The Coaching Continuum

Yesterday I received 73 messages, videos, texts, emails, feedback and questions from young players and their families.

That wasn’t last week or last month… that was yesterday.

These families have moved past the coach – player level of instruction where I ask for something and they do it without question or feedback. At this level the player is just beginning to understand that there is an undercurrent process that is carrying them to their dreams. They are riding along while I steer the boat.

For most of the families I am now a facilitator. We have setup a process that they are working through. I answer questions and provide guidance, but the step of the process that they are working on is clear and they are diligent in their intention to improve. I am gently moving them down their path to their dreams. They understand the why of the process, but are still hesitant to take on the “how” by themselves. They now paddle the boat a bit, but rely on me to hold the rudder and steer.

For some it has become a true feedback loop. I ask questions, analyze and tweak. They make the changes, analyze and give me feedback in a constant loop. This can happen in seconds via the messaging / video in our app or can happen over days as they work through the pieces themselves and come to me when they are stuck. This is the highest level of coaching. The student uses you as a GPS rather than riding along in the back seat. They can now see two or more steps down their path and how the pieces fit together. They understand the how and why of the process. They rely on the coach to see the bigger picture and have the knowledge to know that it will take them where they want to go. The undercurrent process is now a full on riptide. This is where accelerated advancements take place. A player in this state can learn in minutes what takes a player in the facilitator state days or months to learn. The player guides their own ship, but asks for guidance from the coach when the sea is rough.

Parents, players don’t settle for coaches, instructors, fitness assistants or anyone else who can’t show you the big picture, explain it to you and move you to the final stage of the coach – player relationship. If you want to play at the highest level you have no choice but to find someone who understands the path that YOU need to take.

The next time you head to your hockey fitness instructor or skills instructor as yourself these questions….

“Am I exercising or am I training?”

“Am I building on something as part of a plan or am I just going through the motions?”

“Is my instructor genuinely interested in helping me reach my goals or are they just giving me busy work? Do they even know what my goals are?”

The hockey world is filled with talented players who never reached their dreams. There is absolutely no reason to be one of them.

We’re here to help.

Go2TheMax Hockey
Creating great people.
We happen to coach hockey.

Beyond Read and React Hockey

How many times have you heard someone say, “These players need to learn how to read and react”?

There is a lot wrong with that statement in the modern game, the most important aspect of which is that if you are reacting to the play then you aren’t controlling the play.  You are just following along.

It should be obvious to everyone that there are moments where a player can’t manipulate the play, perhaps they have just jumped on for their shift and the puck is 100 feet away.   But… those moments should be as few as possible.

Read and React implies that you are always being controlled by some action on the ice.   When “A” happens you react and do “B”.    Players who learn to play this way are perpetually one step (or more) behind players who can manipulate the play to benefit them.   Players told to Read and React, do just that.   They look at the play and after an event occurs they act.  Then they do this repeatedly all over the ice, constantly a step or two behind making something beneficial happen.   We have all seen and perhaps been these players.   They are doing what they are taught.   Their mindset is to react to what is happening and that is exactly what they do, like robots.

Read and Control puts the player in a whole new mindset.  Their goal now is to read the pattern in front of them and manipulate it to their advantage.  That might mean any number of things from taking away a passing lane to angling off a puck carrier to simply finding open space where the puck can “see” them.

Reacting is passive.  Controlling is active.

Great players are active.   Everyone else is predominantly passive.

“The puck seems to follow great players.”

This quote always makes me shake my head.   The puck doesn’t follow great players.   Great players control the game to the point where they force the puck to be where they want it to be.   It really is that simple.   They understand the patterns of the players on the ice, where they will be in 1, 3, 5 seconds and they control those patterns and their own position (on the ice, body position, stick position, toecap direction, etc.) to control the game.   They are actively making choices that cause the game to be played the way that they want it unfold.

Much of this comes from the blending of Hardware (Skills) with Software (Brain), but that’s a discussion for another time.

From now on try to Read and Control instead of Read and React.  You will notice an immediate improvement in your game.


Congratulations Brendan Reid

Congratulations to Brendan “Killer B” Reid who has committed to attend both the Boston University and Harvard recruitment camps this summer.

