The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and the waves are crashing on the shore like a puck finding the top corner of the net in overtime in a playoff game.
That last sentence is all the evidence you need that hockey is never far from our thoughts, even in the summer when there’s so many things to do outside.
And that’s ok. I write about hockey all summer because people read the articles, share the posts and engage with the material. We love hockey.
Even when it stresses us out. Hockey players are under a ton of pressure no matter what time of year it is. If they’re not in the middle of a season, they’re thinking about how they’ll react when tryouts start.
Here’s the 5 main items causing stress in hockey players of all ages.
1. Fitting into a Dressing Room
Sure, every hockey player wants to score goals, but being physically on the ice is a relatively small part of being a hockey player. More time is spent being in the dressing room or on the road with your teammates. No one wants to be the outcast of a team because these are the people with whom you’ll spend the best days of your life.
2. Performing for Teammates & Coaches
With the social aspect comes the desire to please everyone. There’s nothing like the feeling of a high-five after scoring a big goal, making a huge save or killing a penalty. How about blocking shots? Hockey players don’t sell out their body to stop a snapshot from the point because they want scouts to notice them - they do it because of the appreciation of their teammates. Sacrificing your body or your time away from the rink is what helps a team win, but it’s easier said than done. And there’s nothing teammates and coaches appreciate more than winning.
3. Seizing the Moment
Ex-players all have the same recurring nightmare: the empty net that got away. Hockey players live for the big stage, the moment where inches can make the difference between winning a game or losing. It’s tough to block out the reality of what will happen in the aftermath of those moments, whether the result is good or bad. We all want to be counted on by our teammates and coaches, but coming through in crunch-time doesn’t happen just because you want it to.
4. Keeping up with the Jones'
The most common, yet biggest waste of time: keeping the pace with players of the same age. Hockey players normally all start around the same level when they’re young, and then certain players with more natural talent or ability make better teams and then everyone else flies into a tizzy. If everyone progressed at the same rate then professional hockey would be incredibly boring because we’d know all the teams when the players are six years-old. It’s difficult watching friends succeed, it’s true. But trying to keep up by sacrificing a player’s natural skills will put that player into situations that aren’t natural. Rushing to keep up is usually accompanied by abandoning the elements that come natural to a player.
Ultimately, players stress because there are elements of the game we simply can’t control. Trying to control these elements is what drives hockey players (and their parents) bonkers.
So what’s the answer? Well, it’s easier said than done, but:
Stress is a natural result of a sport about which we’re so passionate. It’s alright to be stressed from time to time, but it’s your actions in the wake of that stress that will define you for a lifetime.