know. Practicing in this manner over a long period of time leads to the brain and body literally changing. When one learns to perceive more they are able to focus in on vital information that is significant when looking to creatively chart a course of success. For example, being aware of facial expressions in young athletes gives clues as to how they are receiving certain points of teaching. Often times a young athlete’s ability to be coached is closely connected to the closeness they feel to their coach. If a coach is not picking up on these subtle cues they miss information that is vital to their ability to influence a young life. In the same manner, learning to read important cues during a competitive situation gives athletes an advantage on their competition. It is this information that many athletes seem to miss.
Intensive deliberate practice not only improves an athlete’s level of perception but also increases their “working’ knowledge within their sport. It is as though an athlete’s knowledge base grows with each opportunity to play and practice in this manner. This dove tails with other performance coaches who encourage athletes to make sure they are always in the process of learning with each situation. Increasing their data base helps to inform them as to how to predict and approach different situations with greater mastery. With this increased knowledge making decisions becomes easier and confidence in that process is increased.
Lastly, intensive deliberate practice improves an athlete’s memory of what they have learned in past performances. When they intentionally go into situations with this mindset their memories of the working knowledge they have acquired increases and they draw on this to acquire an edge on their competition.
It turns out the mental aspect of performance is vitally important and learning to approach our performance opportunities with a deliberate intensive approach gives us the secret many champions use to create the Mental Edge!
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Mental Edge Performance Advisor
One of the best feelings an athlete can have is when you stand on the playing field and have no doubt you will be able to achieve your objective. The most consistent finding in athletes who perform at a peak performance level is the direct correlation between their confidence and success. Every year from pre-game chalk talks to post-game interviews you hear about the importance of having the confidence in your ability to succeed. Yet for many athletes regardless of their level or past experiences have a weekly struggle with their confidence. The primary reason this occurs is that athletes tend to place too much importance on external results rather than their inner belief in their abilities.
As an athlete you gain confidence from two segments: external and internal.
External confidence is often the easiest to recognize and what you are most likely familiar with, making a big play, encouragement from a coach, or wining a big game for your team gives you an instant dose of confidence. It is easy to gain confidence from such events and the feeling is often very powerful. However there is a very real danger in staking all or even too much of your confidence on external events. The reason athletes struggle with confidence is because they fail to realize they do not have complete control over external events. Instead, your focus should be on elements you can control in order to influence events in a way that results in your favor. For example as a baseball hitter you don’t have complete control over whether you get a hit, because the pitcher decides where to throw the ball. You can, however, influence the chance of getting a hit by working on your swing technique and by deciding to swing at quality pitches.
So, how do you know if you are an athlete who places too much emphasis on external confidence? Chances are, if you only feel confident when you make a big play, or when coaches are encouraging you, or when you are winning, you tend to place too much emphasis on external confidence.
To avoid the rollercoaster feeling of having your confidence at the mercy of positive or negative outcomes, you must learn to develop your internal or core confidence. Core Confidence is developed from two sources, the movement towards mastery of skills and by engaging in quality thought. If you are a goaltender, for example, developing crisp movement, solid positioning, and smart save selections, these are skills you have complete control over. Core confidence comes from an inner assurance that when needed you can execute these skills to stop the puck. This is why many coaches suggest going back to the basics to reclaim your confidence. By setting aside a portion of time in practice to concentrate on basic skills you allow yourself to focus on the areas you have control over. This results in a higher level of assurance that you are capable of executing the skills of the trade.
The second source of core confidence is having quality thoughts. Much has been said about the importance of positive thought, so much so, that this has become a cliché of sorts to many athletes. What few athletes realize is that quality thinking is a skill, just like any other physical skill in athletics. Because it is a skill, the more you work on it the better you become at it! Core confidence is built by the quality of thoughts you have about what is going on around you. An athlete who engages in quality thought notices their strengths and successes and looks at failures or shortcomings as a skill or opportunity that has not yet been fully developed. Remember thoughts are very powerful, so powerful in fact that they dictate how you feel which in turn tells your body how you should act. So, in order to perform in a confident manner you must have the type of thoughts that produce confident play. As you develop your quality thinking skills less effort will be required and the foundation of your core confidence will be built.
Quality Thoughts = Quality Emotions = Quality Actions
So how do you develop your core confidence? In order to build core confidence you must:
- Identify and focus on what you can control You don’t have control over events; instead focus your energy on the thoughts and actions that will influence events to occur in your favor.