Brendan is a 200 foot player who can save a game with a great defensive play in his own end before scoring the winning goal in the offensive zone. He is loved by his teammates and his coaches. His quiet leadership calms any situation. He is a team first player.

Congratulations Brendan. We are very proud of you.

Inversion of Attitude

The most defining aspect of a high-performing hockey player is that they have an “Inversion of Attitude”.

The highest performing hockey players, from the NHL on down to Initiation Programs share this trait. It is universal.

The most competitive, most proficient and most successful hockey players all have what we call “inversion of attitude”. The aspect of hockey training that boys’ house league or in girls hockey “B or C” level players find unpleasant or boring is exactly the opposite for the high-achieving player.

If you, or your son/daughter spend more time practicing at home than they do playing at the rink then chances are that they have an inversion of attitude. If they stickhandle around the house, shoot pucks in the driveway and work on their craft obsessively then they likely have an inversion of attitude. Just going out to “play hockey” with friends isn’t the same. Do they love the process of improving or do they really just love to play?

High performing players seeing taking 5,000 shots at home each week as meditative, challenging and therapeutic. They love the challenge of extra workouts, pushing themselves and monitoring their own progress. They have paper and spreadsheets filled with notes and numbers. They enjoy the process of improving as much as they enjoy “playing” the game. Low performing players find these types of tasks boring and will do just about anything to avoid them.

High performing players crave high-intensity practices and difficult game challenges. They constantly set their own goals with two parameters in mind, the goal must be outrageous, but doable.

The best of the best hockey players don’t see doing the hard work and the sacrifices that go with it as sacrifices at all. They truly enjoy the process.

As an athlete, you have to love the process of improving as much or more than you love playing the game. The improvement itself is a constant game of effort and rewards for a high-achiever.

As a parent, you can help by instilling a sense of “fun” in the process of improving. As a coach, you can help by “gamifying” the process to give your players rewards along the way. This can be challenging in a society where leaderboards are frowned upon, but it is doable.

Ask yourself this question:

Do I love the process of improvement as much as I love playing the game?

If the answer is yes then keep going. You have a very bright future ahead of you. If the answer is no, then you need to find a way to make the process not only important to you, but fun for you.

If you need help, just ask! That’s what we are here for.

Go2TheMax Hockey
Creating Great People.
We Happen To Coach Hockey.

Congratulations Syd!

Congratulations to Syd on attending her first skate with the Kingston Jr. Ice Wolves of the PWHL.

We gave Syd the nickname “FedEx” because she always delivers. Way to go Syd! Enjoy the journey!


Do Your Actions Align With Your Goals?

Almost every hockey parent or coach has said the following words:

I wish [insert player here] was better at [insert skill here].

It might be, “I wish Johnny were a better skater.”

It might be, “I wish Jennie was better at shooting.”

The first question I always ask is, “Do you have Johnny doing any extra skating?” or “Do you have Jennie doing any extra shooting?”

The answer is almost always “No”.

If we wanted our charges to become better swimmers we would take them to a pool or a lake or a pond and have them swim. If we wanted our young athletes to be better soccer players we would take them out on a pitch or the yard, give them a soccer ball and let them work at their craft.

For some reason, this logic rarely translates to hockey.

In hockey we often hear the word “wish”.

“I wish my child could skate faster.”
“I wish my child would score more goals.”
“I wish my child would work harder.”

The wish mentality doesn’t move you towards your goals. It just teases you into believing that you might eventually achieve them.

Your actions, or lack thereof in this case simply don’t align with what you want.

If your goal is to be a better skater then get skating instruction and skate. If your goal is to be a better shooter then get shooting instruction and shoot.

It isn’t magic.

Instruction + a plan = development towards your goals.

Shooting in the dark.

This photo is a clip from a video posted to our team site. This young lady is out in the dark with only a flashlight and a porch light…. she is shooting pucks to reach her 1,000 a week goal. Amazing and inspiring. She has instruction. She has a plan, but most of all she is doing the work!

If you want to improve you have to find someone to teach you and then you need to do the work. That’s it! It really is that simple.

What are your goals? Do you want to play higher level hockey? Do you want to score more goals? Do you want to win more races to the puck?

Are your actions aligned to reach them?

