5 surefire ways to get off to a fast start and find yourself on a top-line this season!


You’ve spent a good part of the summer getting ready for the upcoming season and maybe you know everything about your team and coach because you’ve played with them before … or maybe you don’t know anything … either way, we all know that getting off to a fast start can make the season go great, and getting off to a slow start can make the season a nightmare.

So, if getting off to a fast start can have such a positive boost on your season, how do you get off to a fast start?

here are 5 things you can do to make sure you start your season like a beast and can set the tone for the rest of your year …

1 – Focus on the Fundamentals – standing out is not about showing off all the moves you’ve been working on over the summer. Coaches don’t want to see fancy moves, risky dekes, low percentage plays … this is a good way to stand out in a bad way. The best way to stand out early is to master the fundamentals in your game. Skating, passing, shooting, puck battles.

2 – Raise your Compete Level – Skills are great, but effort is the foundation of those skills. Make sure you start the season off with a strong work ethic. Most of your teammates are going to slowly build up to a reasonable compete level. So if you want to make your mark early, start out with a relentless competitive attitude in everything you do. On the ice, battle for pucks harder than others and go until the whistle. In the gym, stay focused on your routine and complete the reps and circuits without taking shortcuts or goofing off. In the locker room, have fun but act professionally in how you prepare and interact with your teammates.

3 – Be a Great Teammate – Speaking of being a great teammate, one of the quickest ways to stand out is to be a character player. What do I mean by that? Well, a character player is someone who isn’t all about themselves. They are a team player in everything they do. They’re responsible and accountable for how they prepare, practice, and play. They are positive and enthusiastic in their efforts. They pick their teammates up and never come across as critical or negative with others. There’s a saying that if you want to get everything you want, you first need to help others get what they want. That’s what a great teammate is all about. It’s about becoming great by helping others become great.

4 – Communicate on the Ice – Here’s a little-known secret about something that coaches love to see. It’s players talking to each other on the ice. I don’t mean mouthing off or blasting someone for not giving you a pass when you were clearly open. No, it’s about players that play the game the way the pros do, and that’s by talking on the ice. Letting your teammates know where you are, where others are, what to do. Hockey is a fast game and when players communicate on the ice, you take advantage of the speed of the game by helping your teammates make the best play in every situation. Goalies can help defensemen coming back from the puck by telling them where the pressure is. D-partners need to communicate quickly to trap forecheckers, and breakout quickly. Forwards need to talk in the corners to create space in the scoring areas so they can get shots. Go and watch any high-level practice and you’ll hear chatter and talking all throughout the game. There’s a reason the best players talk on the ice. If you want to stand out early, make sure you’re a player that is constantly talking on the ice. But remember what I said about being a good teammate. Always be positive, always be enthusiastic, and never be a dick.

5 - Bounce Back Quickly – The beginning of the season is a time to get back in sync with everything that’s going on. You need to get back in sync with your teammates, with your coach, even with you’re own play. And because you’re getting back in sync, there will be plenty of times when you screw up or make the wrong play, or take a poor shot, or miss an easy save. The point is, there will be plenty of screw-ups early in the season and if you’re not a player that is able to bounce back quickly and get your focus back on what you should be doing, then that crap baggage that you carry with you from the last play is surely going to screw up your next play. If you’re not about to bounce back quickly after your mistakes, then you’re sure to continue to make them, and pretty soon you’re standing out for the wrong reasons. Bouncing back after a mistake or setback is an attitude. It’s an attitude that you are not your mistake, It happened. It was dumb. But that’s not who you are. Learning how to bounce back quickly is the hallmark of the elite player and the sooner you lock this skill into your game, the better off you’ll be. Hockey is a fast game and the better you are at bouncing back the greater your chances are of success.

The start of every season is a chance to show everyone what you bring to the table. As a young player coming up in hockey, you want to make sure that every new look you get comes with a perception of “holy jumpin’, this kid is ready to play”. There is no better time to get on a coach's radar in a good way, than at the start of a new season.

Don’t miss out on this chance to shine early … the payoff can be bigger than you thought.

We had a player one year that started the season with a bang. He came into the preseason fit and in shape. It was clear he worked hard in the off-season. He was always a 3rd or 4th line guy, his strongest skills were grinding the other team's top line. Well, Matt, (not his real name) started the season with the attitude of a 1st line guy. Not only did he bring his grinding attitude back, but he added some juice to his scoring game. It wasn’t long before Matt was moved up to the top line and his production took off. He ended up having his best season ever and forever changed how he was seen by his coaches and teammates. All because of the fast start he got off to that year.

What can you do to get off to a fast start this season?

Decide. Because if you wait to see what happens or you wait to see where your opening comes up, it might be too late and someone who started the season with a first-line attitude will be taking your spot.

See you at the rink!

Coach Kevin

Kevin L. Willis, PhD

Sport Psychologist
Level 5 USA Hockey Coach

Focus Compete-Level Toughness Practice