In the middle of the Midwest summer, many may wonder what a high school hockey team from Oakville, MO is doing taking a trip to the middle of the state to get on the ice as a team. It might not be a bad idea to stay cool, but that isn’t the point of this trip. It is much more. This is a team-building trip in which mid-summer activities are forming thoughts of late winter championships; an experience that involves everyone on the team from the incoming freshman to the soon-to-be senior leaders.
The weekend starts with packing up the chartered bus with hockey equipment and a check of all the players. As we head out of St. Louis, we immediately take to some motivation. It may be in the form of a hockey DVD, a message about overcoming adversity or another inspirational story. Players start to settle-in for the bus ride in different ways. While most will closely watch the videos, some sleep, some talk, and some joke and clown around. The building and bonding has begun.
Intangible attributes that create great teams are the bonds they form as teammates. Talent can only take you so far, but a sense of unity and cohesion, breeds Champions.
For many, they have taken this trip before and they are now the “upperclassmen.” They learn that these school years are special and go by too quickly. As coaches, our goal is to help motivate and inspire these players to focus on something that is just as important as physical talent and hard work. What is that something? It’s mental toughness and fortitude. Couple that mental toughness with a vision or goal for your future and you have created a recipe for success.
As we coach the players this weekend, it is less about the on-ice performance as it is to expose the players to a variety of real-life situations. Can you be on time without your parents around? Can you listen to instructions about what we will be doing next and carry out those instructions? Are you able to be respectful and supportive of your teammates, when only your teammates are watching? The itinerary we create is carefully designed to test some of the mental capacities necessary, to help these players to become better young men and women. Forming good work habits and a disciplined lifestyle when we are young, will pave a smoother path to higher education and a successful career.
There are many life lessons in sports. As coaches, we have an opportunity to highlight these building blocks. One of the ways in which we do this is to help our players to formulate goals and a vision for every aspect of their lives.
We start with the simple and obvious: What do you want to accomplish as a player and for your team in the following season?
We then discuss personal, academic and spiritual goals. It has been clearly proven, that when you create goals and write them down, you are more likely to achieve them. This may seem elementary, but most people don’t have goals. What is your purpose or in what do you find passion? There is no correct answer here. The right answer is to find a goal, find something that fires you up and work your butt off to achieve it. A lesson we convey is that you may not always achieve a goal you set, but you are a better person for putting out the effort and trying. Life isn’t always about winning and the victories. These are nice, but when failure and adversity hits you and it will hit you, how will you respond? What you learn when the chips are down and things aren’t going your way, may help you grow exponentially.
As unpleasant as it might sound, we can become stronger, through adversity and hardship. As we have fun on our team-building trip, our theme among the coaches is, “What can we help our players learn about themselves or how can we help them to become better and stronger mentally?”
Although championships require you to win the final game, that game is being won and lost well before anyone steps on the ice, late in the season. Preparation and planning are keys to any success. To all the players and or parents that may read this, identify your goals, write them down, and work hard to achieve them. You will find many lessons learned by going after something you never thought was possible. Failure may come, but get back up and try it again. You will learn things about yourself you never knew and you will grow more than you ever imagined.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Everyone has talent, what is rare is the courage to take that talent to the uncomfortable place it leads.” Parents and players can be team-building all the time. Get outside your comfort zone and make the most of your potential.
By Derek Stephens, Oakville Hockey Club Head Coach