The Flavor of the Month

I heard a story recently about a junior hockey showcase. NCAA rules permit coaches to talk with players after a showcase concludes.

At the end of this particular showcase, a team had to wait for over an hour and half for one player to finish talking with college coaches. Soon after the showcase, the player committed to play Division I hockey. Two years later, he transferred to a different Division I institution and finished his career as a role player.

At the same showcase, the same team had another player on it’s roster who had almost zero college interest. By the end of the year, he secured a commitment to play Division I hockey. Three years later he was playing every night in the NHL.

Too many times we get caught up with “The Flavor of the Month”. Coaches become obsessed with people who catch their eye and have a great two or three game stretch at a showcase. Players put immense amounts of pressure on themselves to have good games in big settings.

If we recruit the “Flavor of the Month”, we probably shouldn’t wonder later why that same player struggles with his or her consistency in games. We need to put more emphasis on the player who succeeds over time – recruiting players who play the game the right way and pay attention to detail , rather than the one who catches your eye one weekend in early September.

Consistency Conundrum

Consistency. It’s something that everyone should strive for in life. Who you and what you do tomorrow is very similar to who you are and what you do tomorrow. We look for it in athletes and teams too. How many teams adjust their level of play to their competition? I’d be willing to bet that the percentages are pretty high. Teams have a natural tendency to increase their stimulation against good teams and play more relaxed against mediocre teams.

To a certain extent, it’s natural. You’re doing a task that you think should be simple so you let your guard down and make minor errors. These minor errors add up to big mistakes. It happens in work and it happens in games. The devil is in the details and the little things matter. People and teams that are successful know that and take care of the little things no matter what they are doing and who they are playing.

So, as coaches, how do you fix teams that underperform against weaker competition? I’m still searching for the fool-proof answer, but my belief is that you have to coach the details every day. Coach your players as if the details matter and your players will handle the details. Coach the game no different than you would a game against a high caliber opponent. Be consistent in your approach, your expectations and your execution of the details and you will see the same level of performance no matter who you are playing or what you are doing.

Teams that win and have good seasons are the ones that take care of business against every team on their schedule. They play to their standard no matter who they are playing. Consistency brings success.

The Importance of Consistency

Consistency is key. It doesn’t matter what you are doing or what you are trying to accomplish, there are few things more important than consistency.

When I’m out evaluating players, I am first looking to see what they can do athletically. After I get a good feel for them as a hockey player, I am next looking for consistency. Do they bring the same things to the table every game? Can I expect them to bring the same level of intensity and compete level?

Consistency and meeting expectations doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. In fact, I like to see a player improving their game and trying to get better every time they step on the ice. But I don’t want a player to sacrifice the consistency in their game. Bring the baseline and then continue to try to stretch yourself.

People like to know what to expect. Whether it is a teacher, a co-worker, a coach, etc., people like to know what to expect. This is why consistency is important. Whatever it is that you do, do it consistently. Bring the same thing day in and day out, while constantly seeking to improve.