What Not to Do!


There are habits that move you forward and habits that hold you back. Some of these habits are obvious, others, not-so-much. The following list is 7 habits that will most definitely get in the way of your hockey success.

1 – Don’t Plan

One sure way to not get where you want to go is to not know where you want to go. Plenty of players think they have a plan but from my experience, few of them do. Statistics say that less than 5% set goals and less than 1% actually look at their goals on a regular basis. Hey listen, I’m not saying you need to map out your entire hockey future, but can you see how much further you will be if you set even a few goals and then go on a mission to achieve them? You’ll be top 5% right out of the gate. Another interesting thing about planning is, those that have a plan are more like to end up where THEY want to be rather than falling into someone else’s plan. Face it, you’re either working towards your future or helping someone else work towards theirs. Wouldn’t you rather be in the driver seat?

2 – Think that success will happen overnight

One of the hardest things to convince young players is how hard they have to work if they want to be as good at the next level as they are at their current level. Moving up in hockey is a battle every step of the way. The higher you climb the stronger the competition and the fewer and fewer opportunities there are to stand out. Yes, you can do it, but it requires a level or persistence and grit that can trip some players up. Players that think success is just around the corner won’t put in the level or effort it takes to even make it to the next corner.

3 – Don’t know what it takes to have success

Playing hockey takes an incredible amount of skill, knowledge, and character. Beyond skating, passing, shooting, checking, mental toughness, focus, composure, and a relentless, compete attitude, there are a thousand attributes to each of these areas that make up a complete player. Do you know what it takes? Have you ever sat down and thought about all the things you need to be good at of you want to have success in hockey? I’m not trying to scare you off, rather I’m encouraging you to make a list of all the areas you want to excel if you want to continue advancing in hockey.

4 – Think that others are the reason for your lack of success so far

In the last habit, I mentioned character as an attribute of becoming a complete player. One area of character is accountability. Accountability is knowing that you are in the driver seat of your life. It means that good or bad, it’s on you. This can be powerful and liberating, but it can also be scary and frustrating when you find yourself struggling or heading in a direction you don’t want to go. When you blame others for your lack of success then you remove your ability to do anything about it. It’s like you’re saying that for you to be successful, someone else has to change. Think about how that sounds. That’s nuts.

5 – Don’t want it enough

What do you want? Seems like a simple enough question. But you’d be surprised how many players struggle to answer this question. Answering that question is part of habit one above, have a plan. But what if you have a plan and know what you want but are unsure of how bad you want it. Oh, yeah, sure, you want it, but how bad? How hard are you willing to work to get it? How resilient and persistent will you be when facing obstacles and adversity towards getting it? How creative and passionate can you stay when even after all your hard work, it still seems so far away? Wanting something and knowing how bad you want it is essential to your advancement in hockey.

6 – Coast when things are easy

Hockey is hard work. The games are tough, the practices are tough. Finding time for school or work or friends is tough. So when something is that hard it’s natural to think that during times when things are not as hard, that you can take your foot off the gas and coast a little. Taking this approach is a bad bad habit. Now I’m not saying that you don’t deserve a break now and again. Actually, I emphasize to my players that you HAVE to have a break now and again. It’s called recovery. When you work out hard, you need time for your body to recover. that’s just a fact of sports. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Coasting and recovery are not the same. Coasting is when you play a weaker team and you don’t have to work as hard to win, so you don’t. Coasting is when you’ve mastered a drill and you don’t have to work as hard to shine, so you don’t. Coasting is when you’re doing everything the coach expects of you and it’s not as hard as it once was, so you settle into a new, lower level of effort. Coasting feels good because it’s easy, but is not the path to success. Coasting now means you will need to put in double effort later to get back to where you would have been had you just kept working hard. Coasting doesn’t work like video games, where you get to come back at level 15 because you already mastered it. Nope, coasting means you have to do all 15 levels again, and double time because the players that didn’t coast are crushing it out ahead of you.

7 – Quit when things are tough

We talked about wanting something bad enough in a previous habit and its finding that kind of passion in something that will define what you do when you run into something that is so hard you’re not sure you can do it. So difficult that you’re not sure you can learn it, so relentless and unyielding that you’re not sure you are ever going to get there. Then what? We’ve all heard the saying, winners never quit and quitters never win. It’s true, but then again it’s pretty obvious. How can you win if you quit? duh! The question about quitting is more about defining your plan, your passion, your tolerance, your patience, your discipline, and your willpower. You’re going to quit something in your lifetime. Everybody does. The question is, why are you quitting? Quitting because you’ve done all that you want and you’re ready to do something else is admirable. I love players that know what they want and go for it. Some players play hockey until they’re old and gray and others quit when they learn to drive or head off to college. Quitting because it’s time to move on is one thing, but quitting because something is too hard is a life choice that may haunt you. Tough players survive tough times. Know that there will be rough days throughout your hockey development, but also remember that your passion and purpose will get you through those tough times, that is of course if you have passion and purpose. and that’s what you need to know deep down inside.

I want you to move forward. I want you to move UP in hockey. Listen, this post is supposed to show you how crazy it would be to do the things I describe above. DON’T DO THESE THINGS. My point in this post is to have you recognize if you’re doing any of these habits and to GET YOU TO STOP.

In the next post, I’ll give you a longer list of what TO DO if you want to be successful in hockey. In the meantime, if any of the above habits sound familiar, then delete them from your hockey DNA.

Kevin L. Willis, PhD
Sport Psychologist
Level 5 USA Hockey Coach

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