By Christopher Costa, MS
Winning in hockey is achieved in many ways, and athletic prowess is defined by several factors. Some you’re born with, others are achieved through hard work and tenacity. There’s no perfect answer to becoming a winning athlete. But one thing is clear: if you don’t have these 5 attributes, you’re putting yourself at a great disadvantage.
Passion is something that can’t be taught. It’s a love for hockey as deep as life itself. You eat, breathe, and sleep the game. It’s an expectation to make sacrifices that could affect other things in your life; i.e., time with loved ones or friends. It’s the passion that fuels you. When you lose, passion drives you to make a change so that you’re better the next time. Passion makes you want to be better for you, your teammates, and the game. Passion defines the good, but separates the best.
Hustle means you won’t quit when the going gets tough. You’re willing to push through the adversity of a 2-goal deficit or the soreness that’s eating you up in the gym. Hustle is ultimately what enables you to be better; without it, how would you make your shot better? Do you want to score 50 goals, or are you happy with 10? Do you want to win the Stanley Cup, or is it ok to just make it to the playoffs?
Winning in hockey means hustlers don’t settle for something less. The value of the work that you put into the game equals the outcome. A hustler hits the gym regularly during the off-season, not because he or she is told to. They do it because the struggles of last season gave them a reason to work harder.
Discipline is easier than it seems. It can be learned. However, no one will tell you that it’s easily achieved. Oftentimes it requires you to think before you act. Discipline defines the difference between the team player and the selfish player. Sure, it’s hard to avoid retaliating after someone commits a dirty play against you, especially when the referee may have missed the infraction. The disciplined player has the mind to look past that. He/she understands that selfishness only hurts the team. Think first, act later.
Similar to discipline is leadership. Every team needs a great leader, but the problem is much of the time people believe a leader should be the best player on the team. In reality, that’s not always the case. A good leader has the highest level of discipline and always puts his/her needs behind what’s best for the team. Hopefully, he or she also possesses all of the other attributes that make for winning in hockey, however that’s not always necessary. A leader leads by example, both on and off the ice.
Finally, some of the best players in the world have incredible vision. The player that always seems to do something on the ice that no one thought possible. That’s vision. This individual has the ability to read and react to a play before it even happens. It’s an innate attribute, but one that can be learned through discipline, leadership and understanding of the game.
Don’t just watch hockey, watch every plan and dissect it. Break that play down into the smallest pieces and try to figure out how it happened. What would you have done to change it? What might the outcome be? Learning to visualize a play before it happens will ultimately give you a half-second more to make the right play.
All of these attributes are imperative to the creation of the winning athlete, much of which can be achieved through determination and hard work. However, you can’t just “sort of” want it. You have to be willing to make all the sacrifices in order to become a complete winner. Part of that is losing with dignity: A great winner doesn’t have to enjoy losing, but he/she must be able to take something from a loss and apply it to making themselves better. Ask yourself what you could have done that may have changed the outcome, and once you find the answer hustle to change it. Let the passion carry you. Lead through example and always keep your cool. Always work, never stop. Never let the game get ahead of you. Read and react before everyone else.
That’s the key to winning in hockey.
Christopher Costa is a hockey training specialist. His life has revolved around hockey, as a coach, player and official for more than 22 years. His training protocols address all key aspects in producing elite talent, including nutrition.
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