What Do You Expect?

[ posted by Kim on 31st of October, 2017 ]

While being part of a great player development program is important, it doesn’t determine the level of success a player achieves. Neither does the team you play for, the summer camps you go to, or the coaches you listen to. There are plenty of opportunities for girls’ hockey players to grow and develop, but only a select few ever reach the highest level of achievement. At the end of the day, what truly separates good players from the great ones is their psychological make-up.

I’ve talked at great lengths about the mental game of female hockey players as it relates to confidence and focus in the past. But in this article I am only going to look at one psychological attribute – the expectations of the player. A great player doesn’t only wish, hope, want or strive for success – she expects it. A great player is certain of the probability of their achievement. They know that nothing is guaranteed, but they are also confident that their physical and mental preparation has put them in the best possible position to succeed.

In order to be great, players must always believe in their own ability to successfully achieve their goals. Doubt leads to setback and failure, while confidence leads to progress and success. However, even when a player knows they must adopt this attitude, it’s much easier said than done. Girls don’t want to be seen as over-confident or conceited, so they often hold back from setting big goals, holding themselves accountable, and believing beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they will achieve that goal. It’s scary to step outside of your comfort zone and risk the possibility of failure. It’s also the only way to get to the highest levels of achievement in your sport.

So how do you go about instilling this unwavering belief system in yourself? Well, success breeds success. Many small victories over time lead to bigger victories. Big victories in games and tournaments are won because of all the small battles that are fought and won (or lost) on a daily basis during practice. That doesn’t mean that you only compete against weaker opponents so that you can guarantee your success. Great players don’t line up against weaker players in 1-on-1 drills. They want to compete with the best player on the team – and beat them. In order to be a true champion, you have to compete against champions.

One strategy for conditioning yourself to expect success is to train with and against players who are at a higher level than you whenever possible. You’ll not only learn invaluable lessons from training, practicing and playing with superior players, you’ll eventually expect to achieve everything they have and possibly even exceed their levels of achievement. Back when I was 16 years old, I used to go out and play pick-up hockey with ex-junior players 3 or 4 days a week. At first, my goal was to keep up and not embarrass myself. Then my goal became to steal the puck from them a few times and score a couple ugly goals. Then I started to expect to get passes from them and score more than my fair share of goals. Eventually, I set out every game to be the best player on the ice. That belief that I could be the best didn’t happen overnight. It was because of the accumulation of small victories over time that led me to believe that I could achieve any goal I set my mind to. Every single time I played in my final year of high school, I expected to be the best player on the ice. Whether I succeeded in being the best player or not, I always expected that I would be and that’s what drove my success on the ice. I didn’t just want to be the best – I expected it.

What are your expectations for yourself when you hit the ice? Are you holding yourself to a high enough standard – or are you letting yourself off the hook? Are you stepping outside your comfort zone – or are just playing up to your potential? Are you consistently making the hard choice to be great – or are you making the easy choice and just going along with the crowd?

As we head into the heart of the season, start setting higher expectations for yourself and hold yourself accountable to meeting and exceeding your goals. You’ll be amazed at what can happen when you believe in your ability to achieve all the success you’ve dreamed of.


Your friend and coach,




Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS

Director & Founder, Total Female Hockey



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