Comparing ourselves to our peers is human nature. We have all done it and depending on the context in which you are using that comparison it can be either helpful or harmful. From a hockey standpoint, we have all seen the stud 14-year-old go on to play in the National Hockey League but, more times than not, we have stories of the kid who was the best player in the country as a youth player and never hit his full potential five years down the road. The common mistake that most people make is judging players by their physical tools when we should be looking into their mental makeup and the choices that they make on a daily basis.
National Hockey League professionals have a brand that they have established for years and years. This is not the case with youth hockey players. You are building your brand every day and will be judged by how you perform on the ice and how you act off of it. Having success on the ice doesn’t just happened, it is earned! If I have learned anything from playing with and against Olympic athletes and Stanley Cup champions with the highest level of character on and off the ice, it is that there are a few common attributes that these successful men have acquired throughout their journey to excellence in their respective field.
Do you like the game or do you love it? Don’t go and shoot 100 pucks in the driveway because your parents or your coach told you to do it. Go shoot pucks because you think it is fun and it is something that you enjoy doing. Passion is an attribute that cannot be taught. You either have it or you don’t and this starts at a very young age. Private lessons and personal trainers were not around 10 years ago and doing the extra work doesn’t guarantee that you love the game. Guys with passion back in the day were the kids that organized neighborhood street hockey games, mini-sticks in the hallway of the hotel, or watching a Red Wings game with their dad on a Wednesday night after completing their homework.
Jack Nicklaus (hall-of-fame golfer) had the right message. “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: WORK!” Nothing in life is given and the players that work toward their goals and earn their opportunities are the ones that stay in the game.
No one is born with mental toughness. It is an attribute that is learned over time by struggling. You have to have high character attributes in order to become mentally tough. Most people want their five minutes of fame instead of working thousands of hours in order to become great. Fame doesn’t last but character through hard work will create success in all areas of your life if you have the right attitude. The message is that mental Toughness takes time and if we had success right away without disappointment then we wouldn’t build the character we need to endure future accomplishments. If you are going to fail, then “fail forward.” Learn from your mistakes and change for the better!
It is hard to push yourself as hard as you can go in this game without passion. It is hard to deal with the struggles of the game mentally if you haven’t gained the confidence through your work ethic. And when you have a little success and then get knocked back down, that is the crucial time to make a decision to get back up. The bottom line is that what got you here today is not enough to keep you here tomorrow! Do things the right way and let other people compare themselves to you. All you can do is control what you can control and at the end of the day If you don’t like your current situation….get better!