The end of the hockey season is a time for reflection. We finally get a moment to step back and think about how the year went overall. This is a hard thing to do when you’re in the midst of running around to practices, games and tournaments while squeezing in extra skills sessions and workouts. Whether it ends with raising the championship trophy overhead or with a shootout loss in the playoffs, it’s important to stand back and ask yourself “How did it go?”
Coaches, parents and players are going to answer this question very differently. If you’re a coach, you might look at the stats first. Not just where you finished overall, but the special team percentages, your goalie stats down the stretch and your ratio of goals for versus goals against. As a parent, you might simply be asking, “Did my daughter get better?” Is she faster now than she was 7 months ago? Stronger? More skilled? A smarter hockey player? Has she become a better teammate and a more confident person overall? If you’re a player, you might be answering the “How did it go?” question in a completely different way. A big part of your experience might be about how many new friends you made. Or it might be about whether or not you met the specific goals that you set for yourself in the fall. Did you score the goals you thought you’d score? Did you get the assists you thought you’d get? How did your plus-minus look? How about your save percentage as a goalie?
Ultimately, at the end of the season, we’re looking at the final outcomes of the season. And this is a really important thing to assess. But we can’t simply judge the success of the season based on the numbers and final outcomes.
As you look forward, to tryouts and to next season, you need to start planning to as yourself the “how is it going?” question during the season, and not just at the end. When you ask that question every month or so, you start to evaluate success based on the process you are going through instead of just the final outcome. For example, as a coach I might be ask myself in October how well I’ve taught the basic skills and concepts we need to execute our preferred breakouts. As a parent, you might be asking yourself in November whether your daughter might benefit from doing some extra stickhandling or shooting on her own to keep up with her teammates or to get an edge on her opponenets. As a player, you might be asking yourself in December whether you have been doing those mental focusing tasks that your coach taught you back in September on a consistent basis or whether you need to get your mental game in order in time for the playoff push.
I also believe it is critically important to ask the “how did it go” question after every practice and games for both players and coaches. Back when I was playing college hockey and in the pro league, before each game I used to write down 3 things I wanted to focus on. I might write something like, “Receive passes with feet moving”, “Get shots off quick”, “Sacrifice body in defensive zone”. And after every game, I would take a few minutes to go back to that list and evaluate how it went. Did I accomplish the 3 things I set out to do before the puck dropped? If I did, awesome. If there was something unique that I did before the game or that happened during the game that helped me achieve those goals, I would make a note of it. If I didn’t reach my goals, no problem. Was there something that prevented me from reaching them? Was there something different in my pre-game routine that might have thrown me off mentally? Did something unexpected happen out on the ice that made reaching my goals a little more difficult? Assessing the reasons why you may or may not have reached your goals might just be the most important piece of goal-setting and goal-getting. If you never evaluate how you’re doing along the way, you’re making reaching your final destination that much harder. You need to map out your course and be able to figure out where you are on the path at all times. If you get off course, how will you fix it? If you’re ahead of schedule, do you continue to speed up or slow it down?
There is a saying in sports that says success is never final and failure is never fatal. You must never get too high and you must never get too low. Tracking your daily goal setting and goal getting is what helps you stay the course no matter what happens. So after you’re done asking yourself “How did it go?” this season, start planning how you’re going to answer that question every single step along the way next year.
Work Hard. Dream BIG.
Your friend and coach,
For a step-by-step guide on how set and get your goals for next season, visit: http://totalfemalehockey.com/products/mental_performance_plus/. Coach Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS, is an expert in the development of aspiring female hockey players on and off the ice. She is a former NCAA Division 1 captain at Dartmouth and played in the National Women’s Hockey League for 6 years. She is the Director & Founder of Total Female Hockey and currently coaches at Ryerson University and with the Toronto-Leaside Wildcats of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League (PWHL).