This is always the time of year that brings questions from young players and families about what to do this summer when a hockey player wants to improve themselves. I have written about it many times in the past. The recruiting season for youth players has ended and now people start to think about all the spring and summer hockey events that they are approached to participate in.
One of the things about getting older and being in the advising business is that you start to have a realization of some strategies that have worked in a player’s quest to play hockey at a higher level and some that have not. I too have lived and learned….and my goal with this blog is to share some information with families and players that they can use to help them to decide what will and will not be worthwhile this summer.
It is also one of my favorite times of the year as I am a huge golf fan and there is no better golf tournament than The Masters in Augusta, GA. That is why I will end this blog entry with a golf analogy.
But for now back to the question, “What should I do this summer?” Obviously everyone is in different situations and at many different skill levels, however there is one thing that I believe in with all my heart which is…there is no one magic pill. There is not one event or singular training strategy that will deliver you to the ‘promised land’.
The key is to work on multiple important areas throughout the entire off season. Some of which are not very exciting or ones you have probably ever thought about.
Here are a few of the following ideas and offerings that in my experience have worked and can work for you!
Adapt a Mindset of Daily Improvement
Start to think about improving daily. A little bit better than yesterday but not as good as tomorrow. Just get better in some area every day of the summer. You have to decide to create a clear trajectory of growth and improvement and to stay on it each and every day. Think about it this way. There are approximately 140 days between now and September 1. 140 small improvements add up to a very much improved player.
But here is the key. There are so many ways to improve that a lot of players don’t realize and don’t focus on. Here are some examples:
You don’t have to live in the gym but the gym has to live within you.
Obviously the one that everyone focuses the vast amount of their time on. Hockey is a game that demands physically elite athletes. Never before has the condition of hockey players been held to such a high standard. There are no shortcuts here. Get with someone who has had success training elite hockey players and has a track record. Your Dad or Coach’s advice does not cut it when it comes to this. You need an expert! If you think you are training hard enough just know that someone out there is training harder. Guaranteed.
Don’t Waste your Training Time
One of the biggest mistakes made is wasting time and doing things that don’t add value to your training program. There are simply too many wasted weekends on meaningless ‘showcase’ events that no recruiters or scouts ever go to. I can’t remember the last time I have heard from a scout or recruiter after watching a weekend event in the spring or summer. It NEVER happens.
This is typically how the stands look like at these events……..
Think about it. In many cases players won’t train hard on Wednesday so they are fresh for a weekend event. They travel Thursday, play short meaningless games all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, travel home and then are tired on Monday and don’t train properly. Almost an entire week wasted…..Not good.
One area that is overlooked concerning improvement relates to a players intellect. Most people do not realize how smart elite hockey players are. This is an area that can be worked and improved upon even when you are tired. There is no excuse for not reading material that can improve your performance. Below is a suggested reading list. I would start with this must read by former Duke Basketball Star Jay Bilas-
The following is a list of some more recommended books.
Talk to a Mentor
Find someone other than your parents or coaches that you can discuss the game with. There are many former players you can find who have played at high levels that you can approach who would love to talk to you about the ride….trust me on this one. Former players that have gone through the good and the bad can give you a unique perspective and help you stay grounded.
In Greece, a ‘Mentor’ is a ‘wise and trusted adviser’.
Don’t be Delusional
Here is one of the things I am going to tell you NOT to do….and it is important. I always think of the TV show American Idol and some of the contestants who think they are so much more gifted than they really are. You have flaws in your game. Talk to someone who will tell you honestly what you need to focus on improving. Have an open mind. Take the criticism and use it to motivate you.
You probably just finished tryouts and have been recruited heavily. Coaches have probably told you how great you are and how wonderful your season is going to be. I am here to tell you to forget it all. Don’t listen to it! You are not that good and you are really not that good if you don’t work your ass off this summer. Be humble and be hungry or your results will suck next season.
Develop a mindset of curiosity. If you really want to improve, you can do it by being curious. All great players are like this. They have to learn. They study. They watch video. They read articles on all sorts of things that relate to their sport. You can do this every day for as long as you want. Go to YouTube. Watch the highlights of your favorite player. Study them….it’s free! Watch the NHL Playoffs. Look at how focused and committed those players are in every area of the ice. Research players and learn about them.
If you are trying to be recruited to college, learn everything you can about those schools you are targeting. Study the coaches. Learn about them. Know their histories…..their backgrounds. Be ready to impress them when and if you ever meet with them.
Research nutrition and healthy eating habits and incorporate them into your life. Find out what the elite players eat and how they manage their bodies. The internet is a wonderful resource that young players have. Work hard at finding answers.
Do not become complacent over the summer. This is the real challenge. You may think you are doing enough and training hard enough but like I said earlier,…you probably are not. Just because you have a physical training program does not make improvement automatic. Push yourself to do the less glamorous things I have discussed here. Yes, some of them may seem boring and you may find it difficult, but guess what?….it’s supposed to be hard…..
So now for my golf analogy and how it relates to your summer training…
There is a story about a man who longed to be able to golf and play at a level just like his buddies, one buddy in particular. He knew this friend was a good golfer so he set his sights on one day standing up on the first tee and driving a golf ball past his. He wanted to be able to beat him.
He began to take lessons. He spent hours on end at the driving range. Day after day……driving ball after ball….He knew he could one day do it. He improved his driving to the point where he could hit a ball over 300 yards….
But what he didn’t see was the countless hours his friend, the good golfer, spent at the putting green working on his putting and chipping. The boring, monotonous, tedious work. Everyone loves to hit long drives, but few people like to hone their short game skills.
So the big day came and the wanna-be golfer challenged his friend to a match. He showed off his new skill and consistently out drove his buddy on every hole!!…….and lost by 15 strokes…..
What the new golfer failed to realize is that 70% of all golf shots occur inside of 100 yards to the hole.
He did not practice properly. He didn’t practice intelligently……
The game is not about driving…..it’s about scoring.
So this summer, do the little things that make a difference………and keep your eye on the ball.