We are here to help! This is the good stuff. Very things are more rewarding than helping young athletes reach their goals. Perhaps you need help setting goals? Perhaps you don’t even know where to start?

We’re here to help! I

Send us an email or contact us here and we can start the process that will take you to your goals. It’s an incredible journey.

Some Dreams Are Too Big To Dream Alone

Some dreams are too big to dream alone.

[Picture Credits: Amber Clement]

This is what a positive team culture looks like. Hold on to that for a minute, because it takes a while to bring this story back to this very important thought.

This group is made up of both Provincial Champions and players who before this season had never ever made it to a semi-final game in a tournament. One player had never won a game in a tournament. Ever.

This team is made up of both players who are arguably the very best in the country and of some who probably wouldn’t be playing AA hockey had they not tried out for this small town team.

When their season started they set team goals; some of which were lofty, but fit our goal requirements. Goals must be outrageous, but achievable. Goals must stretch us as team to the very edge of what we are capable of. One of those goals was to win the Provincial Championship.

This team struggled at first. They were beaten handily by teams who were highly ranked going into the season. The players who only knew how to win had to come to grips with the challenges of winning at this level and the players who didn’t know hockey tournaments usually lasted three days because they were always eliminated by Day Two had to come to grips with understanding that we expected more of them than any other team ever had.

Here’s the magic: We talk before every practice and every game for 20 minutes. Then we warm-up. Then we get dressed and get the job done.

We rarely talk about the Xs and Os of hockey. We talk about life. We talk about school (present and future). We talk about family. We talk about friendship. We talk about discipline and we talk about the process of becoming the best person that you can be.

These players work hard at practice, but they work harder away from the rink. They work on hockey (shooting, puck handling, fitness, etc). They spend hours on hockey. They watch video breakdowns of our games. Every player analyzes the video segments, adding their comments.

They also spend hours on school, hours on learning things like piano, singing, drawing and a multitude of non-hockey related aspects of life.

They work hard. Period.

They have to find time to fit everything in, to be a part of something bigger than themselves and yet still be a kid.

If you ask them why they work so hard they will tell you that they do it for the other players on the team and not for themselves.

They play FOR these other girls. They don’t play with them.
That’s worth repeating.

They play FOR their teammates. They do all the hard work at the rink and away from it FOR their teammates.

They hug each other on the bench, both in happiness and in sadness. They are there FOR each other. Nobody is alone. Ever. I could write a book about this group that would bring tears of joy to your eyes.

They win and they lose TOGETHER. Always.

Those talks that we have before every ice time create a bond. Everyone knows the fears of their teammates. They take them from each other and flush them (sometimes literally) before every game.

They play with Joy and they play with No Fear. Making mistakes is applauded. It’s the only way to get better. Everyone understands that we’re chasing perfection, knowing that in the end we can never catch it. Excellence has become the norm.

Look closely at that picture. Every player is locked in focused. Look at our goaltender; a picture of focus and mental preparation. Look how close they are to each other. There is absolutely no way they could be form a tighter group.

They no longer get blown out by the teams ranked in the top 5 in the country. Every game is a 1 goal game that could either way.

I can’t count the times I’ve heard from other coaches, “I can’t believe how much your team has improved.” or “We’re not worried about [insert city here], you’re the team that scares us.”

They are right, except it’s not “my” team. It belongs to these young ladies. They bought-in to the process. They bought-in to the work. They bought-in to the fact that some dreams are too big to dream alone.

Don’t be surprised if five months from now you read about a team from a small town that shocked everyone and won a Provincial title at the highest level available.

Culture comes before the championships.

We would love to hear about your great team culture. This is the good stuff. Don’t hesitate to share.

Need some help with the creating of a great team culture? Just ask!

Go2TheMax Hockey
Creating great people.
We happen to teach hockey.

7-Step Process of Excellence

Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a process. It’s a daily grind of doing the little things right.

A wise coach once told me,

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

If you put a half-effort towards your school work, your training, your relationships, your family time, then it should come as no surprise that you put in a half-effort when it comes to playing the game itself.

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”

If you want to be successful, in hockey or any of your other endeavours, this 7-Step process will get you there…. IF you follow through and don’t skip steps, giving every step your full effort.

1 – Define what “Success” means.
What are you trying to accomplish? Success must be measurable.
Remember, this is your success, not your coaches’ success or your parents’ success. You are doing this for YOU, because YOU want it.

