For thousands of young athletes all over this glorious hockey-mad country of ours the playoffs are just wrapping up. There were come-from behind victories, glorious overachievements, underachievement of the most bizarre variety and countless individual stories of success and failure. The crowd hinged on every goal, every hit and every save for the past few weeks, so the time is right for a little reflection.
Seriously? More hockey, you ask? Well, if your child wants to improve their performance for next season and next season’s postseason, it’s important to measure the elements that contributed to success or failure during the most important stretch of the hockey schedule this time around.
How prepared was your child during the playoff run, and how did your child contribute to the preparation of the team? Were you harassing them to get out the door, or were they on time, packed and ready to go? The answers to these question should tell you a lot about their commitment to winning during the playoffs. It’s tough to be prepared every day during the grind of the regular season, but when the intensity ramps up during the playoffs, so too should a player’s dedication to being on time and being ready to compete.
What do you ask your child when he or she gets in the car after a game? How many goals did you score?
Unfortunately, hockey isn’t defined simply by every player’s ability to score goals. We should be asking our kids how hard they worked and what their coach said during the game (hat tip to Mr. Billy Coupland for those two questions). The same basic rules apply once the playoffs are done - what did you do to help the team? Why did the team win or lose? This helps young hockey players remember that it’s the team that matters above the individual.
Was your child able to compete for 60 minutes? Or at least, for the amount of time they were on the ice? Ice time fluctuates in the playoffs, so it’s crucial to make an impact with the opportunity you’re given, even if you don’t like the situation. Character counts in the playoffs, because everyone gets to taste the glory of victory or the misery of defeat regardless of their time spent on the ice.
The playoffs are about sacrifice, which sounds like a crazy thing to say about a kid’s game, but it’s a tough kid’s game. It’s a game that’s difficult to play absent courage. Did your child sacrifice his or her body to block shots? Did they take the hit to make the play? The demands of the playoffs are more intense than the demands of the regular season, and it’s for this reason heroes are born in hockey’s postseason.
Now that the season is all said and done, now what? My dad always asked me if I wanted to play again the following season just as one season ended, because he knew that would be when I was most truthful. The playoffs combine all that’s great and all that’s not-so-great about our game, so it’s the best time to make preliminary plans for the following season. That doesn’t mean minds can’t change - a player might want to quit the day after a devastating loss, but perspective often grants reason further down the road.
Further down the road to next season and another round of playoffs. Only a year away!