Persistence: Essential Life Skills Developed through Hockey
By Jerry Hotarek
What are the keys to success in hockey and how do we translate those to essential life skills? The answer I share with every hockey parent is inspired from the infamous quote from Calvin Coolidge.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
The exponentially increasing demands of ice hockey as a player advances through age levels presents new opportunities for growth. When I speak to athletes and parents about what it takes to stay in this game, I feel there is always a responsibility to give a complete answer instead of something as obvious as: hard work, dedication, talent, and so on. No one can play competitive hockey forever and because of its rigorous demands, it teaches life lessons that carry over to real life experiences. This is a primary reason why we have seen such growth in the sport in not just California, but across the nation. We as coaches carry the responsibility of safeguarding this translation and facilitating development of a complete athlete. Persistence is an empowering character trait that encompasses all the essential life skills developed through hockey and is required to succeed in the sport, as well as life. So with that, here is how I break down persistence as it relates to success.
What is your goal in the sport? Almost all high school age athletes I work with tell me, “I want to play college hockey.” An excellent goal that presents a long road with countless obstacles ahead. Yes, you have to be good, yeah, you have to work hard and dedicate yourself. But above all else, you need to be relentless in your pursuit. Persistence is defined as, “firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition,” and that is precisely what you need to achieve success. Whatever your goal(s) may be, understand that it requires a “never die” attitude to achieve them.
Prepare for Obstacles
Anyone in the real world will tell you that life presents numerous obstacles and every hockey player will share the same. Ice hockey is notorious for developing mental toughness and learning the value of preparation is an essential life skill that is required when a new challenge presents itself. An obstacle can come in many forms internally and externally; preparing to play a heavy team, getting ready for tryouts or select camps, regular season versus playoff hockey, and adapting to shortage of ice (something we deal with in the Bay Area). Make the preparation phase a life forming habit and apply this to any process by identifying what has to be done followed by a linear progression of how to execute a purposeful plan. A key takeaway in preparation is making sure that all tasks are purpose driven. A good example is preparing for an upcoming season with off season training. Planning the off season training phase with a purpose driven approach that is parallel with specific goals is much more effective than simply getting as much ice time as possible and senseless conditioning. Luck favors those who are most prepared.
A player that is not afraid to take initiative is a coach’s dream. It demonstrates a level of maturity that can positively resonate amongst the entire team. Great leaders all understand the power of having the confidence to take initiative and is widely recognized by coaches. It can be applicable to changing the momentum of a game with a hard nose play, as well as having the guts to pick up the phone and call a junior coach to express your desire to play for their team.
The 3 R’s: Review, Re evaluate and Revise
Such as the game of hockey is constantly evolving, players and coaches must also evolve with it if they want to stay in the game. It is critical to stay open minded and receptive to new concepts and strategies as it pertains to every facet of the game. Have the courage to be your own toughest critic with assessments and implementation of a new approach if necessary. Continuous review can validate if something is working or if there is a need for tweaks and changes. If something is working, have the discipline to be consistent and if change is needed, have the courage to implement a new approach. This mindset can be developed through watching game tape, exercising the mind through sports psychology practices, and being receptive to different perspectives from coaches and peers. In addition, being receptive with an open mind broadens perspective. It is considered a limitation when a player or coach lacks perspective.
Garner Support and Encouragement
The power of positivity has an enormous effect on the confidence of players and coaches. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you validates your purpose. We have all seen the effect it has when a player hangs out with the wrong crowd or has some kind of negative influence. It creates a whirlwind of difficulty as it affects your emotional well being and state of mind. Garnering positive support and encouragement makes everything better not just in hockey, but life.
Practice these essential life skills with the persistence of a strong willed human being. Find ways to apply these practices in various elements of the game; the possibilities are endless. You will find this process to be highly effective while enhancing your core values as a person. I strongly believe that the sport of ice hockey is one of the greatest teachers in the development of character and integrity. Therefore, it can only be concluded that essential life skills required in the sport are paramount in achieving long term success as an athlete and a person.