- Devote time to the physical basics Skill refinement allows you to build your assurance that you can do the job.
- Train yourself to think quality thoughts You have control over your thoughts so choose quality thoughts, which will lead to quality performances.
Simply put, you know you have core confidence when you believe you can make the play, instead of, because you made the play.
Simply one of the best articles to appear on CoachChic.com to date!
– Dennis Chighisola
Shaun Goodsell M.A.
Senior Performance Coach
After 8 years of working with athletes of all ages I have concluded that there isn’t enough failing taking place.
Now this might sound strange to hear because of our insatiable need to always perform with perfection and excellence. Without a doubt the number one fear and driving force in the mind of many athletes is how their current performance is being seen by a parent or a coach. When this happens the athlete stops being aware of the environment around them and hyper focuses on the opinion and thoughts of the person they are trying to please. This critically injures their capacity to play decisively and aggressively because they are ultimately afraid of displeasing or disappointing their parent or coach. This type of environment stifles the athlete from taking the necessary risks that often result in development and growth.
Ideally, the athlete would be free to learn about what adjustments to make, and what skills need development by focusing on what the game teaches them, when to take a risk, when to hold back, when to stay still and when to move. They are not aware of these important cues when their focus is on pleasing the coach or a parent; they become frozen with fear that something they do will result in disappointment or punishment. Competition will teach the athlete if they are open to taking in what is there to learn and the environment rewards taking risks by communicating with the athlete about what they are trying to do and why. Often times the intention is right on but the execution is lacking. I was watching a soccer game recently and the young player had a really good intention but failed to execute the play. That moment could be used to learn that the skills needed to complete that play need work but the thought behind the play was good.
If you are an athlete that is hampered by a fear of failure I have some tips for you that will help you break free from this disabling state of mind:
- Focus your attention on mastering your skills. These skills are what you will need to create greater competency in your sport and earn you more and more opportunity in competitive situations.
- Evaluate yourself by your own set of standards. Determine what your goals are, work for them.
- Take risks. Risk taking helps us increase our understanding of our abilities and helps us see where we need to work in order to improve. Without taking risks we will never reach our full potential.
- For every “Failure” there is a potential positive outcome. If you are successful with the risk then there is positive if it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t happen. To make big plays you need big risks and sometimes that means failing.
- Set out to take risks. Not stupid risks, just risks. The biggest asset you have as an athlete is to use your mind and courage to see what you can do during competition. So next time you are preparing to compete get yourself to fail huge!
Having thought long and hard about Shaun’s words — or about his theme, something ultimately struck me… My guess is that each of us has a favorite pro player or idol. I know I have several of them. And, the ironic thing is that I think the one quality I admire most in each of them is their daring. (I mean, can we picture an Ovechkin here?) Think about your own favorites — in any sport. Consider how often they dare to fail. And, consider that THAT just might be a great quality to emulate!
– Dennis Chighisola
This entry is really sort of a follow-up to an earlier post, RESPECTING Young Hockey Players. And I also want to pose a few questions to members at the very end.
Now, as you might recall, I talked some about my fun approach to training in that earlier piece. And, although I didn’t mention my work with older players very much, I need to say right now that most of our more advanced level work (or work with older kids) should also end-up being enjoyable to those in our charge.
That said, a major part of my year-round work involves coaching — and actually guiding the development of — two NEHI teams. One group is of junior high school age, the other made-up of high school-ers.
For a number of reasons, I have to slightly adjust my ways with them — due to their ages, their general age-specific personalities (if you know what I mean), and because of their presumed aims in the game. And in reference to the latter, each is assumed to be dreaming of making a high school team someday, and they ultimately want to do really well at that level.
So — as I jokingly refer to it, I’ll sometimes have to wear my “high school coach’s hat”. I mean, if you think about it, athletes don’t only succeed by having great skills and hockey smarts. No, each team candidate is a whole package, with yet another key ingredient being the way they handle themselves emotionally. (Just ask Shaun Goodsell and his Mental Edge staff if that one isn’t so.)
Anyway, at different times during our practices and games, I’ll put on that high school coach’s hat and grump and grumble a little. I actually warn the kids about it, even telling them, “I love you guys, so I’m preparing you as best I can for what’s ahead, even if it comes-off sounding mean.”
Oh, and by the way… Sometimes I have to fake it — not really being upset with them at all, but instead wanting to ensure they’re going to be able to deal with the mix of positives and negatives that are sure to be thrown their way down the road.
