The Happy Warrior

Welcome back to the Ten Rules series where we examine Lloyd Percival’s list of How to Establish Rapport with Your Athletic Child. In the first post, we looked at the background of Percival and his involvement in developing The Hockey Handbook. Now we look at each of his ten rules and how they may (or may not) pertain to you and your young hockey player. 

Rule # 4 Teach them to enjoy the thrill of competition and sharpen their skills.

Don’t say “winning doesn’t count” because it does.  Instead, help develop the feel for competing, for trying hard and having fun. Explain that the “Happy Warrior” who loves all aspects of play is usually the best athlete in the long term, certainly the happiest and most well-adjusted one.

Lloyd Percival was best known as a “scientific coach”. His fellow coaches frequently criticized him for heavily emphasizing scientific training methods but he brought innovation to all manner of sport, most significantly track-and-field and hockey. Soon track and field coaches all across Canada could no-longer ignore his success and started to copy his methods, but hockey coaches continued to ignore him for decades.

What they too often overlooked was how Percival attempted to help athletes and coaches appreciate the sheer joy of athletic competition, including the enjoyment of training and practice. According to him, why would an athlete bother to compete if not for the “thrill of competition?” If kids find training tedious and exhausting, Percival believed, they simply won’t put in the amount necessary to succeed – at least not for very long.

The coach plays a huge role in creating the competitive environment necessary for athletic success, but parents also contribute to the making of a “Happy Warrior”. Find out what motivates your child to succeed as a hockey player and encourage them to find the joy in competition. Make sure that they understand that success is not measured strictly by games won and goals scored but effort and hard work – the way they play the game. Also, don’t be afraid to have a friendly conversation with your child’s coach if their negative approach is killing their love of the game. They could be completely unaware of the effect their intensity is having.

For the majority of kids, playing hockey is just going to be one phase of their life.  That’s why it’s so essential that they enjoy competition, begin to figure out how to measure themselves against their own expectations and learn how to apply the lessons they’ve learned to the long life they will lead after hockey.

Upon hearing of his death, one of the athletes Lloyd Percival coached wrote a letter to the editor saying, “Goodbye, dear coach. You taught me to compete and to strive. You taught me not to fear failure, or success. ‘Failure,’ you said, ‘is part of winning if you learn from your mistakes.’ ‘Everyone has hurdles to overcome’, you said, ‘but only those who do become winners.’ Percival was also the parent of an athletic child and just like any coach and parent he would have been honoured to hear these words.

Even if your child should make that quantum leap to play in the NHL they will benefit from coaches and parents who understand that winning in sport does count, but it is not “everything,” nor is it “the only thing” (apologies to Vince Lombardi). Former Toronto Maple Leaf Carl Brewer, reflecting on a long and successful career in hockey which was undermined by dissatisfaction with his chosen career and clinical depression, wrote that the NHL would have much better served its players if coaches like Punch Imlach had understood what Percival was preaching with his “Happy Warrior” mantra.

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About The Author

Gary Mossman is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Ontario. He is member of the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR) who has appeared in The Hockey News. CONTINUE