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A Hockey Player’s Guide to Goal-Setting, Post-Tryouts Edition

10/02/2015, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech


Tryouts have wrapped and no matter which team you (or your child) have been placed on, it’s time to settle in for another long season of puck-shootin’, ice-skatin’ fun. 

In life we’re rewarded in direct correlation with our investments. This means that whatever we put into a situation, we usually experience a proportionate return. Sure, sometimes we get lucky on the roulette table, but that’s the exception. 

For hockey players, the physical energy they invest makes them stronger which helps them perform and grants them rewards like getting more ice time. Putting in the time to improve skating over the summer can pay large dividends in a one-on-one race in mid-November even though that’s not what the player envisioned when they signed up for the powerskating class. 

That’s the nature of energy investment when it comes to hockey - you never know exactly what the dividend will look like. 

And that’s ok. 

Unspecific Goals

When the Edmonton Oilers’ general Manager Peter Chiarelli was asked if he had a number in mind regarding a total point tally for first year phenom Connor McDavid, Chiarelli was unspecific. 

“40 points? 20 goals?” said Chiarelli. 

Assigning a specific number to a goal is a slippery slope. Where’s the line? Why stop there? On the contrary, what’s a realistic number, anyways? When setting performance-based goals it’s dangerous to set specific numbers. Minor hockey players are faced with a gigantic variety of factors that can affect their performance. This includes ice time and linemates, not to mention the rest of the competition throughout the league in which they’ll be playing. 

What about goalies? What about defensemen?

Points matter less in these positions, so how do they go about setting expectations for themselves? Wins? Blocked shots?

Teammate Comparisons

It is possible to set goals based on the rest of the team. A player can set a goal to lead their team in points or lead their team in wins.

However, the potential to create unintentional rifts amongst teammates is nearly as dangerous as creating a rift within yourself. This line of thinking trains players to place varying levels of importance on all the details required to have a successful season. 

It’s different from internal competition, which in the right doses and channeled properly is healthy for any minor hockey team. However, starting the year by comparing teammates and stacking them against one another is not only confusing for the players, but it leads to awkward discussions around the dinner table when these goals inevitably come up. 

Achievable Goals, Achievable Results

In contrary to the evidence I’ve provided here, goals can indeed be quite specific. 

Players can set goals based on their work ethic or their attention to detail. Goals such as:

  • Choosing one specific skill to improve each week
  • Being one of the hardest working players on the ice every day
  • Scoring more goals in January than in October
  • Improving rebound control before Christmas 

Setting goals is an exercise in control. Goals should be attainable, or should be realistically expected to happen if certain processes are followed. 

How about setting goals such as improving game preparation? Or getting better rest throughout the season? 

These goals reflect on the process rather than the results, because healthy results occur only as a result of a healthy process. 

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