As for the subject of “doing the right thing”… Don’t you know that I slightly “lost it” at practice the other night, only hours after I’d sent-in the earlier referenced article.
What had happened was that a lot of my long-time players were acting a little too comfortable as we drilled. They are senior members of the group, they know a lot of what’s coming in some of the basic drills, and they were half-listening or half-working as the practice went along. More than anything, I worried that they were showing our new team members the wrong way to apply themselves in a practice.
So, at some point I began turning the screws on them. And I sorta nailed the offenders for anything and everything they did wrong. Ya, I got their attention — and that of the new guys, too.
Still, comes the time to end practice, and I’m thinking about a few things… To a kid, they love the game. I mean, they are all great kids, and they really are into getting better. And, here they are at a “voluntary” practice on a warm summer night, while some other kids aren’t even there to work on their game. If you get my drift, I’m thinking that — while the whipping was necessary, I couldn’t send a single player home wishing he hadn’t come. Make sense to you?
And that caused me to gather everyone together at the very end of practice, to sit everyone in a circle, and to rehash the events of the night.
As close as I can recall, I said, “Hey, I need to explain a few things to you guys… I think you guys know I love you, and I only do things that will help you in the end. You also know I love teaching the game. So, if there are things going on that prevent me from teaching, I’m going to let you know about it.”
Oh, I’m sure I said more than that over about 5-minutes, but that was the gist of it. No way was I apologizing for holding their feet to the fire. At the same time, however, I wanted to ensure future practices ran as they should, and I also wanted to give those kids reasons to come back for future practices.
So, my questions — to older players, parents and other coaches… How do you feel about a coach holding his or her players’ feet to the proverbial fire? And, how do you feel about explaining oneself as I did? Further, since I will at least once or twice per year tell my players that I made a coaching mistake (or whatever), how do you feel about that?
A Teleseminar for Athletes!
Shaun Goodsell, MA
Best-selling author, Keith Ferrazzi, in his book titled Who’s Got Your Back?, boldly challenges his reader to purposely and intentionally cultivate “lifeline” relationships. It is time we start teaching and challenging our kids to build “lifeline” relationships with their teammates and peers.
During the call, Shaun will explore the four vital principles that make up the components of “lifeline” relationships:
Shaun Goodsell, MA
Senior Performance Coach
As we participate and engage in life there is a constant exchange of information. We send energy into the environment and we get it back. From a competitive perspective, we attempt to impact our environment through our actions and hopefully allow ourselves to be open to feedback we are getting. However, it is also very important that we evaluate the relationship we cultivate with the information from outside of us to determine whether or not we are learning the lessons present to make the adjustments in our performance that helps us move towards improved performance.
With this in mind, I want to compare two types of responses and how they impact performance.
The first response is FIGHT. When we fight with the information from outside of us we often have an underlying expectation that things should be going different and we are entitled to a different fate or outcome. When people engage in a fight response they often become disappointed, anxious, and some become more determined to work harder and more diligent, while others disengage because they become pessimistic about their ability to dictate a different outcome. This over time creates significant discouragement and leads to a reduction in motivational energy. There are many possible examples of this but when an athlete’s performance falls short at any moment the game will give them information that they have to make sense of. When they FIGHT this information is when a series of thoughts flow and the fight response is in full function.
Another way to deal with the feedback we get from our performance is to engage in FLOW. At the core of this relationship with our environment is the ability to absorb, accept, and make emotional and physical adjustments using the moment as a learning opportunity leading to enhanced performance… using what is happening in the here and now. Expectations stay realistic and our response is focused, relaxed and very intentional. I have found that teaching athletes to learn from the information they are getting from around them truly empowers them to find advantages on their opponent as well as enhance their performance, utilizing not only their bodies but also their minds.
At the Mental Edge we are committed to helping athletes learn to FLOW with the environment around them leading to an enhanced experience as well as improved performance in sport and in life. We have launched an Audio Series that will give athletes a tool to perform in sport and in life with FLOW — staying away from fight! Our new Audio Series is called Mind Strength: an Edge on your Competition by Mastering Five Mental Toughness Skills To Become a Winner on the Field and in Life.
The following is another great question sent me via the Youth Sports Coalition. As with many others, it’s a real challenge. More importantly. I believe my answer is something every CoachChic.com member ought to consider.
