What Does it Take?

Time. It takes time.

Success, achieving your goals, finding your way. It all takes time.

Long hours, short nights, early mornings.

If you want to achieve your goals, get to where you want to be, it takes time.

Time spent learning. Time spent growing. Time spent failing. Time spent exposing yourself to criticism. Time spent succeeding. Time.

Want to find success in life (however you define it)? It takes time.

Seize the Opportunity

Every sport has different lineup policies – some dress everyone and only some people play (football, basketball, baseball) and others only dress a certain number but most (if not all) participate (hockey). Each of these sports have players that are regulars in the lineup and contribute every night. They also have players that are on the fringe, maybe getting a few plays a game to make a difference.

Players who are securely in the lineup every night face a certain type of pressure. They are expected to produce and play at a high level every night. Players on the fringe experience a very different type of pressure. Fringe players have the pressure of having to do well in limited minutes or lose their opportunity to play.

Who struggles more with the pressure? I would argue that fringe players have a harder time with the consistent lineup pressure than those playing every night. Any high level athlete has the word “player” as a major part of their self identity. Being in and out of the lineup with limited minutes creates a situation where you are no longer a “player” but someone who sits on the bench. This creates an internal identity crisis for the player – are they good enough to be who they thought they were in their mind?

When these players get in the lineup, they often play “to stay in the lineup” vs “playing to win” – they make safe plays and play in a way that shows they are scared to make a mistake. So how do you handle the pressure, how do you seize your opportunity when you are given a chance to play? Daily attention to detail.

If you’re a fringe player, your practices must become your games. Your attention to detail must be near-perfect. Every repetition you get must be done as well as you can do it. You have to be brilliant at the basics of the game. In hockey, this means finishing your checks, picking up on the backcheck, executing systems with precision, going hard to the net, winning puck battles, etc. You have to do all the little things every single day and hold yourself accountable to those details. Ask yourself – did I do the absolute best that I can today?

These details should be ingrained in every player anyways, but they are especially important for players who are on the bubble. Doing all the little things and executing the details with pride will not only earn you playing time but it will also help you seize your opportunity for success. When you do get into a game, your habits (systems, checks, backchecks, battles, etc) will create opportunities for you and your linemates and keep you in the game on a regular basis. If the easy things aren’t executed, it becomes easy for the coaching staff to take you out of the lineup again.

While this addresses players who are on the fringe, the reality is that this is the key to success at any level and for any activity. Being persistent at the details – never letting little things slide. Preparing and practicing like you want to perform will make your performance a habit. People get nervous for games, performances, presentations, speeches, etc when in reality, all these big “events” are is adding an audience to what you do on a daily basis. If you execute the details daily, you will do them in performance. Nerves come from not being confident in your ability to perform – confidence comes from preparation. Prepare like every day is a performance and you will see your success grow.

How You Do One Thing…

“How you do one thing is how you do everything”

I read a study once that said people who make their bed every morning are better at managing their money and sticking to a budget.

The amount of attention to detail you put into one part of your life carries over to the rest of it. Life is all about habits. If you habitually stay on top of the little details and take care of business in one area, then you will naturally pay attention to detail in other areas of your life.

In recruiting, often the player who appears well-organized, thoughtful and attentive during a recruiting visit is the same player who is coachable and does the little things right on the ice.

It’s no accident that most college student-athletes carry a much higher GPA in season than in the off-season. Their attention to detail is higher and they have a much more fine-tuned focus due to the pressure and intensity of the season and the coaching they are receiving.

Improvement in life is in the details. Place a focus on attention to detail and you will see your success take off.

The Value of Motivation

“Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne
“Welcome to the Jungle” – Guns ‘n Roses
“Enter Sandman” – Metallica
“Lose Yourself” – Eminem
“Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore

And the list of motivational songs goes on and on…

There are thousands of motivational videos on YouTube – and that’s just in the English language.

Those that truly reach their goals are internally motivated. They have a vision, a dream, an image of what success looks like and they use that as an end result to work towards. They know what success looks, feels, smells and tastes like and they strive to achieve it every day. They have an incredible work ethic and drive that keeps them moving on a daily basis.

So what’s the point? What’s the value of motivation?

Motivation adds gasoline to an already burning fire. It fans the flames on days when it starts to rain. Motivation gives you the extra jump you need to get over the next mountain or through the next valley.

Motivation is critical whenever you start to feel just a little bit complacent. Days when you think things are moving in a good direction and you’re happy with your progress – that’s when you need motivation. When you get a little bit down because things didn’t quite work out for you.

Motivation takes an already driven person and pushes them that much harder – it keeps them sharp and helps them achieve truly new heights.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

Now we’re cooking with gas

AHCA – Championship Coaches Panel

Every year, the AHCA invites the four finalists from the Men’s DI and DIII Frozen Four to speak on a panel. Each school gives a summary and some talking points about what made them successful and how they were able to get to the top of the mountain. This year, the DIII teams were SUNY-Geneseo, Wisconsin-Stevens Point, SUNY-Oswego and National Champion St. Norbert. The DI teams were Boston College, North Dakota, Minnesota and National Champion Union.

There were some common themes among the coaches, including:

  • Goaltending has to give you a chance to win every night, and sometimes steal a few games
  • Leadership – all teams that make it to the Frozen Four have good leadership and a senior class that buys in
  • Losses are often used as learning experiences and opportunities to grow – every team had an experience that pushed them over the edge
  • Overcoming Challenges – every team faces challenges, the Frozen Four teams really overcame them with poise and aplomb
  • Every team seemed to have an identity that the players and coaches bought into and embraced – they moved forward with this identity and believed in it

Some team-specific notes:

Union spoke a lot about how their previous experience in the Frozen Four helped them to stay focused on the task at hand. Their first time, they were excited to go to the Frozen Four and were wide-eyed and soaking it all in. This year, they had a hunger to win and an understanding of what that took. The veterans had seen it and done it, so it was no longer a brand new thing.

BC had a very talented offensive team. They had a tough weekend early in the year where they tied and lost to Minnesota. This early setback challenged the team and helped them to understand where the bar was in terms of being a successful team.

St. Norbert built their culture through using peers. The players help to set the standards and then they are responsible for holding their teammates accountable. They have a leadership that includes the captains and one leader from each class, they meet to talk about academics, social life, etc.

Ask the Right Question

“Did I get better today?”

All this time I’ve been asking the wrong question – you can always rationalize how you might have gotten better or where you improved on the margin.

A more appropriate question:

“Have you failed yet today?”

Failure creates learning opportunities. Failure creates room to get better. Failure is black and white. Cut and dry. You can’t hide from failure. Either you did or you didn’t.

You are bound to fail many times before you succeed. So, Have you failed yet today?

Build Gardens, Not Buildings

Throwback post from Seth Godin and his blog about the importance of growing over the long term. Success doesn’t come overnight, it takes time and persistence – just like gardening.