Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Struggle to Succeed

“Get a partner... get a puck”.
That was one of my coach's go to puck protection drills back in college.
We would pair up and play keep away in a confined area and beat each other into the ground.
This was how our practices went.
They were challenging, they were tough, they were demanding, and they were at times, grueling.
Some of the time, you were just trying to get through it without wanting to quit.
Every once in awhile, you might even get to shoot some pucks.
Our practices were as tough as games because we carried 25 players.
Only 20 could dress.
You had to perform and you had to battle, or you wouldn’t be in the lineup.
Simple as that.
But as tough as it was, you wanted to be in the lineup because it was NCAA college hockey, and it was awesome.
On this particular day, it would seem that our effort or execution in practice was not quite up to coach’s expectations.
Abruptly, I heard that dreaded mid-drill whistle that usually ended up in coach chewing us out...
Followed by a bag skate.
We all lined up on the goal line without having to be told.
As much as we weren’t looking forward to it, we were familiar with the routine.
As we waited in anticipation for coach to blow the whistle to signal we should start skating, I stared down at my skates straddling the goal line.
This time, there was no whistle.
Just an uncomfortable intimidating silence.
Eventually, everyone looked up and made eye contact with the coach.
He just stared at us with a disgusted look on his face.
He had never done this before and we didn’t know what to expect next...
But we were pretty certain it wasn’t good.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, he spoke.
“How many of you want to be better players?” he asked.
Every player, including me, raised our hands.
He stared at each and every one of us, looking in our eyes one by one.
It felt like a really long time before he made his way down the entire line to look at each member of the team.
His stare was intimidating and intense.
We had no idea what was going on, but he had our undivided attention.
“How many of you stayed late after practice yesterday to work on your skills?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a bunch of heads look down to the ice all at the same time.
Only a handful of us were able to honestly raise our hands.
A few of us had stayed after practice the day before to work on our one-timers, tips and screens, and picking up rung pucks in our skates off the wall.
As he continued his glare, there was no movement, no fidgeting, nothing.
It was completely silent, and we were suddenly all struck by the contradiction between what we all said we wanted, and what we were willing to do to make it happen.
The statement was simple but it hit us between the eyes.
The realization that your actions speak louder about you than your words.
Coach’s message was clear and it has stuck with me to this day
— we had been cheating ourselves and each other.
Looking back I thought, “Obviously everyone wants to be a better player.”
“But, if we all wanted to be better players, shouldn’t everyone of us be taking steps to do that?”
Eventually, it hit me — it was simply a matter of sacrifice.
If you really want something, you will do whatever it takes, in a way that costs you something to achieve it.
But if you would just like to have something, you will accept it willingly if someone just hands it to you.
Message received.

The whistle blew and we all began skating.
Nothing more needed to be said.
Each and every one of us would like to be a better player.
If we could just snap our fingers and make it happen, we would gladly accept a higher skill level.
But how many were willing to do the necessary things that involved some sacrifice to get there?
When we were practicing, that was just the bare minimum to be a member of the “team”.
That was just the cost of doing business.
We were expected to push ourselves and to work hard.
But when practice was over, we were able to do as we please.
And that is where the choices came into play.
That is where the real investment was required.
It was very apparent that most of us were content to stay in our comfort zone.
We said we wanted to be the best, but our actions betrayed that.
Very few were committed to the process of improving ourselves or sacrificing comfort now in order to achieve something bigger down the road.
The coach knew this, and he wasn’t happy about it.
Here is an uncomfortable truth.
No one will care about your success more than you.
No one is going to just hand you anything.
If you’ve been telling yourself you want to achieve your goals, but you’re not doing what's necessary to accomplish them...
Only you can set yourself on the right course.
Others may be willing to help you, but no one can want it more than you.
You may be living your life every day thinking that you really want success.
That you really want to play at that next level.
That you really want to become the best player you can be.
But you’re not willing to do what it takes to achieve that.
You aren’t pushing yourself to grow as a player.
You are hoping for someone to come along and make the whole thing easier, more comfortable, or less uncertain or intimidating.
Waiting for the perfect opportunity or scout to find you in the mass of other players who are hoping for the same thing you are.
To just hand you that opportunity you keep hearing about that someone else got.
It’s time to take a serious look inside yourself.
Maybe the truth is, you would like to be a better hockey player. You don’t really want it.
The journey to success changes you.
It forces you to grow and it exposes the worst habits you have.
It highlights your doubts and forces you to confront them.
If you aren’t doing something every day to improve your game physically or mentally, it’s time you became honest with yourself.
What if you finally stop lying to yourself about your own effort and start taking steps towards the career you know you’d like to have?
The reality is, you CAN do this.
I know a lot of successful players.
Many of them are not any better than you.
If you really want this, start proving it to yourself.
No one is going to just give you what you’d like.
Success in hockey doesn’t find you — you have to find it.
You have to actively go after it.
And you know what?
It’s better that way.
It forces you to work on you, and that is where the true value comes from in this.
That is a journey worth taking and worth all the sacrifice you’re going to have to put into it in order to make it happen.
And if you decide that’s what you’re going to do, I promise you, nothing will stop you but you.
Embrace that it is hard, scary, and intimidating.
Embrace the fact most others won’t get off the bench and into the real game.
Be glad that so many of your competitors mentally check out when the final whistle blows and they aren’t looking to stay “after practice” to better their skills.
It makes your job that much easier, and it means opportunity.
Opportunities in this game are everywhere.
They are waiting for you.
For the one person who wants them bad enough to break away from the crowd to find them.
Get real with yourself, and you’ll see obstacles start fading away easier than you ever would have thought.
Hope this helps...

P.S...If you want to increase your chances of playing junior, college, or even professional hockey, you gotta play the "recruiting game" a certain way…
What's your game plan to stand out from all the other players that have the same goal as you?
Are you using the play and pray strategy?
Going to camp after camp as a complete unknown only to be disappointed?
You have to get proactive and take control.
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1. You don't have the talent
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