– Dennis Chighisola
Q: Anonymous asks a pretty tough question, and one for which there probably isn’t a right or wrong answer. As the parent of a second year Bantam describes the situation, his/her son is currently extremely small compared to others in his age group. Perhaps repeating some medical advice, Anonymous does state that, “…it will be several years before he will start to catch up size wise to his peers.” With that, the parent asks for advice on two hockey playing options for next year — one offering more practices but possibly less game-time, the other likely to give the boy more playing time but less practice. Oh, then he/she suggests a third possible option, as in, “Is it time to just give up on hockey?”
A: If anyone wants my opinion when faced with a choice between games and practices, I’ll always opt for more practices. Practices are where players get to hone their skills; no one ever improved from playing in a game (I could write the equivalent of “War and Peace” on this subject).
That said, the mentioning of a third option by Anonymous bothers me a little. I mean, I’m wondering if the idea of packing it in is just something that’s crossing the parent’s mind, or is it a feeling the youngster has openly expressed. No matter, please read on…
Actually, I can’t help raising a point I think about often. You see, all winter long I get to watch the guys coming and going from a local senior league that plays next door to where my team practices. It’s a night-out for those older guys — feeling part of a team again, getting some exercise, hanging long after their games to have a few beers, swap war stories and have some laughs. The funny thing is, the teams are a mix of former NHL players and other old pros, long ago college players and probably some guys who didn’t play that high when they were younger. Plenty of my former high school and college players are there too, which brings me to sense that they must have really loved the game if they’re still at it.
And that’s the point I want to raise for Anonymous’ sake, in that, on a Monday night in Hingham, MA, it seems to matter not where the guys had been long before. As a matter of fact, it appears to me that all of those senior league members have returned to where they began, just playing the game for the love of it. And if we think about it further, the guys who reached fairly high levels only stayed there for a fraction of all the time they’ve played. Or, said yet another way, they’ve spent most of their lives playing just for the love of it.
Now, if Anonymous can agree with what I’ve said to this point, perhaps the most important next step is to resolve his/her son’s reason for playing. Oh, hockey isn’t for everyone, and there are countless other things a young teen can do for enjoyment. However, if the boy feels as I suspect — still loving the game, this might at least help ease some current bumps in the road. Perspective is everything, you know. And by that, I’ll suggest that the best and the least players on any young team had better not be going to the rink on a given night with visions of the NHL (whatever). No, I think it better that every youngster head-out with a smile, and mainly just for the love of it.
I hope Anonymous understands why I dealt primarily with the larger question here. For, that solved, it’ll probably become clearer which team his/her son should aim for.
Then, despite my 40-ish years in the game, I wouldn’t dare predict which young players will or won’t “make it” in the end (and I’ll further suggest that professional scouts couldn’t do any better). Sure, anyone can spot the kid with potential on a given night. But things change rapidly in a youngster’s life — physically and interest-wise. Besides, it’s hard to measure what’s inside a young player, beginning with his love of the game.
This is a great follow-up to the last Mental Training entry. (So please be sure to read that first!)
– Dennis Chighisola
Shaun Goodsell, MA
Senior Performance Coach
If you scan or read most articles describing the success or failure of an athlete, inevitably, somewhere in the article there will be the mention of confidence as the crucial factor dictating success or failure. Why is it that so many believe that confidence is so important? I think it is because we are addicted to feeling good and believe that everything begins with feeling good. If someone succeeds we think it is because they believe they can. If they fail it is because they do not believe they can. The fact is that it is much more complicated then this.
What dictates a person’s level of success is whether or not they have the skills to be effective, not how deeply they believe in themselves. Although a belief in oneself is helpful, it is not the determining factor in one’s level of effectiveness. The time athletes spend developing their skills and their subsequent mastery of those skills is the most significant factor in determining their level of success. When an athlete masters skills and transfers their mastery to competitive arenas then a deep level of belief forms. Cultivating this deep belief starts with believing that specific skills are the vital difference makers in competitive situations and the application of those is what is responsible for success.
One story that highlights this concept happens often in the sport of baseball. When a pitcher is unable to get hitters out there might be any number of reasons for that. They are not hitting their spots, changing speeds, lacking velocity, or simply not studying hitters and learning how to get them out.
In football it could be a lack of speed, execution, or game planning. In hockey it could be some fundamentals are lacking making it difficult to create success.
