Just like when I was playing, I also have people that I look up to and try to learn from as a coach. In hockey, Mike Babcock is at the top of my list. However, I feel you can learn a lot from coaches who coach other sports as well. Nick Sabban is one of those coaches! I watched an interview of his and the message I took away is the topic of this article. He talked about how in today’s world we act and teach youth that they have all these choices. That couldn’t be further from the truth!
We all love to study the hockey greats from Gretzky, to Crosby, and now McDavid. Every time someone becomes the next best thing we always say they were born that way. We never stop and think about what they were doing when no one was watching or before they became this household name. As Coach Sabban states, the recipe to be great is in fact very simple! Think about the following things:
1. Train Hard
2. Eat Well
3. Rest and recover properly
4. Be a good teammate
5. Study your craft
How many of those things require anything superhuman? Do you control all those things as a player? Are you seeing now how the recipe is simple? Now what is the hard part or the differentiator from good to great players?
The answer is consistency! That is what the focus needs to be on. That is what separates good players from the brightest of stars! Elite players are consistent in everything they do on and off the ice. They have determination that allows them to have self-control over all their decisions in life. Every day you wake up, there is a decision to make. If your goal is to become the best hockey player you can possibly be, that must be at the forefront of your mind when you are making you decisions every day. The greatest players make huge sacrifices every single day! Now ask yourself if what is being discussed is a physical or mental thing.
My biggest down fall in my career was the ability to be consistent and perfect the mental side of things. I’ll never forget the day I was at the track and I got a phone call from my coach in Cedar Rapids, Mark Carlson. If you read my articles, his name comes up a lot and there is a reason for that. No man had a greater impact on my life than he did. He was calling because he was going to be stopping by my house the next day to talk. All of you that are wondering, coaches do not usually stop by players houses in the offseason. He sat me down in the living room of my parents’ house with my parents and told me that I needed to lose body fat & become a better teammate or I would not be making the team that fall. As a 19-year-old kid, I had already played a full season in the USHL, played a semester of Division 1 college hockey and I was going to be cut from a USHL team!
It was the best thing that could have happened to me. Coach Carlson called me out exactly how he needed to. He always knew what buttons to push with me. I went to work for the next 8 weeks, like I never had before in my career. I did it all from two-a day workouts, clean eating, and working tirelessly on my craft. I showed up to training camp down five percent in body fat from fifteen to ten percent. Success came in waves that season. I was leading the entire USHL in scoring after the first month of the season as a DEFENSEMAN! I received a Division 1 offer from UNO and went on to be drafted in NHL that summer.
The point of this story is that I learned a valuable lesson that summer; however, I did not learn the whole lesson. I didn’t stay consistently hungry throughout my career. I should have known that when I was drafted it was time to get to work. Instead, I viewed it as if I had accomplished something. Looking back, I did not accomplish anything in that moment.
I went on to not being signed after my senior year of college and having to start in the ECHL. I never became a true full-time player in the AHL, but rather just an in between guy. I did not keep the consistency throughout my career and that is my biggest regret in life! You do not want to look back and think you could have done more.
Success is the accumulation of small victories. Everyone has heard the quote “Win the Day”. All it takes is making simple decisions that will make you a better hockey player each day. Spend fifteen minutes a day working your craft and you will get that “one percent better”. It can be either shooting pucks, stick handling, watching hockey on tv, etc. You do not want to walk away from hockey knowing you could have done more to become an elite player!