I’ve been thinking a lot about the playoffs. You? I’m sure you have. You’ve probably been through some of the ups and downs of playoff hockey already. I love when the updates start rolling in from all over the North Shore Winter Club - yep, there’s another one, Bantam A3 just won the banner!
Every level, every team, every player, and every parent puts life on hold for the most wonderful time of the year.
If you’ve been following the blog for awhile now (it’s been nearly three years!) then you know I’m big on learning lessons in hockey that are directly applicable in life. Hockey playoffs are the ultimate life lesson. There’s triumph, heartbreak, and every possible emotion in between.
And the best part is that each infuriating non-call, each goal, and each successful chip off the glass creates an impact felt by a team of athletes.
We’re all in this together. So how do we push through the on and off-ice hurdles to deliver the very best version of ourselves when it matters most?
Playoffs are the time to set aside personal goals and ambitions. Of course you want your child to do well and contribute. But it’s not about individuals. It’s about the team.
“Yeah dude, obviously.”
Well, I’ve been at this a long time and sometimes it’s not so obvious. Your child’s reaction to difficult circumstances will either contribute to or detract from the team’s experience and, potentially, the team’s ability to win.
What sort of difficult circumstances? Lack of ice time is the obvious one, but what about frustrations boiling over due to penalties? What about the split second decision to either dangle at the offensive blue line or chip the puck in deep to a forechecking teammate?
When we set our minds to a specific task that’s carefully defined from start to finish, it’s easy to prepare.
Well, playoffs are anything but simple. You never know what will happen. It’s tough to prepare for situations you can’t visualize in your mind prior to competition.
There will be comebacks.
There will be calls you vehemently disagree with.
There will be coaching decisions you find peculiar.
Your child’s performance will surprise you at one point. This could be good. It could be bad.
If you help your child train their mind to roll with the playoff punches and worry about what they can control then it will help them stay even. This is the kind of calm that every teammate appreciates.
Hockey playoffs are an enormous in-depth study into the psyche of the Western Canadian sports family. You should expect your child to play their best, but relying on the past isn’t sufficient. Young hockey players should do everything they possibly can to avoid poor performances.
How do you prepare?
By getting proper rest. That doesn’t just mean going to bed early the night before a game. It means proper sleep habits for days prior to and throughout the playoffs. Remember this: rest is a weapon.
Nutrition is crucial as well. I still don’t believe that lean chicken and brown rice are as important for ten year olds as they are for 25 year-olds, but committing to the process and doing the little things right will tune the brain to the reality of competition. If anything, eating proper pregame meals and making smart nutrition choices in the days leading up to competition will improve focus and mental resiliency.
Mental resiliency beats everything when it comes to the playoffs. Both on the ice and up top in the stands. It’s tough to watch. It’s tough to live and die with every stride, every shot, every shift.
But it’s harder to actually do it.
Good luck everybody. Your teammates are counting on you.