I want to make the AAA team in 2020 is a measurable, yet vague definition.
I want to make the Toronto Marlboros AAA team as a top two defenseman in 2020 is a better definition.

“I will work hard.” isn’t measurable.
“I will train at >80% capacity for two hours at least five days a week.” is measurable.

“I will run wind sprints.” isn’t measurable.
“I will run wind sprints for an hour a day, three days a week.” is measurable.

Attack success! Don’t fear failure! The stumbles and struggles are what make you better. They are what make you stronger. Embrace them!

2 – What resources are available to you?
Coaches, parents, teammates, training facilities, instructors, research facilities, the Internet, etc. are all resources that are available to you. List every resource that you can think of and then come up with a way that you can use that resource to help you reach your goal.

Give every resource a measurable metric.

I will work out for three hours a week in the weight room. I will research two Universities every evening to see if they are a good fit for me. I will make a list of 10 questions for my parents, my coaches, my teammates and use that to help me improve.

3 – What are the roles and responsibilities of the resources available?
What do you expect your parents to help you with? Is that expectation reasonable? Are they willing to give you that type of support?

If the answer is “Yes” then fantastic. If the answer is “No” then reset and come up with a new role / responsibility that works.

Do this for EVERY role and responsibility that you listed. There may be dozens. Your list may seem far too large. Pat yourself on the back, you have an incredible support structure. The longer the list of resources, the more likely you are to hit your marks.

4 – Focus relentlessly.
There will be days when you don’t want to workout, train, or maybe have anything at all to do with taking steps towards your dream. Those are the days that matter the most.

“You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days that you feel good.” — Jerry West

The first thing you think about when you wake up should be your dream. It should be the last thing you think about when you go to bed.

Push through the hard days and amazingly, you will have a lot less of them.

5 – Write down every hurdle that you might come across.
Most dreams are derailed by a single setback.

List out the things that could happen; injury, no ride to training facility, time conflict with job, unexpected school work, etc. Then, come up with contingency plans to circumvent every setback.

No ride to training? Have a workout ready that you can do at home. No weights at home? Come up with something to use as weights. You get the idea. There is a solution to every problem if you look hard enough. Don’t wait until the problem arises to try and solve it.

6 – Train at a tempo and in an environment as close to a game as possible.
There is a philosophy prevalent in the sports industry that you learn a skill in slow motion and then gradually, as you become more proficient you can increase the speed of the skill.

In theory, this works. In practice, it doesn’t.

Learning a hockey mechanic in slow motion teaches your muscles to do it in slow motion.

In reality, when we repetitively perform an action, our body builds information pathways to tell the muscles how to activate. If we do the motion slowly the pathways created are different than if we do it quickly or at game speed.

Make yourself uncomfortable. That’s where the magic happens. Push yourself to the point where you can no longer perform the skill perfectly. Ride that thin line and guess what…. you’ll be able to perform at that speed. The push it some more. This is the good stuff. This is the “magic”. This is progress.

7 – Post-Mortem
Once a week look back on your training and jot down what went well and what went sideways. Now… come up with solutions to the areas that are sideways. You just made next week a bigger success than this one. Lather, rinse, repeat!

Just think, if every week is better than the last then you are improving every week.

That’s why the process works.

Are you ready to get started!

We would love to help! Just ask!
Creating great people.
We happen to coach hockey.

Belleville Bearcats PWAA Coaching Announcement

I’m grateful and fortunate to have been chosen to coach the Peewee AA Belleville Bearcats next season.

I’m thrilled to be able to announce that Jason LaPalm, Taegan Rogers and Sara Kennedy will be joining me, giving the team a full non-parent coaching staff.

Jason is a Masterclass power-skating coach and a driving force at Go2TheMax Hockey. He has helped coach teams that won Gold and Silver medals at both Provincials and Lower Lakes as well as an International Silver Stick Championship. Jason has donated hundreds of hours to the youth of the Quinte area.

Taegan is a former Bearcat and an absolutely wonderful human being. I was fortunate to be Taegan’s coach when she played Bantam Bearcats. She has a deep knowledge of the game. Taegan will be working primarily with our forwards. She will be an energetic, insightful, positive role model for the young ladies on the PWAA team next year.