The belief that a person has in their ability to be effective and successful is completely tied to their level of skill development and this is one of the vital factors that goes into helping young athletes shape the kind of mindset that helps them compete successfully as well as enjoy doing it. So next time you are tempted to believe that it was confidence that dictated an outcome, maybe look a bit deeper and see if skill application wasn’t what dictated the outcome.
If the above article causes you to sense that Shaun and The Old Coach might be on the same wavelength, beleve it. Actually, I was think all the time I read it that just about every drill and game playing tip on this website was initially developed with a player’s confidence in mind. And my suggestions to go slowly and to master each step before taking on the next is also aimed at building confidence. Confidence IS that important. With it, a guy or gal is a real player; without it, welll…
– Dennis Chighisola
I happened to be browsing the Mental Edge website this morning, and I ran across the following. Something just struck me about the words, but I’ll tell you a more about that a little later. For now, please have a read…
– Dennis Chighisola
EXPERTS AGREE one’s mental approach can separate the ordinary achiever from the exceptional one. A positive mental approach is also strongly correlated with those individuals who derive a positive experience from their participation in athletic competition.
However, the skills required to achieve individual goals are often overlooked because the primary focus for development is concentrated more on physical attributes than mental approach.
At Mental Edge, our mission is to increase personal achievement and elevate the experience of individuals through mentoring and the teaching of competencies necessary to achieve a positive experience, on and off the field of play.
We believe personal satisfaction is fundamental to participation in sports … and in life.
I have to thank Mental Edge’s Shaun Goodsell for those words.
Now, the real reason I think this short piece is so important to our members? It’s because I feel he’s right-on in his observation — in that “the primary focus for development (among most youth hockey parents) is concentrated more on physical attributes”. Yes, I see an awful lot of parents carting their kids from skills program to skills program, oftentimes helping create what I (only half-jokingly) refer to as “professional powerskaters”. Come to think of it, I’ve noticed an awful lot of youth coaches running skills-only kinds of practices, too — whipping their kids up and down the ice, but never really helping them learn the game.
Oh, I suspect that isn’t EXACTLY what Shaun was getting at up above, although I am sure he meant to say that much more emphasis is placed on physical skills than the mental side of a player’s game.
Which brings me to a few things involving my NEHI players…
- At least a few times per season I purposely have a talk with my older kids about the thinking side of their game. And I’ll frequently use two levels of play I’m sure most of them are familiar with — in that they’ve all seen a number of Boston Bruins games, as well as games played by Boston’s highest minor league team, the nearby Providence Bruins. Through a back and forth discussion, we’ll try to reason why some highly talented guys down on the farm never get a chance to crack the parent team’s line-up. Again, there are some highly skilled players down there on the “Baby B’s,” yet they never get an NHL call-up. ??? What we ultimately arrive at is the fact that some of those young guys can’t yet be trusted to think the game at a high level. They may not be able to stay focused on the task at hand (see my “Think ‘n Skate” Program for more on this), or they might not possess the mental skills Shaun Goodsell is talking about.
- Just near the end of my grandson’s first college exhibition season, he called to ask if I’d do him a huge favor. He remembered some “visualization” tapes I’d created years ago for my hockey school students. What I did was to make audio cassette tapes for each of the three skating positions, and then I had the kids lie back — eyes closed, relaxed, and then “picturing” themselves performing their various duties during a typical shift. Anyway, Tony Chic was asking if I might recreate one for his center position, so that he could transfer the audio to his IPod. (Darn, good for him, huh?) And, hmmmmm… Did I just suggest to myself a new project that might benefit CoachChic.com members? I mean, would you someday like to have access to visualization audio programs like I’ve just mentioned? Let me know, huh?
Then, back briefly to one last comment on skills training and the like… Without question, greatly enhanced skills bring with them a substantial boost in confidence. So, daring to put words in Shaun’s mouth on this one, I think we’d both tell you to keep working hard on those individual skills. Actually, the point here isn’t to suggest backing-off on physical work; the idea IS that appropriate attention has to also be given to the mental side of a player’s game.
Finally, I’ll suggest that there are (at least?) two parts to an athlete’s mental preparation… As I’ve noted above, a transition sport participant must learn to combine great physical skills with an ability to play smartly (and that’s what our “Thinking the Game” section is all about). For the rest, I gladly defer to the real experts, Shaun Goodsell and his Mental Edge staff.
