Chalk Talk: To make it in hockey, one must be ‘good enough’
You have to be good enough and you have to make the commitment and sacrifice to reach your goals.
I step off the ice to begin the familiar walk back to the coaches’ room. It’s during this friendly stroll that I am approached by a hockey parent with a calculated question, “How does a player get to the top in this game?” My face can’t help but smile, which reflects my passion for this opportunity to share my answer in hopes of educating this parent. My response, “There are many paths to reach the pinnacle, but bottom line, you have to be good enough.”
Yes, you have to be good enough!
In my 20 years of coaching, I have witnessed that “being good enough” is validated via the players that have reached the pinnacle. So what is good enough? Becoming good enough to play this sport at the elite level is formed by hard work, dedication, discipline, quality coaching and playing at the appropriate level to create confidence in your game and to learn how to succeed in doing it.
Over the years, I have witnessed many players make it to the next level. The things they all had in common were high-level skating abilities, off-ice commitment, and playing at the appropriate level.
It is a well-balanced combination of the above that will generate the greatest opportunity for a player. In other words, it’s not about the name-brand tournament, expensive cross-country camps, or the fascination of the amount of A’s ending a team name. Every parent wants their child to be successful and as a coach, I believe it is our responsibility to educate parents on how to assist their player’s aspirations.
At the high levels, players are bigger, stronger and faster. It’s important to understand that if a child wants to make it in this sport, they need dedication away from the rink. At a young age, it’s about stickhandling and shooting and at an older age, it’s about hockey-specific weight training. Simply said, if you don’t train, you don’t make it.
Skating is the most important aspect of the game. The game gets faster and faster as you move up in levels and the players that consistently train their technical skating skills have the best opportunity to stick when they jump up in levels. Individual training is created by a player’s discipline and desire to habitually improve their game. A weekly lesson can be a wise investment.
Becoming an elite player is much more than scoring goals and stopping pucks. Every player is on a different development cycle and it’s important to not skip steps towards your goal. Listen, learn, and apply what the coaches are teaching and you will continually progress in your development. If you play at a level that is too fast, the game will be difficult for you to develop. Parents naturally want their child with the best team at the highest level. However, this is not the best situation for all players.
Example, if most third-line players dropped to the lower level, they would have the time and space to control the puck more often. The result? They would develop more confidence and would get more scoring opportunities, which would result in a more confident and competent player long term.
We all have the same goal for the players in California – to help them reach their potential. We as coaches can only point the way, but the bottom line is the players have to make the commitment and sacrifice to reach their goals.
Larry Cahn is a coach and the director of hockey with the Vacaville Jets organization and a coach and co-founder of the Golden State Elite youth hockey program.
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