Sara is also a former Bearcat and a woman that inspires every young lady that she meets. She is one of the most positive people I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. I was fortunate to coach Sara as a Midget Bearcat. She will be working with our goaltenders, passing on her incredible experiences and knowledge. Sara will be an intelligent, athletic, positive role model for the players next season.

Thank you to the Bearcats for giving me (and these great coaches) this opportunity.

If you have questions about the tryout process or the team next year do not hesitate to contact me.

— John

10 Things Female Hockey Players Should Know

It would be easy for a person who hasn’t experienced the differences between boys and girls hockey to believe that they are the same game. They most assuredly are not.

The rules are the same, except girls are never allowed to body check; a concept that probably should be introduced to the boys game until they are playing Junior hockey, but that’s a discussion for another day. The female game and the environment that surrounds it are different than the game that males play. With that in mind, here are 10 things that female hockey players should know.

Every one of these points could be a long, detailed article on its own, so I’ll do my best to keep this brief, but bear with me if I get passionate and go off on something.

10. You’re as good or better than the boys.

Probably the most important thing to know. You are as good or better than any boys’ team. I’d put any team that I coach up against a boys team of the same level. They train just as hard (probably harder). They are just as skilled (probably more skilled). So, why wouldn’t we take on a boys team? Because they are stronger or bigger or more talented? I’m not sure that’s true until at least Midget and even then they won’t be more talented. They will just be physically more imposing. Ask Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex DeBrincat, Brad Marchand or… (well, you get the idea) if size is the only determinant in being able to play at the highest level. The biggest guy on that list is 5’9″ tall and 181 pounds.

We often have very talented boys participating in our programs and I guarantee you that their impression of girls’ hockey changes after the first skate. I can’t count how many times a young man has come up to me after the first or second challenge in a program and said, “Coach, those blue helmets (our girls) are amazing!” We need more of that. Great young men, complimenting great young women on their athletic ability. There is a mutual respect. Anyone worried about today’s youth needs to come out to a Go2TheMax program and talk to the participants. Pure gold.

9. The social part of the game is important.

One of the most interesting things about coaching female hockey is that the players call me by my first name. It’s rare that I am called “Coach”. Boys hockey is just the opposite. The female game is much more personal and as a coach you must build a good relationship with a player if you want them to succeed.

You must also teach specifics and not generalizations (which work better with most boys), but again, that’s a tangent for another day.

I’m not sure of the cause, whether it is society’s influence or otherwise, but female teams in general take longer to bond, but when they do…. wow! Team building is incredibly important. Team chats, a “kitchen table accountability” and the truth instead of the honey are all key to a successful team. No team, male or female that has internal conflicts can succeed, but a female team with dressing room drama is a train wreck. As a player, you need to be the tide and lift everyone up with you. If you see things going poorly, find a solution. Dressing room train wrecks in female hockey can be a death sentence for a team.

The feature image at the top of this post is of a group so distraught that their season is over that they are crying. They were Lower Lakes and Provincial Silver Medalists. An incredible accomplishment by any measure. What mattered most to them? The players they shared the experience with. It was over and they never wanted it to end. Winning was secondary.

8. You weren’t all born to play defence.

It is inevitable that a girl from boys’ hockey played defence. If 10 girls were to move to our team next year from a boys’ program I can guarantee that 7 or 8 of them would have been playing defence.

For the most part female players (again, I don’t know why) have more fears about being creative on the ice. They prefer a strict set of guidelines with which to play within. That’s works, somewhat, at some ages and low levels of play, but is absolutely catastrophic for the player if they ever want to play high-level hockey.

Don’t get me wrong. Defence is a far harder position to play than Forward, but most coaches don’t understand that and preach “move the puck to the forwards as fast as you can”. It’s the wrong message. 1972 called. They want that message back.

Players: Take a chance. Make a mistake. Fail. Then fail again… and again.. and again. Then fail harder and faster than you ever have before. Then do all of that again. You can’t become an elite player without taking chances, making mistakes, failing thousands of times and learning from every one of them.

If a coach yells at you for a mistake they aren’t a very good coach.

You can’t fix the past. The future hasn’t happened. Don’t worry about either and play in the present. Do your thing! Give it a go! Play in the moment!

