Do you want more playing time? Do you want to be included more in the coaches system? Play more special teams and be asked to go in the most crucial of minutes?
It starts with getting your coaches attention at practice.
I have worked with over a dozen different coaches, and though they all seem different from afar, they truly all expect similar contribution. They want to see dedication and focus from all of their athletes.
As a coach myself, nothing was worse than seeing players who looked like they did not want to be at practice. How could I ever trust them in a game?
The players who I enjoyed coaching, managing and training are the athletes who are prepared before practice officially begins, who hustle and show not just intensity but focus. I care much less about a player's failure to complete a drill or a task, than I do about their willingness to perform it. And the players who gave me their best effort in practice, were the players who I called upon the most in the game.
We all want to be better, we all want more playing time and we all want more responsibility. It's the game we love to challenge ourselves in. And it starts with getting the coaches attention.
1. Show Up Early - Show Up Prepared
If practices start at 6:00PM, do not show up at 5:55PM - I cannot stress this enough, especially often. You should aim to always be ready for practice, when practice starts.
For some athletes, its second nature. For others, it can be difficult to get yourself there earlier. The first thing that the coaches see is dedication to a schedule. Strolling in "on time" or arriving late only waste the time of the teams and of the coaches. None of this will help the coach respect you as an athlete.
For your own sake of development and performance, arrive at least 15-minutes early to practice. Warm up by yourself, whether or not the team is expected to do this. There is nothing wrong with doing it twice, and maybe there are additional things you can do for yourself that the team does not think of.
You will only be further prepared for drills or off-ice. What is wrong with that?
Schedule the practices days out beforehand. Make sure you understand how you are getting to and from practice. Make sure you and all your equipment are ready to go, and you know how long the travel will take (traffic, included).
Double check your equipment, I like to ensure all my stuff is in the bag by checking in the order that I put them on. Shin pads, socks, skates... etc. etc.
If travel is truly a problem for you and you cannot make it 15-minutes early to practice. Make sure the coach understands this, beforehand. Also assure him that getting there "on-time" will not be problematic. If you have to wait for a ride, warm up and stretch at home until your rive arrives. Stretch in the car if you can, especially the shoulders. Breathing exercises may sound far fetched but realistically they are starting to also scientifically show benefits in athletic performance.
Whatever it takes for you to get to practice and give it the best you can offer.
2. Be Among The First 3 Skaters For Every Drill
A coach has all of his senses focused on the first skater, or first shift, of any drill he puts together. Its a big chance for the first to impress the coach, indicating his focus and highlighting his skill. Showing that he is ready to accomplish any challenge brought in his direction. Don't you think?
I know that as coach, I am looking for the first few guys to show me what I want to see. I understand it may be difficult for you all to be the first on any drill, especially every time. However, you can drive to be among the first 3. Shortly after the first 3 skaters, its likely for the coaches attention to be shifted elsewhere. I may still be watching the first attempt finishing the drill, I may be following the 3rd skater, I may be distracted by something else and may only see every other player during the completion of the shift. So that is why its crucial to be among the first, if not the first, to truly showcase yourself.
I also can understand how being a new player on a highly competitive team can drive you back in line. You may not even have a choice. Just do your best to get to the front, get as close as you can because YOU want to be among the first 3!
And for goalies, I have not forgotten about you. What upset me about 1 particular team I coached was how the goalies would be often goofing off during drill explanations, and not take the entire drill seriously. I am not particular about goalies having to understand the skaters responsibility but why not spend time away from shots with focus. Take every shot as if it was the game winning attempt by the opponents. Do your best, and showing that intensity and drive to treat every shot as if it were the most crucial save will show your dedication. Even if you let one past, forget quickly and move onto the next shot. Nothing was worse then seeing my goalies get scored on and lay on the ground in disbelief or fatigue, wondering what if. Get up asap and get ready for the next shot attempt. You are a goalie, not a fat man. Show intensity.
3. Listen & Learn
Do not be afraid of criticism. I have had some coaches who never seemed to stop commenting on mistakes I made. But there never was a time where a coach questioned my work ethic. And that is because the coaches believed in my work ethic, and they wanted to see me improve. If a coach seems to be giving you a hard time, every practice, every year, then its most likely due to the fact that they want nothing but the best from you.
Do not let it get to you. Believe in your ability, believe in your growth.
The only way to get better is to focus and listen. Even the best players in the NHL will tell you that there is someone better than them. Even Sidney Crosby himself was not sure he would make the 2010 or even the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. Regarded as the best player in the game in both years, he refused to discuss Olympic selections with the media in fear that it will ruin his chances of being selected. Simply put, even the best players have fears and even the best players have doubt. There is always someone out there who is better, and if you are the best at the time... then it will not be long until someone catches you.
And unless you're among the top 10 in points in the NHL, or in the NHL at all... We can all use a little modesty. Be okay with your weaknesses, and understand that through consistent practice/focus and dedication you will break through any challenges you have.
If you want to be better, be around others who are better. If you want to be stronger, be around strong people. Same with speed, Hockey IQ and hockey overall skill!
Listen to your coaches, surround yourself around better people and continue to challenge yourself and over time people will see you for who you are.
A couple of years ago, I was asked to join the coaching staff of a strong local hockey organization. I was honored and more than excited to accept the offer, however I was not sure of a lot of things. I never coached before besides the fact that I always thought I would love to do it.
I had no idea about the team, or how my opinions would effect the staff, or how I should coach or manage the players.
I did not know much, except the game itself.
So, I just showed up and listened. I started off with listening, and simply doing anything that was asked of me. I showed up early and had a notepad ready to learn. I made sure I showed up at least 15 minutes to practices and notified everyone if I was going to be late due to work/traffic. And if I did show up late I would not sluggishly enter it, I would park and rush into the practice vicinity quickly adjusting myself to what was going on and where I would best be served.
Not before long I was given my own responsibilities, such as programming the dry-land strength and conditioning work which was one of my passions. They let me work on this all by myself most of the year, and even the rest of the age groups started to take some of my advice.
Even then, I made sure to only speak when I felt it was right. I knew this was not my team, I simply was an assistant. I offered my hand in anyway I could and kept my ears and eyes open to learning how to improve my own coaching ability.
Some days I was happy with my own coaching performance, some days I was not. But I learned every time and showed my full dedication.
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