Don’t Let Your Teammates Down

As we have talked to more and more coaches it has become apparent that there is a single red thread that runs through the process of being recruited to a university or college team.

It is very simple. It just boils down to the following…

“Don’t Let Your Teammates Down.”

A simple phrase that runs deep.

Most athletes and their parents will immediately believe that this means having a great attitude. If you ask them to create a list of things that you can do in order to become a player that does not let your teammates down they often come up with elements like effort and attention . Discipline often makes their list, as does being truthful, having integrity and being selfless.

What rarely makes the list are elements like:

  • “Am I eating properly?”
  • “Am I working hard at my academics?”
  • “Am I following the team rules?”
  • “Am I getting enough sleep?”
  • “Am I behaving in a manner befitting my team at school, in public, at home?”
  • “Am I being kind even when nobody is looking?”
  • “Am I always respectful of others?”
  • “Am I always trying to be a good person?”

The world is filled with talented people who never achieved their dreams. There is no shortage of talent, especially in the hockey world.

Of course, you need to have exceptional hockey skills to play post-secondary hockey, but lots of players have those. Are you a good person with good marks? That is what will set you apart.

The best teammates ask themselves this question before doing anything….

Does this decision or this choice benefit my team?

If the answer is “yes” then awesome! If the answer is “no” then perhaps it’s time to rethink the choice.

The team I coach this year is Peewee age. They are just beginning the process of looking at and preparing for university hockey. They had an interesting decision to make at their first practice.

They had the opportunity to go to a NHL game one evening. Cool right? What problem could there possibly be with making that decision, after all they were a hockey team.

The aspect that made it a tough decision was that the game would take place while they were at a tournament. They would play in the day, go to the NHL game at night and then play again the next day.

They came up with Pros and Cons of going to the game and decided that they would forego that experience so that they would be better rested for the tournament.

How many of you (or your children) would make that same decision? It most definitely put the team and their teammates first. These types of choices are what separate the great players from the good ones. They separate great people from the good ones.

Choices like this are what schools are looking for. Choices like this are what get you a scholarship.

You won’t always agree with the rules that your team or your coach put forth, but in the end you are the only one who can make the choice to follow the rules or to do what you prefer to do, putting yourself ahead of the team.

If for instance the coach has a rule that you don’t swim before games and you swim anyway… Do you think that coach would recommend you to a school? Do you think your teammates would recommend you? If for instance the coach puts a curfew in effect and you disregard it… you are letting everyone know that you feel your are more important than the rest of the team. Every choice matters, whether you like it or not. If you want to be successful you have to make tough decisions and you have to do things that you do not want to do. It’s not about YOU. It’s about your teammates.

If you ask the teams that we coach why they are there, playing hockey they will tell you it’s to make everyone around them better. They aren’t there for themselves. Every player is there to make their teammates better. This culture is what championships are made from. That doesn’t mean that you don’t look after yourself, that you don’t train properly and improve yourself…. because doing that makes everyone who plays with you better. It means that you aren’t out in the rain, shooting 1,000 pucks for you…. you’re out there so that when your teammate gives you that opportunity to bury the game winning goal that you are prepared to do so. It puts “We” before “Me”.

If you want to give yourself or your child the very best chance to play university or college hockey then always ask the question:

Does this decision or this choice benefit my team?

If you can answer “Yes” then you know you are on the right track. It really is that simple.

Unsure? Lost? Need Help?

That’s what we are here for. Just ask!

Player Spotlight – Jerika “GENO” Spry

Our Player Spotlight today is on Jerika “GENO” Spry.

Jerika plays for the Peewee AA Belleville Bearcats. Her powerful skating and shot are matched only by her powerful leadership skills.

Jerika attended the Harvard Recruitment Combine this summer where she excelled, impressing the Harvard staff.

She has been part of Super 7s program for the last two seasons and is in her second season as part of the Long Term Development Program.

Jerika is a Provincial, Lower Lakes and International Silver Stick Champion.

We love working with Jerika and are constantly amazed by her incredible determination and resilience. Any school would be lucky to have her as part of their program.

We’re sure that you will hear her name in the future.

Creating great people.
We happen to coach hockey.

Excellence vs Mediocrity

The difference between excellence and mediocrity is commitment.

Many players fall in love with the idea of becoming great. What I mean by that is they dream of becoming great. They dream of going to the gym and working out every day. They dream of making big plays during their games. They dream of winning championships. They love the “idea” of being great. They see themselves in the gym training all summer to improve for the season, but when summer comes they are nowhere to be found. They would rather hang out with friends, go to the beach, play around or do pretty much anything except work on being great.

Truly great players fall in love with the process of becoming great. Whether they want to or not, they go to the gym. Whether they want to or not, they find a great mentor, a great coach or someone in their life who will help motivate them towards their dreams.

Truly great players create positive habits. They build resilience by fighting through their struggles rather than escaping them or running away from them. Truly great players are focused on the process rather than the result. They know that the results take care of themselves if they simply follow the process.

The process to becoming great isn’t a mystery. It also isn’t always fun. It requires sacrifice.

Whenever you have a decision that will affect your ability to become great ask youself the following question,

“Is what you want MOST more important to you than what you want NOW?”

If you can continually answer that question with a “Yes” then you are moving down the path to greatness.

We ask athletes in our programs to make their beds in the morning. It’s a simple task, but it starts your day in the right direction. You start your day with a “Yes” and often that little bit of momentum carries on through your daily routine. The “Yes” answers add up until they become a tidal wave of force driving you towards your goals.

Are you in love with the “idea” of being great or the “process” of being great?

Do you need help? Just ask! We’re here for you.
Creating great people.
We happen to coach 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!