Why I Love Cooking

When you cook, you can’t really do anything else.

There is no multi-tasking, no multiple internet windows, no phone calls, no emails. Just you and the food.

Cooking requires concentration, focus and single-mindedness. Otherwise you might use a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon. You might overcook the onions. You could skip a step.

I love cooking because I get fully into what I’m doing and forget everything else. It’s hard to say that cooking is stress free, as getting everything to be ready at the exact same time takes preparation, foresight and experience. When I cook, I reduce my overall stress level as everything else goes out the window.

I don’t cook nearly as much as I should, but I did start today by preparing some pulled pork for a dinner tonight with my defensemen. A great way to kick off the week, although I’m not sure I advise chopping an onion before 6:30 in the morning…

Airplane Mode

You know the announcement.

“The cabin door has been closed. At this time please power down or switch your handheld devices into airplane mode for the duration of the flight.”

Everyone tries to sneak in that last text, video, facebook post, etc. before the flight attendant catches them.

But I don’t want to talk about to flights today. I want to talk about using Airplane Mode in my everyday life.

I, just like 99% of smartphone owners, have become addicted to my device. The dopamine hit you get from the buzz or ding of a text, email or social media message has become part of our daily lives.

Smartphones have become so onmipresent in our lives that we have to make announcements and signs to tell people to put them away during the most important times in our lives – weddings, funerals, holidays, etc, etc, etc.

These devices trick us into thinking we’re being productive and efficient because we use them all day. In reality, they are a major distraction from some of the most important things that we do – administrative work, creative work, and true, personal communication.

Luckily, these addiction machines have a great feature that allow us to eliminate the noise. We can put them in airplane mode. No contact with the outside cell world. No texts, calls, emails, tweets, snapchats, etc. Just focus.

Starting today, I am going to spend at least 90 minutes every day in airplane mode. I’ll use it to create copy, watch video, design practices/drills, read, write, have lunch with a colleague or mentor, who knows? What I do know, is that for 90 minutes every day I’ll be able to turn off the world and focus on the present.

 

Passing

One of my peers in the coaching world, Jamie Rice (Head Coach, Babson College, @Ricer18), asked on Twitter about hard passes – are they more technique or mindset? It got me thinking about passing in general and the many elements involved.

Passing is both a technical element of the game as well as a skill. It is one of the first things you learn when you start to play hockey and something that you practice for the rest of your career. Technically speaking, the pieces you need to master to give a good pass include hand placement, grip, spin, loft, speed, touch, and timing. To receive a pass, hand placement, grip, touch, and timing are all critical. Of all these areas, spin and speed are the most challenging to master when giving a pass, while grip and touch are the hardest when receiving. 

While these technical areas are important and critical to master, it is my belief that passing is more of a mental skill and habit than a physical one. Because passing is learned at an early stage, it is something that most players take for granted. The assumption is made that passing skills are sufficient and the work done in practice is enough to maintain passing skills. When executing passes, whether in practices or in games, very few players truly focus on the elements of the pass – they merely see their teammate and their muscle memory takes over (similar on the receiving end). The result is often missed passes and poor execution.

How many times in practices do coaches have to make comments or stop practice due to poor passing? It is often not because the players lack the fundamental skills – it is because they take those skills for granted and choose not to focus on the execution. When players shoot, they look for a shooting lane, find their target and attempt to put the best speed on the puck to get the desired result. When passing, I believe this processing piece is far less common. With increased focus comes increased execution.

Now, to answer Coach Rice’s question more directly regarding hard passes. Passing the puck hard is a habit. Habits boil down to the mental skill to execute a physical action. These habits are built through repetition and practice.

As you move up in levels within in the game, time and space becomes less and less readily available. The game becomes more of a cause and effect between two units of five players rather than a pure talent contest. Passing the puck hard (with lots of zip and speed) becomes more of a tactical element at the highest levels. The puck moves faster than your feet, so you can create separation and a change of direction in the defense with hard passes. Whether in the neutral zone on a hinge or a cross ice seam or in the offensive zone on a play to change the point of attack (north/south or east/west) hard passes force the defense to have to react quickly to a new threat. 

Technically speaking, hard passes require a firmer grip from both the passer and receiver. Mentally, they require anticipation and a high level of focus to execute, as a hard pass is more difficult to both give and receive. Once again, the execution of a hard pass is more mental than technical, as it is a conscious focus and effort from one team to move the puck quickly. Passing the puck with good pace is the sign of a focused and determined team that has a good hockey IQ. They understand the value of a hard pass and they are prepared and ready to give and receive passes with zip on the puck. How do you make your team execute passes like this? Attention to detail in practice. Demand hard and firm passes in practice – it will establish the habit and carry over in to games.

I would love to hear from you on this…what do you think? Feel free to comment or tweet at me (@chall4431) Here is Coach Rice’s tweet:

@Ricer18: Interested in coaches thoughts on passing the puck hard/receiving hard passes:

What % technique what % mindset? The best players all do it

What a Flat Tire Can Teach You

Driving home from the rink today I wasn’t 100% focused on my driving, instead looking around at campus. My tire nudged the little stone barrier on the side of the road, and the sidewall blew out. While getting a flat tire sucks, it reminded me about two very important things.

1. Execution requires focus. I was not very focused on my drive home. Even though I have done it many times, executing the drive home still takes concentration. I spaced out for a brief second and I blew a tire. It is no different in sports – have a momentary lapse in focus and you instantly increase your chances of failure. You must be completely focused on the task you are trying to accomplish and all the little details that are involved in doing your job successfully.

2. View the world from the inside out, not the outside in. My first thought was “Ugh, this sucks. I’m having an average day, and this would have to happen.” This was a very selfish and outside world thought. I instantly blamed my flat tire on the world conspiring against me, rather than my own lethargy and lack of discipline in my driving. As soon as I had that thought, I knew that I could not let my flat tire dictate the rest of my day. The world is what you make of it, not what it makes you do.

Luckily, getting a flat tire requires that you change it. I had plenty of time to sit and think while changing my tire and it helped me to clear my head and get back on the right track.