– Dennis Chighisola
As Justin Johnson will explain shortly, he took some time last August to visit with athletes and to discuss with them their approaches to a just completed off-season. And I thought reflecting back on these should be interesting — and very helpful — as CoachChic.com members plan their own spring and summer training programs.
Mental Edge Performance Advisor
As I’ve traveled around this past month discussing with athletes about how they have spent their summer, I’ve stumbled across an interesting phenomenon. A great number of athletes, of all abilities mind you, have decided to take on a Quantity over Quality approach in their off-season. In their pursuit of excellence athletes find themselves practicing sport-specific skills sometimes up to four or more hours a day, six days a week. Pile on top of that, games, lifting, and for many others, a summer sport or camp. As an athlete you begin to wear very thin.
It is amazing when you sit down with a group of athletes and ask them about what they have learned or gained from all of these hours of activity. The response ranges from a puzzled look to a list of three or four things. By physically participating in all of this activity and training, the athlete has been forced to move from an intense focused form of training, which yields the most results, to a more conservative way of training so they have enough energy to get them through the entire day or week.
The reason so few athletes have a response to what they have learned is because mentally they move in a zombie- like state from one activity to another. Not remembering how or what they did last week in their game or practice. So an ironic situation occurs, despite all of the activity athletes are involved in only a select few are gaining any experience from their involvement.
How can you combat this? Well, it’s simple; set some time aside to reflect. Take a few minutes after each activity you partake in and ask yourself a few questions:
What did I learn?
What could I have done better?
What did I do well?
What should I try next time?
Was that fun?
You can also write in a daily or weekly journal to keep track of the activities you are doing and what you are gaining from them. This journal will be an incredibly valuable asset as you move through the summer compiling all of the great learning experiences. As you look back over your entries throughout the summer you will begin to get a sense of what is working for you and what isn’t. The journal will also help you in the following off season. Depending on how detailed you are you should have a great blueprint for what you should and shouldn’t sign up for and participate in. This way you can look forward to a more efficient and effective off season as well as the knowledge that you have become a more experienced athlete.
As sort of a PS to Justin’s great piece…
I think older players and parents of young players should come away with the idea that some planning will really help make the coming off-season more productive and even more fun. Justin’s 5-point checklist should aid in that.
But I’d like to especially emphasize the fun part here… You see, I believe there’s a fine line between a routine being fairly enjoyable or being a flat-out drudgery. And, besides my concerns for how a player feels during his or her off-season, I’m overly worried about his or her mental and physical states as the new hockey season approaches. I mean, the last thing we want is for a player to be already spent — either physically or emotionally — come next Labor Day. Actually, the best case scenario would have them entering the fall just dying to get back on the ice.
So, for the time being, I hope you’ll just consider the broad ideas outlined to this point. More help in this area is on the horizon.
Although I’d pondered something like this for a number of years before, I think my last college team was the real inspiration for this very different kind of training. Here’s just one reason why…
One freezing cold winter night my team traveled north to New Hampshire to do battle with a very tough opponent. Worse yet, the flu bug had hit my squad, leaving us without several top skaters and my two best goaltenders.
Still, my assistant coaches and I concocted a pretty good game plan. We were going to ask our guys to play super-conservatively, and we were going to ask them to do everything smartly. (More on the smartly part in a moment.)
As luck (and my players’ hard work) would have it, we scored two quick goals that night, and we were limiting our opponents’ shots from far out and from bad angles. We even managed to keep that lead — and that style of play going — through almost two periods on foreign ice.
Now, besides employing a very conservative forecheck, I’d ask my guys to do some other things that were absolutely necessary to the predicament we were in. For example, I suggested that we had to eat at the game clock as much as possible. And I also advised the guys to dump the puck most times, and to only think offense when our opponents made mistakes, or when we had a really good chance of scoring.
Actually, by taking a quick lead, we’d created conditions that frustrated our rivals. And they did start making the kinds of mistakes teams make when they can’t seem to generate any offense. Sure enough, they started taking chances with the puck, and they forced passes numerous times right to my guys’ sticks.
Ya, everything was going according to plan, and we’d managed to kill nearly two-thirds of the game while clinging to that slim lead.
So, what happens late in that second stanza is that one of my very offensive minded forwards eventually steals the puck in neutral ice, and he starts carrying towards the NH team’s zone. We’d been over this situation countless times to this point — back home in our last practice, in our pre-game talk, and as recently as the last intermission. What my guy had to read was his honest-to-goodness chances of successfully carrying the puck on towards the goal.
