By Brandon Naurato –
Every athlete remembers their favorite sports or inspirational movie and how it has had an impact on their lives or possibly made them look at their sport or life from a different perspective. Movies like “Miracle” keep us on the edge of our seats when the underdog Team USA beat a world powerhouse Russian team in the semifinals and then Finland in the finals to win Olympic gold. We all remember when Rudy finally runs out of the tunnel for the Notre Dame football team or when Muhammad Ali knocked down Joe Frazier and all you could hear from the announcer is, “Down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier.” It brings us right out of our seats with adrenaline pumping and tears of enjoyment in our eyes. The question now is, “What do all of these movies have in common?”
The answer is simple – adversity.
“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”
-Muhammad Ali (world heavyweight champion boxer)
The time between April-June might be the toughest time of the year mentally for youth hockey players across the country. Tryouts for youth hockey are in full force and there are a lot of players dealing with adversity for the first time. “You’re too slow”, “you’re not big enough”, “you can’t skate well enough”, or “we just don’t have room for you” are phrases that replay in parents and players’ minds day after day. Every player that has gone on to play at a high level has heard these same comments made to them at some point in their career and I’m here to tell you to take a deep breath, relax, and understand that adversity is a good thing.
This next section is for the parents. The mindset of some parents needs to change and it needs to change now. There have been way too many articles written about what is wrong with youth hockey and it all comes back to the politics and drama that has zero impact on the most important people – the kids. Coaches are not interested in how hard little Johnny could shoot the puck or how fast he can skate when it comes to playing at the next level. Their main interest is can Johnny help their team win at this level right now. They’re not worried about how Johnny had 100 points as a squirt and now you’re wondering why he just cut got from his first midget team. “But Coach, you don’t understand, little Johnny was on a select team when he was 12 and the players that made the U16 team weren’t as good as Johnny when they were pee wees.” Unfortunately, Mom and Dad, the reality is that they are better than Johnny now and guess what – Johnny is going to be just fine.
So what are you going to do about it?
It goes back to the 90/10 rule. Ten percent is what happened to you and 90 percent is what you are going to do about it moving forward.
Why did you put your son or daughter into this wonderful game of hockey? You put them in this great game to teach them good life lessons and core values. Meeting new friends, working in a team environment, dealing with adversity and success are a few more examples of what we want our youth to take away from playing sports. Be supportive of your children and let them know that a little adversity is a good thing. The best players in the world have been through the same adversity that these young players are going through right now. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for lack of skill. He is arguably the best basketball player of all time and at one point he was told that he couldn’t cut it because of a lack of skill.
Believe me when I say it again, we have all been through it. Do your research on local players from the Detroit area that were told that they were too small or not skilled enough to continue playing at the next level and you will find some great examples right in your backyard. Jeff Lerg was considered too small at every level that he moved on to whether it was midget, junior, college, or pro hockey. All Jeff has done to silence his critics is continue to be one of the hardest workers I know and proved everyone wrong when he won numerous MVP awards at every level and even a national championship with Michigan State University. Luke Glendening was headed to play Division 2 football at Hillsdale College before an opportunity came for him to walk on to the Michigan hockey team. He was told that he would only practice with the team and the chances of him playing more than five games a season would slim. What did Luke do? Luke put his head down, worked hard, became an assistant captain his sophomore year and the captain his junior and senior seasons and just recently signed a new three-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. This is a guy that didn’t talk to one junior team after high school and was planning on playing Division 2 football and now he is the National Hockey League with an important role on what of the most prestigious organizations in the world of professional sports.
So the message is simple: Adversity is good! You can fight through it and it will only make you stronger. At some point hockey will be over for all of us and when that time comes it is the life lessons and core values that will make you who you are as an adult. A good father, husband, business owner, and member of the community is what we all strive to be at the end of the day. We all have a role on a hockey team, but most importantly we all have roles in life. Believe in yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to and I promise you that you will find success in the end. Yes, there will be more adversity. When that time comes, you will be prepared.