By Kelvin Cech
“Life isn’t about the result but doing the process that counts.”
I remember the first time I heard that awkward phrase. It struck a chord then and it still sticks with me today. And it’s not because it’s an inspirational line that would look simply sensational written in swooping black italics above your kitchen cabinets. No, it struck me because it’s a line in a fast, shouty punk rock song by the band Set Your Goals. My roommate at the time and I were driving three hours to play a senior hockey game in a rural Alberta town – town in this sense being a highway carved through several gas stations, multiple A&W’s, and what I’m pretty sure was an actual taxidermy … store? Is that where people get their animals stuffed?
Anyways, junior and college hockey were long behind us, but we were driving to a hockey game that afternoon, Tyler and I. That was the last real hockey game I ever played.
Worry about yourself. Focus on the process. Don’t rush the results.
Choose one of these famous lines and chances are you’ve used it in the last week whether you’re a coach, a parent, or a teacher. Why is that? Why do we constantly have to remind our young’n’s to focus on the process instead of the results?
We Don’t Control Who Wins
If you’ve ever been involved in spring hockey, then you’re probably aware of the mixed bag that is the wild west version of our game. Fortunately for me, I’ve had some phenomenal experiences on top of some, uh, let’s just say less than ideal situations.
This past spring was one of the good ones. I coached the youngest team I’ve ever had, little 08’s mostly from North Vancouver with the BC Spartans. The personalities on this team, let me tell you – every kid had some sort of quirk or individual characteristic that made him unique. It took a lot of energy – herding cats is the scientific term, I believe? It was incredible.
But the one thing upon which they all agreed, at least at the start, was the answer to what I now realize is the most important question a hockey coach can ask.
“Do we control if we win?” I asked prior to our first game.
“Yes!” Came the unanimous response.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Here was a generation of kids, all with young, supportive, awesome parents, yet each kid believed he was firmly in control of the outcome of the game. Truth be told I was surprised not just at their response, but my response to their response. I know, quite Inception-esque.
The reality is that parents, coaches, teachers, and so on teach kids that winning is within their control from an early age. I remember being completely exasperated on the soccer field as a youngster because I thought if I tried hard enough I would score goals. Turns out you have to be good at soccer to do that.
The same applies for hockey, although it’s obviously a gross simplification. Hockey is a competitive sport. It pits athlete against athlete, 1on1, straight up. If you win the race to the puck, you get to make a play with the puck. If you put yourself in the right spot to make a save, you might make a save. If you skate in the right direction, you might be open for a pass. These are all elements of the game within the control of the athlete. This is the process.
So what does it mean to focus on the process? It means letting go of winning. Completely. Which is pretty much impossible to do, but focusing on the process is part of the process. I know, I’m confused too.
Focusing on the process means enjoying the act of getting better. Learning to enjoy and enjoying to learn. When you lose, there’s lots of opportunity to learn, and the process becomes that much richer.
So let’s embrace the process, parents, coaches, and hockey players, and get comfortable with discomfort.