Darn, but he had to see that there were three enemy defenders in front of him, and that the only sane thing to do was to dump the puck so we could move into our forecheck. Not this time, though… Instead he barged right into those defenders and immediately coughed-up the puck. The opponent who stole the puck relayed it up-ice to a streaking winger who fired a slapshot into our goal.
And don’t you know that that one goal lit a fire under our rivals, and they managed a 2-2 tie just before the period ended. Oh, and we could hear them hooting and howling in the dressingroom down the hall. They were believing in themselves again, and they were ready to blow our doors off in the final period.
Okay, so what did I think really went wrong?
In a way, I couldn’t fault my young forward. I felt what happened wasn’t intentional, but more a difficulty he — and countless other players — had developed in their earliest years. I mean, our game is kind of fast, wild and tense (to list just a few adjectives). And just by its very nature, I can appreciate how players can momentarily lose their heads or make a wrong decision in the heat of battle.
Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about that turning point in our game — all the bus ride home, and for the days, weeks and months after. You see, although I’ve coached teams for numerous years, I’m really a skills coach inside. So, when I’ve seen good and bad plays at the higher levels, I’ve always felt I could design something for younger guys and gals to help them when they reach those higher levels.
And what I thought I’d been seeing with a lot of older players was a difficulty in dealing with a physical challenge while also keeping a clear head and staying with a plan.
So, with a summer hockey school starting a few months after that college season ended, I set-out to design a program that would help young players learn to “Skate ‘n Think” at the same time. In other words, my idea was to give the kids a simple physical challenge, while also asking them to deal with a mental problem.
With that, the following video shows what I’ve done with my idea through the years since then. (Although I created this form of drilling in the late 1980′s, you’ll notice that I only produced this video a few years ago.) Once you’ve watched it, see below, because I have a lot more to add…Loading...
Now that you have an idea of the program I ultimately designed, let me go back to the initial problem — as I see it…
Do you recall those young teenagers hopping across the lawn on large balls? (I also used a photo of it at the top of this page.) Well, one of those kids took a pretty nasty spill halfway through the drill. I just happened to be holding the camera near the end of the course and I was able to see his face as he arrived and readied to give his coach the answer. The fact is, if ever they had to put a “deer caught in the headlights” sample in a dictionary, there would be none better than the look on that poor boy’s face.
What had happened was that he got messed up by the fall, and he lost all train of thought. Little wonder he’d forgotten the mental problem he was asked to deal with.
So, I have to ask you… Do hockey players face similar challenges in their games? You bet. They get spun around, tripped-up, they take awful spills and ferocious body-checks. And, is there a chance they’re going to have that deer in the headlights moment, just like my young camp student? Or is there the chance they’re going to recover and forget the game plan, the score, the time remaining in a period? Again, you can bet at least some players will.
Then a few short asides…
Within my other videos, you’ll often see my kids tumbling while performing another skill. I have them do it for other purposes too, but one good reason I mix this skill with others is to artificially cause a little confusion.
Ironically, as I was doing a little research earlier today, I found an on-line article describing some rather unorthodox methods used by old Soviet coaches. It seems Anatoli Tarasov and other USSR coaches knew their players had to be prepped for the numerous adversities that take place in a game. So, the Russian coaches would actually — purposely — trip or otherwise foul players during practices or apply some last minute off-the-wall rules to drills and scrimmages.
Finally, I am going to start using this form of drilling again once my players return to The MOTION Lab this spring, and I’ll continue it when we later move to the ice. Yet, even though this seems like a team-type activity, a parent could easily create a “Think ‘n Skate” set of problems for his or her youngster to do at home. And, an older player could just as easily use some imagination to take advantage of these combined physical and mental challenges.
In keeping with our current theme — as in using the coming off-season wisely, nothing could be more appropriate than some great advice on “goal setting”. So, thanks to another member of the Mental Edge team, here’s a great piece by Justin Johnson!
– Dennis Chighisola
Mental Edge Performance Advisor
June marks the start for many young athletes’ summer training. For most this is their off season, a chance to start a new and build speed strength and endurance in hopes that this three- month period will yield great results. However more often then not even the best intentions leave the athlete in only slightly better shape, and likely confused on whether or not what they have done will equal the results they set out to reach. The best way to eliminate this trend is set up a plan that will lead them to success. Below I will discuss three crucial skills around developing an effective and efficient off season.
