Intangibles are the hidden keys to every sport on earth.
Let’s say the only thing holding you back from being a well-rounded hockey player is your skating. It’s an area of weakness you’ve identified. It’s a simple matter to put in the necessary work to improve that weakness. You can even take it a step further by highlighting precisely what it is that needs improvement. Stride length? Explosiveness? Edges?
Identifying weakness and then taking steps to improve upon it is a choice every athlete has. It’s as simple as deciding to hop in the car and drive to the rink.
Now, what about your choices once you arrive at the rink?
Let’s back up a little bit first. In order to understand work ethic we need to understand motivation. Let’s take the example above a little further. Defining weaknesses isn’t really a strength for young athletes. Why, just the other day I asked my hockey 3’s to raise a hand if they had a perfect slap shot.
Every hand went in the air. Some of these kids don’t know if they shoot right or left yet.
But Mom and Dad can identify these weaknesses. They often do so in the car ride home after a practice or game when the player’s mind is occupied by donuts or that kid at school with the weird hair.
Parents see the entire group on the ice from up top in the viewing area, but the perspective of the player actually participating is night-and-day different from what’s seen by the parents’ eyes. The parents compare because the evidence is right there in front of their face.
So it’s therefore Mom and Dad who make the choice to address these weaknesses, right?
And here’s where the disconnect occurs. The parents know, they just know, that if their son or daughter’s skating improves then they’ll surpass their peers.
But the athlete on the ice taking instruction doesn’t know that, nor do they care.
And this is a good thing. From here it’s up to them to find the value in learning something new. It’s up to them to respond to instruction, to encouragement and to prodding. If the player wishes to improve then hopefully they’ll connect the instruction with their desired results up until the point where their energy and their sweat equity just isn’t worth the pay-off.
“Working hard is a choice. It’s upstairs, it’s mental. You can always keep working until you can’t.”
That’s Jerret Raymond, a 2000-born hockey player at NSWC. This is a direct quote from Jerret last summer, a summer where he made the conscious choice to take advantage of the opportunities in front of him.
Side-note, the other day someone using an alias on Twitter was harassing me about the unfair advantage winter clubs have because of their collection of players trained in other organizations. It got me to thinking - what if my sisters had continued their figure skating training on the pond behind our house instead of my parents making the sacrifice to join the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton when they were teenagers? Well, I doubt my second oldest sister would be a professional skating coach in Edmonton on her upcoming 37th birthday.
Jerret, who grew up playing hockey in Squamish (a fantastic organization with honest, hard-working coaches I’m proud to know and communicate with often), moved to NSWC a couple years ago in conjunction with changing schools, changing his core group of friends and completely altering his life.
This was his choice, and it’s one he’s sticking with. He was lucky to learn such profound values at a young age from his parents and from his coaches in Squamish, and NSWC is lucky for it as well.
But ultimately, whether an athlete chooses to focus on school, join a winter club such as NSWC, BWC, Hollyburn, the Royal Glenora or the Hillcrest Community Centre, the choice to work hard and commit is up to them. Even if you don't have access to advanced facilities, that choice still belongs to the athlete, whether they're using a skating treadmill or just shooting the puck around on a frozen pond.
And for Jerret, it’s a choice he’s going to make every day until he collapses.
…But then he’ll do it again tomorrow.