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Coach Yourself

05/07/2012, 8:53am CDT
By Aaron Paitich

Message from Minnesota Hockey Coach in Chief Hal Tearse

In the April 2012 Minnesota Hockey Newsletter, Coach in Chief Hal Tearse found an article written by the Calgary Flames' International Hockey Academy Director Bob Richardson that should resonate with all youth hockey players.

Hockey players need to take responsibility for their own development.

Read and pass along to all players, coaches and parents:

Going to one or two practices a week and/or one or two games a week is not how one reaches one's potential, even if those games are the best that they can be. By themselves they are not nearly enough for those who wish to reach their potential. As Anatoly Tarasov, the Father of Russian Hockey says, “you need to coach yourself”.

The question is, do you take responsibility for your own talent? Or do you wait for others to do it for you? Anyone who is successful has to stand on his or her own. Anyone who is successful has to motivate him or herself. Anyone who is successful puts in extra time; they make the necessary sacrifices.

Tarasov goes on to say,” … that's the foundation of top skills, proper physical training, using off ice training in a major way. Americans and Canadians alike underestimate the role of physical training in hockey, I mean dry land and off ice training. They should respect its value… Our players were great runners and great jumpers.”

Among the main components to off ice training are, training for power, that is speed plus strength. Another is endurance, which is not a major emphasis for younger players. Also there is cross-training (playing other sports in the off-season). Another is making up game like skill development which one can do on their own or with friends/teammates. For the purposes of this article this is the area that I would like to focus on.

Do you ever run any sprints at home? Do you ever shoot pucks or stickhandle at home? Do you play street hockey at home? Do you make up any of your own drills or competitions? Do you go pond skating or public skating?

Did you know that you could practice a fake shot at home? Did you know that you could practice deking at home? Did you know that you could practice a change of pace move at home?

Don't schools give homework? Don't the students who put the extra time in get better grades? Why can't hockey players have homework and can't one get similar positive results? It's a matter of motivation. How badly do you want to reach your potential? The answer is, not very much if you only go on the ice a few times a week and expect great results.

Let's look at two of the most successful players in the history of the game Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

In an interview Messier's sister relates,” He (Mark) and Paul (Mark's brother) wanted to play so badly; they always wanted to go to practice; they played continually, for hours and hours in the driveway. It didn't matter if they had skates on or whether they had to play in the road or whether they were shooting balls…”

Gretzky's passion for improvement was no different. In the book Wayne Gretzky: Making of the Great One, his father Walter writes about Saturday afternoons when Wayne's friends would come by to get Wayne to go to the movies. “… He wouldn't go because he wanted to stay home and skate in the backyard. He would skate through pylons to practice his stickhandling. He would shoot pucks by himself until it was too dark to see whether they hit the net or not. He would sometimes pay friends a nickel or a dime to stay around and play goal against him.”

“But what most people don't realize was Wayne's love of sports went beyond hockey. He was in the Brantford Track and Field Club until he was 15. Given his reputation for endurance today, it's probably not surprising he was a distance runner. He excelled at any race from 800 meters on up.” Mr. Gretzky goes on to relate how Wayne also loved baseball, playing pitcher and shortstop.

Incidentally, Wayne was an “A” student. Mr. Gretzky writes, “ When he came home from school, he would always do his homework before heading off to play hockey”.

On June 5th, 1944, D-Day minus 1, Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, had to make one the momentous decisions of the 20th century, whether or not to invade the European Continent. As Steven Ambrose writes in his biography, Eisenhower: Soldier and President … “Whatever Eisenhower decided would be risky…. Eisenhower thought for a moment, then said quickly, ' O.K., let's go”. 

Later that day not knowing the outcome, but fearful of the might of his opponent he wrote a possible press release, “Our landings… have failed… If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” Needless to say Ike did not need to use the note, but it does show that he knew what it was to bear responsibilities. Of course he had also done his homework (preparation), which limited the possibilities of failure and increased the probabilities of success.

Former Senator Bill Bradley, NBA Hall of Famer relates this story. When he was 14 years old he attended basketball camp during one of the camp meetings a former NBA player Ed McCauley said to the assembled players, “Remember one thing, if you are not practicing someone somewhere is. If you come up against that player and your talent level is equal, that player will beat you every time”. Bradley says, “I did not want to let that happen to me… so I practiced for hours every day.”

It takes discipline to practice. It takes discipline to make the sacrifices in pursuit of one's goals. This is what it takes and nothing less.

Don't look back 8 or 10 years from now, as so many others have and think that you could have done more to become a better player. The time to improve is today.

The responsibility is yours alone.

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