What have you got?
In athletics and in life we have two types of personal currency Time and Energy. One without the other is useless and often times the mismanagement of the two leads to frustration, regret and confusion. Your first focus needs to be on how you can effectively and efficiently balance your time and energy. Managing this currency is a day to day process that requires you to keep your priorities in check. Discipline in this skill will set the athlete up for a greater chance of success in the next area, Goal Setting.
Begin with the end in mind
Each off season, or any period in which you hope to make gains or reach a goal, requires you to contemplate your desired results. When working with our athletes we call these the WANT goals. A few examples of want goals could be: shaving a second off your 40 time, gain 10 lbs. of muscle, or develop greater flexibility. These goals are often the easiest to think of and serve as a launching board for your off season for a number of reasons. First when you set a goal it gives you a target. That target forces you to look around and evaluate where you currently stand in the path of reaching your goals. For some this path is close and clear, for others it’s long and practically hidden. If unclear of where you are consult with a trusted coach, or family member who will give you constructive honest feedback, not a self-esteem boost.
The second, and most often misunderstood, portion of effective goal setting is what we call the DO goals. DO goals are simply the actions you have to take in order to get what you WANT. Although pretty straight forward this is where the young athlete typically gets led astray. There are two criteria that make up an effective DO goal: It must be something you have complete control over, and it must give you headway towards your intended target. For example if you are a sprinter hoping to shave time from your sprints you most certainly wouldn’t train by running 2 miles in hopes of shaving that time. A more effective use of your time and energy should be spent on start technique. Your technique is something you have complete control over, and by working on it you have given yourself the opportunity to move closer toward your intended WANT goal. DO goals should be compared to rungs on a ladder: each time you accomplish a DO goal it leads you closer up the ladder to your WANT.
If you can effectively manage your time and energy and organize your training around your intended results using WANT and DO goals you will have a great start to a quality off- season experience.
Talk about exciting… It gives me great pleasure to introduce a new guest contributor to CoachChic.com in the way of Shaun Goodsell. Shaun has had a passion for working with and helping kids and adolescents for the better part of his life. He has been working with kids in adverse situations for twenty years and has seen many of them through the most horrific of situations. He grew up playing hockey and running cross-country for his local high school and has also run an amazing six marathons! With a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and his undying love for athletics and young people, Shaun has combined his academic background, his innate love for working with kids and adolescents and finally, his passion for sports in general to create The Mental Edge. A company which not only guides athletes toward a higher ground in measures of performance, but also in their every day lives. So, knowing members are going to love Shaun’s contributions (and perhaps some by his associates), here goes…
Shaun Goodsell, MA
Senior Performance Coach
Over the past twenty plus years I have spent thousands of hours with teenagers, parents and coaches. The time spent has taught me that many teenage athletes are hungry for quality feedback that is descriptive, specific, and informed. The more kids get this type of feedback the more they are equipped to direct their physical and mental energy towards improving, as well as, leveraging strengths. This seems to unleash energy, engagement, and passion that many coaches and parents are often surprised to see, yet, scratch their heads on how to replicate.
What is truthful is that “the truth is intriguing”. What is false is “encouragement is the answer to every struggle a kid has”. When we as coaches and parents give truthful feedback in an intriguing manner (even though that feedback might create pain) we often set kids free from unrealistic expectations, unnecessary pressure, and engage them in ways we have not been able to in the past. Let me share an example. Many hockey players go into games with personal expectations of themselves that they should be impact players. In their minds that means scoring or tallying points. However, many of these players get discouraged game in and game out only to be told to” be patient it will come”. The truth is there are very few impact players and this player may be best served by being told they do not currently possess the skills to be an impact player. To a player that most likely has experienced frustration and disappointment, they might be set free to now excel in other ways because they were told the truth.
It is my belief that we better serve our young athletes by telling them the truth. The truth truly does set you free!
If you are looking to sharpen YOUR Mental Edge and want to learn more about creating a strategy that maximizes your personal strengths, please email Dawn@MentalEdgeNow.com today!
Ever aiming to make this the most complete, most in depth hockey reference site in the world, CoachChic.com just wouldn’t have it all without an area especially devoted to the mental skills required to play hockey well. So, beginning in April, look for a new category entitled Mental Training.
And, in a future entry I’ll explain and show a video on a special drill format I created over a decade ago called “Think ‘n Skate”. Wait ’til you see it!