Everywhere around us we see opportunities for self improvement. Businesses exist to help you improve your image, your relationship, your financial independence, your body and so on. I personally see great value in many opportunities to improve my business, my leadership skills, my coaching abilities and my IT skills. I constantly strive to find ways to improve my areas of weakness and sharpen my strengths.
As an expectant father, I am already looking forward to seeing my child pursue his or her interests with passion and commitment. Whether it’s my competitive nature as an athlete or my survival instincts as a small business owner, I am always looking for ways to get better.
But the truth is, this quest for improvement can be exhausting! Thankfully my wife reminds me to take a moment to breathe and enjoy my successes. Also, my semi-regular yoga practices give me a chance to park these competitive instincts. I’m encouraged to slow down, to unwind, to celebrate achievement and to live in the moment.
As this year closes and a new one begins, let’s remember to acknowledge and celebrate the large — and small — achievements in our lives, and of those young hockey players on our teams and in our families. A life in hockey is not created in a single shift, practice, game, week or season. A player’s dreams and aspirations take months, years and even decades to foster. To live in the moment and to celebrate our achievements will inspire and motivate us to continue in our hockey pursuits — a life in hockey is much sweeter as a journey, and not a destination.
I’ve assembled a list of five small, but concrete, ways minor hockey players can feel grateful and proud of their journey in hockey. They work for me and I hope they can help your son or daughter too!
1. Enjoy watching a younger team play a game or practice. When a Midget team watches a Novice practice as they prepare for their own ice time, they all laugh, smile and cheer on the little players on the ice. The next time you find yourself doing this, take a moment to realize all that you have learned, and how much you have improved since your Novice days.
2. At the end of a practice or game, pick your favourite play, shot, pass or save, and cherish it. The game is full of mistakes. Even the best players in the world make mistakes. I’ve always noticed that when a great player makes a mistake, their body language says, “I’ll make up for it on my next shift, and I won’t let it happen again.” They don’t sulk and get down. Celebrating all that you did right in your game is more powerful than mourning your mistakes.
3. End practice with the perfect shot or move. Watch the warm-up the next time you are at a Junior or Pro game. At the end of the warm-up, there are always a few players remaining taking their last few shots. Once the perfect shot hits the top corner or cross bar, the player heads straight off the ice without touching another puck. It’s a little motivator and a reminder to that player that says, “I’m good, and I’m ready to play great tonight!”
4. Create a list of your three best qualities as a player that add value to your team. A team fits together like a puzzle. It’s been said that a team of 20 Wayne Gretzkys would never win the Stanley Cup. Players that make the NHL are rarely 10/10 in every category. They also don’t make it if they are a 7/10 across the board. Pick three qualities, and be 10/10 in those. Find your niche and celebrate your ability to help your team in those areas.
5. Let yourself have fun playing the game. When you beat yourself up for mistakes that you make or goals you don’t score, or for not making a team, hockey can feel like a chore — and even like a burden. When you live in the moment and celebrate all that is great in your game, the world will just feel right, and the game will feel easy.