7. Your parents spend as much time and money on you as they would on a boy.

Hockey is expensive, both from a money perspective and a time perspective. I have girls on my team that drive 90 minutes to a home game. They drive over 3 hours each way to some away games. They pay between $2,500 and $5,000 per year to play hockey. Then they go to camps, clinics, power skating, buy new sticks, skates…. you get the picture here right?

Players: you have a responsibility to your parents to go out, enjoy yourself and give your very best effort. You don’t need to be perfect. In fact, you don’t even need to be good. Your effort however, should always be 100%. Full effort = full victory.

Parents: spending all of that time and money can often put you in a position where you want to give hockey advice to your child on the drives to and from the rink. The best advice going is to let the coach do the coaching (whether you agree with them or not), let your daughter play and you just cheer. The best thing you can say to your daughter is “I love coming to watch you play.” It’s that simple.

6. The endgame is different

Don’t rule out the NHL. Nothing would make me happier than to see one of you playing a regular shift in the greatest league in the world, but you don’t need to worry about Junior hockey like boys do. It’s a blessing.

The endgame for many boys is simply unattainable. They want to play in the NHL. We’ve all seen the math on how unlikely that is.

The endgame for most girls is to get a free or at least reduced-cost education. Brilliant. Any girl willing to put in the work can find a place to play that will help alleviate the cost of University. That’s right, any girl. The problem is that 80% don’t want to put in the work.

If you want a scholarship; do the work. It’s a process and anyone can do it. Don’t be upset with the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do. We can walk you through everything, but we can’t do the work for you and we won’t babysit you. It’s truly up to you.

5. There are many paths to a scholarship.

Too many players get hung up on NCAA Division 1 scholarships. They provide a lot of sizzle along with their steak. They are glamorous. USport, NCAA Div 3 and ACHA also provide financial assistance to female hockey players. Don’t rule those out.

At the time of writing this article only 2 of the last 10 scholarship commitments were to NCAA Div 1 schools. Don’t rule out other paths. Need help? Ask us.

4. The grass isn’t greener and the ice isn’t smoother in another organization.

In Canada girls have free movement. There is no “hometown hockey” for girls. You can play anywhere you like if you can make the team. This results in a lot, and I mean a lot of movement each year between teams, especially in the Greater Toronto Area where you can find six teams to play for in a 30 minute drive.

Girls hockey has too many Kings (or Queens) and too many kingdoms. Parents form associations with an agenda to help their child. Girls hockey is a talent diluted product.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t incredible organizations out there. There are plenty of them, but if you have issue with your current organization don’t expect another to fix it.

The grass is rarely greener and the ice isn’t any smoother 30 minutes down the road. Every association has problems that it would like to fix. Moving your daughter between teams every year is a recipe for disaster.

3. Find the best coach for you.

There are a lot of choices when picking which team you would like to play for, but the piece that trumps everything else is the coaching staff. Always, and I mean always, play for the coaching staff that suits your family. Every coaching staff has its own philosophy. Pick one that suits you. Play down a level to play for a better coach. There is nothing more important to your hockey and life development than the environment created by the coaching staff.

The player with the coaching staff best suited to them will go further than the player who plays up a level. Don’t chase letters. Chase coaching philosophies.

2. Play at the level that makes you happy.

Are you a BB level player, struggling as the #15 skater on a AA team? Play BB and enjoy the game. Puck touches, the ability to be the go-to player, etc. are all incredibly important.

Are you a BB level player who loves being part of the AA team and doesn’t mind the limited ice time provided to you? Then work your butt off to stay at AA.

You need to be you.

Hockey is truly about the journey and not the destination. It will all be over too soon. Don’t waste a second of your hockey career playing in an environment that isn’t fun for you.

1.- Time is the one constant in your journey.

You have the same amount of time to train as every other player. Some players may be given more or less natural talent than you. Some players may have more or less financial resources, more or less supportive environments, but you all have the same amount of time to work on your craft.

You and only you will determine what you get out of your hockey journey. If you want a scholarship, then go for it understanding what it takes to reach that goal. If you want to play B hockey because that is what you enjoy most then go at that as hard as you can.

Enjoy the ride. It will be over far too soon.

Leave No Doubt!